1968 – A Fateful and Terrible Year Where Many in the Church Drank the Poison of this World

There was something awful about the year 1968.

I was but a lad at the time, merely seven or eight years of age, but almost everything on the T.V. terrified me. Terrible reports from Viet Nam, (where my father was at the time), the Tet Offensive nightly reports of death and casualties (was my daddy one of the ones killed?). Riots and anti-war demonstrations in America’s cities and college campuses. The first stirrings of militant feminism. A second hideous year of hippies with their “summer of love” nonsense, which was just an excuse for selfish, spoiled college kids to get high, fornicate and think they were some how doing a noble thing. There was the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, later that year also of Robert Kennedy, the riots and burning cities that followed King’s assassination. I remember my mother who was teaching on the South Side of Chicago have to flee for her life and finally be rescued by and escorted out by police. There was the ramp up to the yet more hideous Woodstock festival that would happen the following year. 1968 was a terrible year, a year that I do not think we ever recovered from. It popularized the sexual revolution, drug use and lots of just plain bad behavior. In the Church sweeping changes were underway and this added to the uncertainty of those times. Even if one will argue they were necessary changes they came at a terrible times and fed into the notions of revolution. And then the whole revolt against the magnificent and prophetic Humane Vitae, thus ushering a spirit of open dissent that still devastates the Church.

1968 was a terrible year. When I mention that year and shake my head, I often get puzzled looks. But I stand by my claim, 1968 was a cultural tsunami from which we have not yet recovered.

Thus my interest was peaked when I saw an article by James Cardinal Stafford also singling out that year also for being a year of intense darkness. I’d like to share some excerpts of the Cardinal’s article. He focuses particularly on the devastating effects of angry and open dissent set loose in August of that Year by theologians and priests who rebelled against Humanae Vitae. In that decisive moment the Cardinal sees that the violent revolution raging outside the Church decisively entered within her and that we still real for this today.

English historian Paul Johnson dubs 1968 as the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt.” It included the Tet offensive in Vietnam with its tsunami-like effects in American life and politics, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee; the tumult in American cities on Palm Sunday weekend; and the June assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in Southern California. It was also the year in which Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter on transmitting human life, Humanae Vitae (HV). He met immediate, premeditated, and unprecedented opposition from some American theologians and pastors. By any measure, 1968 was a bitter cup….

The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour. The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968, something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood, ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Peirasmòs [i.e. a trial, a test of faith] for many.

During the height of the 1968 Baltimore riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I had made an emergency call to [an] inner-city pastor…He described the view from the rectory while speaking on the phone…his parish was becoming a raging inferno. He said, “From here I see nothing but fire burning everywhere. Everything has been set ablaze. The Church and rectory are untouched thus far.” He did not wish to leave or be evacuated. His voice betrayed disillusionment and fear. Later we learned that the parish buildings survived.

Memories of the physical violence in the city in April 1968 [following the king Assassination] helped me to name what had happened in August 1968 [in the explosion of dissent against Humanae Vitae]. Ecclesial dissent can become a kind of spiritual violence in its form and content.

What do I mean? Look at the results of the two events. After the violent 1968 Palm Sunday weekend, civil dialogue in metropolitan Baltimore broke down and came to a stop. It took a back seat to open anger and recriminations between whites and blacks. The…priests’ August gathering [against Humane Vitae] gave rise to its own ferocious acrimony. Conversations among the clergy…became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. Fears abounded. And they continue. The Archdiocesan priesthood lost something of the fraternal whole which Baltimore priests had known for generations. 1968 marked the hiatus of the generational communio….Priests’ fraternity had been wounded. Pastoral dissent had attacked the Eucharistic foundation of the Church. Its nuptial significance had been denied. Some priests saw bishops as nothing more than Roman mannequins.

Cardinal Shehan later reported that on Monday morning, August 5, he “was startled to read in the Baltimore Sun that seventy-two priests of the Baltimore area had signed the Statement of Dissent.” What he later called “the years of crisis” began for him during that hot… August evening in 1968….Its unhinging consequences continue. Abusive, coercive dissent has become a reality in the Church and subjects her to violent, debilitating, unproductive, chronic controversies.

The violence of the initial disobedience was only a prelude to further and more pervasive violence. …Contempt for the truth, whether aggressive or passive, has become common in Church life. Dissenting priests, theologians and laypeople have continued their coercive techniques. From the beginning, the press has used them to further its own serpentine agenda.  (These are excerpts, Click HERE for the full article).

