June 2015 is proving to be a month of staggering, shuddering and seismic consequence. Think of it: the Vatican recognizes Palestine’s claim to statehood and negotiates a treaty respecting a changing political reality on the ground; Pope Francis releases an encyclical addressed to all people of good will regarding our social, political, economic and theological obligations to steward our planet in ways that are not exploitative; Catholic Ireland approves by means of a referendum (the only country to do so) same-sex marriage; the U.S Supreme Court issues a judgment regarding same-sex marriage that pits four Catholic justices against two Catholic justices and their three allies; feminist Catholic thinkers around the globe prepare for the coming Fall Synod on the Family with renewed energy and intellectual rigour at the same time as various traditionalists mount a counter offensive.
Catholic intellectual life is fecund, febrile and ferocious.
But there is a growing cloud on the horizon underscored in a recent interview with Olivier Roy of the European University Institute in Florence who warns that the “French malaise” as he calls it—the increased marginalization of religion in the public arena—is spreading throughout all of western Europe and abroad.
Secularization need not result in marginalization, but the signs are increasingly ominous. Human autonomy and civil rights have become comprehensively normative allowing little if no room for metaphysical and theological considerations.
In the end, it is all about anthropology—how we define ourselves as human—and if the church is not a major player in the debate (for centuries it was the sole arbiter), society at large is diminished.
Although pessimistic, Roy sees one powerful hope incarnated in the current pontiff and his prioritizing of the church’s universal vocation in love not unalterable rules.