I was reminded this week of one of Pope Francis’ most memorable homilies from last November in which he warned of “adolescent progressivism. There is a good report on the homily here. ” In the long run that phrase will become one of his memorable “one liners” which holds hands with Benedict XVI’s warning about “the dictatorship of relativism.”
They go hand in hand because adolescent progressivism is the working out of the dictatorship of relativism. Why does Pope Francis refer to progressivism as “adolescent”? We have to stop and examine the dynamic of the adolescent. The first thing about the adolescent is that they are immature, but they don’t know it. The typical sophomore mentality is that of the “know it all” who has acquired a little bit of knowledge and thinks he has therefore acquired wisdom.
Secondly, the adolescent know it all is a sucker for ideologies. With their limited knowledge but the assumption of wisdom they latch on to some great cause. It might be right wing or left wing politics. It might be some great economic theory or it might be religious. The adolescent wants to change the world and so he joins some great movement and ideology. He’s always ready to join the club, go with the crowd and wave the flag. Because his own personality is still in formation and he lack the confidence to think for himself and act on his convictions he joins some great crusade.
The third mark of the adolescent is that he or she is a sentimentalist. They have strong emotions and will act on their feelings rather than their still nascent intellectual abilities. The adolescent typically rejects arguments based on reason, facts, duties and responsibilities. Because he is immature he responds instead with heightened emotions. The cause he or she has espoused becomes a great moral crusaded because it is a great emotional event. Ideologues play on this constantly and leaders of ideological movements always seek to manipulate the adolescent progressive’s emotions.
The fourth mark of the adolescent progressive is that along with the strong emotions there must always be a victim mentality. If they are not the victims themselves, then they must always find a victim to feel sorry for. Once they find the victim the adolescent progressive will portray the victim as totally good, pure and abused. Once they have found the totally good victim they must find the totally evil oppressor. Just as the rebellious adolescent demonizes the parent and authority figures in his life, so the adolescent progressive demonizes authority figures and places himself on the side of the victim. He does this with the sort of heightened self righteousness that only the adolescent can muster.
The fifth mark of the adolescent progressive is that he or she mistakes their ideology for their religion. They believe that their particular worthy cause is the same thing as their religion. They are certain that God is on their side. But what they have done in their immature lack of understanding is to mistake their narrow ideology with their religion. They thus limit their religion to their ideology and are blind to the vast areas of their religion that they have yet to explore.
Finally, Pope Francis is clear that this sort of progressive, ideologically based progressivism is of this world. It normally adopts the values and struggles that are current in the worldly arena and makes them part of the Christian struggle. Christianity might share some of the struggles in the world, but it is always bigger and more universal than the particular struggles the worldlings espouse.
Adolescent progressivism exists throughout the church–both Catholic and nonCatholic–like a hideous cancer that has eaten its way into Catholic newspapers, publishing houses, religious orders, colleges and seminaries.
Adolescent progressivism is a counterfeit religion–and remember counterfeits are always designed to look like the real thing–and Pope Francis is clear that this lie comes from the Father of Lies. In the same homily he referred to Benson’s prescient end times novel The Lord of the World saying it was this smug and easy adolescent progressivism which is one of the marks of the Beast.