Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Don't get me wrong. The pre-Vatican II Church had its warts and pimples just as the post-Vatican II Church has its cancers. Some of the first changes after Vatican II were nun's habits being made a bit more comfortable, but still habits. The 1965 Roman Missal was still the Tridentine Mass and the laity were called to holiness just as the clergy and religious were. 

But then, the dismantling occur in the spirit of Vatican II to change the face, look and identity of Catholics and their instituions and to wipe out all the cultural aspects of Catholicism which acted as a sort of glue for truly holy Catholics and others less so.

The Mass was universal and there wasn't the tribalism we have today in its celebration and the multi-languages of people that everyone insists needs to be in their parish too.  But here are some recollections of the Church of the past and her glory days all positive except the first one which misses the mark and comes from an adolescent mentality persevered in the person's present old age.

Rita Ferrone of Praytell tells of her negative experience of a nicer time in the Church which you can compare with five others who actually knew the nicer time in the Church:

I’d like to just add a note of experience that may be a bit different from others, but no less valid. When I think about the Catholic past as I experienced it in the supposed time of flourishing (when there were a lot of people populating church institutions), it wasn’t always rosy. There was a lot of emphasis on discipline but not so much on justice. People lied a lot to prop up the systems they inhabited. There was considerable tribalism among Catholics, and a good bit of ethnic clannishness that was cloaked in Catholicism but did not result in a whole lot of charity, beyond care for me and mine. There was scrupulosity, and a sense that the worst sins were sexual. I got a fine education in Catholic schools, but the number of my classmates who were there just to avoid the public schools’ problems and not for any religious loyalty, were many. Scoffers abounded within these groups. We had big institutions, but frequently the individuals moving through those institutions got an experience not of grace but of harshness. That’s why people left. I think that all this contributed to people falling away, and ultimately to the failure of the system. And this is quite apart from the scandalous sex abuse crisis which emerged to shock and drive even more people away. There were genuine, caring, faith filled people in the mix, but there was a lot of other stuff going on. My sense is that the faithful minority is still around. So I wonder if what we mourn in losing the big institutions is a cultural clout which is no longer ours to command, and yet, look around: there is probably as much grace and blessing for our time, only it is taking different forms.

The National Catholic Register has this wonderful recollection of the good old days by people who knew but they are not long for this world, so it is great to have them tell us:

5 Prominent Catholics Reflect on the Church of Their Youth

Joe Scheidler, Bishop Rene Gracida, Alice von Hildebrand, Msgr. Peter Wilkinson and Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz recall their Christian upbringing
Jim Graves

Alice von Hildebrand (born 1923), philosopher, author, speaker

[I grew up in Belgium in the 1920s and 30s, and the country] was very Catholic, and my family was very involved with the Church. My grandfather, in fact, was a very prominent Catholic in Belgium. He was the founder of a publication that Cardinal Silvio Oddi [1910-2001] once called the most Catholic newspaper in Europe.

I was blessed to go to the best Catholic schools, and was able to visit many magnificent churches in Brussels. The churches had such magnificent religious paintings; I learned much about the Faith by contemplating them.

I had access to the best Catholic textbooks as a child. I’d come home with a 450-page volume in small print and I knew the whole thing. I became a daily communicant as a teenager.

The country was as Catholic as it could be and I received a superb Catholic education.

… [Unfortunately, today] I can only tell you that Belgium has apostatized from A to Z. I haven’t been there for 20 years. It would bring me to tears. I had a niece there that was given assisted suicide and afterward given a Catholic funeral Mass. If I were to go back, I would just shed tears from morning to night.

Bishop Rene Gracida (born 1923), retired Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas

I was born in New Orleans. My mother was French American Cajun, my father Mexican. He had fled from Mexico to escape religious persecution. I grew up during the Great Depression, and my father did almost anything he could to support the family. I had one sister, born four years ahead of me.

