onsdag 15 maj 2013

Post Modernism and Catholicism

Punk Girl #1 by Elmar Eye
Punk Girl #1, a photo by Elmar Eye on Flickr.
In his sermon last Sunday, a local priest put his finger on what must be an important factor in the decline of the Catholic church in Europe. He said that the Second Vatican Council addressed the modern world just as it was moving into the era of Post Modernism. Post Modernism grew out of, amongst other things, the understanding of signs and symbols, through the work of people such as Levi Strauss and Sperber during the 1960s.

The first fruits of this were to be seen in fashion and music, in the Punk movement, which was about the recycling and re-use of signs. It was quickly picked up by, amongst others, the American architect Robert Venturi who wrote an influential book, best known under its revised title "Learning from Las Vegas", published in 1977. This knocked the supports away from the architectural movement known as Modernism, which had come to prominence just before World War 2 and dominated architectural theory until challenged by the Post Modernists such as Venturi.

The irony is that the Catholic church, through its liturgical reforms, deprived itself of much of the language needed to talk to this Post Modern world, just as it was coming into existence. To understand the implications of this, ask yourself where would the Freemasons be if they abandoned their richly symbolic ceremonies?

In the light of this, it is no accident that in UK and here in Sweden, the only growth point in the Catholic church is around the old liturgy, where young people are being converted from atheism. The lesson needs to be learned and acted on.

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