Skip to comments.1968 – A Fateful and Terrible Year Where Many in the Church Drank the Poison of this World
Posted on 03/12/2012 2:25:37 PM PDT by NYer
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 Americas 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 Gods 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 Gods 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.
It was revealed in August 1968 that many priests and religious, and not a few bishops, do not believe the ecclesiology of the Magisterium.
And the Magisterium has not acted against them, which raises the perfectly legitimate question, what exactly IS the ecclesiology in which the Magisterium believes?
That whole dreadful era was on the verge of being forgotten until that plague of ‘60s leftovers and their acolytes began protesting the Iraq War and gettin’ jiggy with their nostalgia. And this ridiculous attempt to recreate their youth just keeps going on ... and on ... and on ... It’s like these geezer hippies imagine that if they keep it 1968 all the time, they’ll never die.
How much of this do you attribute to the revocation of the Oath Against Modernism by Pope Paul VI in 1967?
I agree entirely.
I’m not sure the oath really worked, because people who were inclined to practice modernism weren’t concerned about lying in a sworn oath anyway. However, it did at least state that the Church was opposed to these ideas.
I am old enough to have known some members of the older generation (that is, priests who were already priests at the time of Vatican II), and I think dissent was unfortunately pretty widespread already, oath or no. Maybe they had to be quieter about it and a little more sneaky, but things wouldn’t have collapsed so fast after Vatican II if they hadn’t been weak before that.
I think people have never considered the effect that the American church had on Vatican II. Many of the supposed “problems” brought up at Vatican II were just an expression of the usual American Catholic desire to remove identifiably Catholic practices in order to fit in and prove that they were just as American as any good Protestant or non-believer. So modernization - and I’m not saying there weren’t certain things that did need a bit of an updating or refreshing - came to mean shedding anything that was identifiably Catholic.
This harmonized very well with the goals of leftists such as Bugnini, and I think gave them the power they needed to push their agenda through before the other bishops even fully processed what was happening. But that was, again, because the leftists were indeed Modernists, and their quiet, murmured heresy had actually been tolerated for a long time in the Church, oath or now.
I was not aware of this oath, so, I guess the proper response is nothing. On my own personal journey (which began pre VCII), I tried to absorb the changes. Most recently, while residing in one of the most progressive dioceses in the US, I battled liturgical abuse. After decades of this nonsense, I watched in abject horror as a EMHC dropped a consecrated host on the sanctuary floor. Unsure of what to do, she bent over, picked it up and redeposited it in her Pyrex glass communion cup. It was the final straw.
Literally eight years ago today, recalling the words of our Savior "ask and you will receive", I bowed my head in prayer and asked our Lord to guide me to a holy priest, a reverent liturgy and a community in need of whatever God-given abilities I might possess. He did not fail! After visiting other parishes within the diocese, I attended mass at one of the Eastern (Maronite) Catholic Churches. The response was quick and most welcome.
It has been exactly 8 years since that first visit and I have never looked back. In the Maronite Church, I have found a most welcoming community that functions like a family. The liturgy is replete with incense (even at the low mass), the spirituality is pervasive and everyone contributes towards the community as a whole. The liturgy was brought by St. Peter to Antioch where he served as bishop before proceeding to Rome. The consecration is chanted in Aramaic - the language of Christ, His Blessed Mother and the Apostles. Because of its small size, the community functions much like a family where people pull together and volunteer to ensure the health and longevity of the small parish. In the short span of 8 years, I have been asked to serve on the women's sodality, been elected to the Parish Council, successfully written two grants (with God's assistance) and served as Director for Religious Education. The years have flown by and I am still enamored by the beauty of the Maronite Church.
What this article omits is that the Cultural Revolution of 1968 was pretty much civilization wide, not just American.
There were riots in Paris, and Charles de Gaulle fled to his country estate until things calmed down.
There were riots and terrorism in Germany and Italy.
The anti-war protestors and hippies in America had their counterparts all over Europe and the West.
Riots, burnings, barricades, revolutionaries throwing cobblestones in the cities of Europe—it was widespread.
And the fallout in Europe after Vatican II was as bad as it was in America, if not worse. The bishops over there are still more dissident or weak than they are in this country, even after decades of failing to fix the problem.
Ireland stood fast for a while, but now they seem to be as troubled as anywhere else.
The Church has gone through major troubles in the past, but this certainly has been one of the worst and most widespread.
Modernism was described by Pope Pius X as the synthesis of all heresies. Pope Pius X stated Modernism is born of the alliance between faith and false philosophy. Modernists recognize, said the pope; "that the three chief difficulties for them are first, scholastic philosophy, secondly the authority of the Fathers and Tradition more generally, and thirdly the magisterium of the Church, and on these they wage unrelenting war."
It is no surprise, to me anyway, that the Modernist is comfortable with and in league with the Secular Humanists, Buddhists and mysticism, and the more liberal branches of the Reformation.
Turning to politics, the article makes no mention of the fact that despite all of the riots and hullabaloo perpetrated by the Left, the Republicans, nonetheless, won the White House in the November election. The combined Nixon-Wallace vote was an overwhelming repudiation of the liberals, leftists, hippies, and such, and Kevin Phillips would soon be writing of an emerging Republican majority. Although Richard Nixon is hardly a conservative hero, the coalition that he put together later put Ronald Reagan in the White House.