Yes, a terrible year, 1968. And we have yet to recover. Discussion in the Church has often retained its painful, divisive, and, as the Cardinal notes, “spiritually violent” tendencies. Bishops are excoriated  by the right and left in the Church, and even by priests, who promised them obedience and respect. In effect, Bishops are treated more like elected officials, than the anointed leaders and fathers they are. And whatever imperfections the bishops have individually and corporately, this does not excuse our treatment of them as though they were simply elected officials accountable to us. We are neither docile nor loving and supportive of them. And when we have concerns about the course they set, we do not speak to them, or of them, as Fathers, but we lay them out as though they were political enemies. Discourse in the Church which should be marked by charity and a family love is, instead, modeled on angry and protesting political discourse, the acquisition of power and the hermeneutic of suspicion and scorn.

And this is true not only in our treatment of Bishops but also of one another. Catholics who are passionate about the family, the life issues and the sexual issues go to one side of the room, and Catholics passionate about the social teachings of the Church to the other. And from their sides they both hurl blame, venom, scorn,  and debate who is a true Catholic and who really cares about what is most important.  We do this rather than appreciate the work that each of us does in essential areas and we fail to understand that the Church needs two wings to fly.

The easiest thing in the world is to get Catholics fighting and divided. And we take the bait every time. The media knows it and so does the President. Shame on them for doing it, but shame on us for being such an easy target.

And to a large extent it all goes back to those angry August days back in 1968 when priests and laity took the violence and discord of that awful year and made it the template for Church life; when there emerged a kind of spiritual violence, and discord, when there developed  a hermeneutic of suspicion; and when there was an embracing of a distorted ecclesiology of the Church as a political entity rather the Body of Christ.

Perhaps such tendencies were decades in coming, but, as Cardinal Stafford notes, there was something about that hot and fateful August of 1968, something in that awful year slouched into the Church and grew like a cancer. It is still too much with us today and it is has infected us all. Somehow it’s still August, the scorching heat wave lingers, and the hazy air reminds us of the summer of our discontent, that awful and fateful year of 1968. Usquequo Domine…usquequo?  (Ps 12:1)

This song says, I need you, you need me. We’re all part of God’s Body. Stand with me, agree with me, you are important to me, I need you to survive.

55 Replies to “1968 – A Fateful and Terrible Year Where Many in the Church Drank the Poison of this World”

  1. Percisely. The truth and boldness cannot be seperated from love, humility, and gentleness.

    1. I remember the awful August 1968 “Police Riots” at the Democratic National Convention. Yippies, et. al. There was indeed something decidedly eerie about that year of 1968. I couldn’t even begin to list all of the oddities. Thanks for your thoughts, Monsignor.

  2. Msgr.,
    It won’t surprise you that I have a different approach her, but I hope you’ll indulge my thoughts. Just as the exile was surely a terrifying and painful experience for the Israelites, it was the stuff of their real experience, and God worked through it. Likewise, I think it is often through discord and upheaval that we grow deeper in our understanding of ourselves and God. Just as the Israelites could never go back to Solomon’s temple (grand as it was for centuries), there was a second temple to come (which would also be temporary)…but God never left. Unfortunately, in the article Cardinal Stafford paints all of his fellow priests as closed minded, devious oppressors while he alone stood firm in the faith–I think this is too simplistic While he claims THEY refused to dialogue with him, his refusal to find any merit in their reaction to HV suggests he wasn’t willing to dialogue either. The Church is what it is right now–it has particular challenges and gifts to offer us as it is, so I don’t think it is fruitful to wish it were otherwise, as if there hadn’t been an exile. Let’s keep the dialogue going as we labor together in the vineyard…

  3. As RoseAnne Roseannadanna said, “It’s always something!” This observation (that troubles are present) is ALWAYS true in the world; it is just that we don’t always “have the eyes” to see them. I do, Monsignor, agree with you that 1968 (when I turned 16) was a year in which many evil infections, thriving under the surface in the Church and the secular world, erupted into open view in full-on ugliness. I think we Christians can and should learn from this seeming “eruption of evil” at a point in time (1968) by realizing that, as you say, it was festering for years and decades prior to its visible emergence. Hence the realization/take-away: Evil is ALWAYS at work in the world, trying to undermine goodness, and it takes no vacations or days off (unlike we Christians and Jews, whom God HAS given one day a week off so we can remember Who made, redeemed, and sanctifies us, and restore/refresh our souls by doing so. Every day is a battle, no matter how benign it may appear. We must always keep our guard up – the love of God and neighbor ever in front of our eyes so as to counter and confound the Evil one – whenever he challenges us – with the Spirit of God Himself, our refuge and our strength.

  4. Everything you say here is true and resonates with my own memories, which include also the pre-Olympics riots in Mexico City and the shock and menace I sensed there when on a visit to the University I came upon a bust of Lenin presiding over a reception hall.

    And yet…I hope I never forget the graced way the year ended: Christmas eve with Apollo 8 floating around the moon on live TV, and the astronauts reading from the first chapter of Genesis. The soixante-huitards are uninviting and over as yesterday’s oatmeal, but God’s word is as fresh and energizing as ever.

