Sunday, March 19, 2017


There are a slew of laity, priests, bishops and cardinal-bishops my age and much older, some all the way up into their 80's who feel like this person of that age feels:

Please discuss:

I am not an expert on secularism nor in sociology, but I have vivid memories of the church in greater Boston dating back to the 40’s and 50’s. in those days, the church was the building where we attended Mass on Sundays and Holydays under serious oblgation. It was the place we went on Saturdays to make our confession on the rare occasions we were planning to receive communion.

 It was the place where the aging Monsignor and his younger curates told us what we had to do to get to heaven. They, and the “good sisters” who were responsible for catechism classes, taught us that we should be proud to belong to The One True Church because all who didn't belong to her were likely doomed to hell.

They also taught us that our goal should be purgatory where after eons of punishment we could hope to see the face of God. 

The Catholic Church in those days was a monolithic institution which sought to rule over every aspect of our lives. We went to or heard Mass, though there was not much to hear. We were taught to say our prayers, support the parish, and obey all authorities in the church. No one told us that we became part of a royal priesthood in Baptism, nor that there were spiritual gifts and ministries available to us from the Holy Spirit.

Then came Pope John and The Council. It’s teachings on the role of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the nature of the church and its leaders brought with the notions of critical thinking, full participation in worship, a new respect for other Christian churches, and, most importantly the call to holiness.

Most Catholics received those changes with enthusiasm or acceptance. I submit that the declining Mass attendance resulted from many factors (including HUMANAE VITAE) but was mostly due to increasing numbers of people unwilling or unable or fearful about the prospect of becoming more devout and intentional disciples of Christ. . If Catholics were content to observe a few obligations from time to, hearing the teachings of God’s word each week proved too great a burden.


Anonymous said...

I would be interested in knowing Mass attendance numbers for the following years in rural, and agricultural regions. The key date is October 1, 1908, the others are:
1800,1850,1900,1908,1940,1950,1960,1970,1990 and today. Sometimes all the events of a timeline are important.

John Nolan said...

'The Catholic Church in those days was a monolithic institution which sought to rule over every aspect of our lives.'

Complete, utter and unadulterated nonsense. In fact the whole post is complete, utter and unadulterated nonsense.

'No-one told us ... that there were spiritual gifts and ministries available to us from the Holy Spirit.'

More unmitigated piffle.

'The call to holiness.' See, for example St Paul's epistle for today in the Roman Rite, and indeed his entire teaching, which is an unambiguous call to holiness. But we are supposed to believe that until John XXIII's reign this was unknown. Balderdash.

Words fail me when confronted with such stupendous ignorance. You want a discussion - you've just got one.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

Reading the first sentence was enough, it was a total and complete misrepresentation of the pre-Vatican II parish experience. The person is either not telling the truth about their parish or their parish was a real outlier.

My pre-Vatican II parish was superior in every way to a typical Catholic parish of today, where with the few who do show up for Sunday Mass (or Saturday evening Mass) is the ONLY connection to parish life for the overwhelming numbers of today's Catholics.

In stark contrast, for most of us, parish life was rich and full: in addition to Sunday Mass, weekday novenas, rosaries, choir practices, we had our own clubs and sodalities, St. Vincent de Paul which were a huge part of our lives, and our social lives revolved around the parish: dances, potlucks, Mardi Gras, boy and girl scouts, etc. Parishes today would KILL to have that kind of involvement.

In those "bad old days" we knew we were Catholic, knew our Faith, and did a hell of a lot more good for the poor, etc. that ANY parish does today. This is the ranting of a person with a highly selective memory.

TJM said...

Last point. Humanae Vitae was promulgated in July of 1968. By then, people we already fleeing the scene because so much of the liturgical damage had been done already.

rcg said...

John's comments are ironic because the author of the content of the post seemed, to my eyes, to be contrasting the laity-cum-clergy scrambling to the sactuary to offer communion, lay on hands, etc. with the more humble pre-VII. But the deeper irony is that the blessings the author missed were there all along but interpreted differently after Vatican II. I recall clearly the excuses given, from the pulpit, for the propogation of so many lay ministers based on the forecast of a clergy shortage.

