This is part two of a blog post on the remodeling of the Catholic Church. If you remember in part one we discussed that on January 7, 2012 the Vatican unveiled the plan to remodel the Church, called the Year of Faith. We discussed that Fr. Andrew Greeley predicted, in 2004, that B16 would lead the Bishops in an attempt to repair the old wineskins that had burst after Vatican II. It is directly due to the Pope’s interpretations of the changes that took place in the Church after Vatican II that we now have the Year of Faith. Fr. Greeley rightly predicted that given the right circumstances there would be a strong effort to restore preconciliar discipline. Welcome to the Year of Faith.
Directly from the start I am going to take left turn, or right turn depending on your orientation, so that those folks who feel that I am a nut job can jettison early. Surfers, I believe that Vatican II is mistakenly blamed for what traditionalists perceive as the decline in the Catholic Church. It is actually because of Humanae Vitae that the Church is the way She is, not Vatican II. That encyclical was like a depth charge explosion in our Catholic ocean, and the ripples it created rocked our boat and sent us on a course that has led us to the Year of Faith.
As any good writer will tell you, waiting until the very end of the story to reveal “whodunit” is the best way to keep the reader interested. I never claimed to be a good writer. I did, however, say it was Humanae Vitae in the library with the candlestick. How did I solve this mystery, you ask? Elementary, my dear surfers, elementary.
Let Fr. Greeley set the tone for you.
Before the Council, a vigorous Church dominated an obedient and faithful people who kept the rules. After the Council? Confusion, chaos, and rebellion. Answer? The Council was to blame! Pope John was a senile fool! The theologians who ran it were radicals, possibly communist agents! Undo the Council! Go back to the Church of rules and mortal sin!…
No one who embraced this model, as far as I am aware, explained the dynamics by which the Council caused the decline in religious practice. The argument was generally post-hoc, ergo propter-hoc: the changes occurred after the Council, therefore the Council caused them…
In the report on the 1974 Catholic school study (Greeley, McCready, and McCourt 1976), I proposed a model that linked the changes to the birth control encyclical. After the Council and until 1968, Church attendance had increased. If one took into account changing attitudes on sex and authority, one could account for all the other declines—attendance at Mass, confession, contributions, support for vocations. I still think that model is useful, but that the dynamics of the change must be explicated more carefully.
– Andrew Greeley (Author, Priest, Sociologist)
For more on this topic, here is an article from 2011. This article and the comments left by concerned Catholics will show you just how deep Humanae Vitae still cuts.
So, surfers, the Year of Faith carries with it a lot of baggage centered on understanding Vatican II. The study data shows that after Vatican II Church attendance had increased. The data showed that only 19% of Catholics were not happy with the Vatican II changes. Fr. Greeley has never received an explanation of how Vatican II has contributed to the decline of religious practice and neither have I. Catholicism was going well, by all accounts, so what happened? Why do we still put so much effort into bashing, defending or explaining Vatican II?
I agree with Greeley that a bigger cause of Catholic disaffection was Humanae Vitae, the document that prohibited artificial birth control. The reception of that papal encyclical in 1968 set off the kind of internal theological debates that the church had not experienced in 500 years.
– Mark Massa, S.J.
Here is Fr. Greeley, again, setting the tone for Humanae Vitae.
In the summer of 1968, after a papal commission recommended a change in the birth control teaching, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which rejected the recommendations of the commission and dismissed its arguments for change. Unfortunately for the pope, the establishment of the commission and the subsequent leaking of its majority report had already created an expectation of change. Many priests in the United States (and elsewhere) were advising married men and women to make their own decisions about methods of birth control.
When the encyclical appeared, negative reaction throughout the Catholic world was such that Pope Paul VI never wrote another, and, it was alleged, seriously considered resigning.
– Andrew Greeley (Author, Priest, Sociologist)
So, surfers, if you are keeping count we have in one corner Vatican II; supported by the majority of Catholics, and in the other corner Humanae Vitae; with the reaction across the world so negative that it led to Catholic disaffection and internal theological debates.
What I am telling you is common knowledge. Pope Benedict XVI knows this as well as anybody. He was there as a prominent theologian the whole time. No theological debate took place without him being involved. So, armed with this information, Pope Benedict XVI is launching the Year of Faith focused on the proper understanding of Vatican II, and not Humanae Vitae? Why? Good question.
For a moment I would like to discuss, with you, the art of misdirection. If you have ever been to a magic show, or seen David Copperfield, you have seen misdirection firsthand. What is misdirection, you say? Misdirection is the process of making an audience look elsewhere while you perform a secret move. Misdirection can come in many forms. Perhaps best known is an action, object or event that draws spectators’ attention away from something that the magician doesn’t want spectators to see. What does misdirection have to with the Year of Faith? Another good question. Could it be that Catholic leadership is pointing at Vatican II to draw us away from Humanae Vitae?
Let me explain it another way, Fr. Greeley noted that if we took into account the changing attitudes on sex and authority after 1968 and Humanae Vitae we could explain the decline of Catholic religious practice. I may be making this connection seem cleaner than it really is, but you need to know that the Year of Faith is an initiative designed to change Catholic attitudes on sex and authority. The Year of faith has absolutely nothing to do with the proper understanding of Vatican II and everything to do with damage control after Humanae Vitae. We all need to enter the Year of Faith with our eyes open.