    1. I was but a toddler in 1968. My mother tells me that she took me into the backyard one evening to point up at the moon, and to tell me about the astronauts…and that I didn’t seem particularly impressed.

      The mind of God is as far beyond our ability to grasp as was the moon landing to my toddler self. Certainly I now know the landing for the remarkable accomplishment that it was, but it is just as certain that God will always be beyond our knowing, perhaps even when we have left our Earthly lives.

  5. I read that St Augustine said “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”. We all need to remember that (and of course agreeing on what is essential and non-essential is a Herculean task itself).

  6. I have always felt as you do, that 1968 was a supernatural watershed of some sort. I remember when ’68 began, a comedian saying, “Happy New Year! This year is predicted to be a bad one, let’s just skip to 1969.” I wondered why anyone was predicted ’68 to be especially bad.

    Honestly 2012 feels a lot like 1968 to me. It’s got the same energy. I think it’s the same entity feeling once again that all is within reach.

  7. Also to add, 1968 was the year of the legalization of abortion in England. The following year many states in the US hit that road as well.

    It was also the beginning of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Egypt. Paralleling/Re-enacting the Slaughter of the Innocents and the Flight into Egpyt.

  8. You are absolutely correct about 1968! I graduated high school in 1969. the kids I went to Catholic grade school with went to school Mass every day, confession every First Friday, wondered if kissing too long could be a mortal sin(oh for those innocent days), and then suddenly things changed at warp speed. When my friends came back from their respective colleges for Christmas break very many had drastically altered their lifestyles…no longer attending Mass, sleeping with girlfriend or boyfriend, smoking pot…just a wholesale assumption of the Woodstock philosophy. All the Folk Masses, Über hip nuns and priests, relaxation of traditional@ fasting regulations, jettisoning beautiful prayer books(spontaneous made up prayers waaaay better than those oldies like “Prayer Before a Crucifix” or the others we used to say) could not stanch, and probably contributed, to the wholesale loss of faith by so many of my generation. Too bad the horrible interpretation of the Spirit of Vatican II coincided with what was going on in the secular world. It was a perfect storm.
    I started teaching in Catholic grade school in 1973, and am now horrified when I think of the watered down, content free religion books we we were mandated to use by the newly designated DRE. In particular I remember the “children’s liturgies” as we called the Holy Sacrifice. One popular song after Communion was “Hi God, How are You Doing Today.” Confession was delayed until 4th grade. I could go on but it is too sad to remember that decade.
    I hope to live long enough to see a revolution in the practice of the Catholic faith in this country.

    1. Not to mention an awesome version of the Mustang.

      But the good Msgr is totally correct. I also was only 8 at the time, but I remember it being very weird. And just think, the young hippies of that generation are now running one of the political parties. You wonder why things are so bad for the Church now? The 1968 generation has come into power.

      1. Yes of course. I think the release of the Beatles’ White Album alone proves that 1968 marks what future historians, assuming there are any, will call the end of Western civilization. Hey, circa 400 B.C.–1968 A.D. is a good run! And people talk about the longevity of the Chinese empire; are you kidding me??

        Along the lines of your Mustang observation, the SR-71 Blackbird began recon missions from a base in Okinawa that year. Talk about awesome!!

        Alright, I just can’t get into the gloom of it all right now. I know Msgr is right in substance but, there are still babies being born. There are 20 year-olds that have never heard of The Who. If you don’t believe me, ask one some time. Sometimes we think of history as cumulative in a way that makes us pessimistic. With JPII, I find hope in the young.

        Let the heathen press corp rage and the hippies imagine a vain thing…

  9. I am stunned. This is one of the most profound musings I have enjoyed in quite some time! I was actually talking about this very thing only yesterday to some parishioners who were lamenting the lack of respect the “children” have for authority. Well, this particular parishioner is often rather harsh toward this particular president. It occurred to me then that our children do not respect authority because WE do not “show” them how to properly respect authority. We don’t have to be docile, but we do have to be respectful in order to be respectable. And THIS does indeed have its root in 1968.

  10. I well remember 1968 and the confusion about Humanae Vitae fostered in the media. I was fresh out of 12 years of Catholic School and was led to believe that you could make up your own mind about contraception.
    Four years later I was in a local watering hole with various friends, most Catholic but not practicing, when the topic of contraception came up. One young man remarked scornfully that the Pope had thought four years about the issue and still came out against it. And I distinctly remember thinking, “Then he’s right!”
    Thanks Be To God for 8 years of Baltimore Catechism and the gift of Faith in Papal Infallability. I had learned enough to know that if the Pope prayed and studied and taught what the Church had always taught, he could not err.