If I understand John correctly there were loads of blessings and opportunities in The Old Days available to the more humble and less collar-envy burdened laity. I certainly agree, especially when one looks at how our fathers built hospitals, schools, and charities under the guidance of a fearless clergy.

George said...

Many today have become spiritually asleep or deadened by those distractions and attractions, licit and illicict, so prevalent in our existence today Just as a person who is asleep or unconscience does not experience the beneficial effects of our sun (except perhaps indirectly and partially), so a person who is spiritually compromised or comatose does not experience the full benefits of the Divine Sun. Just as we find the sun beneficial to our physical health and existence, Christ who "shone like the sun" at the Transfiguration, and displayed His glory and radiance, revealed to us that He is the Divine Sun emanating with the Fire of the Holy Spirit whose help is so necessary for our spiritual health and existence. In our springtime, the fire of the sun and the rain from the sky bring new life to our earthly realm. Just as in the spring, the rain causes plants and tree to awaken from there wintry slumber, so the water of grace, the rain which ever falls from the Eternal heaven, is alway available to revive deadened and darkened souls. Just as plants in our fields cannot grow without sunlight and rain, neither can we grow spiritually without the grace, the sunlight and water provided by God, who in His goodness provides to us light from His Divine Sunlight and the water of life from His Fountain of Holiness. Along with the sunshine of Divine Light, the Heavenly water of grace from the Fountain of Life is available to us to enable spiritual growth to spring forth in our souls, just as with the help of sunlight and rain, new growth springs forth from our newly planted fields. Trees, flowers and other plants are by their nature open to receiving and co-operating with sunlight and rain. There are many today who do not benefit as they might from this Fire and Light of Divine Love and Water of Holiness which is so ever present to the spiritual realm. So it is necessary that for our spiritual growth and health we must co-operate with God's Divine Sunlight and His water of Holy grace.

When the alarm on our clock goes off in the morning, we either respond to it and get out of bed we don't. It is not the alarm which gets us out of bed, but our response to it. So we must also respond to God by co-operating with what He provides to us.

Anonymous said...

In regard to the last paragraph quoted in this post, I doubt that Humanae vitae was a major factor in the decline in church attendance, because most of those Catholics who had a problem with it were told by their priests not to worry about it.

On the other side of the coin, a major factor in the acceptance of the new Mass by many was the fact that the dilution of moral doctrine that the diluted liturgy conveyed provided them with welcome relief from the old strictures. E.g. no more "state of grace" worries, no more Saturday confessions required before Sunday communion.

Gene said...

From which pasture did you stop and scoop that up?

Rood Screen said...

If the Church was wrong in all the essentials (e.g. doctrine and worship) from AD 590 until the 1960's, then it's hard to argue that she has supernatural guidance. Had could she have been so wrong for so long, unless she is merely of human origin and under merely human direction? But we also have to ask: if she was indeed well-guided from Heaven during all those centuries, then how can her new contradictory identity be the will of God?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"In stark contrast, for most of us, parish life was rich and full: in addition to Sunday Mass, weekday novenas, rosaries, choir practices, we had our own clubs and sodalities, St. Vincent de Paul which were a huge part of our lives, and our social lives revolved around the parish: dances, potlucks, Mardi Gras, boy and girl scouts, etc."

Many other changes in society impacted and continue to impact church attendance.

If this were a Vatican Two caused phenomenon, there should be no decline in attendance at Protestant churches. But the decline has been similar or greater.

In pre-Vatican Two America fathers worked, mothers stayed home to care for the kids. That's largely gone. Greed? Nope. Rising prices without concomitant wage increases, unless you are in very high-paying positions. This wasn't caused by the reaction against Humanae Vitae.

Neighborhoods, religiously segregated, were enclaves of identity. People started to move to be 'burbs where religious identity was not nearly as evident as it had been in the Catholic ghettoes in big cities. This didn't happen because the mass was now celebrated in English or because the priest was facing the people.

Many families got a second car. The neighborhood parish wasn't the center of the world because, with transportation the world got lots bigger very fast. That wasn't caused by the loss of the maniple and prayers at the foot of the altar.

