by Nick France
The 1950s —was it the golden age of American Catholicism? If you ask some traditionalists they will answer with a resounding "Amen."
You have to admit, the Fifties were good times for the Catholic Church in America— seminaries full, fish on Friday and Bishop Fulton Sheen coming into our living rooms on television, with his eyes piercing and hand raised high, setting our country straight, teaching us morality and God’s love. Oh yes, and a gentleman by the name of J F K. on the rise and toward the U.S. Presidency. Catholics had a huge influence over American culture and times were good.
But did all Catholics see things as well as I just presented it to be, or were there conflicting opinions? Why were there so many sweeping changes then in the early Sixties from Vatican II?
Are we better off for it now, or did loosing some of our traditions after Vatican II hurt the Church? After all the recent events and scandal our Catholic Church as endured, could it be we need even more change? What will become of our beloved Church?
Let’s examine some trends since Vatican II that are affecting Catholicism today. In the 1950s there was one priest for every 650 American Catholics. A recent survey indicates that by 2005 there will be one priest for every 2,200. Out of 19,000 U.S. parishes, more than 3,000 are without a resident pastor, also, some 2,400 parishes have no other choice but to share one.
More than ever before, the lay faithful participate in parish life. In the1950s, this would be unheard of. Thus, the laity influences the tone of the institution, now, more than ever. The big question is, can American Catholics handle the responsibility of upholding the traditions of the Catholic Church, (what we have left) or with their individualistic approach to everything, does the Church change again— and become more liberal?
In recent years, there have been more schisms in the Catholic Church — spawning so-called traditionalist Catholics, Catholics wanting a Tridentine Mass with some claiming the papacy sedevacant.
We must look at the Church however as a supernatural institution rather than a human institution. She is after all, the "Bride of Christ" and protected by the Holy Spirit. If She were a human institution She would never have survived.
Every assault on the Church has made Her stronger. Even as far back in Her history as the Apostles —her leaders could not harm her (Judas) nor could enemies such as Napoleon bring her down. Even those with good intentions as the Reformers could not hurt her. Should we despair? I think not, we have the promise from Jesus that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church." She has been protected by the Holy Sprit and ever shall be.
We do not ask for forgiveness from the Church either. The Church is supernatural and therefore it is not what we ask forgiveness from. The weak sinners in the Church, the humans, are the ones we forgive. We forgive because we all are sinners and we are called to forgive as Christians. If God can forgive us— if the unblemished, spotless "Bride of Christ" can forgive us, then we can forgive as well.
Whether you’re a traditionalist Catholic, (You wish the Church would go back to before Vatican II, and your favorite Pope is Pius X) or you’re a neo-traditionalist Catholic, (You think Vatican II is just fine, but want liberals to stop pushing for more change, and your favorite Pope is John Paul II) or you’re a liberal Catholic (You love the church, but you'd like to see some changes in certain areas, and your favorite Pope is John XXIII) the fact is, the Roman Catholic Church is here to stay. I’ll leave you with this question: What will the future bring our Holy Mother, the Church? †