  11. ther 68 inferno was the hilight of the vision experienced by leo xlll (1890s)in which he was “shown” a request of the devil to God to be released to the world in the 1900 to spread evil— the vision was prophesyed by blessed anne emerich, a stigmatic nun during the early 1800s–when one looks at the over one hundred years of recent history, the physical and spiritual debacles have been unceasing vis a vis with wars, abortion, divorce, homosexualtiy,etc. 1968 was just one of the terrible events in the century–the vatican should re introduce the prayers after mass soliciting Gods deliverance from evil

  12. Dear Msgr.Pope,

    Thank you for this excellent and bold article. I have pondered
    some of what you have written, and I have often said to my
    pro-life friends, “I am ashamed of my generation” meaning
    the late 60’s, the generation of the ” free love revolution”.

  13. Like Anne, I graduated from high school in 1969. I remember going to Mass 4 days a week, saying the rosary one day a week, stopping recess to say the Angelus, learning to sing chant in the second grade and so on. Then we got weird. Just when I wanted to learn more about my faith, all the teachers wanted to do was talk about luv and feeeeelings.

    I also remember the protests at the Olympics, the riots at the convention, the yippies, the hippies and all the general craziness. It seemed as though the calm voices of reason were all silenced.

  14. This was a terrible year. I think the damage done is not fully appreciated. What few people realize is that in the US real incomes (meaning accounting for inflation) have been stagnant since the 1970s. We think we are doing better but we really aren’t. We have a lot of poorly made trinkets that make us feel wealthy. But we aren’t truly more wealthy. Through our bias in thinking the present is superior to the past we imagine we are always progressing. But this is not the case spiritually any more than it is economically.

  15. I didn’t start Catholic school until 1969, I knew nothing but the New order of the Mass, I remember “hippy Mass” with felt banners and guitar and tambourine music, and even though taught by nuns for 8 years, I think I learned more about the Sacred Liturgy in the last months of 2011 as we prepared for the new translation than I did in all my time at Catholic school. The physical signs, post 1968 churches as sterile places, with little in the way of statues or anything that would distinguish them from a Methodist church. (What a wonder to attend Mass in old cathedrals like St. Louis in New Orleans and old churches like St. Patrick in Galveston!) The uninspiring music often summed up as Hass and Haugen music, no particularly Catholic, often Protestant sounding. (As a defense of Marty Haugen and David Haas, not all their music sounds insipid and unworthy for Liturgical use, if I were made King of Liturgical Music some of their music, especially the Psalms, whould still make the Gather hymnal).

    I do sincerely wish, as far as those in open revolt against the authority of the bishops and Magesterium, more bishops would follow the lead of the bishops and archbishops in St. Louis, Kansas City and Providence, and give “cafeteria Catholic” politicians who find claims of ethnic based Catholicism useful, but openly support the heinous act of abortion, and now abortion funded by taxpayers and the Church itself, the choice between their political lives and communion with the Church. There is no First Amendment issue if Nancy Pelosi or John Kerry were denied the Sacraments until they made a public apology for the scandal created, and made heartfelt confession at the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  16. There *was* one bright spot in 1968 – Humanae Vitae aside – yet it ironically helped confirm what an annus horribilis 1968 really was. In late December, Apollo 8 was sent on the first human trip to the Moon and back, a high risk mission decided on by NASA on fairly short notice once it realized that its lunar lander would not be available for several more months. The crew of mission dramatically read from the beginning of the book of Genesis on Christmas Day as they orbited the Moon (and later prompted a lawsuit by Madalyn Murray O’Hair). The mission, and the reading prompted a telegram read to the crew on the journey back: “Thank you, Apollo 8. You saved 1968.”

    Of course, it did no such thing. It was merely a brief, bright shining moment at the conclusion of a terrible year.

    But 1968 was merely the year that the dam broke. The cultural revolution that swept the western world had been building for years. It’s impossible to pretend, Council or no Council, that the Church could have been insulated from its effects, or even its causes, though surely the gusts of ever more radical “reforms” that swept through in the wake of the Council surely accelerated the upheaval within. And yet the fact remains that the revolution that culminated in 1968 was led by many of the Church’s best and brightest, men and women of the Greatest and Quiet generations for the most part, all formed by the very orthodox seminaries, schools, universities, and apologetics of the old pre-conciliar Church. It’s a rich, disturbing, and puzzling irony.

    There is yet to be written a satisfactory account of just how and why that happened. But when it is written, I certainly will want to read it. As you rightly note, 1968 is still with us today.

    1. A postscript: Few in the Church were more deeply marked by the tumult of 1968 than a young German theology professor at the University of Tubingen – Fr. Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzinger watched as much of the student body – theology students included – rapidly transformed themselves into violent Marxist revolutionaries, ultimately helping push him to leave riot-torn Tubingen for Regensburg, a sad episode that Ratzinger relates his biography, Milestones.

      It’s reassuring to know that few people in the Church have come more fully to grips with the ills of 1968 than our reigning pontiff.