Long before gay marriage, the nuclear family was breaking down. Divorce rates began to rise rapidly in the early 1900's, spiking to a high in 1945 that wasn't matched again until 1975. "The Pill" didn't cause rates to peak in 1945.

Blaming the current situation on Vatican Two is equivalent to blaming the last plane crash on Wilbur and Orville Wright. There's a connection, but it not causal.

Victor said...

Fr Kavanaugh:
To clarify, the problem was not so much with Vatican II as how it was and has been implemented, particularly with regards to the source and summit of Christian life, the liturgy. The post V2 reformers forgot that the liturgy is a love affair with God that directly involves the hearts of people and not some pretentious community meal founded on contrived participation which seemingly tries to fit in God as an afterthought.

By the way, the Protestants you speak of adopted the same sentimental framework for their "worship" services as Catholics did for their new liturgy, so your argument against misses the mark.

Anonymous said...

Although the judgement of history likely will be that holding the second Vatican Council in the turbulent sixties was a terrible mistake--because it allowed the winds of change outside the Church to devastate it from within . . . It can be argued that many of the problems we face now result from a failure to implement Vatican II faithfully.

In particular, the Fathers of the Council sought an enhancement of the Mass in continuity with tradition, but forces that opposed the recommendations of the Council gained control of the purported implementation and sidetracked it, and so devastated the liturgy instead of renewing it.

As a result, the Catholic Church lost the bulwark against destructive societal chaos that the Protestant churches already lacked as a result of their previous abandoment of tradition, and therefore joined them in the disintegration we've all suffered.

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,

I have heard all of those lame excuses before and they are just that lame.

I recall the Seminary in our city had the most magnificent choir, singing excellent chant and polyphony. The rector decided that the seminarians should be "out in the world" serving the poor (I guess he thought they couldn't chew gum and walk at the same time) so he abolished the choir. Guess what? The liturgy collapsed over the next couple of years and the seminary emptied out.

Our parish during this same time abolished many of the pre-Vatican II practices such as weekday novenas, rosaries, etc., and people became unconnected to the parish (and outraged) and people began to drift away.

In other words, this was a top-down religious revolution which failed, but if it gets you through the night to believe anything OTHER than the boobs running the show chased people away, then so be it.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Nah, it wasn't top-down. Societal changes, cultural changes, changes in mores - these all combined to change not only attendance in Catholic Churches but attendance in virtually ALL voluntary participation organizations for the last two generations in the USA.

Over the last 50 years other groups like the Lions, Sertoma, K of C, Optimists, Elks, etc., have all experienced precipitous drops in membership. It's radical individualism, not ecclesial changes, that is to blame. Radical individualism is founded on wealth - when you've got your material needs met, you feel little need for or connection to others - and, as we all know, the love of money is the root of all evil.

Neither Vatican Two nor its implementation can be blamed. And Vatican Two didn't impact Protestant Church attendance one bit.

TJM said...

Sadly, instead of Vatican II influencing the World, the World influenced the Catholic Church in a highly negative way. The Church could have been a bulwark for people to find refuge and solace as the world went mad around it, but instead the Church added to the chaos.

TJM said...

father Kavanaugh,

It wasn't top down? Surely you jest! Liturgical "reform" would NEVER had occurred if bishops, priests, and the laity had been left to choose. The Catholic hierarchy actively dismantled inveterate liturgical practice and even mocked people who did not get with the program. Protestant Churches were on the self destruct mode long before Vatican Disaster II. My family was religiously split. At the time the Council began the Catholics members of the faithfully went to Sunday Mass but my Protestant relatives went very infrequently. Hey, I guess Vatican II did promote ecumenism: now most of my family, both Catholic and Protestant, no longer go to religious services on Sunday. KUDOS!

But keeping drinking the lib kook-aid if you like. You are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

rcg said...

