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The Age of Self

In this Age of Self, the language is filled with phrases that glorify personal choice above all other values: self-determination, self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-help even do-it-yourself. In this climate, no doctrine is safe, no dictate accepted without scrutiny....The touchstone of belief today is the individual, not the institution. Priests, like precinct captains, have lost authority. The same voters who talk back to their political leaders on call-in shows and town meetings are talking back to their religious leaders at parish council meetings and Communion breakfasts. While 85 percent of American Catholics look up to the pope as a moral leader, 4 out of 5 say they follow their own conscience, rather than papal authority, on moral questions...The phrase “cafeteria Catholics” describes those who pick and choose among church teachings. But in religion, as in politics, the more appropriate analogy for modern mores is to fast food rather than to cafeterias; as the slogan for one hamburger chain puts it: “Have it your way.”...How do leaders lead when followers don’t want to be led?

“Leading the Faithful in an Age of Dissent,” Steven V. Roberts, U.S. News and World Report, August 23, 1993, p. 6