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*Image: Opening Session of the Council of Trent in 1545 by Nicolò Dorigati, 1711 [Museo Diocesano Tridentino, Trento, Italy]

By Russell Shaw, The Catholic Thing, June 7, 2020

Russell Shaw is former Secretary for Public Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity (forthcoming from Ignatius Press).

Russell ShawAs the Church in America emerges from lockdown, blinking and a bit unsteady on its feet, there are two familiar sayings to which Catholics emphatically should not turn for guidance on what to do next. They are: “Return to normalcy” and “The more things change, the more they are the same.”

Besides being the slogan of Warren Harding’s 1920 presidential campaign, the problem with “Return to normalcy” lies in its unspoken assumption that the condition of the Church before the lockdown is worth getting back to. Clearly it isn’t.

The cynical “the more things change” isn’t acceptable either because of its world-weary assumption that improving the state of American Catholicism is out of the question. Difficult, yes. Out of the question – pray God it’s not.

But, someone might ask, why this haste to rule out returning to how things were before the lockdown? The answer is simple: going back to the way things were in the not-so-distant past would mean returning to an ecclesiastical ethos of steady, debilitating decline.  …

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