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The Quiet Revolution, and the Rowdy Pendulum

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The Songs of Ossian.
"Ah! In my dreams, everything was so <good/bad> in the <good/bad> old days!"
(Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The Songs of Ossian. Source)

1) My claim: the Quiet Revolution can be at least partly explained by the "Rowdy Pendulum" phenomenon

Satan isn't picky. The Devil has a very flexible diet: as long at it's vicious, he's happy. Whether the vice is in one extreme or the other, the Devil is quite satisfied as long as it's an extreme (since he knows that virtue lies in the golden mean).

What does this have to do with the Quiet Revolution, the social upheaval in the Province of Quebec which began in the late 1950's and «evacuated» the Catholic Church from the institutions?

Basically, I claim we can see the Quiet Revolution as the relocation of the pendulum from one extreme to the other, partly for sociological reasons (a bit like a real pendulum which oscillates because of the Law of Gravity), and also partly because Satan, seeing that the pendulum was going to swing, didn't try to block it in one vicious extreme, but instead cleverly pushed this pendulum into another extreme, at least just as vicious.

If I'm right, many things follow:

1.1) Everything wasn't perfect in the "good old days" before the Quiet Revolution.

1.2) Everything isn't perfect today, in dechristianized Quebec.

1.3) People who see today's society through rosy glasses, and Quebec before the Quiet Revolution through dark glasses, are in fact more or less responsible for our future problems. And of course, vice-versa for those who have an excessively positive opinion of the "good old days"!

2) The two fundamental mechanisms of the rowdy pendulum

I'd like to be a sociologist and a historian, in order to be able to support my claim with long and patient monographies describing Quebec before, and after the Quiet Revolution, as well as other similar situations in other times and locations. Unfortunately, it's not the case. This text is therefore not a study, but an essay, and you'll have to validate by yourselves my assertions.

But even if this is only an essay, why talk about Satan? For the sake of this discussion, let's forget that the Church teaches with certainty the existence and power of the Devil, and let's take as a simple working hypothesis the "Pitchfork Factor". People who think this is a bit ridiculous can go and look at some of the working hypothesis of Modern Physics, which are sometimes just as bizarre! Concerning the word "Pitchfork", it's an oblique reference to the nickname that the Curé d'Ars had given to the Devil.

Let's assume that the "Pitchfork Factor" is a sociologically observable force, which tends, in certain conditions, to foster and accelerate any trend toward extremes, any swing which tends away from the golden mean. Since the "Pitchfork Factor" is a sociological force and not a physical force, it has an influence on people's opinions, not their bodies.

The "Pitchfork Factor" will act in two ways on people's opinions, to "push the pendulum":

2.1) Either make people flee from a real good, by making it seem bad;

2.2) or make people pursue a real evil, by making it look like a good.

The first technique consists in sticking an "Evil" label on something which is good. There are many examples, but you can think of the recent sexual scandals in the USA, where some Bishops tried to cover up some crimes by appealing to a so-called "necessity to respect God and the Church". But "The abusive use of the name of God to commit a crime can cause rejection of religion" [CCC, #2148]. One could surmise this is what happened here in Quebec. Before the Quiet Revolution, this Province suffered from very bad and painful things like Authoritarianism, Triumphalism, Sexism, Antisemitism, and Jansenism. Some members of the hierarchy tried to cover their sins by claiming these bad things were in fact the Catholic religion. It was therefore possible to cause the rejection of a fundamentally good religion.

The second technique is just the opposite: sticking a "Good" label on something fundamentally bad. You can for example take illicit desires, exacerbate them so they seem uncontrollable, then "justify" them with sophisms that attack the very foundations of Ethics. Saint Paul says: "For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers, and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths."  [2 Tim 4, 3-4]. We can see the illustration of this second technique in the fact that the people of Quebec are currently self-exterminating with abortion, unmarried cohabitation, divorce, etc., whereas in the beginning they were only seeking good things like liberation, self-actualization, love, etc.

