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Why did so many seek to revolutionize the Church in the 60s and 70s?

February 23, 2014 117 Comments

022314-bIn my college years, I worked with a company that built and serviced pipe organs around the Washington, D.C. area. During those years I probably entered some 300 different churches both Catholic and Protestant.

Of course, as a Catholic, I particularly loved going to the Catholic churches. I especially loved visiting the older city parishes that were built back before the revolution. I had grown up in the suburbs, where almost every church was built after 1955, when church building took a decided turn for the worse. In vogue were ugly, bland, beige buildings with carpeted floors and potted plants. A plain wooden table and two candlesticks were the altar. There were almost no statues, and rather than a crucifix, that strange 70s invention known as the “resurrected Christ” was on the walls floating in midair with his hands extended. Maybe there was a cross behind him…maybe, but he certainly wasn’t nailed to the cross. “We are resurrection people,” was the inevitable response to those of us who wondered aloud what ever happened to the very Catholic crucifix.

Crucifixion of Jesus Christ isolated on white background

So there I was, a young man in my early 20s, toolbox in hand, come to tune and service a pipe organ. I would walk into one of those beautiful, old, city parishes with their soaring ceilings. More often than not, it was ornately decorated with carved stations of the cross, stained-glass windows, high altars made of marble and carved wood, statues, and burning candles. I could even smell the candles and the incense.

Every now and again I’d walk into an old church and be gravely disappointed. Someone had “wreckovated” it: painted its beautiful walls beige, demolished its altars,  turned its pews sideways, and carpeted its terrazzo floors. “Such a tragedy,” I thought.

No one really taught me to think this way, to prefer old churches. My parents were not all that traditional in terms of Catholicism. Somehow I just “felt” the magnificence of beauty in my bones. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the human person is wired for beauty. Somehow we innately appreciate symmetry, proportion, and order.

Once we’ve seen beauty, it’s hard to get it out of our system. Having grown up in the suburbs with their sterile churches, I was largely unaware of beautiful old churches. Yet in my early 20s, as I walked into many of them, some of them with a faded glory, so many of them wonderful to behold, I was struck by their beauty. And I’ve never gotten it out of my system. But of course, I’m not supposed to. Having seen beauty, I am meant to be drawn to it and to its beautiful message.

So in my mid 20s, my questions began to grow. What had happened? Why did we set aside such beauty? Why had we destroyed some of the beautiful things we already had?

One day I asked an older priest why so much had been discarded by the priests of his time. I thought I’d get a straight answer from him, because he had been one of those priests who reveled in all things new, yet later came to regret that many wonderful things had been discarded and lost.

I paraphrase the answer he gave in the first person. May he rest in peace (he died some years ago). I remember his words well, and he said something like this:

I think I need to say that we really thought we were doing the right thing. Many of us had grown greatly concerned that the Catholic Church was no longer able to speak to the modern age—an age that  was becoming increasingly sophisticated, scientific, etc. Increasing numbers of people had college degrees and demanded that faith speak to the intellectual and social issues of the day. But despite this need, we were still running churches that catered to a peasant and immigrant community. We were hunkered down in Catholic ghettos. The Catholic Church was increasingly identified with poor old immigrant women kneeling before statues, lighting candles, and fumbling with beads. Yes, our schools were full, but our children weren’t being “prepared for the future.”

It was thought to be a time that we had come of age in America. Science had reached new heights. There was talk of going to space; we had split the atom; computers and televisions were entering onto the scene.

Meanwhile, in our churches we were chanting in ancient languages and reciting old formulas. Many of us desperately thought this had to change if the church was ever to survive and be able to speak to the modern age. It’s funny that we didn’t turn to our own intellectual tradition. St. Thomas, St. Anselm, St. Augustine, and so many wonderful Church Fathers and Doctors had developed a rigorous intellectual tradition in the Church. Even still, all this seemed to us so “old-fashioned,” and the stuff of dusty old books.

A popular book from that time, “A Catholic Priest Looks At His Outdated Church,” articulated our many concerns for a Church that was out of touch with the modern world.

Regarding architecture, remember that Art Deco and other streamlined forms were very popular in the 50s. The phrase, “sleek and modern,” comes to mind. Straight lines and functional design were all the rage. But our churches pointed back to flourishes and excesses of what many people considered “myths” of a previous time. Why should we keep running to St. Blase to bless throats when modern medicine has more to offer? Did priests really have more to offer us by way of counsel than Sigmund Freud and other modern psychotherapists? Who needs exorcism when you have psychotherapy? Was not our time mumbling on beads better spent with social action?

Yes, we were desperately afraid that the Church was frozen in time, while the modern age was moving forward at the speed of light.

So we thought we were doing the right thing. Updating was essential if the Church was to survive and be able to speak to the modern age. We started gutting and simplifying churches to make them look “sleek and modern.” We started demanding more vernacular in the Liturgy and  in the celebration of the Sacraments. English was common in the Sacraments long before Vatican II. Baptisms and weddings were conducted almost wholly in English as early as the 50s.

For most of us, changes like these couldn’t come fast enough. How could we appeal to the new, young college “jet set,” to those were going to school on the G.I. Bill? How could we ever appeal to a  young, intellectual crowd while running old-fashioned, peasant churches, reciting “old myths,” novenas, legends of the Saints, and catechetical formulas?

And so we ushered in our little revolution, convinced that we were doing the right thing, convinced that this would save the Church from irrelevance in the modern, scientific, intellectual, and supposedly-sophisticated age. 

Remember the times! We were building the interstate highway system; we had just introduced television; there were scientists in lab coats seen everywhere, and computers were entering on the scene. We were planning to go to the moon by the early 60s! Yes, we thought we had come of age. If it was old it was bad, but if it was new it was good.

So, when the cry for “aggiornamento” (modernization) went out, the foundation for this phrase had been laid more than a decade before. Whatever the Pope meant, most of us in the trenches heard, “out with the old, in with the new!”

That was Father’s answer to me. I appreciated it, first of all because I trusted him; he was no rebel. He had come to see many erroneous insights for what they were. But he did at least have this testimony: that many who undertook the revolutionary cry did not do so with malice. They thought they were doing the right thing.

Let me be clear, dear reader: I do not write these reflections as a complete repudiation of any updating or changes that occurred back in the 60s and 70s. Ecclesia semper reformanda (the Church is always to be reformed).  Yet most of us looking back on that time do not see just a few minor updates, but rather a great rupture in the hermeneutic of continuity. And the rupture was about far more than just art and architecture. It was about the shredding and scrapping of time-tested theological teachings in favor of trendy sociological and psychological substitutes, questionable moral philosophies, dubious Scriptural theories, and the like. It was about open disobedience to liturgical norms and the casting aside of our spiritual traditions in favor of far-Eastern and other non-Christian philosophies.

It is one thing to make necessary adjustments, for example as language changes and our terms need adjusting. Further, as new avenues emerge for evangelization (such as the Internet and social media), we ought to use them.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, considered by most as a conservative, was actually quite cutting-edge as he exploited a new medium called television. But he combined age-old wisdom with modern forms of communication.

Too many of us in the Church have not gotten this balance right, and in favoring the new we discarded the old. We have not been like that wise man our Lord Jesus praised: Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old. (Matt 13:52)

I do not argue here for a wholesale return to the “old days” or to an exclusively Latin Liturgy. My first concern remains those who demand we change our doctrine to suit the times. We cannot. Liturgical debates and changes permit some leeway, but not the doctrines and solemn moral teachings of the Church.

Even today, there are far too many in the Church who want to go on making the mistakes described above by my older priest friend. How desperately they want the Church to adapt to the modern age by discarding the received doctrine, tradition, and wisdom of God. Too many would have us reflect the modern age, rather than Christ. In order for the Church to be “welcoming,” modern, and sophisticated, they believe we must succumb to worldly demands that we “cave” on many issues related to marriage, sexuality, respect for life, and Church authority and governance. The Church cannot survive, they say, unless we make these sorts of changes.

Never mind that denominations that have done just this (such as the Episcopalians and many branches of the Lutherans and Methodists) have suffered far worse declines than we have. Still, many insist that we must better reflect the modern “wisdom” of the modern age in order to appeal to it.

But really, have we not learned at this point that seeking a rapprochement with the world only ends in the further erosion of the Church and the ultimate impoverishment of the world? Our modern world is in a mess, in darkness, because we have failed to be what we are supposed to be—a light in the midst of darkness and a sign that is often contradicted.