My mother was a very devout Catholic; my father less so. I had a great uncle who was a vicar general of a diocese in Mexico, and he was very strict. Because of him, my father had an antipathy toward the Catholic clergy. He was not happy when I became a monk!

… I remember reading The Last of the Mohicans as a teenager, and developing a special interest in the Jesuit martyrs. Years later, when I entered the Benedictine monastery, I had to propose three names to my archabbot, one of which he’d pick to be my religious name for the rest of my life. The first I chose was the Jesuit martyr Rene Goupil [1608-42, a French Jesuit lay missionary martyred by Iroquois Indians]. To my great pleasure, the name was approved.

Joe Scheidler (born 1927), Chicago pro-life activist

I grew up in Hartford City, Indiana, which is near Muncie. I was one of six children. My father was a successful businessman involved in all sorts of things: making ice, bottling, ice cream, coal, operating three theaters and a farm. He came out okay from the Great Depression because he had four things people had to have: ice, coal, pop and ice cream.

We were committed Catholics. We went to Mass and said the Rosary daily. One of my uncles was a bishop and two others were priests; two of my cousins were priests as well.

I was an altar boy, and wanted to be a priest myself. I thought that was the way I could be closest to Christ, and I wanted to be as close to Christ as I could be.

I entered the seminary when I was 25, and studied for the diocesan priesthood for three years. Then I became a Benedictine monk for four years. I completed all the necessary studies and formation to become a priest, but decided it was not my calling. It was heartbreaking to leave the seminary, but believed God had other plans for me. My mother was devastated, but my father never thought I had a vocation.

I married my wife Ann in 1965, and we went on to have seven children.

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (born 1935), retired Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska

I grew up in a devout Catholic home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My father worked as a grocer. We attended Mass and said the Rosary daily, had regular prayers and went to Catholic schools. We had sacramentals all over our house and priests and religious regularly visited our home. An associate pastor at our local parish, St. Wenceslaus, was a family friend who went fishing in the lakes of Wisconsin with me and my father. I was ordained a priest in 1960, a year ahead of the rest of my class. My only sibling became a nun.

Msgr. Peter Wilkinson (born 1940), retired Roman Catholic priest of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and a convert who was formerly a bishop in the Continuing Anglican movement

[The Anglican Church in Victoria] was strong. That was the 1940s and 50s, and many people were active in the Anglican Church. About 75 percent of the residents were Anglican. As a teenager, I’d go to services at Christ Church Cathedral and the only seats would be in the gallery.

I attended an Anglo-Catholic parish [emphasizing Anglicans’ Roman Catholic heritage] with a beautiful traditional liturgy. It is the liturgy I came to love.

When I graduated from university, I made an arrangement with the Anglican Bishop of Victoria to go to an Anglo-Catholic seminary in England operated by the Community of the Resurrection.

It was while in London that I became interested in religious life. I read a book by an Anglican religious who was a Franciscan friar. I thought, “That’s what life is about, being a Catholic Christian.” I wanted to be a priest and religious and experience the beauty and joy of Catholicism.

… [My opinion of the Roman Catholic Church in my youth] was good. Most of the devotional books we used were based on Roman Catholic books. I didn’t understand the doctrine of papal infallibility, but once you do understand it, it’s a no brainer.

But much of what we did was the same as Roman Catholicism: Mass, praying the divine office, confession, private prayer.


Henry said...

Does anyone know Rita Ferrone's birthdate? She says, "I experienced it in the supposed time of flourishing."

From what little I know of her career, I doubt that she's old enough to have had any formative experience with Catholicism in the halcyon days of the 1950s. By the mid-1960s, Catholic life and culture in my experience hardly resembled what it had been in the 1950s. As I recall, everything had changed by around 1965--not only liturgy, but parish life and devotions, Catholic schools and religious education. More than any one of these, the all-enveloping Catholic atmosphere, the very Catholic air we breathed, was already gone with the wind.

Victor said...

