Writer Chronicles the Revolution That Almost Destroyed the Catholic Church (And It’s Not Over!)

The Desolate City

By Ann Roche Muggeridge

The worldwide implosion of the Roman Catholic Church during the years 1960-1980 is, in my opinion, one of history’s greatest mysteries.  How could a millennia-old institution so large, vigorous, and self-disciplined collapse essentially overnight?  I’ve read several books on this topic, and The Desolate City is, by far, the best.  Muggeridge claims that the Church has suffered a revolution, and so she proceeds to study the crucial post-conciliar years by analogies with revolutions in the secular/political sphere.

Her template for a revolution begins with a vigorous but disgruntled class—usually the class next to the top rather than one of the lower orders—that feels that it is not being given the power its merits deserve.  The disgruntled class uses its authority within the system to undermine the system by criticizing and ridiculing the ruling order in front of the lower classes.  These “rituals of revolution” prepare the public psychologically for the overthrow of the old order.  The government tries in various ways to appease the revolutionaries, which they take to be a sign of weakness.  Finally, the revolutionaries move into open defiance.  When the government fails to suppress them, people start defecting to the new revolutionary power center en masse.  The revolution solidifies its control of all public institutions, and the old government is effectively overthrown.

This, Muggeridge claims, is what’s happened to the Catholic Church.  Here, the government is the Magisterium:  the Pope and loyal bishops.  The disgruntled class is the clerical intelligentsia:  the teaching religious orders, the bureaucrats in the national episcopal conferences, and (especially) the theologians.  The revolution, as Muggeridge calls it, has succeeded in establishing control over the Church at all levels except the very top.  How did the revolutionary intelligentsia gain so much power?   It came through a dreadful miscalculation on the part of the bishops.  The latter had hoped at Vatican II to secure more freedom from curial (i.e. papal) interference, and to this end they allied themselves with the radicals (who at the time were pretending to be mostly orthodox).  Once the radicals had established their control over the conciliar implementation commissions and the bishops’ bureaucracies, the masks were discarded and the bishops found they could no longer control their own diocese.

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Editor’s Note: This book is recommended by Michael Voris of Real Catholic TV.

1 Comment

  1. Posted for Norma, by Doug:

    I will have to disagree on one note. I was involved in RENEW many years ago as well as about 12 yrs. ago. In no shape or form was the New Testament ever denigrated-ever. In fact I can assure you our small groups and the materials that was provided encouraged people to read and ponder the New Testament. The leaders picked for small groups were chosen because of their strong knowledge of scripture and their lives were a reflection of that.

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