Today, in Idiots: Thom Nickels

Posted: March 31, 2010 in Braak
Tags: , ,

Thom Nickels thinks that priestly sexual abuse of minors was maybe caused by the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, probably because he’s an idiot.

I am not, normally, considered to be an ally to the Catholic Church…but I am a well-known enemy of sophistry.  My response to Nickels’ post, after the jump.

It’s more than a little extraordinary, to me, that in such a shaky economy as the US presently suffers from, with unemployment hovering around 10%, with legions of educated and underemployed graduates  eager and ready for work, that Thom Nickels can be paid to refute himself.  His article, “Priestly Sex Abuse:  Who’s to Blame?” presents not a single shred of actual, verifiable evidence for his implicit claim—that the sex abuse scandals the  Catholic Church is now enduring are a direct result of the “liberalizing” of the Church after the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican.  Instead, his entire argument is predicated on a single statistic:  if the average age of an abusing priest in 2002 was 53, then the sex-abuse events must have (mostly) occurred shortly after Vatican II.

Anyone reasonable familiar with the foundations of human thought will recognize this for what it is:  the Post/Propter fallacy (from the Latin:  Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc).  One of the foundational principles of basic reason, the Post/Propter fallacy states that “correlation does not imply causation;” in other words, just because one thing happened after another does not mean that the first thing caused the second.  Chanticleer the rooster crows every morning, and then the sun rises; it is a fallacy to say that Chanticleer causes the sun to rise.

The Post/Propter fallacy is one of the most important fallacies, because of how often it is so recklessly, either by grotesque cynicism or blistering stupidity, abused.  It is at the heart of bad decisions and superstition.  It is self-contradictory, false by definition.  And here it is, the lynchpin of Thom Nickel’s dissatisfaction with the Vatican II:  (most) priest abuse scandals occurred after 1962, therefore (most) priest abuse scandals were caused by the Vatican Council.

I shouldn’t (nor, really, should anyway else) need to explain how completely, absurdly ridiculous this is.  Not only is it false by definition, but it’s not even universally true:  maybe most scandals occurred after Vatican II, but importantly, some of them did not.  That alone should require the formulation of a new theory, but even if Thom Nickels doesn’t care for it, there’s more:  the fact that the same statistic (the age of the average priestly abuser in 2002) implies the average age of the priest’s victims:  somewhere in the 20 to 30 range, precisely the time that an adult might start needing to deal with a history of sexual abuse.  Or that the “liberalizing” mores post-Vatican II might be, rather than the cause of the sexual abuse, the cause of the discovery of the sexual abuse:  the fact that it was under-reported prior to 1962 (though, as Mr. Nickels must admit, not at all unheard of) is not evidence of it’s non-existence, only of the fact that it wasn’t reported.  Do liberal sexual mores cause sexual abuse?  Or do they make it easier for victims of sexual abuse to come forward about it?

Who knows?  Thom Nickels certainly doesn’t, and he certainly didn’t bother asking.  He’s got his opinion, hung on one of the most basic and stupid logical fallacies conceivable, and is apparently quite happy to propagate his misguided understanding in a public forum.  I would hope that he’d be ashamed to have written an article like this, but it seems unlikely; to write it in the first place requires either sociopathic cynicism or else blinding ignorance, and neither of those characteristics is well-suited to self-awareness.

  1. Dave Braak says:

    I once had this sergeant, and this is what he said to me:

    “Back in the the early 20th century, in celebration of Darwin’s birthday, all these people got together to raise money for the teaching of evolution in schools. After that crime has sky rocketed in the US!”

    Naturally I recognized this as nonsense. However, I can’t LEGALLY call him an idiot. (There are rules about that in the army).

    So I says to him:

    “Do you see this pencil?” (I held up a pencil, and he allowed that he saw it.)

    “Do you notice a conspicuous lack of tigers in this room?” (he allowed this as well.)

