I grew up in the Bernadine years. The years of consensus leadership, of being welcoming and tolerant. Dialogue was the way to address any disagreement, any difficulty.
I don’t recall hearing anything about principles, about virtue, about sacrifice, about the truth. It seems that a whole generation, the generation before me, had been turned off by such things. They distained talk of objective right and wrong. Of good and evil. Of virtue and sin. And they pointed out continually that such dichotomies were either the mark of simplistic and naïve thinking, or the propaganda of those who seek to control others.
We were basically taught that the heart of the Gospel was to love others, and that that meant we should always compromise conviction in favor of the person. The only virtue I recall being drilled into my head was that we seek to be on good terms with everyone, regardless of their point of view. To be likable. It was the underlying subtext in most moral narratives: the protagonist gives up his or her convictions or preconceived notions in order to love the antagonist.
And he recounts the terrible effects, even on those who managed not to lose their faith.
The conflict within the JPIIs is caused by a dissonance between the appetite and the intellect. Temperamentally, we are deeply uncomfortable with conflict and want people to get along, even if that means sacrificing what we know is right. Culturally, we were raised on washed out themes – the words to “Hear I am, Lord” ring in our ears, reminding us of the tear-filled retreats of youth even if we know that half the time we were just being emotionally manipulated. Even though we know we should, we don’t know how to live a life rooted in ritual prayer because our parents didn’t even know what that looked like. And so even basic spiritual discipline requires herculean effort for us. Intellectually we lack rigor, we were told that every opinion was valid for so long that we have a hard time being critical, even if we are suspect of what we hear. We tend toward reactionary extremes, and toward a certain nostalgia for times when there seemed to be greater regard for human excellence and virtue. But we’re really not sure what that looked like or how to achieve it, because we’ve never experienced it in a living culture. Instead we grew up on the Nintendo and MTV, the St. Louis Jesuits and cut out butterflies. A washed out culture, a decadent culture, and a largely secular culture.
But he's not despairing. The work of rebuilding has begun. And our generation is given the task of laying the foundation for the new spring time of the Church forseen by Blessed Pope John Paul II.