Professor James Hitchcock has an interesting article over at The Catholic World Report on the breakdown of the authority of the Church:
The rejection of Humanae Vitae, and everything that followed, in a perverse way proved the success of the new religious education. In numerous ways—classroom instruction, sermons, retreats, publications—Catholics after Vatican II were told to follow their own inclinations on moral issues, that docility towards Church teaching was actually a betrayal of faith. In short, “reformers” discovered how easy it was to make water run down hill, to give the faithful permission to take the line of least resistance.
The reformist Catholic program now came simply to be equated with the secular liberal program. To Catholic liberals there remained two unresolved moral issues—war and poverty – but many Catholics remained “super-patriots” and bishops were condemned for not condemning the Vietnam War. Collectively the bishops supported the War on Poverty, but many lay Catholics started voting Republican.
Fidelity to Catholic social teaching required a synthesis of what came to be conflicting liberal and conservative positions—the welfare state on the on the hand and the pro-life and pro-family movements on the other. The Democratic Party, in which Catholics had for so long been a major force, was the natural agency for working out such a synthesis. Instead prominent Catholic Democrats, almost without exception, readily accepted the secular liberal agenda and pro-life, and pro-family Catholics gravitated towards the Republican Party, which had previously not attracted them.
Liberal Catholics emphasize the “lived experience” of the laity as a check on formal Catholic doctrine, a check that has, supposedly, demonstrated the rightness of contraception, homosexuality, and other things. Catholics today, it is claimed, are highly educated and can follow their own well-formed consciences.
But this is applied to sexual morality only. Businessmen who believe in the free market, for example, or soldiers who believe in the righteousness of the wars they fight, are accused of placing their own “lived experience” above the teachings of the Church. They are in effect guilty of heresy.
Go here to read the rest. A good article but only partially correct I think. Another problem is the squandering of Church authority. For example: The Church says that we cannot forget the poor and that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. A message preached since the time of Christ and embraced, I think, by all but the most hard hearted of Catholics. However, then the authority of the Church is squandered by the Church wandering into economic areas where the clerics involved clearly have no expertise. A classic example of this occurred in 2011 with the publication by the Pontifical Council For Justice and Peace of: Towards Reforming the International Financial & Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority. Go here to read my take on that document for which good tree pulp was wasted in vain. When the Church stands on traditional Catholic morality she can have immense moral authority. When her clerics present as Church teaching their opinions on subjects requiring technical expertise, an expertise clearly not possessed by the clerics involved, and when these opinions tend to be precisely those of the chattering classes in the societies they come from, the moral authority of the Church vanishes like water in the desert. Ironically, it is precisely the liberals within the Church who soft-peddle, at best, traditional Catholic teaching in regard to sex and the sanctity of life, who are most eager to have the Church impose upon Catholics teachings that have virtually nothing to do with traditional Catholicism. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI did a lot to rebuild the moral authority of the Church, not without a lot of misteps, particularly in regard to predator priests and the bishops who protected them, and we now see their work being demolished.