    “By that same logic, could I not suggest this pencil wards off tigers?”
    (he made me do push-ups)

  2. braak says:

    Hah. That reminds me of the League of American Patriots. Sometimes I think if we could just get people to understand this ONE FALLACY, 90% of our problems would evaporate.

  3. Thom Nickels says:

    Call me what you will, but–to quote an old “heretic”–“Here I Stand.”

  4. braak says:


    But there’s nothing noble about defending an idea that’s manifestly ill-considered.

  5. Joanna says:

    That’s right shoot the messenger not the message. Some people will do anything to get published. I stand by Nickels. At least he can write a cogent thought in a straight way. Maybe you have a point but darn if I could understand it. Your rambles are a perfect example of how a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Go back to graduate school and leave the writing to the pros.

  6. Lord Wackadoo says:

    I think there must be something in the wafers.

    (P.S. The link at the top of your post didn’t take me to any articles it directed me to http://localhost/)

  7. Lord Wackadoo says:

    Also on a serious note, I just read a Newsweek article criticizing Benedict for his non responsive position in dealing with the crisis. The article mentioned the pontiff recognizing and ignoring numerous cases dating back to the 1950’s

  8. braak says:

    @Wackadoo: Fixed. And, yeah, the guy in Minnesota that they just found out Ratzinger had been covering up for started his tenure in the 50s. So.

    @Joanna: Huh. Okay, well, a couple things. One: I don’t have to shoot his message; his message is based on a logical fallacy, which makes it self-evidently false. Like, inherently false. How can I dispute an argument like that?

    Two: Is “some people will do anything to get published” a reference to me? This is my website; all I have to do to get published here is to write something. Are you suggesting that I’m debasing myself in some way, by pointing out that Nickels’ logic is insufficient?

    Three: Why is it that you feel like your failure to understand my point is somehow a criticism of me? What, specifically, did you fail to understand? I thought the point was pretty clear: Suggesting that priestly abuse was caused by the liberalization of the church after 1962 based solely on the one statistic that Nickels quotes is a Post/Propter fallacy.

    Four: What, exactly, is dangerous about my response, here? I mean, assuming the worst case scenario: that it’s unintelligible, that it’s incorrect, that I’m some kind of post-grad-school hack with a small amount of knowledge–assuming those things, what is the danger that I’m courting? That someone will believe me, and demand that Nickels provide actual evidence for his claims?

    Five: You are an idiot.

  9. Lord Wackadoo says:

    @Joanna: Six “…leave the writing to the pros.” Since when has there ever been any correlation between the quality of writing and how much a person gets paid for it?

    Okay I don’t want to start an argument about what is good writing and what is shitty writing, but I think if we scrolled through the history of the New York Times Best sellers we would find a fuck ton of really stupid shit there.

    In the mean time let us not criticize the free and peaceful (albeit intentionally abrasive and insulting) expression of thought. I can make room in my mind that Vatican II could potentially be responsible for the rash of abuse perpetrated by Catholic Priests. However in his article Thom Nickles employs highly fallacious reasoning to prove his point. And this isn’t an argument about super-heroes. Kids are being raped. They are being raped by their people who are dictating to them their spiritual values. Shouldn’t the gravity of this issue warrant a more dogged scrutiny of what might actually be causing these atrocities.

    I want to conclude by saying that I have no theories about why this is happening. (nothing that I can back up anyways) However if someone writes an article that is clearly wrong and people react to it as though it is correct, it only serves to perpetuate the problem, which to reiterate is an extremely grave one. So yes I think Braak is quite correct to spot the fallacy.

    As for his opinions on Justice League Unlimited, don’t even get me started.

  10. V.I.P. Referee says:

    It’s important to know the difference between getting emotional over why a problem needs to be solved vs. getting emotional over how we go about solving it. Emotion prompts us and engages our humanity (Fury and disgust over children being raped = Healthy emotional response). It’s what gets us into the business of fixing big problems.