Fr. K, I am not sure it is radical individualism as much as the fruit of radical collectivism. The civic organizations and Church have been replaced by the State As God who is much better at both providing and punishing in this world. What you describe is an absentee Church; TJM believes it was coopted. I am not sure either is a better situation for us. In either case it does not help to shirk responsibility for the cause if we won't claim leadership in the fix.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

rcg - Individuals make the choice not to join/become part of voluntary participation organizations. The "State" did not make that choice for them.

TJM - I don't accept the premise that liturgical reform caused the decline in attendance. With so many Protestants in your family I'd have thought you would know that they are not required to be at services every Sunday, so infrequent attendance is nothing exceptional.

Anonymous said...

“Neither scepticism nor dogmatism are sufficient for the kind of mature engagement with Church doctrine that adult discipleship demands. Pope Francis seems like a revolutionary in the minds of many because, even more than his predecessors, he is committed to the council’s call to adult, Christian discipleship; it is a theme central to his pontificate."

In a world (West) where adolescence ends around 38 or 42 years of age, can we anticipate much in the way of adult, Christian discipleship?

Adam Michael said...

While I don't blame Vatican II for all of our current problems, I do think that the breakdown of discipline in the Church that followed Vatican II and was connected with the new ecclesial paradigm of the People of God that emphasized baptismal equality instead of hierarchy and duties in the Mystical Body of Christ (a new paradigm which made strict order and discipline more difficult to enforce), promoted the growth of secularism and anti-Catholic laws in Western society. And, I think, as secularism grows, the Church and religion, in general, suffers.

Today, there are many Catholic politicians in positions of political and judicial authority in society and many of them espouse anti-Catholic beliefs and serve to enshrine these beliefs into law and/or refuse to defend the Catholic Faith when it is attacked. Before the lack of discipline that occurred after Vatican II, the Catholic Church was known as a religion of strict discipline, but that is no longer true in practice. Without the new ecclesial paradigm that I mentioned earlier, I doubt that erring Catholic politicians could get by with their dissent and we would live in a different, better world that would redound to the promotion of the Church and religion, in general.

Of course, there are other issues that I think have hurt the Catholic Faith such as emphasis on ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue that has replaced a focus on the essential salvific purpose of the Church's mission and a focus on religious liberty that has decreased courage in promoting the Catholic Faith in the public sphere, but regarding society, I think the lack of discipline preceding from Vatican II has had a lot of influence.

TJM said...

aFather Kavanaugh,

You are the "Inartful Dodger!" You want us to believe the liturgical disaster was not a top down affair. That is just not credible and you know it. There was no groundswell for the liturgical changes. At all.

You won't accept that the changes caused the decline, because you don't want to. You're a typical liberal, arrogant and glorying in your contumacious ignorance and lack of humility and introspection. People were jarred by the sudden changes and felt betrayed by the Church who told them what was sacred, no longer was. Father Greeley fantasized that Humanae Vitae was a proximate cause, but by July of 1968 when Humanae Vitae was issued, the liturgical destruction ahd been in full swing for e years.

Although Protestants are not required by Church law as we Catholics are to attend Sunday services, historically, they attended Sunday services on a weekly basis just like Catholics. Protestant adoption of left-wing ideology and secularism caused the start of their numbers slide which the Catholic Church apparently decided to ape.

James J said...

Father Kabvenaugh:

Good observations.

I have to comment on two of your comments though.

"In pre-Vatican Two America fathers worked, mothers stayed home to care for the kids. That's largely gone. Greed? Nope. Rising prices without concomitant wage increases, unless you are in very high-paying positions."

What I have observed that is a big difference from forty, fifty years ago is that a large number in the middle class are living in homes and driving cars that back then would only be owned and driven by doctors and lawyers. I look at neighborhoods not far from me that back then were made up of well-kept middle class homes but are now in the low to lower middle income bracket, with some homes boarded up.

"Long before gay marriage, the nuclear family was breaking down. Divorce rates began to rise rapidly in the early 1900's, spiking to a high in 1945 that wasn't matched again until 1975. "The Pill" didn't cause rates to peak in 1945."

From what In have read, this was not as true of Catholic couples, at least up until recently, and we now it seems have caught up with our Protestant brethren.

Anonymous said...