It is not the job of the Church to be popular, to reflect the thoughts of the times, or to parrot worldly “wisdom.” It is the job of the Church to reflect the views of her founder and head, Jesus Christ, who speaks  in the Scriptures and through the sacred Tradition he handed down to us. It is not our  job to be appealing, or even numerous. It is our work to proclaim that which has been received, whether in season or out-of-season.

In the Sunday readings of the past two weeks, St. Paul has also hammered away at this theme. He calls us to remember that we live in a world that is arrayed against God’s wisdom, that mocks and ridicules it. If we are configured to Christ and his Cross, we will often be called fools. But as St. Paul writes, the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God.

Those who come to God’s house do not need another voice to parrot the same thing they hear from the news anchors, the talking heads, or the University intellectuals. What the world needs, and what every Catholic needs when he comes into the Catholic Church, is someone who speaks God’s wisdom. The world will often called this foolishness, call it out of touch, backward, intolerant, bigoted, or homophobic. But we speak the wisdom of God.

To conclude, here are some reminders of what Paul has been teaching us in the sacred Liturgy these last three weeks:

  1. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:18-25)
  2. Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” ; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about human leaders! (1 Cor 3:18-21)
  3. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor 3:27-29)

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Comments (117)

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  1. Anthony S. Layne says:

    Beautifully expressed, Monsignor.

  2. Rachel Gohlman says:

    Now in these times, in order to survive, the church needs to go back to beauty and reverence, to Latin and chant. The modern stuff, making friends with the world, inclusive language, booting out altar boys and beautiful vestments, has hurt vocations and it is stifling this next generation of Catholics. For the sake of saving the Church, changes must be made. Positive changes, Tradition changes, not back to the old, but back to the timeless.

    • Dysdjs says:

      “the church needs to go back to beauty and reverence, to Latin and chant.”
      You mean the things that the Vatican II Council said should have primacy?

      • Stevo says:

        “You mean the things that the Vatican II Council said should have primacy?” Exactly. Most Novus Ordo Masses are not even celebrated in the manner VII described. There is no chant, no ‘pride of place” for chant, no latin, priest faces the people (nothing in VII about that), no hand holding in VII, no extraordinary ministers at every mass, destruction of communion rails, etc, etc,. The Mass according to VII norms has rarely even been tried in most churches in the U.S. The Mass was stolen from us by progressives in the church (at high levels) and most catholic’s don’t even know it. IMO, it is downright diabolical what has happened to the liturgy.

  3. JohnR says:

    I so agree with you Msgr.
    I grew up in the Church which had May Processions out into the streets around the church. I once took part in a procession of men (yes, men!) that processed from the Catholic Cathedral in the centre of Leeds (England) out to a ruined monastery on the outskirts of the city. The procession took three hours all along Kirkstall Road to the Abbey where we had Benediction. I would have been about 14 years old at that time so its is over 60 years ago. We lived our Faith and displayed it proudly to all outside the Church. The name of the Abbey is, of course, Kirkstall Abbey and if anyone would like to Google it they can see how far we processed.

  4. Shel says:

    Dear Msgr Pope,
    Count me another one who prays that God might call you to be a bishop…and that he might send you to Southern California. But I am sure it is a heavy job/heavy cross…so, it does feel odd to wish that on someone. I attend a hundred-year old, small Catholic church with altar boys in vestments (are they called “vestments” when they are worn by altar boys?) and a pastor who calls parishioners “Dear Hearts” and has sermons that always include how to live a Catholic life and how to get to heaven. He hears Confessions a minimum of an hour every day of the week and for an hour before every Mass on weekends. And it has statues and stained glass and real candles and incense. And people pray there reverently, which helps me to pray. And there is a sign to announce the modest dress code, with pictures to teach what such consists of. It is like one of the churches you mention, where beauty lifts my soul. People drive an hour and more to go there every Sunday, and daily Mass is well attended.

    • Carmen says:

      Hello Shel! Where in Southern California is your church located? I live in Orange County and would love to visit this church if it’s reasonably close to me. It sounds wonderful!

      • Christe says:

        Yes, where is this church?

      • Shel says:

        The name of the church is San Secondo and is at 250 N Turner Avenue, Guasti CA 91743. Take the 10 Freeway to Ontario area, then exit at Haven Avenue and turn south, first right on Guasti, left at Turner. Some GPSs mess up on this address because Guasti, as a “town,” only has this church and a little post office (if you google it, you’ll find the population is 3!)…it was a vineyard and winery 100 years ago, and the vintner, Secondo Guasti, promised God that he would build a church for his workers to attend if only God would prosper his winery, which He did. In 1920, this was the largest-producing winery in the nation! Mr Guasti had 5,000 acres of grapes here in those days! The Pastor, Fr Marx, is in the hospital just now (pray for him), but the priests who are filling in are really great, and the church is prayer-filled and charming. God bless!

  5. Shel says:

    Oh, and by the way: My priest-friend tells me that when he goes to Confession to that pastor, he calls my priest-friend “Dear Heart,” too! It makes me so happy when I hear of priests who treat one another with a pastor’s heart!

  6. Larry Monks says:

    I have often thought of the “bland revolution” as a type of modern iconoclasm. May, like in the Eastern Church, our beautiful icons be returned and the full beauty of our faith return to, as Rachel writes above, “the timeless.”

  7. mary martinez says:

    Sigh, I am concerned with some of what I’ve read on FB. V2 was a year before I was born and so the way things are now is all I have to go on. To use the term “heretic” is insulting to my generation. In a way it paints all of us who were born after V2 as heretics ourselves just because we only have this to go on. I dislike when terms are thrown around just to injure and cause divisions. Young germans today are sometimes labeled as “nazis” simply for being the same nationality as hitler and the only crime they comitted was being born a german. So does this mean that I’m a “heretic” just because I was “unfortunate” enough to be born (baptized) a catholic. Until today I was never ashamed of my catholic heritage. Fr. is a gifted man and I don’t understand how hateful remarks anywhere ,(FB for starters) adds a thing to his expressions of love for the church. I am troubled that there is too much blending in of the things of other faiths and it does concern me that we are trying too hard to be appealing to seekers who might have withdrawals for a former faith but there are better ways to sort out and deal with these concerns that don’t require name calling and divisiveness or malice. RCIA would be an great place to begin. The more new catholics understand about WHY we are different instead of just knowing we are not protestant,the better it will be for everyone.

    • Dysdjs says:

      @mary martinez Someone disagreeing with you does not mean they hate you. Look up the meaning of material heresy and formal heresy and consider that some of the changes in the Church, esp in the USA, might be contrary to the Catholic faith.

    • Raymond Nicholas says:

      Mary,

      ?????

      I have to admit, I could not make sense of your post. I wish to take no offense, but you seem to worry about things that do not matter.

      First, forget about labels. Ignore them. You need to be braver than that. Also, do not superimpose labels on other persons.

      Second, if you haven’t already, read the New Testament, a good Catholic Commentary on the New Testament, and the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. If there is anything at all that you disagree with, that is the start of asking yourself “Why do I disagree?” or “Why does the Church say that?” Explore further the Catholic Doctors of the Church.

      Third, as you learn the Faith, you need to practice the Faith. You will face many contradictions. Each challenge is a test of your Faith. Do not lead with feelings or passions; lead with courage. Do not be a follower. Catholics are made to be strong!

      Fourth, pray as much as you can, go to confession and do penance, go to Mass in a state of grace and receive Holy Communion. Doing these things will help you meet the tests placed before you.

      Fifth, contemplate. Discern what role God has given you in life. Become a defender of the Faith and an example to all around you.

    • I am having trouble following your comment. I am not sure I read the terms heretic etc in the this thread. Also who is the Fr. you refer to? Is it me?

      • Louisa says:

        Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think Mary was addressing a current trend in facebook discussions about how inferior the post-Vatican II Church is– for instance I have come across many people who call certain encyclicals heretical and look down on any one who attends the Novus Ordo Mass. I have been called “heretical” because I love our past three popes and attend a Novus Ordo Mass. There’s a lot of crap flying around, excuse my french. Thank you for this article, Monsignor.

        • Yes, well I’ve certainly received a lot of wrath form the same crowd. I was confused because Facebook wasn’t part of this discussion, but Lord knows a lot of “virtual” discussions are off the chain. I think the main problem with virtual conversations is that they amount really to two monologues and have no personal clues such as tone of voice etc. Its a hard way to have a conversation.

