Last year Britain faced one of its most serious challenges to public order in a generation (or two) when riots broke out all over England. Supposedly the response to an alleged racist incident, it was quickly seen to be an anarchic melee where people took the opportunity to commit acts of vandalism, break into shops and steal whatever they could lay their hands on. People died as human beings turned to brutes and savaged anyone who got in their way.
Last Saturday at a concert in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, young people ran amok high on drugs and alcohol, having sex in public and attacking each other. Three people are dead, nine were stabbed, a number had bottles broken over their heads and numerous others had to be treated for a variety of injuries, including one young man who was so badly beaten he cannot now recall whether he was punched or kicked by a crowd of rowdies. A young woman is also missing.
In Britain, the political elite stood on their perches and scratched their heads, our lot here will do the same. "What happened?" we'll hear concerned parties ask, the same people who helped create the very anarchy that broke out on the streets and in the park. What happened? Their permissive political, sexual and societal agenda with its emphasis on untrammeled individual freedom and attempts to distort the natural law and morality - the very "social revolution" that has been so dear to the hearts of the 60's generation and their ideological offspring - that's what happened. A generation of naive, anti-Christian ideologues who ignored the reality of God and the existence of original sin, now have had the door swung back in their faces and they are clueless as to why it has happened.
Compare all this with an interview that took place on Pat Kenny's radio show this morning (Donum Vitae has a post with a link to the discussion). The topic was gay marriage and Kenny had our friend David Quinn of the Iona Institute debating with Senator Ivana Bacik. Bacik is perhaps one of our most liberal and anti-Christian public representatives. Bacik, taking the cue from her party leader, Eamonn Gilmore who said that the issue of gay marriage was the civil rights issue of our time, was calling for gay marriage to become a reality in Ireland. David Quinn was pointing out the damage such a measure would cause, not merely to society, but to the children of our country. As always David quoted statistics as evidence to support his argument and, as always, Bacik ignored them and made her demands.
When asked by David and then Kenny, was it not the ideal that a child should grow up with their father and mother, Bacik's response just dismissed it - as long as children had "access" to adults of both sexes they would be fine. Here is the very attitude which is leading to the collapse of our society - an ideological position which creates unstable relationships which benefit only adults in search of fulfilment and pleasure and says: "The kids will be OK".
Well, the kids are not OK, the kids are miserable, unsocialised, looking for love and finding only confusion. The kids see adults making gods of their individual freedom and desires and so they aim to do the same. Accepting no responsibility, they do what they want to do and will not allow anyone stand in their way, after all isn't that what the adults to whom they have "access" teach them by their own behaviour? Permissive secular individualism is a failure and it is creating a dangerous society. What started with the coupling of free love of the sixties and the ideological ranting of the left, will end in the birth of a monster.
As serious students of history will tell you, history repeats itself, and those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Civilisations rose and they fell. Rome, once a great empire, politically and culturally, fell to the barbarian which overran it. Decadent Rome was, by then, no match for the hordes when they came bashing their tree trucks at the city gates. It is a lesson for every civilization. In conversations with history buffs over the years I have asked, when this civilisation falls, who will be the conquering barbarian? Some suggested it would be the Muslims: a new Islamic empire would rise where the West once had been. I'm not so sure. I think the barbarian is within - we saw them in the UK last August and in the park on Saturday. Our decadent civilisation need not fear the hordes outside the West, they are being created from within by a dangerous social experiment.
And one might ask, where is the Church in all of this? Well, as we see from history the Church converted the barbarian and this gave rise to a new flowering of civilisation symbolised most potently by Charlemagne. Can the Church convert the new barbarian? Well, we might have a chance. After all these barbarians have had little or no exposure to Christianity - the last two generations have been badly catechised, and the ideology of these times tells them they don't need God or religion, but yet deep in their hearts they are starving for something - for meaning, for the spiritual. That hunger will grow when drugs, alcohol and sex lose their effects, when they start asking questions and the adults they have access to will not be able to answer them. If this civilisation ends in ruins, can the Church like Our Lord walk through the broken tombs and tame the demoniacs?
I think that is what Blessed John XXIII may have seen in his calling the Second Vatican Council, what Blessed John Paul II saw as he promulgated the New Evangelisation - what Pope Benedict XVI sees as he teaches from the Chair of Peter. The Church must be ready and full of evangelical zeal, not to waste time on fighting with the ideologues, but to present the vision of Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers humanity - to present the vision of a restored humanity at one with God in the communion of the Church - the family of faith, to the generations that are coming.
I'm not saying we don't challenge the establishment or resign our position in the public square: we do not, we should continue to be a thorn in the side of those who try to silence us. But we need also to stand back, take stock, and begin to plan our campaign. We have not heard it in a long time, but, pushing all the nonsense language to one side, the Church is in the business of saving souls, and that's what she should be planning to do. This is not heaven down here, but we need to start rebuilding a civilisation of faith and love here and now - a place, a community to capture the attention and hearts of the barbarians.