Same year: “Is God Dead?” on the cover of Time Magazine. As a 16 year old, I remember Thanksgiving of that year the commentator (CBS I think) saying that there was not much to be thankful for. I was shocked, thinking that Thansgiving was and always would be celebrated for our blessings. Within a few weeks the Apollo 8 lunar mission did provide us something to be proud and thankful.
As for this article, I was reading to see if it acknowledged this period as the beginning of changes that led to molestation scandals.
I could’ve wrote this except for it was my Uncle in Vietnam not my dad and we are in Ohio not Chicago but the rest is the same.I was 7 yo in 1968 ad turned 8 in Sept of that year.I remember it was the year that I first lean red what divorce was when my Uncle and his first family began to have trouble and separated the first time.It would take another 3 years and another child before they finally slit.I remember how bad that was for us, it was the first one in our Catholic family.I feel the same way about this time period kids my age got the short end of the stick by their more selfish older boomers who thought it was their duty to change things.May they rot in h*ll for what they did to us.
I could’ve wrote this except for it was my Uncle in Vietnam not my dad and we are in Ohio not Chicago but the rest is the same.I was 7 yo in 1968 ad turned 8 in Sept of that year.I remember it was the year that I first learned what divorce was when my Uncle and his first family began to have trouble and separated the first time.It would take another 3 years and another child before they finally split.I remember how bad that was for us, it was the first one in our Catholic family.I feel the same way about this time period kids my age got the short end of the stick by their more selfish older boomers who thought it was their duty to change things.May they rot in h*ll for what they did to us.
It was indeed, and the participants even have names for themselves: sesentayochistas, in Spanish, and something similar in French.
I have always felt that if the Church had held strong, things might have turned out differently. But it collapsed too.
And while the French and Germans had been busy nourishing clerical heretics for decades, I think a lot of the liturgical and practical changes reflected the desire of American Catholics to stand out less. The intellectual underpinning, of course, was the German Higher Biblical Criticism with its faux archaeology of the "primitive" Church, a mythical time of purity that the Protestants believed preceded Romish corruption.
I wasn’t there but I don’t “hideous” is an apt description of Woodstock. Miraculously tame might be closer to the truth.
Yes I recall 1968, thanks for the fresher. My wife and I were married March 1958, had adopted our first son (Born August 9, 1966, then our second son was born September 9,1967. [ We had hardly recoved from the assination of President JKF in Nov. 1963]
We lived in Memphis,TN during the curfews and turmoil of early 68, we were hit broadside in our little red 1966 Volkswagon (But blessed in that none were injured.)
Then it happened, Martin Luther was assinated, and all the rioting accross the U.S. broke loose. We were blessed that Memphis had been on curfew for several weeks, and little was damaged compared to many other cities.
Then in the summer of 1968, Robert Kennedy was assinated, and that was one of the hottest summers on record. We attended our summer church camp the first week of August, in Middle TN, which usually a lot cooler than the Memphis area.
My Father & Mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and a foster son came that year. Boy it was hot, we had no air in the VW nor the cabins.
Our sons were 2 and 11 months that month, but we were able to be thankful and survived the heat and the rest of 1968.
In 1968, the public had been told for years that we were winning the war in Vietnam. Then much of the country, including the American Embassy, came under widespread attacks which were shown with raw film feeds on nightly television for a month. Is it surprising that a sudden cognitive dissonance resulted?
In 1968, MLK had not only been under FBI surveillance for years, but on camera he was seen prophesizing his death the night before it happened. Is it surprising that when he was shot, that his followers suspected the government had something to do with it?
In 1968, RFK stood to challenge the ruling Democratic party establishment when he was struck with a fatal shot which originated at point blank range from his rear. In spite of witnesses and a coroner’s report that placed Sirhan Sirhan to the front of him at all times, the LAPD harassed witnesses and withheld contrary evidence of a likely multiple-shooter scenario in order to arrange a quick one-person conviction in court. Is it surprising that outraged RFK supporters would gather to protest outside the convention hall in Chicago?
The events of 1968 referred to in the editorial, ignore the understandable anger that lay behind them.
In 2012, conservatives are united in their desire to oppose lies which originated from a federal government run by Democrats. Could not the same thing be said of the public in 1968?
Actually, the “God is dead” Time Magazine cover came out in 1966.
I’m pretty sure I missed that Thanksgiving broadcast. When we watched the evening news, we usually tuned in to George Putnam, who, I believe, was on KTTV at the time. His broadcast always included an editorial, entitled “One Reporter’s Opinion” in which he would express support for the Vietnam War, denounce government boondoggles, attack the Left, etc. On one broadcast in December, 1968, Putnam showed photographs of leftist demonstrations and point to a member of the crowd saying, “this is so-and-so, and he is a Communist!” Putnam would always conclude his broadcast with a picture of a US flag flying over some Southland community and say, “here is the American flag flying proudly over Whittier”—or Wilmington, Watts, Westchester, Walnut Park, etc.