In The Trojan Horse in the City of God, Dietrich von Hildebrand accuses the self-styled postconciliar “progressives” of an incorrect view of virtue and truth. They behave, he says, as if one error could be counterbalanced by another, so that laicism is seen as the cure for clericalism, or contempt for tradition could counterbalance an ignorant attachment to it. It is like believing that what the coward needs is a dose of rashness, or what the prude needs is a visit to the brothel. But virtue is not an arithmetic mean between vices, and truth is not an arithmetic mean between errors. Indeed vices and errors that seem opposed to one another often spring from the same bad soil.
The “progressive,” then, sets his sight on a Christ of the imagination, always fading beyond the horizon ahead, in the land of Would Have: So Jesus, who notably did not choose any women among the twelve, must cede to the Christ Who Would Have, had He been among us now. People of every political stripe can play this game. The Jesus who said, “One cannot serve both God and Mammon,” must cede to the Christ Who Would Have defined our salvation in material terms, whether procured by free enterprise or the socialist leviathan. The Jesus whose clarion call for sexual purity forbids divorce must cede to the Christ Who Would Have smiled upon fornication, which is to set divorce at the very heart of the sexual act. The “progressive” is thus always two steps ahead of the Holy Spirit.
All of which begs the question, again, of truth. For if you are walking down into hell, progress is the last thing you need.
The applications of this are replete and it seems that von Hildenbrand may have had a pretty good handle on the things to come. The non-Roman Catholics who read this can gain every bit as much from it as those who share von Hildebrand's church.
“In the spirit of Vatican II” is a spirit that is defined a priori as suspicious of tradition and “open” to “modern culture...” It would seem that Lutheranism and other Christian traditions have ingested some of the spirit of Vatican II and the result of which is that we have become suspicious of our recent past and our catholic past and more open to modern culture (secular, entertainment oriented, and pleasure seeking).
HT to Anthony Esolen, about whom I know little, other than he teaches at Providence College and is a Senior Editor for Touchstone.