  8. Nellie Edwards says:

    Thanks so much for the detailed explanation Monsignor! I have never understood, before now, why the rush to modernize. I grew up when churches were suddenly stripped of their grandeur…and this was greatly perplexing. Funny that the modernists didn’t stop to think how many of the ‘modern’ advances, in science and medicine were due to the work of Catholics…many Jesuits and others, who number not a few. At any rate, I’m happy to say, most of our young priests here in North Dakota, are traditional in the best sense and are working toward restoring the richness and esthetic beauty to their parishes, that is, as Rachel G. points out, timeless.

  9. Kay King says:

    I am 69 years old. I was converted to Catholicism in 1964. I was 19, going on 20, and in love with a Catholic girl. We met in high school when I was a senior and she was a junior. I dated another Catholic girl before I met Jan, so I was not new to the religion. We got married in 1966 and raised 4 wonderful children, and now we have 16 grand children. Jan and I are the only practicing Catholics in our family. All of our 4 kids were baptized Catholic and went to Catholic schools, however they do not go to Catholic Churches. Most of our grandkids are also baptized Catholic (thanks to Grandma and Grandpa), but none of them have seen a church in years. That is the kind of change my wife and I do not like to see. I hope the Catholic church keeps in touch with the new generation. I hope that as our kids and grandkids get older, they return to the Catholic Church. I know my wife prays for this also.

  10. Chris says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55qVIlw6n8k

    A nice story about one church that is reversing the revolution…

  11. Don says:

    I quit the church due to Vatican II. Recently I returned for a visit. Before all the changes people entered the church quietly, knowing that God was present. Now they chat and laugh out loud, and children run all over the place. I tried to pray the rosary but it was too noisy. I guess if I went to a bowling alley I might be able to meditate about the crucifixion a little bit easier.

    • Scaevola says:

      You’re out of your element, Donny. [/quote]

      But seriously, it sounds like you need to get over yourself a bit. Loud parishioners seems to be an awfully irrelevant rationalization to reject the Church, which should be weighed not on the sorts adherents it has, but rather on the truth of its claims. If abundant life and little ones are what keep you away from Christ, you might want to reread your New Testament. Christ chastised those who sent the children away.

      Faith is a relationship with God, but not simply with Him. The other commandment is to love neighbor as self, for through loving them (no matter how loud, distracting or little they might be) you love the Lord.

      • Richard M says:

        We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that both we and the neighbors shouldn’t be reverent in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

        The church is for prayer. There’s plenty of room in the narthex or fellowship hall for conversation.

        Don shouldn’t leave the Church over these unfortunate behaviors, but if the pastor is unwilling to rein them in, perhaps he’s better off looking for another parish that does.

    • stefanie says:

      Since I grew up in a large family, I can always pray and focus on God even in the midst of human noise. Yes, I do wish that people were quieter in church before/after Mass, but I discipline myself to focus on our Lord even so. And it is a discipline. Also, I attract a few people to kneel beside me after Mass who whisper special prayer intentions to me. When you are on your knees in prayer with eyes closed and joyful peace in your heart, others will come to you for prayer intentions or to embrace you. These ‘interruptions’ are most welcome!

  12. Dysdjs says:

    “Why did so many seek to revolutionize the Church in the 60s and 70s?”
    Satan.

  13. Ed says:

    Kay,
    Your story, sadly, is a common one. I’m a cradle Catholic: born and baptized in 1956, first communion in 1963 and confirmed in 1968. My sisters went through the same process. But as of now I am the only practicing Catholic in my family. My Mom and sisters are basically atheists/agnostics now(Dad is deceased). I just pray for all of them to return to Christ and His Church.

  14. Tom K. says:

    You write of “the 60s and 70s,” Monsignor, but the older priest’s answer sounds more like the 50s and 60s.

    This is an important point, I think. From the observer’s perspective, the Silly Season arrived unheralded and from nowhere, but in fact it was the blooming of a plant that had been growing for some time. The wholesale discarding of the Church’s patrimony was simply the logical consequence of the loss of faith in the Church that had occurred in the years before the Council. The problem was never preferring social action to mumbling on beads, it was the deadness of a faith that could describe praying the Rosary as “mumbling on beads.”

    The Church in the US in the decade prior to the Second Vatican Council is sometimes held up as an ideal. The description you provide makes it sound like a lovely old clock that has been tossed out of a window and simply hasn’t hit the ground yet.

    • exactly. The trouble was brewing for a long time. Those who threw the revolution were raised in the 1950s Church. Something was wrong before 1965.

      • Thomas Gallagher says:

        We can blame young priests for going overboard in their effort to “read the signs of the times” in the 60s and 70s. Let’s not talk about hell, the young priests said. Let’s talk with Marxists. Let’s move close to our Protestant brothers by get rid of our outmoded little doctrines and sacramentals. Let’s demythologize myths like the Virgin Birth. Let’s tell young married couples there’s no sin in birth control. Let’s try and keep up with modern trends in architecture and get rid of those hideous old statues and cheesy stained glass windows. Let’s have inexpensive guitar Masses with modern music rather than paying an organist and renovating expensive old organs. On and on it went. I know this, because I knew so many of these younger priests. And I suspect bishops were less than willing to discipline these young guys in the 60s and 70s because the priest shortage began to strike home just as the Vatican Council was finishing its work.

        But we’re being unkind if we heap all the blame on priests. And you’ve put your finger on the exact chronology of the problem, Monsignor Pope. Many young priests (perhaps we should say many of their slightly older brother-priests) were already seeing signs of crisis in the 1950s. One suspects that it was a new generation of post-war Catholic laymen, in Europe and America, who were chaffing at the old prohibition of artificial contraception in the 1950s. The postwar prosperity that hit both Europe and North America gave a new impetus towards higher education for Catholic laymen, with its push for entry into the professions. Did the vast prosperity, the vast increase in the numbers of laymen going into the higher professions, make laymen more inclined to question Church authorities? Did priests see the effects of this, and hear the effects in the confessional? Did they sense laymen wanted money spent on the modernizing and updating of Church buildings and music, in the post-war modern style? Did they hear in the confessional how eager laymen were to limit the size of their families, and how unwilling to accept the moral guidance of the Church?

        A young priest said to my father, sometime around 1956, that when he distributed Holy Communion and saw the hundreds of married persons in the pews remain kneeling while they sent their children up to the Altar railing, it created an a fortiori argument in his mind in support of a relaxation of the ban on contraceptives. Half a generation later, as we can surmise, a newer generation of laymen, huge proportions of them using artificial birth control, simply gave themselves permission to approach the altar rail–or should we say the front of the church–to receive Communion after convincing themselves their consciences were clear in the matter. Another 1950s issue: new trends in Theology, rooted in Higher Criticism of Scripture. One suspects, in thinking back over theological best-sellers of the Vatican II era like “Current Trends in Theology” edited by Donald J. Wolf, S. J. and James V. Schall, S. J., that the new theologians were giving the impression that the old theological and philosophical tradition of the Church was tired, perhaps exhausted, and it had little to offer to sophisticated 20th century people. New theologies of various sorts with their striking new insights seemed to be what the modern world needed and demanded.

        Out with Aquinas, it seemed. In with the “Dutch Catechism.” Two generations later, we see . . .

        A not so minor footnote: Has anybody noticed that the “Dutch Catechism” contains no reference to specific mortal sins? Sin is characterized simply as whatever separates you from God. Nor does this book make any mention of abortion. It is silent on the great moral abomination of our time. So much for “reading the signs of the times.”

        • stefanie says:

          “A young priest said to my father, sometime around 1956, that when he distributed Holy Communion and saw the hundreds of married persons in the pews remain kneeling while they sent their children up to the Altar railing, it created an a fortiori argument in his mind in support of a relaxation of the ban on contraceptives. ” Yes, I agree. And isn’t it interesting that ten years later, IF they stayed in the Church, these married people felt embolden to receive Holy Communion again? I

  15. Pasisozi says:

    There’s nothing wrong with inclusive language when the originals–Latin, Greek, Slavonic–are inclusive, as they frequently are.

