New Rules, New Prophets,
and Beige Catholicism
Revolutionary events and the collapse of institutional structures (paradigms and their motivations) always leave chaos, confusion, and conflict in their wake. 1 The conflicts over the French Revolution, energized by the storming of the Bastille as its eventful symbol, continued in France until the return of Charles de Gaulle from Colombey in 1958. A fervent Catholic and a fervent Republican, le général provided the occasion for healing the breach between the Church and the Republic, an occasion many on both sides had sought for years. The shape of the Fifth Republic seems to have institutionalized that new tolerance. Will the confusion within Catholicism continue for another two centuries?
Probably not. Those who dissent from the Council and from the subsequent collapse of the rules have been revitalized by the pontificate of John Paul II, but they are only a small minority (e.g., only about 12 percent of the U. S. population agrees with the Church's stance on birth control), and there is no reason to think their numbers will increase. Nonetheless, in the three decades