    However; how we go about solving such problems, requires discipline and the demand for clarification. Lazy interpretation of information and bunk science or studies, hinders progress toward solutions and often results in supporters hurting a cause more than helping it (Enter: “Teabaggers”). Rigorous evaluation of available information is more likely to make way for a solution, than illogical application of emotional responses; it’s how people perform surgery, save their children from burning cars or rescue people people during horrific wartime circumstances.

    If anyone’s “Shooting the Messenger”, Joanna, it’s ye olde self; Braak was just bringing to attention how some problems are just too important to be approached carelessly. It’s easier to protect children from monsters we know vs. the ones we don’t. Sound evaluation of information is what brings those monsters into focus.

  11. Carl says:

    I want to say that I tried my hardest to leave well enough alone on this. Really, I did. But you know me, live and don’t learn. And as is my wont, I’d like to stake out some middle-ground here.

    I think there’s wiggle room with regards to the matter of whether causation OR correlation is what’s truly being argued in this article. I think that in knocking down Nickels’ observation, Chris, you’re overstating the argument a bit. I don’t see that he is [i]claiming[/i] to [i]have[/i] proof of causation from Vatican II to the abuse crisis. On the contrary, he seems to be doing the very thing that you say [i]is[/i] permissible— laying out a potentially revealing relationship between two events (a distinction between “X directly results in Y” and “X and Y are related in mutually revealing ways”). Even by your own assessment, the assertion here that Vatican II is the cause of the scandal is, at best, implicit. He’s certainly not claiming a direct link between the [i]substance[/i] of the council [the liberalization of the Church] and some kind of priestly latitude to have sex with teenage boys. If that’s what he’s implying, shame on him, but I don’t clearly see it. I think confusion is being generated here about what’s being argued by way in which what’s being argued is being argued. Nickels is waving his traditionalist flag pretty wildly and clearly doesn’t like Vatican II in terms of its practical affect. For him the Church is in decline in all regards and this is yet another sorry example of it. He uses an awful lot of digital-ink bitching about architecture and Latin, and making his displeasure over change generally known. But bitching about those things is not a claim that those things made pedophilia permissible, only that working out those matters created chaos and consumed the institutional focus that was once given to discrimination in the matter of seminarians. (I actually disagree with that assessment, as I will get to in a minute, but [i]that’s[/i] the argument.)

    Look at the concluding two paragraphs which are the real thrust of the article. What Nickels says is that the scandal resulted from a bureaucratic laxness in clerical recruitment that entered into the Church because of cultural chaos inadvertently created in the implementation of the Council. That, in and of itself, is not a condemnation of the merits of Vatican II (he does that elsewhere and on other bases). It is simply a statement that the council (and the broader culture, he argues) created conditions for laxness because it was distracted with a variety of kinds of council-related chaos, that made possible these terrible goings-on.

    Here’s the quote: “[The] obsession with change in the 1960s and 70s distracted the Church from what was lurking beneath the surface: a worldwide sex abuse scandal lying dormant but that would soon emerge like a full-blown virus.” So he is saying three things in the article:

    1. I don’t like the aesthetic of Catholicism since Vatican II. I miss Latin and habits and hate folk music.
    2. The implementation of Vatican II created chaos, chaos created confusion and laxness, confusion and laxness allowed bad men to enter the seminary.
    3. Both the aesthetic of Catholicism since Vatican II and the failure to prevent the sex-abuse crisis represent a larger arc of Catholic decline.

    You can see how the non-sequitor of “See this pencil? See how there are no tigers here? This pencil protects me from tigers” differs in nature from a reasonable inference of relatedness like “To the best of our knowledge, this problem is historically centered HERE. What else was happening at this time in history? Oh, there happens to be CATACLYSMIC institutional reordering at the same moment. I’d wager these things are related.”