  16. Anderson Thomas says:

    Hi Mary, Modernism is a Hersey condemned by the church. Your reaction, about not insulting anyone ( being offended) is right out of the knee jerk modernism (liberal) talking points play book. It is worn out. Sadly you. and countless other souls are victim of the princes of the church decent into the hell of Modernism. .It is little wonder that you do not get or appreciate the core of this articles message. The message “The flesh is ugly” (sin is ugly) and is against what is good for the souls salvation. What took place after V2 is of unbelievably ugly. Just look around in your world today. You say knowing we are not protestant is not enough. How true! Catholic practices and behaviors have become protestant in most every way The faith will never be protestant. but it takes unbelievably hard work on the personal level to avoid schism by default.. So I close with an old truth ” We don’t know what we don’t know” what a sad reality for so many of yours and my generation. they don’t know a silk purse has been exchange for a sows ear. I urge you to listen to and reflect on the good Monsignors words.

    • Louisa says:

      I think we have to be sensitive, here. Mary is speaking for those who have tried to be faithful Catholics and don’t realize that they are being “thrown in to the ring”. What about those of us who do in fact find our Lord in the Novus Ordo; how is it unifying when we are told that our church is ugly, a sow’s ear, schismatic? I am personally praying for someone who can bring Love out of the chaos. How sad that if I mentioned our Pope is the one the Holy Spirit has chosen I would get run out of most “Catholic” com-boxes.

      • Theresa says:

        I agree Louisa,

        Comments such as Anderson Thomson sound so angry , ugly , and judgmental . All those who don’t ‘follow the law exactly are going to hell. I am not sure if that is the intent but that is certainly how it sounds. I consider myself as quite orthodox; however, the angrier these commentators become the less I want to be associated with them.

        About your pope comment, one day after I donated $100 to a Catholic website, I was banned for making TWO comments defending Pope Francis. I was stunned! I was commenting on an opinion peace that opined Phil Robertson showed stronger leadership speaking against homosexuals then Pope Francis and his “who am I too judge”. I was banned because I could not be reasoned with. It was bizarre. This was on an international Catholic site. It is becoming quite a divisive atmosphere . I fear the side I am on is becoming the wrong side. So much vile anger is not from God.

        Sorry to be off topic. Very good article.

      • Gail Finke says:

        Well, they are ugly. I don’t see what’s bad about pointing that out. They are uuuuuuuuugly, unless one is a fan of hotel and convention center design. How many of us, walking into an empty hotel ballroom, say, “If only my church looked like this!!!!” But as someone who likes statues and processions and Latin and all the rest, I am with Mary. Plenty of people love the N.O. Mass and are faithful followers of Christ. No need to throw them under the bus because of changes that happened before they were born! You can idolize the Church, you know. And the silliness of attacking the way nearly every church on earth has said Mass for 50 years now you find in some quarters, as if anyone who participates in it without holding his nose is a heretic, is not becoming, loving, or helpful. I don’t participate in any “Catholic” discussions where people think Pope Francis was not the choice of the Holy Spirit (Louisa, maybe you should look for some other Catholic blogs!) but I do see a lot of nuttiness in all directions from people about our new pope. We can’t help when we were born or the situation we find ourselves in, but we can participate in the saving work of Christ whatever that happens to be. I love architecture and art, I’ll be happy to critique Catholic architecture all day. But not the people who attend church IN the Catholic architecture. I’m just happy they’re there!

  17. Es says:

    In my own case, as a child I missed the agony of the “wreckovations” because I no longer went to church, thanks to my father’s loss of faith (unrelated to Vat II). When I came back to the Church in the mid-80s, the damage was done, but I was clueless…just gradually picked up on what had happened, although I do recall being somewhat baffled by how Protestant and bland looking the Catholic church was where I got married (a suburban church in Hawaii). Now I go to Mass in an older church, with a wonderful Polish priest. I love the old windows of it…but it has some silly additions (a gigantic baptismal pool, a hideous “cry” room) and losses – the spectacular altar rail was removed decades ago, sold or given to a schismatic church.
    When the choir sings from the loft – as they should! – it is so perfect. But then, there are the many other times when the music ministry belts it out, with many microphones, from right next to the altar. Very very distracting and painful, to be frank.

  18. RAY - PORTSMOUTH UK says:

    Thank you Mgr Charles – how wonderful that you feel the way that you do!
    Since you did start your piece with church organs, may I, as a musician, be permitted to add to your very comprehensive list of the number of ‘babies’ that have been ‘thrown out with the bath-water? That is the particularly important one, in my humble opinion, of the throwing out of the ‘baby’ of beautiful music in the liturgy and the replacement of it with the most banal, trish-trash, sing-along, guitar-jangleing rubbish – which, of course, almost nobody does sing, mostly because they don’t know the tunes, – as they did, (and still do), of the good old traditional hymns and the fact that the new ‘tunes’ are incredibly boring, in the main! Whatever happened to ‘Faith of our Fathers’, ‘For all the Saints’, ‘Guide me Oh thou great Redeemer’, and the hundreds of other wonderfully musical and equally wonderfully doctrinally sound traditional hymns we all used to sing with great gusto, as if they really meant something to us? God must have been very happy with being worshipped in the beauty of music as we once knew it – as per Psalm 33:2!
    I have to say, with tongue in cheek, I am wondering whether you chose that most beautiful William Byrd motet for the video, (a piece I have been privileged to sing very many times in my life), because the title, ‘Ne Irascaris Domine’ translates as ‘Do not be angry, God!’ I think He must be very angry indeed with the awful banalities we now dish out musically in our worship!
    Bring back the choirs and the real pipe organs – and let’s raise the roof once again in praise of our great God!
    God bless all – Ray

    • Margaret Close says:

      Ray, I know you are an accomplished musician and like you I love the ‘old’ hymns of yester year. It is a fact, though, that that younger generation are not brought up with old traditional music and ancient language and it does not resonate with them. They find genuine expression in the more modern instruments and melodies and worship in as much an intimate and genuine way as we feel we do. There is surely mileage in variety to suit tastes while not alienating the diminishing older age group along the way

  19. Mark Redman says:

    kay,

    That is a tragic story – keep praying.
    your prayers and St Monica’s prayers are powerfull

  20. Branch says:

    I think we have to face the fact that a humanist immanentism was at work. Perhaps there was good will behind it, but objectively, is it not also a lack of, or loss of, the Faith? It is an abandonment of our true and final end, as evidenced by so much of what went by the wayside: like the love of God in Himself and obedience.

    We had suffered, perhaps for the first time history, an attack not from without the Church (‘the world’) but the seeds of apostasy from within. That is why it has been so devastating and the confusion so thorough.

    • stefanie says:

      Actually, there have been plenty of seeds of apostasy — which is why the Creed had to be declared in the 300’s — bishops themselves were unable to convince themselves of the nature of Jesus. Over the course of our first several hundred years, there were plenty of apostasies within.

  21. Greg says:

    Monsignor Pope,

    It’s funny how you mention the old beautiful Churches and the modern ugly ones. It is the exact same in the liturgy as well. The Extraordinary form is incredible in it’s beauty, form, wisdom, theology, etc. The Novus Ordo is ugly and a poor substitute just like the modern Churches. I’ve seen good priests (especially here in the Arlington diocese where all the Churches are modern) try to fix some of the monstrosities built in the 60’s and 70’s by adding statutes, better stained glass, etc….and it helps but only to a certain extent. They try to do the same for the Novus Ordo — maybe they say a few prayers in Latin, maybe they use the Roman Canon, maybe they sing traditional hymns but it only helps to a certain extent. Within the last few weeks a few priests who were wholeheartedly on the “Reform of the reform” side have thrown in the towel — and I can see why. Just like you can’t take one of those Churches built in 60’s and make it is as good as the 19th century masterpieces….so you can’t do the same with a liturgy that was once described by a certain Joseph Ratzinger as a “banal, fabricated product”. Hopefully, Holy Mother Church will come to her senses one day and realize that making up a new liturgy to be in sync with the “modern age” was a terrible decision and re-install the Extraordinary form as the only form.

    • Regarding the liturgy, I agree the old form is beautiful. However the old priest I quote also reminded me that it was seldom celebrated beautifully in the 1950s. Latin was mumbled gestures were hurried and perfunctory, low mass was the norm, when there was singing the Gregorian chants were reduced to recto tono.

      regarding the new Mass, I think if we used the options, it could be beautiful. I celebrated a number of Masses in the OF at St. Agnes in St. Paul (orientem with two deacons, chant and orchestral masses). It was a thing of beauty and everything we did there was allowed.

      • Papabile says:

        I always heard about membled latin, but never understood what they were speaking about until this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1G4OnAvtR4

        JFK’s funeral mass.

      • Richard M says:

        There was a whole lot more St. Louis Jesuits than Byrd or Tallis back then, alas.

        Of course, compared to what’s become common since, the St. Louis Jesuits suddenly don’t look quite as banal.