  17. 1968 was the year Pope Paul VI ignored the teaching of the Council on collegiality when issuing Humanae Vitae. The Pope was the dissenter.

    Collegiality of bishops has been ignored by subsequent Popes.

    Collegiality of bishops was a teaching of Vatican II. The Pope ignored it; what does that teach the rest of the People of God?

    1. Strange ecclesiology you advance, try reading Lumen Gentium, what VC II actually said. The Pope is not primus inter pares and of the college of which you speak he is the head.

      1. Lumen Gentium 22 “…the collegiate character and structure of the episcopal order is clearly shown by the very ancient discipline whereby the bishops installed throughout the world lived in communion with one another and with the Roman Pontiff in a bond of unity, charity and peace…”

        The “ancient discipline” can be seen in action in Acts 15, at the Council of Jerusalem, where the whole Church acted in a collegiate nature, not just the Apostles.

        1. Who got the last word in at the Council of Jerusalem? Hint: not Big James, Little James, John, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Thaddeus, Simon, Phillip or Andrew.

          Yup. Andrew’s brother. What was his name again? Something about a rock, I believe, in that name….

  18. When I was a history student at the university all of my professors without nary a peep a disagreement all touted 1968 as the greatest year in American history. It is amazing to think about really having to read Saul Alinsky and William Appleton Williams, et cetra ad nauseum.

  19. Monsignor, you paint “hippies” with a very broad brush here. There were two forces at work in 1968. The hippies opposed the war in Vietnam and supported the civil rights movement. Meanwhile, many fine, up-standing, clean-cut citizens opposed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy for their involvement in civil rights and for their criticism of the war.

    What do these hippies have to do with the murders of King and Kennedy, men who were their heroes? A little fairness, please. You depict all hippies as licentious and somehow blame them for the rebellion against Humanae Vitae, which actually involved all classes within the Church, including even the neatest and most charming husbands and housewives who drove the latest cars and wore the latest fashions.

    Many of the “hippies” you speak of were sincere and went on to work hard to effect social and environmental change in this country in ways the Church supports.

    1. Yeah its more about the dope, and “summer of love” sexual revolution stuff. Your distinctions are not without merit, but broad brushes have their place too and most hippies were not the paragons you describe, IMHO

      1. Msgr. is, to my thinking, is quit correct. The writer seems to continue in that thinking even now…

        1. I love the Church and believe all that she teaches. There’s nothing in what I wrote to indicate otherwise. The monsignor responded in a civil way directly to what I had written. You seem to be responding to motives you’ve imputed to me.

  20. Thank you Monsignor, for this enlightening summary. I was born in 1943, a “cradle Catholic”, and, prior to those years, I remember a “more reverent” Church. I came back from a short military tour in Korea in 1967, just in time for all the horror you summarized. My wife (born in 1938) and I have grieved the “old” Church often when we witness some of the obvious activities today, sadly some of which are within our Church, but you have shed a lot of insight that I don’t think we would have put together. Indeed it has been a lot of years since 1968, but not anywhere as many as 2012 years since Christ, so we have hope that this is one of those “dark” times from which the Church will recover. Thank you.


  21. In December, 1965, as the Council was ending. Jacques Maritain wrote bitterly about the results. In Peasant of the Garonne,” he charged the reformers with “genuflecting to the world. This from the former darling of the liberals in the Church. I recently turned to an old book by Phillip Hughes THE CHURCH in CRISIS to be reminded that Councils may do good, but sometimes they fail. so far as we can tell. The idea of Vatican II as a
    “New Pentecost,” seems hopelessly naive, and we have to remember that the 5th Lateran Council took place from 1512-1517, just on the eve of the Reformation. Timing means a lot. Looking back it seems a good thing that the next council was delayed for twenty years, for I wonder what might have happened if the Protestant reformers had had a hearing. I know that in the early ‘60s, there was a lot being said by liberals against not only Vatican I but Trent too.

    1. If you believe the Spirit is present in the Church, it seems a bit arrogant for anyone to suggest that a Council “failed”, presumably because one is uncomfortable with the ideas presented or the outcome. They may challenge us, but faith means admitting that God (and Church) is bigger than just what I am comfortable with. Man proposes, and God disposes…

      1. God’s purpose in all this is a mystery. But there is great irony in that the Protestant Revolt began immediately after the close of this council. I see much the same in what followed Vatican II. Mass attendence dropped from 70% to 25%, priests and nuns abandoned their missions by the tens of thousands. Catholics fled in large numbers to the conservative evangelical Church. There is a large Baptist Church right across the street from my church. Steve Ray spoke at my church and said, probably correctly, that if he went to that church and polled its members, maybe half of them would be ex-Catholics. It is my personal experience that in the ‘70s, many priests who stayed loyal were dispirited and no longer recruited among the young. Maybe God was winnowing, and testing. but from here, looking back. Whatever the Council may actually have said, that was ignored. The Documents were deconstructed by those imbued with “the spirit of Vatican II”

  22. I was a graduate student and teaching assistant at this time at the University of California, Berkeley. No, I did not protest, occupy, etc. – I was too busy cramming for orals and then getting very serious with my thesis. I was beginning to feel that the whole world was going crazy – my fellow students, my country, Vietnam (both North and South), China (remember the little red books?). There were days when I needed to figure out which route to walk on campus to avoid the clouds of tear gas. People who I thought were reasonably sane were shouting “Off the pigs!” Telegraph Avenue has still not recovered from the trashing it received during the riots. What a shameful period!