    And let me say that from the inside, he is absolutely right that Vatican II created [i]tremendous[/i] liturgical, theological, and institutional upheaval, much of which persists today. Catholicism [i]is[i/] very much like an unhappy marriage of two different churches— of dozens of churches, I would argue. You’ve heard me gripe about this before in this very forum. But from my point of view, all of that confusion is absolutely necessary because, unlike Nickels, I think Vatican II was, on balance, a positive change for my Church. I recognize that no monumental change comes to an institution this old and fixed without a whole lot of disorientation and dismay.

    Is a correlation between these things true? I really have no idea. It’s possible, though. I disagree [i]strongly[/i] with his position on Vatican II, and there is every chance that these things are entirely unrelated, but I don’t think this notion is necessarily idiotic.

    What I do think is idiotic, however, is to claim that Catholic bishops and archbishops— men who were not at all newly minted in their collars during the free-wheeling era of the 60s and 70s— had any kind of moral ambiguity regarding clerics having sex— AT ALL— let alone with minors (be they pre-pubescent or post-pubescent) in their charge. So Thom, don’t blame the patently unconscionable slapping-of-wrists for behavior that is obviously EVIL on the “swingin’ feeling of the times”. Liturgical and institutional confusions resulting from Vatican II notwithstanding, we didn’t rewrite the bedrock moral code of the frickin’ Church during those years! And the bureaucracy didn’t break down far enough to fail to collect alms or build new churches or process confirmations or run CCD or manage Pre-Cana. So what are we talking about here?

    I also highly object to his raising the crass matter of money in his assessment of the scandal. No doubt that some [i]are[/i] falsely motivated by the prospect of a Vatican cash-cow, but to offer [i]any[/i] kind of resistance to the legitimacy of what we’ve learned has been done by the hierarchy with an argument like this— well— its reprehensibly bad form. We don’t get to play victim on this, Thom, not ever. Even if, theoretically, half of the cases against predator-priests and their diocesan enablers are false and motivated by money (and I doubt anyone would try to argue the numbers are nearly that high) that still leaves THOUSANDS of credible accusations of heinous crimes against priests and the clerical authority that placed PR ahead of justice and morality and agape. So how dare you. We as an institution owe, Thom. We owe whatever we can provide to those whose lives were destroyed by our clerical authority’s actions, well-meaning or otherwise. And if a few masquerading misers make some money along the way, well, leave their judgment to God. Let’s look to the plank in our eye, how about?

    For my own part, I will agree with Nickels that the “sexual abuse crises in the Church [is] part of a greater Catholic decline”, but strongly part ways with him about the timing. Vatican II wasn’t the cause of decline; it was a response to it. My gut response is to say that both Vatican II and the sex crisis have this shared font of broader spiritual decline that I think really dates back to first world war, when Old World, of which the Catholic Church was very much a part, passed away, and the Church’s longstanding impasse with modernity really, finally trickled down to the masses. It germinated in a worldwide crisis-of-faith that would eventually sap the pool of potential clerics. It took some time to reach critical-mass, of course, but the result was a demonstrably thinned pool of lesser candidates to seminary. Today, of course, this development is beyond the point of crisis— we’re red-lining— it’s a potentially crippling turn of events in the life of the Church. But nevertheless, the Church continued ordaining priests to try to keep its clerical class fully stocked, the quality of its candidates notwithstanding. When fewer people compete for entrance into anything, the quality of those accepted diminishes. Except, in the case of the servants of the servants of God, that isn’t good enough. Clearly, we took whoever we could get, because we felt we had to. Whatever else the institution of the Church is guilty of— and God knows there’s plenty, with more being discovered on a daily basis— this failure to grapple effectively with modernity— the failure of imagination in adaptation and in recognition of what was happening, and the resultant drought of good candidates to our priesthood must be at the very top. I don’t think celibacy has much to directly do with this business of ephebophilia, actually, and I don’t know if the quality of our candidate pool would be improved by allowing married men to enter the priesthood or not, but I am all for the idea. Any reasonable person has to be at this point. One would think it would, though on the other hand, the Orthodox, who do allow their priests to marry, have been suffering an almost parallel vocational crisis, so who knows what to do. Change though. As swift as the old boat can turn.