      • Thomas Gallagher says:

        Most parishes had only one High Mass each Sunday, with the exact same chant each Sunday in the same recto tono, and Low Masses were indeed perfunctory and hurried, with no singing whatsoever, scarcely things of beauty at all. The Traditionalists who yearn for the good old days have no idea what they are yearning for. By the same token, traditionalist priests (small “t” not capital “T”) are perfectly capable of making the Novus Ordo a thing of beauty. It’s a matter of seeing the Mass as worship, as well as fellowship. Also a matter of recovering the beauty of the Liturgy–and the beauty of the Church’s theology and architecture and music.

    • Scaevola says:

      Mass at Thomas Aquinas College (where I’m enrolled) is the Ordinary Form celebrated almost completely in Latin. It is beautiful, reverent and not at all “banal”. Reversion is not continuity; there is no reason why the Church should reject a rite she has proclaimed as valid. If what people say about “organic development” is correct, the Ordinary Form will itself develop, and I see no reason why it should not be in the end as reverent and beautiful as the Extraordinary Form is. Whatever happens, though, I can feel certain that the Church shall not contradict herself (ie reject a valid, licit rite).

  22. C Beltz says:

    The Truth is the Truth. We know it when we hear it. We may not like it and may even run away from it, but even in our deepest recesses we cannot deny it as it was placed there by God.

    When the church fails to speak the Truth, the church fails to speak. A silent church is irrelevant, hence the “falling away”.

  23. Judith Babarsky says:

    Very nicely written, expressing well the tension between stagnation and change. I believe the full implications of Vatican II are only now being understood. A return to a more expressive liturgy among English speaking Catholics was a step in the right direction, allowing us to appreciate more fully the beauty and power of the mass.

  24. Sygurd says:

    The priest you have quoted, Monsignor, apparently did not understand the nature of religion. Religion is not about time but about eternity. Religion is also not about passing fads but about the unchanging and unchangeable truth. As for the modern churches, the French have a saying to the effect that “God is everywhere except in ugly churches” and I concur.

  25. Miles V. Schmidt says:

    Great article, Monsignor! Thank God that the Diocese here in Grand Rapids did not destroy (wreckovate) our beautiful Basilica – in fact, we’ve spent millions restoring it to its beautiful Glory. Can’t say the same for the Cathedral. Our bishop about 35 years ago completely gutted the Cathedral and painted it (you guessed it) beige! However, it has since been restored to more magnificent beauty.

    Saddest thing is the “damage” our priests from the late 60’s and 70’s dealt on our kids. Fortunately, the once defunct Mundelein College (Seminary) in Chicago is turning out some goo, orthodox young priests. They have the ability to turn the tide and restore the beauty of our Catholic Faith once again!

  26. chad says:

    At 39 years old, I can relate to the enchantment with the beauty of the old, without ever being coached for it. Modern churches are what they are. I don’t find them appealing, but others do. What breaks my heart is to see the older churches with so many parts covered up or dismantled. It was as if there was an act of rejection. Same thing with vestments. I was an altar boy in the 80’s. White with a rope and a cross. The pictures from decades prior fascinated me. The black and white and finer details attracted my eye and it seemed odd to be cloaked what felt like a boring white robe. (from someone who feels like a traditionalist, but has never been to the TLM).

  27. dave says:

    My wife and I entered the church in 1997, coming in to what looked like an auditorium. My only familiarity with the grandeur of the older churches was thru pix or movies, etc. We do the bad Broadway show tunes, free-standing “table” of the Lord, etc.

    Now, when I see or enter those beautiful old churches, I feel as though I’ve been robbed of my patrimony as a Roman Catholic.

    I guess most of our “shepherds” have never read the verses about “itching ears” and those who teach being held to a higher standard.

    May GOD have mercy on us all.

  28. Kay says:

    Modernity in the Church is to be one step ahead of the devil, who will always come up with a new line to deceive us and to be forward thinking, aka wise, enough to see it coming.

  29. Nick says:

    There is a good book on the architectural crisis called “Ugly As Sin: Why They Changed Our Churches from Sacred Places to Meeting Spaces and How We Can Change Them Back Again.” By Micheal S. Rose. of the Sophia institute Press.

  30. Rene says:

    If salt loses its flavor what good is it? After Vatican II, and thanks to what Benedict XVI called the Hermeneutics of Rupture in interpreting it, large sections of the Church, particularly in the West, stopped being the light of the world. After Vatican II, the Church was supposed to open its windows to the world to Christianize it. Instead, the world rushed through those windows and secularized it. That a trend toward secularization was already present in the Church is clear to me in the thinking of Msgr. Pope’s priest-friend We have seen the consequences of this secularization for many years already; for example, in the US, the second largest religious group after the Catholic group is the ex-Catholic group. Thank God, there is a slow renewal taking place in the Church. Let’s pray that it continues In the meantime, the world continues to become more and more secularized. One of the reasons I believe Pope Francis is so popular is that many mistakenly believe that he plans to continue to modernize the Church, this time by changing its moral doctrines, something that we know he will not, and cannot do.

  31. GONZALO T. PALACIOS, Philosophiae Doctor, C.U.A.,1970 says:

    Dear Monsignor Pope, Once again I congratulate you for a timely and incisive commentary on a frequently misunderstood issue, the Eternity of the Church vs the Temporality of the World’s “kingdoms”. There are very few examples of contemporary sacred architecture worth that name. Ironically enough, in post WWII France, Le Corbusier designed three buildings that exemplify man’s relationship to the God, the Chapel at Ronchamp (1955), the Monastery at La Tourette (1957), and the Church at Firminy (begun in 1967). There are others, of course, but the reader will be at a loss to find architects and artists able to express man’s religious beliefs in their works. Such was not the case in the past, specially during the Middle Ages, when the Catholic religious beliefs informed most if not all artistic expressions in the world. As a complement to your older priest’s anwers, your readers will enjoy E. Panofsky’s “Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism” (1951), in which the author explains the beautiful harmony that exists between them. AMDG., Gonzalo T. Palacios.

  32. Don says:

    Thanks you, Msgr.

    Re your quotes below: Pope Benedict understood this very clearly but I am afraid Pope Francis does not. Obviously, my fear is rooted in a weakness of faith. I pray for stronger faith.

    “But really, have we not learned at this point that seeking a reproachment with the world only ends in the further erosion of the church and the ultimate impoverishment of the world. Our modern world is in a mess, and in darkness, because we have failed to be what we are supposed to be, a light in the midst of darkness, and the sign is often contradicted.”

    “It is not the job of the Church to be popular, to reflect the thoughts of the times, or to parrot worldly “wisdom.” It is the job of the Church to reflect the views her founder and head Jesus Christ, who speaks in the Scriptures and sacred Tradition he handed down to us. Is not our job to be appealing, or even numerous. It is our work to proclaim that which is been received, whether in season or out of season.”

  33. Stephannie Sumer Berkley says:

    I was born in 1946 and baptized and grew up Catholic. I saw grew up instead of raised because we were “sent” to church by our parents…they never attended. I was a “seeking” child and found great comfort in the church, even at an early age. Many others who grew up during those post war years lived in homes that were not ideal. Mine being one of them, I was driven to come to know my heavenly Father, to find Jesus and to understand the Holy Spirit. In the pre-VII years, I had come to have a pretty good lock on all of it and it and the Church, in all its ritual and ceremony and mystery welcomed me and made a place for me…I was home. Then suddenly (it seemed sudden to me), the great changes came. I was a teenager and was having a difficult enough time dealing with life on the outside of the Church. The change felt like the bottom had fallen out of my world. All that I held dear, all that I understood and was solid and unchanging in my life was suddenly gone. At something life 17, I called the rectory and bravely asked for an appointment with one of our priests. When the scheduled appointment came, I voiced my questions to our Fr. John as best I could through intermittent tears. (I’m sure the priest was at his wits end with this raving teenager who was plaguing him with questions he could not answer). That’s right. He could not explain to me WHY the one true, original Church that I had been taught was founded by Christ on St. Peter as our first Pope, had to change. It destroyed my faith. I became a stranger where I had once felt safe and secure. I no longer “fit”. Long years of emptiness and searching filled my life. I explored different religions, looking for what I had lost. I am grateful to say that I found the resurrected Christ and my salvation in my 30’s. I am now nearly 70, and assured of eternal life with Christ. All my children and grand children are practicing Christians also, thanks be to God. I have been blessed to walk hand-in-hand with my Savior for many years and again know the joy that I once found in my childhood in the Catholic church.

