Editor's note: The latest issue of the Les Femmes newsletter is in mailboxes around the country. It's not posted on line yet, but here's the lead article. How do you like living in a culture where people in grown up bodies, but with the minds of juveniles, are running the show? It may look good in Home Alone, but how does it work in the real world?
The adolescent years represent a real challenge. If any stage of development can be described as “the best of times and the worst of times” it’s that confusing period between childhood and adulthood. Filled with noble ideals, youth often rebel against the people who can help achieve them. Normally, it’s just a stage, with its major characteristic being uncertainty. As Catholic psychiatrist Rudolf Allers says:
There is, in fact, nothing of which the youthful mind is not uncertain. The adolescent feels that he is no longer a child, and that the ways of thinking, of acting, of feeling he was used to, are not any more suited to his present state: but he is very acutely aware also that he is not yet grown up, and that the ways of the adult are not better suited to him.... The feeling of having left behind childhood and all the security it gave is very strong; but there is nothing as yet to replace the old world the child moved in with so much confidence. The necessity of relying on oneself is imposing itself, but the self is still a floating, uncertain, changing something which is not really known, and cannot be known, since it is not yet formed. The main characteristic of adolescence is indeed the definite formation of this self.
Unfortunately, that formation can be driven off the rails in early childhood and result in serious problems later in life. The adage, “As the sapling is, so grows the tree” applies to the development of the human person. And many young people today are exposed to elements in the family, society, and the environment that stunt their growth into responsible and ethical adults.
Allers, the only Catholic involved in establishing the Freudian school (who later abandoned Freud’s theories and those of Alfred Adler) wrote this in 1938 for Homiletic and Pastoral Review:
The years of adolescence are known to be years of crisis. It needs sometimes very little to push the growing personality into a wrong direction. A thorough knowledge of the peculiarities of the adolescent mind is, therefore, of primary importance.
Those “peculiarities” include the confusing position of being “in between” as Fr. Henry Sattler describes it. The adolescent has left the secure and safe world of childhood and faces increasing independence. He wants it, but often doesn’t know what’s expected of him or how to act. Everything is changing including his own body. Fr. Sattler goes on to say:
Without the guidance to find the answers, the humility to accept them, and the courage to implement them, the teenager has recourse to the inadequate and destructive solutions with which we are so familiar: running away from the problem by rebellion, seclusion, self-gratification, and the like. Instead of getting on his way through self-development, often the teenager undergoes spiritual atrophy and, in the worst case scenario, all too common today, remains a child for the rest of his life.In the past, most institutions supported parents and solid values. Churches, schools, libraries, sports teams and clubs all stood for “motherhood and apple pie” and helped parents rear their children to be responsible, confident adults. Every school, secular or Christian, encouraged patriotism and recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the day. Libraries were vigilant about protecting children from “adult” themed literature. Neighbors often watched out for the welfare of each other’s children. What a difference from today’s culture of the diversity bookbag for kindergartners, transgender story hours led by convicted sex abusers, homosexual characters in cartoons, and sexual immorality taught in the classroom via “sex education."
The assault on ethics and morality has existed forever, but in the past century it’s gone into overdrive as moral relativism and liberalism took center stage. A person once described as a model citizen because of love for God, family, and country is now labeled by social media as a dangerous extremist and domestic terrorist. Children must be separated from the values of faith and family.
How did the disintegration happen and why?
It’s not hard to explain. Every totalitarian regime throughout history targets the family for destruction. The authority of parents must be replaced with the authority of the state. As I look at my own lifetime, I can identify specific things that contributed to the rejection of parental authority and respect for limited government. One is the attack on men, especially fathers. When I was a child the most popular show on TV, Father Knows Best, honored parents. Ozzie and Harriet and Make Room for Daddy also featured smart, loving dads. Not that he didn’t make mistakes, but Dad was the go-to guy for problems and the solution often involved self-sacrifice on his part. Only a decade later, the dad-is-dumb shows began and escalated so much that by the 1980s we had monumental idiot dad, Homer Simpson. Being stupid, a liar, and a cheat was the weekly portrayal of Dad. What a fool! Johnson’s Great Society and radical feminism also drove stakes into the hearts of fathers. They aren’t necessary. In fact, they’re a threat to autonomy.
What did that do to adolescents? It added to their uncertainty. Fr. Paul Robinson, SSPX, draws on both Allers and Sattler in an article on the challenges of adolescence. He points out that, “Certainty comes from conviction, and conviction comes from God, country, and family, the three great sources of authority and stability.”