TJM said: "In stark contrast, for most of us, parish life was rich and full: in addition to Sunday Mass, weekday novenas, rosaries, choir practices, we had our own clubs and sodalities, St. Vincent de Paul which were a huge part of our lives, and our social lives revolved around the parish: dances, potlucks, Mardi Gras, boy and girl scouts, etc."

TJM could be describing my parish. That's exactly how it was. I belonged to the Children of Mary, enrolled in the brown scapular as a child. and I was a Pioneer until I was 21. We had parish dances too which actually scandalized the local Baptist Church who vowed we were all headed for hell. Newspaper folding - selling paper for the missions - went on every day in the school hall and parishioners would pop in to help, have a chat and a cup of tea. The nuns used to let us go over and help at the end of the school day. It was a rich parish life.

Everything changed after Vatican II. A friend of mine tells me that when she was at college they were instructed to cut out the traditional hymns from the hymnals as being too sentimental. Statues were either removed or painted white over night. Folk Masses started to be offered and while interesting at first after a year I started to find them boring. I eventually found a parish that offered a Sung Latin Mass with Gregorian Chant and so i continued to practice, but those sorts of Masses were few and far between - only one in the diocese and many stopped going to Mass all together. Anyone who says the changes to Vatican II weren't to blame is wrong, as it is said as goes the Church so goes society. Society has decayed as a direct result of the falling off of practicing Catholics.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM Says: "You won't accept that the changes caused the decline, because you don't want to."

No, that is not correct.

I don't accept the premise because I have seen no evidence to support it.

Your claims are not evidence. Anecdotal reports of a handful of disgruntled Catholics are not evidence.

That the changes and the decline happened at roughly the same time is not evidence. The logical fallacy is Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Lacking proper studies, anecdotal evidence should never be dismissed for most of it is from rank and file, bread and butter Catholics, not elitists. Just think of those who elected President Trump which the other candidate dismissed and berated.

Anecdotal evidence today in a Church that seems to be in the same cultural context of the 1980's with a papal magisterium that is dividing rather than uniting both bishops and laity will lead to further polarization and devout Catholics giving up which means that their children and children's children will be the next two generations absent from the Mass and any fruitful Catholic participation.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

meant to write 1960's not 80's.

John Nolan said...

There are many causes for the decline in Mass attendance since Vatican II. The Council was an historical event, and we cannot take it out of the equation for ideological reasons. The same goes for the liturgical changes, which amounted to a break with a liturgical tradition going back at least a millennium and a half.

A non-Catholic (or even non-Christian) with no ideological axe to grind, comparing the average parish Mass in 1962 with that of ten years later would certainly reach that conclusion, based on the evidence of his eyes and ears.

Actually Vatican II did affect the largest Protestant denomination in England, namely the Anglican Church; Anglo-Catholics in particular tended to follow Rome in liturgical matters. And while we were gaily chucking out Latin and abandoning traditional ceremonial, the mainstream Church of England was ditching the BCP and King James Bible in favour of a dumbed-down 'modern' liturgy, which arguably attracted few and alienated many.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating discussion!
As one of the first "boomers" born exactly nine months after my father returned from WWII sea duty abroad, And a college student in the mid-1960s, I lived and received formation in the era under discussion here. There are so many points to be made, and I love when it occurs without rancor. Very enlightening...thanks.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think that Vatican II was sucessful in alienating both traditionalists and liberal/progressives and thus will be seen as one of the most polarizing councils of the Church which led to the loss of serious numbers of traditionalists and consequently their children and children's children and the same can be said of the liberal/progressives.

What Vatican II opened for the liberals was the premise that the Church could change this, that and the other. So when Pope Paul VI put the brakes on just what could change and what wouldn't, the false expectation that any and everything could change led to the anti-Humanae Vitae crowd to vote with their feet and leave the Church and thus too their children and children's children.

The same for those who did not like change, especially in the liturgy and the chaos this caused in their local parishes and their personal faith lives, they too voted with their feet and left or became lukewarm and disenaged as so too their children and children's children.

TJM said...


Anecdotal evidence is evidence. You just ignore it because it shoots holes in your views that the reform was a success, when it was not. If the reform was a success, our churches would be filled to overflowing and new parishes would need to be established to handle the new members.