  34. Sygurd says:

    @Dr. Palacios,

    It is not clear from your posting whether you approve or disapprove of Le Corbusier’s ventures into sacred architecture. To me they are simply horrible.

  35. Doug Lawrence says:

    Similarly “wreckovated” was the huge wave of “baby-boomer” Catholics, who were, for the most part, beautifully prepared and formed by the generally excellent Catholic parish/family/school system of the post-WWII, pre-Vatican II era – and who were primed to go onward and upward to conquer the world for Jesus Christ.

    That kind of opportunity presents itself perhaps once every thousand years. Yet after only about a decade of “wreckovation” it was gone – almost totally aborted by the widespread confusion and apostasy that followed in the wake of Vatican II – a council which could not have been called at a worse time, even if the devil himself had chosen it!

    The enemy who sowed the tares that choked out nearly all that “wheat” turned out to be our own Catholic hierarchy. And from most appearances, little has changed since.

    The dearth of traditional Catholic art and statuary, along with a general lack of what used to be known as basic Catholic common sense, philosophy of life and core doctrines are unfortunately, the hallmarks of today’s “wreckovated” Catholic Church.

    May God have mercy on our souls!

    • Cojuanco says:

      If the Church of the 50s and early 60s was so beautifully prepared, how are we to account for the fact that so many of those holding heretical views were educated at that time? We must remember that the 50s Church had its own deep and abiding problems, washed away largely by the nostalgia so many have for their childhood.

      I suspect the problems manifested themselves because so many after the war wanted to assimilate, or in the case of abroad, to be like the victorious Americans. But the problem is that even before the War, observers could see the crisis in the Church coming. Perhaps, indeed, much of what happened at Vatican II might have averted even a worse crisis. Remember that Vatican II is meant to be in many respects a conclusion of the work done at the First Council, so rudely interrupted by war. Perhaps if reform (for example, in the structure of religious houses) came in 1930 instead of 1960 the aftermath might have been better.

  36. Rick says:

    Msgr Pope’s priest friend I think well captures the spirit of the time (1960s) by the rank and file clergy and nuns–these people were well-intentioned, but were, in the final analysis, deluded in thinking that the wholesale trashing of tradition would improve the Church. However, having been in academics for 40 years, I have personally seen that there was also afoot something else, and it was deeply sinister–there was a deep hatred for tradition within the most elite Catholic academies, and it was fueled by high-octane pride. This hatred remains today, and it has become openly and aggressively atheistic.

    The old priest also alludes to the poor and the inner city. The loss of beautiful Catholic parishes in these parts is a tragedy of catastrophic proportions. It is mysterious that the “peasant church” was beautiful and had a soul; indeed, they were the spirit of the inner city. Now that the parishes are gone, the inner city has also starved to death spiritually, being without the sacraments and without the beautiful–all in the name of ‘progress’.

  37. Dr J.A.C. MacLeod says:

    I found the film of old still photographs that accompanied this reflection to be most moving indeed; I would have liked it to move a bit slower though, so as to be able to look more closely at those wonderful glimpses into the past. As an aside, I wonder if in compiling these old pictures, the maker realised that he or she included the procession of the translation of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham from the parish church (C of E of course) into the newly-built Anglican shrine church in the town of Walsingham, England. This would have been in the Thirties. It is a very famous picture and there is no doubt about what it is.

    As a former Anglican, I still miss the great beauty of the worship of that communion in its Anglo-Catholic form. Now, as a Catholic of a number of years, I find that it is hard to worship in many of our churches, although I note that things are getting better here in Australia. St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, for instance, celebrates a solemn mass of the modern rite every Sunday with great beauty and order, with excellent music (from an ex-Anglican choirmaster), well-trained lectors and servers, and an archbishop who can sing. So much better than all those out-of-tune guitars and a DIY liturgy.

  38. Dave says:

    It seems to me that, at the very root of it all, they lacked faith. Could Christ or His Church ever be “out of date”? They were willing to capitulate part of the faith to save some kernel of it, because they believed more in science, more in modern ideas, than in Christ.

  39. Rene says:

    After reading most of the postings above, all I can say after my earlier posting is that what happened to the Church after the Council has been a tragedy of the greatest proportion. This can only be the job of Satan. May God have mercy on us!

  40. Ann says:

    Interesting article Msgr, as always. I see things slowly swinging back a bit especially via the new priests who come to our parish.

  41. Nate says:

    The comment above about iconoclasm is spot on. The most destructive forces in the world today are all iconoclast in nature.

    What amazes me isn’t the misplaced optimism of Vatican II but the continued embrace of the agenda behind it after decades of failure. Does any serious person look upon the last 40 years as a success for the Church? Outside of Africa, it has been abject failure. The only good things happening in the Western world are in the traditionalist orders and extraordinarily orthodox dioceses – islands in a dark sea.

  42. Vincent says:

    I think the key is to make sure structures are in place within the Church to allow it to be slowly reforming on a continual basis (ecclesia semper reformanda, as you rightly note). The problem prior to Vatican II, and what was partly responsible for the great disruption that occurred following the council, is that the Church had largely stopped trying to engage the culture and had settled into a ‘hunker down’ mode. Nearly any attempt to to develop the tradition in conversation with the many developments of the modern world were condemned. (For example, we have recently been rallying around and emphasizing the right to religious freedom. But we should remember that the Church did not formally endorse the idea of religious freedom until 1965 at the council, and theologians like John Courtney Murray who were advocating it before the council were disciplined and silenced. Even at the council, endorsing religious freedom was vigorously opposed by the head of the Holy Office, Cardinal Ottaviani.) A favored form of papal writing in the century prior to the council was to simply compile long lists of propositions and declare them anathema. The Church’s response to the modern world was to condemn it, hunker down, and wait for it to collapse. Thus, because the Church had stopped in place in an attempt to shut out the modern world, there was a huge and disruptive lurch forward when the council finally opened the doors to engagement with modern culture. Unfortunately this all happened at a moment when the broader culture was already filled with revolutionary zeal (of political, economic, sexual, and other varieties). The result was a huge sense of rupture, and a loss of important parts of the tradition.

    So the key is to prevent that from happening again. That is why Pope Benedict called for a hermeneutic of reform (not a hermeneutic of continuity, I might point out) rather than a hermeneutic of rupture in reading the council documents. “Reform” he said, involves both elements of development and continuity. That is precisely what we need.

  43. Tom Piatak says:

    An excellent piece.

  44. Mary says:

    I remember the change as being, in short, a rejection of the old and superstitious and the embracing of the new and modern. Lighting candles was superstitious. Thinking that your prayers could rise to heaven on incense was superstitious. Speaking in a “dead language” was almost like the incantations of witches. I was very young, but I liked most of the old – the music and the latin was pretty, the stained glass seemed to glow – ,yet the adults, including the priests and nuns, seemed to want the new. I started to learn the Boston Catechism but that was dropped in 2nd grade and replaced with, well, nothing that I remember.
    .
    I suspect that WWII did a lot of damage, lingering damage, to the faith. So many people died. So much destruction. So much evil. Prayers asking God to bring sons home were “denied”. If we couldn’t depend on God to protect us, to stop evil when we asked him to, then, well, what good was He?
    .

  45. Greg says:

    Msgr Pope,

    I understand the Mass can look beautiful from the outside….but if you read the content of the new prayers versus the old the differences are astonishing. Even a cursory glance at the old collects vs the new will give you an idea the butcher job done. And it is not even polemical traditionalists who have noticed but true scholars like Dr Lauren Pristas

    • What would you say to the response that the current collects are actually the more ancient texts? IOW the claim is made that the collects were adapted by Pope Gelasius, Urban et al. and that the current collects are from antiquity

      • stefanie says:

        And the Creed and the Gloria were restored with the ‘new translation’ in 2011! I realized this was so when I looked it up in my 1962 Latin/English Missal that I was given at my First Holy Communion.

      • Greg says:

        I would say in some instances this is true but the research from Dr Pristas below shows the hubris of the writers of the New Mass in eliminating or rewriting the collects. And please, the argument that some collects are even older is a poor reason for eliminating what had been in place for centuries.

        http://faculty.caldwell.edu/lpristas/novaetveteraweb.pdf

        Have celebrated both Masses I am sure you are aware of how much negative theology has been excised from the New Mass (the four last things, the reality of hell, fallen nature of man, the reality of purgatory,etc).