    I need to say one last thing, because it’s been eating me inside and I need to air it somewhere: I’ve known a lot of priests in my life— in my parish, at my gradeschool, within my family, at the Mission next door to the house in which I was raised, and at my college— easily hundreds. Those men, anyway, were, by and large, good men. Not uniformly, of course, but more often than not. Not all nice people, some real sons of bitches, like in every other segment of society, but generally good. I am thinking particularly of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart next door to where I grew up, with whom I spent so much time as a kid. Priests were in and out of that place all the time— they’d come for a few months of retreat and study and then go back to wherever they were stationed. My parents let me hang out there because there weren’t any kids on our block and because my parents are, well, pretty damn Catholic. I’d read with these guys, pray with them, watch TV or play cards, we’d paint and sculpt. Hang out. They took me on as a mascot, sort of. They pushed me hard to discern a vocation. I did not. But I learned a lot. I had the chance to debate politics and theology. They pushed Augustine and Aquinas on me before I could really digest any of it. The whole thing has become sort of storied in my memory, I guess. But they had a profoundly positive, formative effect on my life and on who I am today. I can’t think of a single occasion on which I felt threatened or believe in retrospect that I was potentially in danger. And I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Maybe I just won the lottery, here, I don’t know. Maybe the place was boyrape-central and I just lucked the fuck out. I don’t know objectively what percentage of priests are evil men and what percentage are holy men, but I am extraordinarily thankful for the ones who touched my life, and I am in profound mourning for those who weren’t as fortunate as me in this regard.

  12. Carl says:

    I’m sorry I just threw up all over your blog, guys. That’s a monster post. I’ll get a towel.

  13. dagocutey says:

    Are any of you Catholic? I was raised Catholic — meaning, I attended mass EVERY Sunday, holy day of obligation and day during Lent, until I was 17. I was 7 years old the first time I knelt in a dark booth and whispered my sins to a stranger. I attended Catholic schools from 1st grade through my Bachelor’s Degree. And although I haven’t been a practicing Catholic for a while now, I’ve known many priests and nuns, some very personally, and here’s my take on it: kids are being sexually abused because of the vow of celibacy. It’s FUCKED UP. To deny one’s sexuality is contrary to human nature — it twists us in the head, in ways that can be hidden from others. And especially for men (I’m not being a sexist here, biology supports this), this is a very dangerous way to live. This is the elephant in the room — the huge, horny, stinking pachyderm — that for some reason, no one’s talking about.
    @Joanna — Beotch please! Are you implying that changing church doctrine — and the most drastic change was the saying of masses in ENGLISH instead of Latin — causes mental illness? That’s so silly, you nutty, silly nut-girl! Priests are regular human men who are not supposed to be sexual in ANY way (not even alone, with themselves, capisce?) This is not rocket science, it’s a fucking recipe for dysfunction. And as far as Braak having “a little bit of knowledge” — I suspect he’s forgotten more than you’ve ever known. Can I get a witness?

  14. braak says:

    @dagocutey: Carl is super Catholic. I am an irreligious atheist.

    @Carl: I don’t know, the implication read pretty clearly there, and Thom certainly didn’t say, “No, what I was really saying was [X].” Though, to be fair, my response was kind of aggressive, so I can see why he was turned off.

    But if you consider #2 of your reiteration of his positions, that’s what I’m objecting to. “Vatican II caused chaos, permitting bad men to enter the seminary.”

    That is the assertion that I read, and the one that I read as being wholly unfounded, based on the causal fallacy. I object to it not because it isn’t true — it might very well be (though I doubt it) — but because there are no actual, useful numbers involved in his argument. And because the entire situation is notoriously under-reported, because we know that our statistics regarding sex-abuse instances from prior to the 70s are pretty spotty, the scenario demands more rigor than that before people can go about making claims. Were there more bad men in the seminary after Vatican II? Were priests abusing children prior to Vatican II? How were they punished back then?