From the research I did on, she was born around 1957. That would make her around 6 years old when the liturgical deformations really got started.

TJM said...

Ferrone lives in an alternate universe of reality - like most liberals. She plays fast and loose with the truth

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I do have to say that Ferrone is correct in one way. Baby-boomers her age (1957) mine (1953) and the original ones (1946) and mostly the 1940's baby boomers are the ones who rebelled the most against authority, any authority, religious or political after Vatican II. They are the ones who despised the strict discipline, being hit with rulers, paddles and fists. (This happened in public schools too). They are the ones who grew tired of the regimented Church, Latin Liturgies, Gregorian chant and organ.

But Vatican II gave them the ammunition to keep their movement a movement and not a fad. They were taught nothing could change in the Catholic Church and accepted that until Vatican II opened the doors to change and others in the Church said everything could change.

And then Pope Paul VI began to freak out over what he wrought and tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube and he experienced the ire of the 1940's baby-boomers in a way that was dazzling.

And once Vatican II opened the door to ecumenism, interfaith relations and secularism, there was no need to stay in a wishy-washy, marshmellowy post Vatican II Church when there were so many equal options.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Vatican Two did not open the door to ecumenism and interfaith relations.

At the Second Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1438-1442) formularies were worked out for unity with the Orthodox. These councils even saw the participation of Eastern Orthodox Churches. Ecumenism is an essential element of the mission of the Church and this has been expressed for centuries.

The Malines Conversations took place in the early 1900's involving substantive dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.

Ecumenism at the grassroots took place all over as Catholics and Protestants abandoned their denominational ghettos and actually met and became friends with people from other religions. Bishop Boland recounts how, when he was a child in Ireland, he and his Protestant friends decided on day to test the warnings they had been given about the dangers of going into churches not their own. The Catholic boys ran through a Protestant Church; the Protestant boys ran through a Catholic Church. Everyone survived and no storm of fire and brimstone came to destroy them for their lack of fidelity.

What Vatican Two did do was emphasize the need for ecumenism and interfaith dialogue. As you aware, the unity of the Church is the will of Christ. One does not achieve unity by sitting back and waiting for the Protestants to "come home." As my moral theology professor in seminary, Dr. Germaine Grisez, said, "Ecumenism" isn't pronounced "You-Come-In-Ism."

Lest you accuse the father of Vatican Two of abandoning the unicity of the Catholic faith, recall that that Council also condemned indifferentism. Nothing in Vatican Two suggests that all Christian religions are "equal options."

TJM said...

So Rita was 7 when the first deforms of the Mass took place (1964). She must have been an exceptional child to have the necessary training, education, and lived experience to see what was "wrong" with the CHurch prior to Vatican Disaster II. LOL, what a maroon

rcg said...

Why do we need interfaith dialogue and ecumenism?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

rcg - Because, "I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."

Anonymous said...

There had to be serious serious problems in the Church prior to Vatican II (I am talking about clergy and religious only) because how would you explain the devistation that occurred.

Look at the priesthood in 1963 and the look at it in 1966. Totally different. The same priest in 1963 said Mass reverently and was neatly dressed and conducted himself as a gentleman and a CATHOLIC priest. Fast forward to 1965 and the same man has long hair, is taking incredible liberties with the Mass, is questioning everything and is open to any crazy thing that comes down the road accept the truths of the Faith.

Let’s say that picture in the article of the Sisters of St. Joseph was taken in the early 1960’s. By the end of the decade the majority of those sisters were militants who openly opposed the Faith and corrupted the innocent children in their care with their nonsense. Something is wrong with that.

Stable people do not completely change their way of thinking and way of life so radically in so short a time as one year.