  46. Faustina says:

    St John of Damascus, pray for us!

  47. esiul says:

    Dear Msgr. Pope,
    I’ve been waiting for a long time for you to approach this subject. You finally did and many kudos to you.
    Now I don’t have to argue to make my point anymore, I can use your eloquent words to make myself
    understood. Thank you so very much.

  48. Annette Strachan says:

    Two of God’s children, both in The Holy Spirit; The priest and the baby.

  49. Robertlifelonfcatholic says:

    Reminds me of Paul Simon’s song, An American Tune.

  50. Adeodatus says:

    All “revolutions” are against an order… and whose order was it? Christ’s. The “revolution” of those times was a revolt against Jesus Christ. It was sickening treason. And it has left us with a shattered and despoiled Church. It is time to return to that which has been handed down, rejecting novelties. And most especially, it is time to return to reverence for Jesus Christ. If you give (or receive) Communion in the hand, you must stop. Only an ordained minister should touch the Sacred Host. And if a priest says Mass facing “the people” (that band of unfortunates who are always used as the justification for revolutions), he should perform a counter-revolution and face God instead.

    • Vincent says:

      The mass comes from Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of me.” Did Jesus face away from the disciples at the last supper? Di he place the bread on each of their tongues? I understand the symbolism of the ad orientum celebration of the mass and reception on the tongue and why some prefer it, but please don’t pretend it is the only valid way to celebrate the Eucharist. Just as we must remember the transcendence of God, we also must remember (and incorporate into our worship) God’s imminence and His willingness to become incarnate, sat at the same table with us, and put Himself into our hands.

  51. J.D. Leavitt says:

    I enjoyed reading this, but I wish that you had written in traditional English. Proof-reading can work wonders.

    • Yes, I often have to do these posts late at night and I don’t have all the time to proof read. Plus its hard to proof read one’s own stuff since I read the errors right out of the text. I have a parish to run, I am not a full time author. Briefly one person offered to proof my texts, but that ended when they got busy.

      For purists such as you I might encourage more reading in traditional journals and newspapers which have line editors, style editors, and any number of other staff to review a text before it goes to print. The blogosphere is a low budget operation which focuses more on getting stuff out fast.

  52. Frank says:

    This is a fascinating post. The paraphrasing you provide from your priest friend is most illuminating. I am someone who grew up in the US after Vatican II and experienced many of the damaging liturgical influences you cite. However, your posting offered an insight that drew from me greater sympathy toward those responsible for spurring the changes. I believe that much of what was done was wrong, but what your priest friend offered explains well why things happened as they did.

    I can only guess why the impact of such changes was not predicted. No one could have imagined the profound cultural ruptures that were to happen in Western Civilization. For example, the thought of same-sex “marriage” would have been incomprehensible in the 1950s and 1960s. There was probably an unshakeable faith that family life would be zealously protected and that religious faith would be a bedrock of the American experience. Those of us picking up the pieces have to be willing to forgive people of that time for not seeing the full social consequences of their actions. We must, however, not forget this good and humbling lesson for our own times.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

  53. Liliana Bittencourt says:

    Il Domani -Terribile o Radioso – del Dogma, by Enrico Maria Radaelli. Great book on the subject.

  54. David says:

    Msgr. those two pictures of the churches are worth a thousand words.

  55. Gail Finke says:

    Msgr: Excellent piece. Sometimes I think that what happened in the 60s was necessary to save the Church. It was the times, as you wrote — and the Church leaped into them. Having endured the consequences, we are retrenching: slowly recovering what good was lost, but also retaining what good was found (and yes, I do think there was some good). But we are NOT doing what the Anglicans and others are doing. Many American denominations are only now making changes they think will make them modern and will attract young people. I don’t think they have a future. I think we do, and it’s because we’ve already “been there, done that” and we’re not going any further along that road. The cost was high, but perhaps the cost of trying to make those changes/experiments NOW would be even higher.

  56. Katherine McMillan says:

    “He has scattered the proud in their conceit.”

    The evil we do is us, the good we do is God and therefore we do not take credit for it. It’s never us. We have to restore Reverence for Christ in the Eucharist, our churches in the U.S. are in ruins.

    We have to form Catholic consciences because at our particular judgement we will have a perfectly formed conscience and we will see all our evil acts. That is why it is an act of mercy to not give pro-abortion politicians the Eucharist. pax

  57. Branch says:

    Dear Msgr.,

    It is a point I see debated that reforms were even necessary at all, yet you mention that the trouble was brewing for a long time (before the Council).

    Can you explain what was wrong, what the problems were that ultimately gave rise to the Council? Why was reform necessary?

    • I think the fundamental reform that was necessary was to reinvigorate the understanding of the faith as a life changing and transformative encounter with Jesus Christ. TO a large degree we had settled in over the centuries to a kind of externalism which reduced the faith to perfunctory observances for most Catholics. There was also a kind of intellectualism which reduced the faith to knowing facts in a intellectual way (good in itself) but which did not account for a personal encounter with God or a personalization of the truths of faith. Too many had consigned deeper prayer and faith to Priests and Religious and it was thought by the lay faithful they could not reasonably attain to higher prayer etc. Liturgically there were attempts and hops as well to bring the Liturgy to a bit more of an interactive experience wherein the faithful were addressed seriously and included more explicitly in their rightful roles. Hence encouraging the use of a hand missal, proclaiming the readings in English, etc were initiatives. Just a quick answer here. More could be said.

      • Buckeye Pastor says:

        Another important thing that happened in the 1940s and 1950s was an increased consciousness of the connection between liturgy and what we called “social action.” This was fostered by Msgr. Ligutti and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and by Fr. Gregory Diekmann OSB and confreres of his at Collegeville.

        By the way, where did you get those pictures? Included in them are pictures of priests from “the days of the giants” in the Diocese of Toledo, as well as our first four bishops (Joseph Schrembs, Samuel Stritch, Karl J. Alter, and George Rehring.)

      • Matt says:

        Msgr Pope, I’d love to see a post on this topic!

  58. Dee Cervi says:

    Msgr: I group into adulthood during this movement in the Church. i was devastated by it. Everything I had been taught, everything I knew was thrown aside for the new Modern life of the Catholic Church.

    Out with the old, in with the new. But even to this day, I receive communion on the tongue. I could never convince myself that it was ok to receive in the hand. I still go to Mass, and I travel a great deal, but if I find the old “Rite” I attend, also, I always try to find an old church. Years of Holiness took place in that Church before the desecration. I Thank you for the “blog” Msgr. Pope.

  59. Maria L says:

    Thank you for this insight into these times. I too lived through them. It is important to realize that many of the changes were made by church leaders (priests and nuns) who were most interested in “catching souls” and would jettison architecture, music, anything to get them. And that is the right thing to do. Each soul, any soul, is more precious than all the sensual beauty of the Church. I suspect your friend was similarly motivated. There were also likely some who wanted the admiration, popularity, etc. of the world, and like Judas would sell to get it. I think it is essential to remember that God allowed these changes. Jean-Pierre de Caussade said that we must accept what God allows just as we accept what he wills. So enough hang-wringing, back-ward glancing, and finger-pointing (by some, not you). Let’s dig in and do the work that is here, in our times, right in front of us.

    • Ben Dunlap says:

      Catching souls is the right motivation, but jettisoning the concrete treasure of our tradition cannot possibly be the right way to go about it. Souls are embodied in this life.

  60. Dan says:

    Works, and by this I mean not sacraments but what we do in leading a good life, do not necessarily lead to faith. Anti-religious people can do altruistic acts for what they perceive as social good. Engagement with the dominant culture can, in fact, put tremendous pressure on faith to compromise and adapt to what is popular or pragmatic. Engagement with the world, unless it springs from and is driven by faith, is a dangerous thing. After all, the world, along with the flesh and the devil, is one of the main obstacles to salvation.

    Faith, however, should lead to works. If it does not lead to works, that is, if it does not inform the attitude, form the conscience, and reform the behavior of the believer, it is no more than an adjunct to the secular life and, as faith, it is dead. ‘Cultural Catholicism,’ however strongly a person may adhere to it, does not in itself constitute living faith. Living faith leaves nothing in life untouched. It forms and reforms the believer.

    In the aftermath of Vatican II, there seems to have been a widespread opinion that all of our pious devotions, our sacred language, our ancient liturgy, and our lavishly decorated churches were cultural manifestations of a Catholicism that had missed the enlightenment and failed to engage the world. Far from being regarded as expressions of faith, as reminders that we are in the world but not of it, and as points of contact with the divine providing inspiration for dealing with life, these things were somehow seen as obstacles to engagement with the world.