    There’s no actual information here, just bullshit.

  15. braak says:

    @Dagocutey: And, actually, the vow of celibacy is an interesting thing. I’ve heard it described as having certain kinds of merit (particularly in Mary Doria Russel’s The Sparrow, which is my favorite science fiction novel of all time), but I can see how it could go wrong very easily. And it does suggest why incidences of child sexual abuse seem to occur more often among Catholic priests, when statistically they should be just as likely regardless of religious sect.

    It’s interesting; the Catholic church has long had a kind of peculiar relationship with sexuality (they’re not the only ones, obviously, but there’s is kind of peculiar); I can easily imagine scenarios in which nascent pedophiles went into the priesthood particularly for the opportunities it might provide, but also potentially as a way of trying to repent those urges or to flee from them.

  16. dagocutey says:

    @Braak — yes, the vow of celibacy is interesting. Any time a person takes a solemn spiritual vow to denounce something so basic, permant and constant as their sexuality, it gets REAL interesting. As I’m not familiar with The Sparrow, what are the “certain kinds of merit” that it illustrates?

  17. Carl says:

    That is the assertion that I read, and the one that I read as being wholly unfounded, based on the causal fallacy. I object to it not because it isn’t true — it might very well be (though I doubt it) — but because there are no actual, useful numbers involved in his argument. And because the entire situation is notoriously under-reported, because we know that our statistics regarding sex-abuse instances from prior to the 70s are pretty spotty, the scenario demands more rigor than that before people can go about making claims. Were there more bad men in the seminary after Vatican II? Were priests abusing children prior to Vatican II? How were they punished back then?

    There’s no actual information here, just bullshit.

    I agree he’s proved nothing. I wouldn’t claim he has. Is he claiming to prove anything definitively, or is he’s far less ambitious? He points out a potentially illuminative correlation between two things that seem to have happened at the same time and posits relatedness, not direct causation. There’s a step in between. The fact that he happens to hate Vatican II doesn’t alter that fact that he is correct in saying it caused a shitload of turmoil and chaos in the Church. And, you know, generally when an institution— any institution— is in chaos, shit doesn’t get done properly. And, by God, this was some seriously improper shit.

    Yes, that’s a supposition and not a demonstrable fact because, as you point out, there aren’t a lot of facts around, owing to the rare instances of reporting in sexual abuse prior to the middle of the last century. So we’re all groping in the dark here for what went down here. That hasn’t stopped all kinds of people from hopping on the bullhorn with their theories about it, though. It hasn’t stopped people from proclaiming, without facts and figures to back anything up, that celibacy must be the cause or that the single-gender priesthood is absolutely to blame, or whatever. That’s what we do when we have spotty information— we speculate. Is it not for us to try to piece together what we can, based on what we know and what we think we know? Or better to just throw up our hands up and not theorize in the absence of hard evidence? His theory is by no means airtight, by no means demonstrable, but it isn’t a non-sequitor. It draws together major events in the same Church at the same time and about which there is sketchy information and takes a stab at a conclusion.

    Listen, I don’t buy it either. He’s in the ‘Declining Standards’ camp and I’m in the ‘Supply and Demand’ camp. I’m just saying that it isn’t idiotic.

  18. Carl says:

    And it does suggest why incidences of child sexual abuse seem to occur more often among Catholic priests, when statistically they should be just as likely regardless of religious sect.

    And speaking of fact-free conclusions, on what basis is this claim made? Just general knowledge? I know, you did say ‘seems’ which covers you a great deal. “Well certainly, it’s more heavily reported by the media that Catholic priests are pedophiles. You don’t really hear about news stories concerning practitioners of other faiths.” Which, by the same logic, only proves that it is more heavily reported that something is certain way, not that it actually is, right? When an organization is constantly taking the moral high ground, and it turns out that that organization is aiding and abetting sexual predators for its own benefit, that’s rightfully news.