I believe that the Church did not take surveys because they did not want to know the reasons for the steep decline in Mass attendence. It would mean they were mistaken.

There is no one more illiberal (or ignorant) than a liberal. I have met very few priests who would EVER admit they were mistaken. IN private industry when a product isn't selling they get to the root of the problem and change course if necessary. Generally a priest who is wrong about Liturgy stays the course.

Anonymous said...

Bee here: (Part I)

I think the primary reason for the lack of church attendance was not Vatican II, but the society that emerged in the 1960's, and Vatican II changes did not help.

Things like Women's Lib and birth control and rock and roll music made the Baby Boomers (the oldest who were just coming of age when these things emerged) wanted to be "different" and "cool" and leave all the old fashioned values behind. We wanted to be "mod" and experiment with alternative ways of having families and living our lives. Remember movies like Easy Rider and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? The movies of the day often suggested the way your parents did things was stifling, boring, and to be avoided at all costs. Remember Abbie Hoffman and the anti-war movement and long unkept hair for both men and women, and wearing blue jeans everywhere and mini-skirts and halter tops? Not exactly ideas and styles parents held dear.

I remember being pulled into all of this, and realizing the values of the Church were 100% opposed to what society demanded in order to fit in. And the strong pull of belonging and succeeding (greed and materialism took off like a rocket too, even though the hippie and drug movement was also a big draw) competed for the hearts of the young. And the things society offered won. If the Church was saying do not use birth control it didn't matter, because young women were thinking about limiting their families and controlling when they would have a child so they could have a career too. Couples were thinking about not having kids until they saved up enough to buy a house, and having fewer kids so have more disposable income. If a job was 1000 miles away from your mom and dad, oh well, the job was more important because it was your career. Obedience to parents and any authority went out the window. If the Church said you had to attend Mass on Sunday under the penalty of mortal sin and going to hell, a few missed Sundays and you soon realized there was no apparent consequence in your everyday life to not going. So why bother?

The modern way infected the Church too - groups of nuns changing habits, and walking around in street clothes, and marching for women's rights, and demanding to be priests. Priests with long hair and mustaches, talking hip from the altar, wanting to be "cool" and becoming political rather than spiritual.

(cont below)

Anonymous said...

(cont from above)

So what did the Church really have to offer the Baby Boomers except a bunch of thou-shall-nots and damning to hell if you walked away? In college the hip professors were more than happy to dispel Catholics of any mystical ideas they may have had, and mock them if they wouldn't let them go, and keep them from moving forward in a career (with bad grades which affect the next step in a career path) if they held fast. Professors made sure to inform college students that notions of God were so childish, and no one of any intellect believed THAT stuff, and intelligent people surely let go of childish things such as religion (after all, Freud pointed out long ago religion is just a crutch for the weak and fearful minded, right?).

The society from every angle was a gauntlet to run for Baby Boomers, and most got mowed down pretty quickly. And the Church was no refuge, or pillar of hope, but Vatican II made it just one more outlet for the new and groovy "me culture." Hey, baby, God is Love. Can you dig it?

So I don't blame Vatican II per se for empty pews. I think we've just been through a major upheaval and attack on God from all angles, and many millions of souls have been lost in it. It was the spiritual World War II.

I wonder if Vatican II had not happened if many of those who eventually got burned by what the society was pushing would have found refuge in the traditional Church. But it doesn't seem to be so, because Churches that didn't change, such as Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox also saw the same losses.

It's true God has no grandchildren...only children. So many souls lost. So many.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

"Lacking proper studies, anecdotal evidence should never be dismissed...

Yes, it should. Anecdotal evidence is unreliable.

People given a placebo in a drug trial may say they feel better after taking the faux medicine. That is anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of the "drug."

It's often much easier for people to believe someone's testimony as opposed to understanding complex data and variation across a continuum. Quantitative measures are almost always more accurate than personal perceptions and experiences, but our inclination is to believe that which is tangible to us, and/or the word of someone we trust over a more 'abstract' statistical reality.