    Faith must precede work and the Catholic faithful who do the work need a Catholic identity. Although they should not be “Cultural Catholics” they most certainly need a Catholic culture to know who they are and what they want the world to be. Restoration of our Catholic Culture is integral to recovery from the aftermath of Vatican II.

    How much of a restoration there should be, or can be, is complicated and difficult to say. Certainly, the Church will never be exactly as it was before the Council. The Holy Spirit had something in mind for the Council. Whether He had much to do with the aftermath of the Council is open to debate. But the question remains, what should we restore?

    If I were deliberately going to destroy a culture, I would certainly go after its language first. Once a language is gone, the culture may not be completely defunct but it will certainly be far off its moorings. Verbum sapienti satis.

  61. Rory O'Donnell says:

    Your second church is the Biotto Rome 2000 one (hardly a wreckover). Wonderful video included Pugin’s St George’s Cathedral Southwark (1840-8) destroyed 1941.

  62. Jerome Schauf says:

    Great insights Msgr. and very much appreciated. As a youngster I learned the Latin and served mass, fingers pointing straight to heaven, in deep reverence. Suddenly things changed, a different priest and pretty soon we were dispensing communion in baskets placed on the communion rail. For some reason I’ve always needed the mass. No one ever had to say to me,”you have to go to mass”. I’ve never gone anywhere. In the last couple years it’s been placed on my heart to get to daily mass and since my work load will now permit I took that step. In order to do this I’ve needed to drive to a neighboring parish once or twice a week to attend the extraordinary form, in Latin.
    Now couple this with a decision I made to incorporate Steven Rays dvd ;” Moses Signs Sacraments and Salvation”,into the Bible TimelineSeries I’m teaching in religious ed . Needless to say the exposure I received in the biblical prefigurement and biblical references to everything that is the mass in the old rite made the prayers (English Translation) come fully alive. My thought is the Holy Spirit is at work. We as a church don’t need to react but listen. We as a church need to fully catechize both forms and see where God takes us.

  63. Hank Rutland says:

    My home parish was built in 1966 and is post-revolution. The parish just north of us was built in the 1930’s. When I go to mass there, I am reminded of great saints and their contribution to Christ’s church and the world. There are statues there to bring them to mind. Not so in my parish. We have icons of Jesus as the Lamb of God, and Mary and Joseph but the large crucifix hangs in the back of the church so you don’t see it during mass. Most interesting. I saw the testimony of Bella Dodd, and active member and recruiter of the communist party, converted by Bishop Sheen to Catholicism, who told a congressional committee that she had recruited 1100 or so young men to infiltrate the ranks of the clergy by becoming priests. This was done in the late 40’s through the 60’s if my facts are close to reality. There is an interesting coincidence of time frame there, with the revolution of Liturgy, change in thinking within the church as presented by the Father’s reply in the article. Also, the appearance of the disgrace of the sexual abuse by some clergy in the church. Seems diabolical doesn’t it? subtle, yet seemingly innocent. Just the way I see satan working in my life. Makes me think these bad ideas I have are my own, and ok.

  64. Matt says:

    Thank you for helping me to be more understanding of, and merciful toward, the previous generation.

  65. Donna Steichen says:

    Your column is interesting, and I think your priest friend’s charitable explanation of the upheaval have merit.
    But they do not explain why the change agents so brusquely rejected the questions, objections, even anguished protests, of the laity affected by those wholesale changes.

    I was there, and I know of what I speak. Parents who sought to explain to DREs. pastors, even bishops, why their children needed doctrinal instruction were dismissed as rigid nuerotics incapable of change. Those who loved the Church’s traditional music and art were brushed aside in the same way. Those who dared to beg for liturgical reverence were threatened with suspension and even with virtual interdiction. I could cite names and dates, if space were available.

    The process was a tragic and insensitive blunder, and the subsequent flight of so many faithful was no surprise.

  66. Donna Steichen says:

    May I correct two typos in my preceding remarks?

    In line one, ‘explanation’ should be ‘explanations’.

    In line five, ‘nuerotics’ should be ‘neurotics’.

    Thank you.

  67. Bill B. says:

    The sheep lost their way in the ways of the world.
    One of pride’s first casualties is the Truth. May His mercy
    allow a humility to cling to the Cross as we face the future.
    Time tells; it always does.

  68. Helena Scott says:

    Could you tell us the title of the piece of chant accompanying the “pictures from before the revolution”? Thank you!

  69. Rosemary says:

    Thank you, Msgr. Pope for this analysis that rapprochement is not the way to go. Whenever the Church has tried to accomodate the prevailing secular powers, it lost its credibility.

    Clearly the “fruits” of Vatican Council II have appeared questionable but I would prefer the state we are in, bad as it is, to that of the Church beforehand. We seem to be in a state of soul-searching and self-examination that, I think, has never occurred in our history. It’s long overdue on our part but is a special grace from God.

  70. Peggy says:

    Excellent description and explanation of what I have observed in 58 years. I am a product of the immigrant. I have a college degree, education, married late in life, made up for lost time had 6 kids by age 40, and held my father has he died of cancer after he received last rights. Turning point at age 42, retired from ny engineer job, became a full time wife and mother, and began a journey to get to know my faith, and my Church. I encountered beauty, too! Not just the visual majesty of our churches, I found the writings of our early fathers Ambrose comes to mind, I found the Saints, the Rosary, I found the teaching on Purgatory! I became a volunteer religious Ed teacher, studied the lessons and brought out things that were missing from the curriculum. With my engineer background it was difficult for the DRE to bring be back to the bland teaching I was to provide. My students, my husband, my children got and are still getting the full meal deal. I am now involved in assisting with confirmation program, and I make sure the gaps are filled. I do this gently, with understanding and love (charity))authentic love. I have had encounters of resistance but I approach that with charity, too, and am still teaching and successful. Our awesome Triune God waited for me, and WOW what a comeback he prepared! My prayers for your ministry, and for all of us who are on the journey, at he beginning, in the middle (me) or near the end, isn’t it simply incredible and exciting to be a Catholic, in these desperate times! Love to you all Peggy

  71. Ethan says:

    Thanks for mentioning the Venerable Fulton Sheen.

    Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us!

  72. Mac Cicak I I says:

    Amen.

  73. John Toncinich says:

    Msgr Pope, i found this trying to find out what happen to us (i was born in 1971). I mean by that that is this. I was a ‘faithful’ catholic, which is to say nothing could convert me, and i was in church for the three important day (yes faithful as i one up the two a year catholics). but after my mother died, and I grieved mostly alone, i did my second confession in my entire life. You see i was so well catechized that i did not know the relationship of receiving the eucharist and confession. but after the confession, and a mysterious weight lifted, not only what i confessed to, but an additional weight i did not know about. Then a crazy thing happened. i heard about this green book, and after i read it, boy did i think i missed out on a lot. fast forward time a bit, I became a catechist. For those who really want to catch up (my brothers and sisters reading this) i can make 5 recommendations and one optional one.

    First go to church on all days of obligation, and if you can, one no obligatory, like the first saturday, for the madonna.
    Second take a few minutes to read the bible, even just open randomly and read one chapter. before long, you will start reading the footnotes, and an few minutes will be an hour.
    Third, if and when you can, visit our brother and sisters of the other rites. Some prefer to stick with what they know. I can tell you that hearing the divine liturgy of St Chrysostom and St Basil will give you a point of view that enhances our own understanding of our own liturgy. Its different, but beautiful.
    Fourth is start praying the rosary. maybe start with the divine mercy chaplet, its easy to learn. then maybe start a week to do one decade, the second week the first and second decade, and so on. maybe in the beginning it may seem boring or you may not fell nothing. but for wat happened to me, once i was less focused on what day is what prayer, after the learning phase was over, you start feeling its power in your life. Stay with it, it worth it.
    Fifth, what ever small the task try to do something with the church, get to know the pastor outside of a handshake after mass.They are good men, sacrifice a lot, and I not sure we thank them for what they have to do, and want to do for us.
    Lastly, and is optional because they are expensive, bet a copy of the Liturgy of the Hours, and feel free to ask a priest how to work the ribbons, and what prayers to do. The psalms will have a richer meaning to you, and some of the reading are from letters and quotes from saints and holy people that you will feel like ‘wow, why don’t they teach this at church’

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