    Here’s some reading on this question from a lightning-fast googling:

    This article puts the percentage of Catholic priests accused in the States of any sexual impropriety at 1.8% and the percentage of protestant ministers accused of the same crimes around 3%:

    Clearly, not at all a cut and dry question at all. Understand, I am in no way defending the actions of these criminals by questioning the assertion that pedophilia is more prominent among priests than the public-at-large. I just want to be clear about what the real scandal is here, to my mind at least. The depiction of the Church as a club of ‘pedophile priests’ masquerading as celibates is a canard. The scandal of individuals claiming to be men of God abusing trust and power, breaking vows, and injuring children while their bosses, also supposedly men of God, sweep these crimes under the rug to save face is a horrific disgrace and outrage of historic proportions.

  19. braak says:

    Yeah, man, “seems.” I also said things like “I can imagine” and “suggests,” precisely to invite the correction by someone (I was assuming you) with better information. Phrasing designed specifically to ground my suppositions firmly in the realm of the hypothetical. Thom Nickels didn’t say “seems,” he didn’t say, “is it possible” or “could it be” or “should we consider” or “here is something where further inquiry is warranted.” His article is called “What hath Vatican II wrought?” The only statistic he quotes is one designed to purposefully seat the sexual abuse scandals post Vatican II. And! When I called bullshit on him, he didn’t come here to clarify his position, or to call me a jackass for overstating his arguments or ignoring the nuance of his case–he dropped by to re-assert his position.

    I look forward to a nuanced article on the subject; this is absolutely an issue that I think warrants one. Nickels’ piece wasn’t it; it was intentionally incendiary, misleading, and sophistic. It’s bullshit, and I’d rather dismiss it out of hand to avoid giving him any kind of credibility and replace his crap with something actually worth considering.

    So, you know, write me something, instead of just posting comments, man.

  20. Carl says:

    Yes, you did. And no he didn’t.

    Hm. I see what you mean. Let me chew on it.

  21. dagocutey says:

    @Carl et al. — Whoa — do you listen to public radio? The latest episode of This American Life started off with the most amazing piece on the Catholic Church. It doesn’t shed any light on the “why”, but gives a detailed explanation of how these crisis issues are addressed within the church. It’s fascinating, and you owe it to yourself to hear it if you are a “super Catholic” (see Braak, 4/1, 10:57 pm).

  22. Sallie Parker says:

    Thom Nickels could have fleshed out his thinking a little more fully, describing the fad of ecumenism and hippy-dippy ‘relevancy’ that overtook the American Church during the 60s and 70s, right after Vatican II. The high-water mark of Mass attendance and public devotion came in the 50s and 60s BEFORE Vat2 had done its dirty work. Basically, Vat2 disfigured the Church, from the liturgy of its services to the esprit of its religious orders. Catholic religious orders–nuns, monks, brothers–were considered to be crack outfits, far more than the secular priesthood. It’s the old story: the Coldstream Guards have no shortage of recruits, but almost nobody wants to be a squaddie. Well, thanks to Vat2, the orders lost their appeal and everyone was a squaddie. Habits were uglified or taken away altogether, religious discipline was replaced with social work and left-liberal prattling. Devotion and self-abnegation were no longer considered prime virtues; they came to seem obscurantist and medieval. (Now where could they have got THAT idea?) Since half or more of the American priesthood belongs to one order or another, this meant a decline in the quality of applicants.

  23. […] interesting point!  Though, as Carl points out, way down in the comments section of this post, for all the attention and controversy they get, the Catholic Church actually has a lower rate of […]

  24. […] interesting point!  Though, as Carl points out, way down in the comments section of this post, for all the attention and controversy they get, the Catholic Church actually has a lower rate of […]

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