In 1972, French Jesuit Cardinal Jean Danielou gave an interview in which he criticized contemporary religious life as "decadent." He accurately diagnosed the disease infecting monks, friars, nuns, and sisters and found its cause in popular deviations from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Because his diagnosis and cure were seen as a threat to the very decadence he called out, Crdl. Danielou was exiled from his community.
Interview of Cardinal Jean Daniélou on Vatican Radio, October 23, 1972
Q: Your Eminence, is there really a crisis of religious life, and can you give us its dimensions?
A: I think that there is now a very grave crisis of religious life, and that one should not speak of renewal, but rather of decadence. I think that this crisis is hitting the Atlantic area above all. Eastern Europe and the countries of Africa and Asia present in this regard a better state of spiritual health. This crisis is manifesting itself in all areas. The evangelical counsels are no longer considered as consecrations to God, but are seen in a sociological and psychological perspective. We are concerned about not presenting a bourgeois facade, but on the individual level poverty is not practiced. The group dynamic replaces religious obedience; with the pretext of reacting against formalism, all regularity of the life of prayer is abandoned and the first consequence of this state of confusion is the disappearance of vocations, because young people require a serious formation. And moreover there are the numerous and scandalous desertions of religious who renege on the pact that bound them to the Christian people.
Q: Can you tell us what, in your view, are the causes of this crisis?
A: The essential source of this crisis is a false interpretation of Vatican II. The directives of the Council were very clear: a greater fidelity of religious men and women to the demands of the Gospel expressed in the constitutions of each institute, and at the same time an adaptation of the modalities of these constitutions to the conditions of modern life. The institutes that are faithful to these directives are seeing true renewal, and have vocations. But in many cases the directives of Vatican II have been replaced with erroneous ideologies put into circulation by magazines, by conferences, by theologians. And among these errors can be mentioned. . .
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