  23. An excellent commentary. A wild year for sure. Brings back so many memories. One worthy of mention is the Catonsville Nine which included three Catholic priests. On the cusp of being drafted into a war that I could barely understand, I was grateful that the Church was disobedient to the State. The action showed me that someone in the Church cared for, and understood, me.

  24. As someone not born until 12 yrs after 1968, it has often struck me that those who were college age in the late 60’s seemed to never escape the “1968” mentality. Those in power today are the same people who were rioting on college campuses and dissenting from Humanae Vitae. A person 20 yrs old in ’68, would be 64 today. We can basically see the entire period (traumatic as it has been) since the Council as dominated by this same dissenting generation. A generation that is reaching retirement. That gives me hope. I think those among my generation have either left the Church or take her authority much more seriously. Maybe dissent and the divide between “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics will exit the Church with the dissenting generation. We may end up with a smaller Church, but a Church that understands itself to be the Body of Christ, rather than another area to continue the left-right battle in another area.

  25. For the greater part of the past century, the faithful had been reciting the prayer to St. Michael at the end of the Mass. It was on October 13, 1894, that Pope Leo XIII had a prophetic vision. After celebrating Mass, the Holy Father suddenly fell to the floor. The cardinals immediately called for a doctor. No pulse was detected, and the Holy Father was feared dead. Just as suddenly, Pope Leo awoke and said, “What a horrible picture I was permitted to see!” In this vision, God gave Satan the choice of one century in which to do his worst work against the Church. The devil chose the twentieth century. So moved was the Holy Father from this vision that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle! Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” In 1886, Pope Leo ordered this prayer to be said at the conclusion of Mass in every church throughout the world.

    When the Mass of Pope Paul VI was issued in 1968, the prayer to St. Michael at the end of the Mass was suppressed. It is more than interesting that the suppression of this prayer coincides with the perfect storm that blew up in the late 1960s, which is mostly identified as a rebellion against authority.

    Non serviam is Latin for “I will not serve.” This phrase is the very battle cry of Lucifer, who is said to have spoken these words to express rejection to serve his God in the heavenly kingdom. It is the phrase used by modernists today to express radical, sometimes even revolutionary rejection of conformity, especially in faith related matters. Wasn’t the late 1960s about this kind of “non serviam tsunami” that swept across our world, leveling all structures of authority and morality in its path?

    Who doesn’t know this is spiritual warfare? Who doesn’t know that we must ally ourselves with St. Michael and his army of angels and the entire Communio Sanctorum?

  26. Padre Pio died that year. The Vatican Council II enjoyed his protection. Then he died, and all hell broke loose.
    Like St. Anthony the hermit protected the Nicae Coucil and bound the devil for the duration. Things got a lot worse when Mother Teresa died too. What we need now is a self-less soul to abandon their life on earth for the sake of the Kingdom of God, and live for God alone.

  27. There’s a line from Muriel Spark that goes;

    “Nothing infuriates people more than their own lack of spiritual insight”

  28. LOL!!!

    What a hoot! Yet, once again, self-centred baby boomers selfishly and indulgently herald and dramatize a particular point in history as being the be-all and end-all of all human history.

    The problem with the perspective and view point offered above is that it feeds into an almost superstitious quality. Once man begins to perceive of actions and consequences as being dependent upon a particular time-frame or milieu, man excludes the possibility of taking ownership and responsibility of what man himself created. To this very day, there is still a perverse nostalgia about the ‘60’s: 1968 was not the turning point or birthplace (and hardly the apex) of American societal breakdown. Rather, it was yet just another milestone among many along the avenue of American sin.

    While some may harbor and nurture vivid (if not exaggerated) memories of 1968, it pales in comparison to other post-1968 events. Since then, some 55 million American aborted babies have been offered up to the god of liberal philosophy, and America continues to succumb head-over-heels down the slope of socialism.

    While it may appear, hopefully, that current church leaders seem to be beginning to understand that American culture is in a despairing situation which is far worse now than it ever was in 1968, the average devout and practicing Christian is years ahead of the church hierarchy in appropriately examining and diagnosing the root causes of our nation’s problems. We’re just bemused that church leaders now finally take note of the issues which have since long-ago caused us heartburn.

