Answers to modern liberal critics of the Catholic Church were written long ago

How interesting that two of the best responses to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s recent op-ed in Newsweek, “Without a Doubt: Why Barack Obama represents American Catholics better than the pope does” (July 9, 2009), were published nearly forty years ago. What to make of it? For starters, it indicates the simple truth expressed long ago by the author of Ecclesiastes: “Nothing is new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). It also highlights what might seem, at first glance, contradictory facts: the beliefs of Townsend and Co. are both dangerous and dull. Dangerous because they are false and destructive; dull because they are clichéd and intellectually empty.

Dr. Hitchcock’s book is both a helpful overview of the turmoil of the late Sixties and a measured, devastating critique of the flawed and, yes, heretical perspectives of progressives who sought and fought to remake the Church according to the latest leftist ideologies and fads. One of the primary themes, as the quotes above indicate, is how progressives, in employing an ecclesiology that is thoroughly secular in nature and horizontal in scope, attack and destroy the heart of Catholicism, which is a life-changing, supernaturally-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ, who is King of Kings and—oh, by the way—the giver of the keys of the Kingdom to a certain St. Peter and his successors.

Dr. von Hildebrand’s book, which is a companion of sorts to his earlier (and equally excellent) work, Trojan Horse in the City of God (Franciscan Herald Press, 1967), covers similar ground as Hitchcock’s book, but more through philosophical critique and theological reflection. Especially notable, regarding Townsend’s essay, are von Hildebrand’s chapters on authority and democracy, especially “Democratization of the Holy Church,” where he states, “The idea that one can make the Church more accessible to the spirit of the times by this ‘democratization,’ or that this ‘democratization’ represents an improvement, has sometimes a pernicious, sometimes a naive character—but it is always an illusion. One can call for the democratization of the holy Church only if one has lost all sense for the true nature of this sacred institution.”

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