Tuesday, September 23, 2014
There is no single cause for the decline of Catholic literary culture. The reason my essay was so long was that the situation is complicated. The decline resulted from half a dozen converging trends– both inside and outside the Church. Internally, there was the assimilation of educated Catholics into secular society, the lack of support for the arts by the Church, the confusion in the Catholic community following Vatican II, the decline of interest in culture by the Catholic media as it became increasingly obsessed by politics, and the failure of Catholic universities to celebrate and champion our literary heritage. These trends occurred as American intellectual life first grew more secular and then turned increasingly anti-Christian. Meanwhile in the broader society there was the steady erosion of print culture—the magazines, newspapers, and publishers which had traditionally supported serious writers. This erosion probably affected Catholic writers disproportionately since they appeared to be out of sync with both the cultural and commercial mainstream.There is really two halves to that paragraph - the first part is church failings and the second is changes in the publishing industry. The second half is happening in the publishing industry generally and it is simply time to adapt - for everybody that wants to write. The first half is a different story.
Gioia succinctly captures what I would call "the evangelicalization" of the Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic church is too large and too diverse to ever go full on Evangelical, but what Gioia is describing is the church, especially in America, moving in the direction of Evangelicalism. It is a reasonable description of all the problems that plague Evangelicalism writ small. Simply put, the focus is entirely too narrow to every have a hope of capturing culture.
I find is fascinating that the as the government pushed increasingly to reduce religion to a Sunday only thing, we have aided and abetted that effort. We focus on Sunday services at the exclusion of all else. We no longer have a church culture - we just have the church show that people can attend.
I worry that as society secularizes we will not have a sub-culture to retreat into - we will only have a show to watch.
church culture show