    The church hierarchy will have to quicken their step to catch up with the faithful laity as we’ve never stopped or slowed down in the practice of our faith. The church leaders bemoan government intrusion into their faith as though it has just now been invented. LOL! It’s time for the church hierarchy to put their big boy pants on and deal with the same issues we’ve been dealing with for years.

    Good luck with that! Maybe someday the church leaders will realize what many of us have already: Caesar will not be easily deterred, and eventually you’ll just have to learn to be good martyrs.

    1. I don’t agree with some of Mr. Franco’s examples, but I definitely appreciate the reminder that we need to look at history with a longer view. For starters, the sexual license that most people associate with the late 60s (as in 1968) was already old hat for the Beat generation by the late 50s. Even mainstream Hollywood fair was already grotesquely oversexed in the 1940s. (Catholics in America were the first to protest Mae West and her popular persona and continued to oppose her even when her vulgarity was taken for granted by nearly everyone else.) This tsunami has been building for a long time. Early on it may have appeared as only a ripple on the surface, but now, as error is running its course, the wave is hitting the shoreline and being forced upward.

  29. In 1968 I lost my job, lost my career and lost direction. It took an actual revelation from God himself to give me direction, and did not happen until late 1972. No. We have not recovered from 1968. The rebellion of older adolescents remains in 2012, except that now they occupy the media and the government. They are now leading us straight to hell. God will help us only if we, as a nation, repent.

  30. from Bill Foley

    I would urge everyone to go to the EWTN document library and make a search under the name “Costanzo”. One will find three of the finest essays ever written–all in defense of the papacy and Humanae Vitae.

  31. I am not a Catholic, but I have watched with dismay and the knowledge that as the Catholic Church goes, there the protestant Church goes further. I was only 7 years old and yet I remember 1968 well. I have been a news junkie since– because of the anxiety created by that year. 1972 was not a good year either–Munich Olympics, Red army, terrorism, failure of vietnam peace, Watergate scandal.

  32. “Catholics who are passionate about the family, the life issues and the sexual issues go to one side of the room, and Catholics passionate about the social teachings of the Church to the other.”

    This is an interesting bifurcation. It is also as misleading as it is provocative. The Church’s teaching about the family, the life issues, and the sexual issues are magisterially summarized in Humanae Vitae. That teaching is binding on the faithful. To deny it is to deny the teaching authority of the Church that the faithful affirm every time we say the Credo.

    The “social teachings of the Church” as used here apparently describes not orthodox or dissident Catholics in particular, but Catholics who take a liberal-progressive approach to applying the social teachings of the Church to the exclusion of the magisterial teachings. They too are magisterial, yes, but they allow a great deal of prudential freedom to the laity, whose expertise is encouraged and endorsed by Lumen Gentium (No. 37).

    Many Catholics who are “passionate about the family, the life issues and the sexual issues” are also passionate about the social teachings of the Church. We volunteer, we teach for nothing, we raise money for, and staff, the soup kitchens, the food pantries, the crisis pregnancy centers, and countless other endeavors. But we are free to agree, or to disagree, with the liberal-left agendas of the USCCB staff or the folks who gather on Tuesdays in the Church basement under the banner of “Justice and Peace” — as though the prolifers who gather on Thursdays are not advocates of justice for the unborn, or peace in the womb.

    Hence I believe that this bifurcation is faulty and misleading.

    I would put it this way: many Catholics pledge their fidelity to the tough, unpopular, and unbending magisterial teachings of the Church that have, alas, seldom been taught for the past forty years (in the view of Pope Benedict, for instance), and are willing to fraternally correct both our bishops (as Pope Benedict has done) and out fellow laymen when they pretend that their progressive political agendas are all part of the seamless garment and thus exonerate them from the Catholic duty to embrace the magisterial teaching of the Church regarding — yes, the family, the life issues, and the sexual issues.” These types — including, alas, the USCCB — ask the faithful to support foreign aid legislation that includes half a billion taxpayer dollars a year for international family planning programs that include the same contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilizations that ObamaCare and the Sebelius mandate do.

    How schizophrenic can you get?

    In charity and truth, I believe that clarity is required here. I was in Notre Dame’s graduating class of 1968, I have seen the disaster described by Cardinal Stafford firsthand, and I refuse to bush around the beat about something so seminal and critical to the work of the Church today. Yes, there is a bifurcation — between those who adhere to the magisterial teaching of the Church, and those who contend that it’s all a matter of opinion.

    To address the sbysmal situation into which ignorance has delivered us, Humanae Vitae must be taught as part of the **social** teaching of the Church — and, given the social disaster that surrounds us today, it should be the primary social focus of the New Evangelization.