The teen crisis is a relatively new phenomenon in history. Fr. Robinson points us to medieval Christendom to explain why. The strength of medieval Christendom in this respect is striking. It portrayed authority at all levels as loving and caring by always associating it with fatherhood and motherhood. God, the Pope, the king, the parish priest, and the mayor were all set forth as fathers, while Our Lady, the Church, and the queen were portrayed as mothers. Beyond his immediate family, a child found security in these extended familial figures, and their authority and what they represented provided a healthy pressure to conform to a standard of morality and right living. In not conforming, you did not fit in with the entire societal structure. This made becoming a troubled, uncertain teenager an aberrational route to take.
Today, very little authority is recognized. And, sad to say, troubled adolescents and adults are anything but aberrant. Uncertainty and rebellion characterize our society which rejects the authority of God and even nature. The sand of feelings has replaced the rock of reason. Parents abdicate their authority because “the experts” urge them to respect the autonomy of children and not violate their right to freedom. And children grow up thinking there is no greater authority than their own feelings. It’s a sure prescription for disaster when parents give children the freedom to follow their worst instincts without restraint.
The only way for teens to “find themselves” and reach a point where they are truly free is for them to embrace strong and courageous role models who respect rightful authority. Youth need certainty to counterbalance uncertainty. Many grow up with confusion, imbalance, parental neglect, and scandal as their daily fare. It’s no surprise, then, that their boats founder in the stormy seas of adolescent passions. Their teenage idealism, manipulated by those who desire control, deforms them into ideologues who hate God, country and their parents. They blame others for every bad decision they’ve ever made and refuse any accountability.
And so we face the big question: what happens to a society if a large number of its members never develop adult minds, but remain “stuck” in permanent adolescence? And what happens when those adolescents run the country? Look around! The results are disastrous! When a country’s leaders embrace the children’s game “let’s pretend” by passing laws that require its citizens to deny reality or be punished, the police state is here. How many will face fines and imprisonment for using the wrong pronouns or refusing to call Bruce Jenner Caitlyn? When liberal governors and mayors let rebellious teens masquerading as grown-ups burn and destroy their cities and slander those with whom they disagree, who is safe? When those in charge constantly change the rules as we saw during the COVID crisis, people actually suffer and die. Data coming out now shows that the draconian measures imposed by governments will result in many more deaths than the virus itself.
So what’s a Catholic to do in the face of a civilization collapsing into barbarism? Listen for God’s voice first of all. Scripture tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” God brings good out of every evil. Fr. James Buckley from Dallas, TX told us on retreat recently that his FSSP parish in Dallas exploded during the COVID crisis. They gained hundreds of new parishioners who came because they could receive Communion on the tongue (or other reasons). Many never attended the traditional Latin Mass before with its reverence, silence, and clear presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. They stayed. No surprise. “Deep calls unto deep!” So rejoice for how God defeats the devil’s wiles.
We also see positive signs on the secular front. Have you watched the patriots testifying all over the country before out-of-control school boards mandating critical race theory or requiring bathroom and shower equality for disordered and confused students with gender dysphoria? Loudoun county in northern Virginia made national headlines when the school board shut down public comments and went into an illegal private session to avoid dealing with parents criticizing their actions. In Warren County, next door to Shenandoah (my county), the school board listened to parents and voted to ignore state mandates to teach critical race theory.
Simon Campbell, a former school board member in Bucks County, PA (where I went to 8th grade and High School) gave a blistering rebuke to the school board. They tried to shut him down and he responded by reading from the Supreme Court’s 1964 decision New York Times vs. Sullivan citing our country’s “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” Bingo! “Unpleasantly sharp attack” on out-of-control public “servants” is exactly what’s needed.
These bold parents show us the way. Catholics and all Christians need to fight at every level of government, particularly at the local level to defend the truth and godly authority. We need to remove the godless and rebellious individuals who never grew into morally responsible and accountable adults and replace them with those who love God, family, and country.
Maureen Brody, a friend of mine, is running for the state legislature in Virginia. I’m sending her a donation and hope you’ll do the same for solid candidates in your own state. We need to support people like Maureen and urge other faithful Catholics and Christians who uphold life and liberty to run for public office. If we don’t oppose rebellious teenagers like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Beto O’Rourke, and future political wannabee, David Hogg, who used the tragic shooting at his school for his own personal aggrandizement, then we deserve what we get. Silly youngsters like Hogg and climate change guru Greta Thunberg will increasingly be the poster children for government.
For the sake of our children and grandchildren we cannot remain silent. Let us adopt the motto of the monks: ora et labora. Pray like everything depends on God and work like everything depends on us! Viva Cristo Rey.