TJM said...

Anonymous at 12:43,

Here is an example of anecdotal evidence:

I am pastor of a parish. I implement the "reforms." I begin to notice collections are down and there is no longer standing room only during Mass. I ask a priest friend of mine who runs another parish and he says he sees the same thing.

We both go to the chancery and suggest these reforms are not working. We suggest asking other pastors in the Diocese if they are experiencing this.

The bishop, a big time proponent of the "reforms" blows us off. Decline continues.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM says - "Anecdotal evidence is evidence."

If that is the case, I would like to sell you some "Counterfeit diamonds" because, by the same reasoning you employ, they are diamonds.

TJM said...


You are comparing apples to oranges. Failed logic?

John Nolan said...

I have pointed this out to Fr K. on a number of occasions, but the logical fallacy 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' cannot be used to deny the reality of cause and effect.

In the mid-1970s there were those, usually a generation older than me, who preferred the new Mass to the old, and resisted what they saw as any attempt to turn the clock back; this would include singing anything in Latin and chant. I know this because I talked to them.

There were those (my parents among them) who did not oppose change per se but felt that too much had been discarded. The phrase 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater' was often heard. I know, I was there, I talked to them.

Personal testimony is an important source of historical evidence. It needs to be treated with care, as do other forms of evidence, statistics not excluded.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John what you experienced in GB is what we experienced in Georgia. The changes in the Church in the 1960's were a hot topic of discussion with all the positive and negatives. I heard many disgruntled adults say things are moving too fast, too much is being lost and the Mass is becoming too Protestant. Too Protestant in the south at that time was truly a negative appraisal.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - Making the assertion that "A" caused "B" does not make it a fact that "A" caused "B". There are lots of personal testimonies out there about many things that are, on their face, untrue. Five different people often recall the same event with five different sets of "facts" about what happened.

TJM - No, I am comparing anecdotal evidence to anecdotal evidence - apples to apples.

Next you'll be telling us that "alternative facts" are really facts . . .

rcg said...

Is this a new argument? That Vatican II actually saved the Church from even greater loss? This is a preposterous Big Lie. Why, then, can't they save more or even reverse it?

John Nolan said...

The invasion by Germany of Poland on 1 September 1939 led to Britain declaring war on Germany on 3 September. The invasion of Poland was a consequence of Hitler's expansionist policies in the 1930s. Historians deal with cause and consequence all the time, and they do not automatically assume that if B followed A, B was caused by A.

You really need to define 'anecdotal evidence' before dismissing it. Samuel Pepys's diary is an important source for understanding the Great Plague and Great Fire of London (1665-1666). The fact that it is one man's take on the situation does not invalidate it.

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

One more comment regarding the general falling away from the Faith:

It seems to me before the mid-1960's, adults who didn't go to church were a sort of outcast in society. It reversed after about 1970 or so, at least among my peers (born after 1952 or so, a teen in the late 1960's early 1970's) to where you were suspect and in some respects an outcast if you DID go to church on Sunday (also known as being "square," which was NOT favorable to your social life.)

So perhaps many of the people going to church each Sunday prior to Vatican II did so not because they believed but because they didn't want to be social outcasts and judged negatively. And after Vatican II perhaps the ones who just stopped going were Baby Boomers who were socially snubbed if they DID go, and those who didn't believe anyway and stopped going because the social stigma reversed.

Just my take on having lived during the time, and what I knew of myself and those around me....

God bless,

John Nolan said...


There is also the issue of obligation. It was said that Anglicans went to church in order to be seen as respectable, Nonconformists because they wanted to be part of a congregation, and Catholics because they were obliged to.

In the 1960s obligation (in everything) became unfashionable, and choice was exalted - 'do your own thing.'

My father (1920-1998) never missed Mass, although he disliked what it had become in his parish. When I asked why he attended a service which he found deeply uncongenial, he replied 'It's an obligation.' I admired him for this, but could not follow suit. I did not lapse, but did not attend Mass most Sundays (apart from anything else Sundays and weekends generally were dedicated to Territorial Army training).