Note that both these techniques always use a core of truth. It's a bit like the pendulum which can swing partly because of gravity, but also partly because someone is pushing it. When the pendulum starts swinging, it's because it wants to find the golden mean. In this way, Quebec before the Quiet Revolution, because of Jansenism's excesses, wasn't in a "sexual golden mean". Part of this swing toward "liberation, self-actualization, and love" was therefore quite good. But it was the rowdiness of the pendulum caused by the "Pitchfork Factor" which ruined things, according to our hypothesis.

3) A few examples of the pendulum's rowdiness in Quebec

Let's try to list tangible examples of exaggerated swings in Quebec's society, where the pendulum didn't stop in the middle:

3.1) The number of children. We went from very, sometimes excessively large families, to a typical family size insufficient to ensure perpetuation of the people of Quebec. But the Church teaches that parents must have a "generous yet reasonable" number of children, and that excesses must be avoided. [CCC, #2366-2379]

3.2) Protestants and other religions. Some sources claim that currently, Quebec has one of the largest number of cults and non-Catholic denominations. We can compare this with the homogeneity of Catholicism, and some abuses done to Protestants before the Quiet Revolution. But "the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in [the other] religions [Nostra Aetate, #2]. On the other hand, "We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men." [Dignitatis Humanae, #1].

3.3) The sexually-differentiated human body. Jansenism, one of the heresies which was gnawing at Quebec before the Quiet Revolution, teaches that the sexually-differentiated human body is intrinsically evil, and that sins of the flesh are the worst sins. Hedonism, on the other hand, one of Quebec's current excesses, says the opposite, i.e. that sins of the flesh don't exist anymore, and that human sexuality's only purpose is physical gratification. But the Church has always fought against both these extremes, since the sexually-differentiated human body was created by God and is therefore fundamentally good [Denzinger, #4314], but the "total physical donation must be the sign and the fruit of the total personal donation, and its unique "space" is marriage"  [Denzinger, #4701, #4582, #4703].

3.4) Hell and sin. "Even in the field of the thought and life of the church certain trends inevitably favor the decline of the sense of sin. For example, some are inclined to replace exaggerated attitudes of the past with other exaggerations: From seeing sin everywhere they pass to not recognizing it anywhere; from too much emphasis on the fear of eternal punishment they pass to preaching a love of God that excludes any punishment deserved by sin; from severity in trying to correct erroneous consciences they pass to a kind of respect for conscience which excludes the duty of telling the truth" [Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, #18].

3.5) The iron hand and the velvet glove. It seems that in Quebec before 1960, religious truth was clearly stated, sometimes in a not-so-charitable way. These days, we are so afraid to hurt people that we simply tell them sweet lies. But the Church teaches that "it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men" [Humanae Vitae, #29].

We could surely find other examples of the influence of the "Pitchfork Factor" in the upheavals of Quebec's society.

4) How can we defeat the "Pitchfork Factor"?

I'd really like to have a perfect answer to that question. The best I can currently do is to suggest a few rules of thumb which seem promising:

4.1) Be aware of the existence and impacts of the "Pitchfork Factor".

4.2) Gain a deeper understanding of the Eight Commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness".

4.3) When we think we can see a repulsive evil (in a book, a person, a society, etc.), we should try to also see whatever good could be hidden in it, in order to avoid "throwing away the baby with the bathwater".

4.4) When we think we can see a compelling good, try to also see the possible exaggerations which could come and ruin this good.

4.5) Be prepared to "preach in the desert", because people devoid of foresight will probably laugh at those who try to stop future exaggerated swings of the pendulum.

4.6) Always have with you a teaching aide to explain to people the usefulness of the golden mean. Your forearm is one of them: to precisely position your forearm, you need (at least) two muscles, one to pull in each direction. If you only had one muscle, your arm would be either always straight, or always bent. By having two opposing muscles, you can find the "golden mean" quickly and easily.

5) Conclusion

Strange as it may seem, I fear that Quebec's society might experience some sort of "backlash" of the current exaggerations. This is why I want to position myself right away to try to "block the pendulum" as far as possible in the golden mean, when a critical mass of people will have noticed that Quebec suffers from the current exaggerations of Hedonism, Paganism, Ethical Relativism, etc.

It would be sad to let this golden mean escape us once more, and replace the excesses of the "Quiet Revolution" with those of a "Quiet Inquisition"!

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