Look at the history of the Church in those days. There is a major difference in the Catholicism of 1963 compared to that of 1965. I am convinced that what happened was no accident. Destruction like that had to have been carefully planned years in advance. Using reason dictates that the decline that what we have seen happen so rapidly in the Church, literally from 1 year to another was diabolical and planned. What other explaination is there? The Holy Spirit is NOT the author of destruction and confusion or surprises. The Holy Spirit is a rational divine being not a sentimental feel good Jesuitical hippie from Latin America.

One the outside the Church looked wonderful but there is no way solidly formed nuns went from being Sr. Mary Benedict in a full length habit one year, to swigging Peggy in jeans and picket signs the next. That’s kind of behaviour is not how a mature well balanced adult behaves. It’s just not. The problems must have been extremely severe.

Adam Michael said...

Fr. Kavanaugh,

Catholic teaching on the nature of the Church was developed at the Second Vatican Council. This development in ecclesiology also influenced the Catholic understanding of ecumenism. For example, before Vatican II, the Catholic Church interpreted membership in the Church as entailing the valid reception of the sacrament of baptism, full fidelity to the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, and sacramental communion with the Roman Pontiff (Mystici Corporis Christi 22). Today, as a result of Vatican II (in particular, Lumen Gentium 8), all the baptized are interpreted as being at least in “partial” communion with the Church and are thus considered to possess some dimension of Church membership. This ecclesiological development likewise pertains to assemblies outside the Catholic Church whose perceived accoutrements include partial ecclesial status and use by Christ as means of salvation (Unitatis Redintegratio 3).

This is a significant development in ecclesiology, which results in an ecumenical dialogue between “partial” and “full” members of the same Church and thus precludes an emphasis on and practice of the “ecumenism of return” that characterized the Catholic Church before Vatican II. While one may argue that this ecclesiological development was always implicit in the Catholic extension of sacramental validity to baptism administered outside the Church, it remains true that the acceptance of the validity of non-Catholic baptism existed (arguably inconsistently) alongside a patristic understanding of membership in the Church being limited to those in full communion with the Church. This difference in ecclesiology is the gulf that separates all ecumenical activity before Vatican II with what has occurred after this council. The Catholic ecumenism practiced in the early 20th century as well as the reunion councils of the Middle Ages (which can hardly be called real examples of ecumenism given the political motivations involved) was established on different principles and emphases than the Catholic ecumenism of today.* These developments in ecclesiology and ecumenical activity confirm some of Fr. McDonald’s observations of post-Vatican II Catholic life – it is much easier to move in and out of a concept of a “fullness of truth” that emphasizes the beauty of much of non-Catholic life than it is to leave a perceived membership in the one Church of Christ that emphasizes the intrinsic stain of heresy and schism.

*In addition to the conception of church membership and the status of non-Catholic assemblies, one pivotal principle of pre-Vatican II Catholic ecumenism was the belief in and emphasis on the unity of the Church as something already possessed by the Catholic Church and that the purpose of ecumenism was to bring those lacking such unity into its acquisition. This concept of unity included, but was not limited to, a rejection of indifferentism. Unity was seen as an attribute of the Church already possessed (e.g. the unity of the Church is not only the will of Christ, it is already present in the Church), which precludes both indifferentism and a connection of ecumenism with the acquisition of the Church’s unity. However, as a result of the ecclesiological developments of Vatican II, such a conception of unity would logically change to an understanding of ecclesial unit y as something that the Church both possesses and seeks (this is the wider implication of affirming that the Church of Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church). Seeing these changes, one cannot affirm in good conscience that Vatican II’s contribution to ecumenism was merely one of emphasis.

Adam Michael said...

Fr. Kavanaugh,

The Church has historically interpreted John 17:20 as Christ's prayer to preserve the unity of the Church (and, by extension, to preserve all Christians in the already possessed unity of the Church), not a prayer to reestablish a lost unity of the Church or to construct a secular coalition of goodwill for peace, justice, or other concerns. Besides, it is ironic that you quote this verse in support of Catholic interfaith dialogue since such meetings rarely have belief in Christ and his mission as the unifying principle of their proceedings.