Nowadays I rarely miss Sunday Mass, but then I have singing commitments for the EF three weeks out of four, and on my 'Sunday off' I usually attend the Oxford Oratory where the principal Mass is Solemn Latin OF. But I am aware that I am exercising choice rather than fulfilling an obligation.

rcg said...

I would add to Bee's observation that those on that cusp who elected to stop going when the pressure was off had previously benefitted from the exposure. Specifically there is the hope they have an internal conversion and develop the desire to go. If at that late date they suddenly sense the absence of God in their life they may now no longer know where to return.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

The Oxford Oratory is a treasure. I visited there 3 years ago and was deeply impressed. I also visited the Brompton Oratory and was enthralled. I live in the Chicago metropolitan area, and although we have many parishes which offer the EF or the OF in Latin, St. John Cantius is a standout! If you make it to Chicago, you would definately want to check it out.

Gene said...

One could argue all day about the what has "caused" the loss of faith and Catholic identity. Kavanaugh is correct that there was already a strong cultural trend toward secularism at work in the culture. The tragedy is that, rather than being a witness against this through prophetic preaching and teaching and an insistence upon right worship the Church, both Catholic and protestant, chose the "Christ of Culture" approach as over against the "Christ against culture" approach (these are H. Richard Niebuhr's terms...his book, "Christ and Culture" is a timeless read that sheds much light on what has happened. I would consider it a signal work for Catholics and protestants).

The Church decided that blending with culture, as the protestants had already begun to do, and working "in the world" would enable her to grow the Faith. By choosing this, she also chose the tools of secular cultural change...Marxist/Socialist philosophy, political activism, a Hegelian dialectic, and the "New Hermeneutic." This was the stew (I started to say Vat) in which Vatican II was simmered. You cannot embrace such a modernist/secular dynamic if you are still speaking Latin and facing East at Mass...this is Mystery, something not allowed or understood by a secular socialist world view and it gets in the way of the rational dialectic of Marxist social change. The Priest turns toward the people so they have a face like their's, their same humanity, upon which to focus. Catholic homilies and protestant sermons gradually changed into exhortations to social awareness and political perception (The simpering protestant Up With People movement began). COCU, the big 70's movement on Church Union that was also encouraged by Vatican II was big then. Intercommunion and all kinds of silly, so-called ecumenism popped up.

So, the Church made the wrong choices. I might add that the secular social movements and humanistic preaching and worship that the Church adopted have no room or need for miracles, Virgin Births, and bodily resurrections, either. The loss of belief among both clergy and laity is no surprise.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Very good points, Gene. However, we can't look at the time of Vatican II through the lens of the American experience at that time (where Catholicism was in fact in its zenith) but rather to Europe where secularism had already taken root and would blossom into what it has become today in Europe. So the European bishops which outnumber the rest of the world had an agenda of concern that wasn't so much on our radar screen.

And yes, their "hermeuntic" of adapting the ways of the world in order to return religiosity to the secular culture of Europe has failed miserably. It is failing here too where secularism since President Barack Obama has leap frogged forward in dramatic ways.

TJM said...

Fr. McDonald,

Spot on. In 1962 the Catholic Church was at its zenith and there was NO reason to implement reforms in the US. Hollywood made highly flattering movies about the Church and NO politician would have dared advance the evil of abortion. If a Catholic politician had, he would have been excommunicated tres vite! Now, Hollywood disses us and some bishops and priests vote for the Abortion Party

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

Gene, I like your take on this issue. One other thought that came to mind as I have been thinking about all of this was how after Vatican II and the loss (abolition) of mystical aspects of our religion (which I think had been a huge draw for many people, even bordering on superstition in some cases), mystically minded priests and religious went to the Eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, even New Age) looking for the mystical aspect in their lives. I cannot tell you how many times I went to priests and religious sisters seeking really good books and resources for foundational catechesis, and was referred to Thomas Merton and Anthony De Mello. After reading some of this stuff, and knowing it wasn't what I needed/wanted, I realized I needed to find Catholic books written before 1960 by traditional priests in order to get the formation I needed and back on track.

God bless,

TJM said...


Bingo! At least you had the right instincts!