I disagree with his take on the Jesuits, to an extent, and dating the current decline to Vatican II, which was the culmination of a Revolution long in the making, but it is still a solid read with the right take on the JP2/Ratzinger years and the potential relief of the current pontificate.
A few snippets:
After the collapse of Christendom, however, the Roman Catholic Church was able to reorganize itself internally under the leadership of the ultramontane papacy. Ultramontanism in the 19th century sense contested the growing hegemony of liberalism yet also depended on it. The renewed stature of the papacy presupposed liberalism’s eliminating or weakening other competing centers of material and spiritual power in the Church (especially the absolute monarchies, but also the landed contemplative monasteries, the state churches of France and the Holy Roman Empire, etc.). What emerged by 1870 was a rigidly centralized Church organized around the clergy and the pope. All authority in matters of doctrine, liturgy and to some extent politics was reserved to the Pope and Vatican. The Church strived for uniformity in worship, music, philosophy and theology. Obedience to authority was elevated to an almost mystical value.
Yet the ultramontane revival of John Paul II remained only a “Great Facade” (Chris Ferrara). Aside from insisting on a limited external conformity and firing warning shots at the most egregious progressive offenders, the Vatican made no attempt to recreate the uniformity of doctrine and morals that existed the pre-Conciliar years. At all times in the papacy of John Paul II, Catholic hierarchs, religious orders and schools embraced and agitated for the most diverse and contradictory positions. The Vatican’s solution to mounting massive problems – like declining numbers of clergy and religious; clerical sexual abuse, financial corruption and above all the decline in the West of belief and religious practice among Catholics – was to sweep them under the rug.
But out of this seemingly inevitable tragedy may come at least one advantage: the truth. For far too long the Catholic Church has continued to take refuge in fantasies of stability and success, of secular standing and influence. You need look only at any of the official Catholic media to confirm this – isn’t the Al Smith Dinner in New York the incarnation of this self-deception? Even the supposedly hard-nosed liturgical traditionalists remained to some extent in thrall to these mirages. The poison of dishonesty has eroded the faith more surely than any persecution or loss of worldly advantages could do. Moreover, in addition to obscuring reality, the culture of ultramontanism also inculcated habits of spiritual torpor, passivity and blind deference to authority (by extension, also to secular authority!) that have left Catholics ill-equipped to navigate the unprecedented post-Conciliar crisis.
Let be be finale of seem! Jettisoning the Catholic culture of pretend is the first, most necessary step towards reform. To that extent we owe Pope Francis a debt of gratitude. Does not the shipwreck of a mythical centralized day-to-day magisterium make possible a return to the Catholic spiritual “basics” of prayer, penitence and evangelization? And, doesn’t the Tradition of the Church, present before us in the Fathers and Doctors, in history and art and, above all, in the liturgy as it is lived every day remain to us as a surer guide?