  33. I’ve been meditating upon the nearly complete break-down of trust between generations of Catholics, between left and right. I’ve only been Catholic for 24 years and yet I feel like Catherine Doherty speaking of the 60’s. Overnight, she and friends like Dorothy Day went from being so far out on the left hand side of the Catholics spectrum that you could hardly see them to being regarded as conservatives (albeit orthodox) – and they hadn’t moved an inch. The whole Church had revolved around them.

    Reading Cardinal Stafford’s passionate depiction of the times by those who lived it does help me understand. It helps me understand what the tsunami of cultural change in the 60’s felt like. I can’t tell you how wearying living with the reaction to the reaction to the reaction to the reaction is getting. Now that I’m seeing (as I knew was inevitable) the first signs of reaction by the very youngest seminarians to their trad “elders”.

    The cycle of reaction and rejection keeps speeding up and now it only take 5 – 10 years or so for a “new generation” to take the required stance against the failures of its “elders” (who may still be in their 20’s).

    Each group sees itself as the inevitable wave of the future and each group can’t grasp that their unique take on the world won’t triumph forever in a climate where contempt between generations is normative.

    Profound enmity and distrust between the generations means that we can’t build anything deep and thoughtful because we can’t pass anything on to the next generation. We are hard-wired not to learn anything from our elders (evil scum!) and we can’t pass anything onto to those who follow us (who regard us as evil scum!) Everyone is just waiting for the bastards (those people over there) to die, just biding our time until we have the power to level their life’s work and build our own on the rubble. No matter which generation says it, “never trust anyone over 30” is incredibly impoverishing and appallingly stupid.

    The great Catholic revival and the generation of saints in early 17th century France emerged from such a time as this. 8 religious civil wars in 32 years. 20 percent of the population of Paris died in a religiously-fueled siege. Finally, two generation after Trent, the exhausted survivors looked about them and decided to give building something positive a try – collaborating across the generations and categories like bishop, priest, lay men or woman.

    It was God’s Providence that the greatest figure of the great “generation of saints” was St. Francis de Sales, whose gentleness, and trust in God was proverbial. It was his influence that meant that while the generation that lived through the wars was scarred for life, the next generation turned their energies to heroic systematic charity, evangelization, missionary work, created the Catholic school system, the seminary system, etc. They literally re-invented Catholic life, practice, and spirituality in an evangelical mode.

    Not in the image of the pre-Reformation Church, which was two generations gone, and not primarily in reaction to the terrible losses of the past but by really engaging the needs of their time – the early 17th century – out of love and in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Let us see what love will do” was Fr. Francis’ motto. Heroic love birthed a vast spectrum of creativity, renewal, and transformation whose influence lasted 150 years in France and gave birth to most of the institutions that 1950’s American Catholics regarded as immemorial and immutable.

    What was done in their time can be done again in ours. We can put an end to the cycle of reaction. We can be little St. Francis de Sales in the 21st century west. (We do have to remember that this particular experience of the past 50 years is almost entirely western and not meaningful at all for the majority of Catholics who live outside the west now.) We can see what love will do – if we have the guts and imagination to answer Christ’s command to forgive our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us and after having done so, begin to see a future beyond the trauma of the recent past.

  34. I was 27 & had the 4th of my 5 children, in 1968. We lived in Detroit, MI. My husband traveled during the week, so I was home alone, with 4 babies, & a Roaring Crowd of Chaos 1/2 a block from my house. The riot in Detroit was NOT a race riot, it was simply a breakdown of the “Rule of Law”.
    “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius” should have told people something! Those of us with families sure knew something terrible & evil had been turned loose!! I’ll never forget the sounds of that crowd, right out of Hell itself!!
    And I remember being advised to go to Confession to the Jesuits so I could take BC pills!!
    PLAYBOY MAGAZINE was a best seller. When I mentioned people would never be satisfied with that level of porn & it was the beginning of a whole society addicted to Porn, I was laughed at! When I complained about homosexuals in the priesthood I was told Vat II “changed all that “medieval drivel”. Now, please, go read the 35 page report Pope Benedict commissioned last Spring, by a Priest in Poland!!! There were plenty of us who did Not drink the kool-aide . However, we were ignored into silence. It’s going to take some one with a strong stomach & a big whip to get the entrenched “Homo-heretics” out of their positions . It’s False Compassion to have allowed it to get where it is now! Priests , Bishops & some Laity are going to have to answer for not telling the TRUTH of the Gospel!! The same Laity that demanded contraception has the leaders they wanted!! But I’ve seen some of the young Catholics today, on fire with the Grace purchased for them by JP II & Pope Benedict !! They will make the Difference!! We’ll have small, Home Churches, but they will serve Jesus Christ & Support The Chair of Peter!! And, Thanks be to God Almighty, I’m far down the road to my real Home!! The Church will survive, we have the Word of Jesus Christ on that…Viva Christo Rey!

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