The American Catholic Revolution: How the Sixties Changed the Church Forever

The American Catholic Revolution: How the Sixties Changed the Church Forever

The American Catholic Revolution: How the Sixties Changed the Church Forever

The American Catholic Revolution: How the Sixties Changed the Church Forever

Synopsis

The Second Vatican Council enacted the most sweeping changes the Catholic Church had seen in centuries. In readable and compelling prose, Mark S. Massa tells the story of the culture war these changes ignited in the United States--a war that is still being waged today. The first stirrings of upheaval took place in the pews, where changes to the mass were felt immediately and viscerally by the faithful. Suddenly, one Sunday, the mass as they had always known it was very different, and so was the Church they had believed was timeless and unchanging. Skirmishes quickly broke out over the proper way to worship, with "liberals" welcoming change, "conservatives" resisting it. Soon, Catholics found themselves bitterly divided over everything from birth control to the authority of the Church itself. As he narrates these turbulent events, Massa takes us beyond the "liberal/conservative" stereotypes, offering new insights into the last fifty years of American Catholicism.

Excerpt

On the morning of November 12, 1962, the great French theologian Yves Congar stood dumbstruck in the vast basilica of St. Peter’s on the Vatican Hill in Rome. More than two thousand bishops had just voted on a document that would permanently change the way the Catholic Church would celebrate its public worship. By the extraordinarily lopsided vote of 2,162 to 46, they had officially approved the new document on liturgy and worship, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which would be published in the United States as “The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” Congar, a canny reader of church politics as well as a world-class theologian, recognized revolution when he saw it. “Something irreversible has happened and been affirmed in the Church,” he uttered in astonishment to those around him.

Two years later the implementation of that document would begin the American Catholic revolution. But that revolution, like the broader cultural decade during which it emerged, cannot be reduced to simply chronology. The “American sixties” is itself a chronological term that might be better understood as cultural shorthand for the emergence of four social movements during the course of that tumultuous decade. These four seminal movements were the appearance of both the civil rights and feminist movements, each of which challenged the assumption that white males were (and should be) the determinative voices in the culture, and the appearance of two protest movements centered on the issues of free speech and U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. Both of these latter movements blossomed into myriad other “protest” impulses (against college curricula focused on “dead white males”; against the prohibition of certain hallucinatory drugs; against inherited traditions of political and military “reality”) that became incarnated in everything from rock music to popular TV shows.

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