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The Catholic Revolution

The Catholic Revolution: New Wine, Old Wineskins, and the Second Vatican Council

Andrew Greeley
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 237
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  • Book Info
    The Catholic Revolution
    Book Description:

    How, a mere generation after Vatican Council II initiated the biggest reform since the Reformation, can the Catholic Church be in such deep trouble? The question resonates through this new book by Andrew Greeley, the most recognized, respected, and influential commentator on American Catholic life. A timely and much-needed review of forty years of Church history,The Catholic Revolutionoffers a genuinely new interpretation of the complex and radical shift in American Catholic attitudes since the second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Drawing on a wealth of data collected over the last thirty years, Greeley points to a rift between the higher and lower orders in the Church that began in the wake of Vatican Council II-when bishops, euphoric in their (temporary) freedom from the obstructions of the Roman Curia, introduced modest changes that nonetheless proved too much for still-rigid structures of Catholicism: the "new wine" burst the "old wineskins." As the Church leadership tried to reimpose the old order, clergy and the laity, newly persuaded that "unchangeable" Catholicism could in fact change, began to make their own reforms, sweeping away the old "rules" that no longer made sense. The revolution that Greeley describes brought about changes that continue to reverberate-in a chasm between leadership and laity, and in a whole generation of Catholics who have become Catholic on their own terms. Coming at a time of crisis and doubt for the Catholic Church, this richly detailed, deeply thoughtful analysis brings light and clarity to the years of turmoil that have shaken the foundations, if not the faith, of American Catholics.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93877-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    In this extended essay I intend to reprise and refocus my work on American Catholics.¹ I will try to tie together in a reasonably coherent package some of many bits and pieces of research from various studies in which I have participated since 1961. Three theoretical perspectives have aided in this refocusing—William Sewell Jr.’s work on revolutionary events (1996), Melissa Jo Wilde’s study of the Second Vatican Council as collective behavior (2002), and my own theories of the Catholic imagination (Greeley 1995, 2000).

    My argument will be that the bishops of the world, in the euphoria generated by their...


    • ONE A Catholic Revolution
      (pp. 7-16)

      This book is about the revolutionary impact of the Second Vatican Council on the Catholic Church in the United States. I note at the outset that I do not like the misuse of the word “revolution” as a metaphor, a shallow media paradigm for change. The so-called sexual revolution was not in fact a revolution but an increase in premarital sex along with a decline in age at first sexual activity, an increase in the divorce rate, and a steady increase in nudity in films. There has not been an increase in the frequency of sexual intercourse nor, it would...

    • TWO The “Confident” Church
      (pp. 17-33)

      Steven Avella (1992) called his study of the Archdiocese of Chicago during the administrations of Cardinals Samuel Stritch and Albert Meyer (from 1940 to 1965)This Confident Church. I have no disagreement with Professor Avella’s book. The Church in Chicago was surely confident, yet in retrospect the title seems unintentionally ironic. The churches in Chicago in the 1950s and early 1960s were crowded on Sundays. The archdiocese was opening new parishes, new grammar schools, new high schools. Young men and women were enrolling in seminaries and novitiates in large numbers. Old Catholic organizations and new ones (the Cana Conference, the...

    • THREE The Wineskins Burst
      (pp. 34-40)

      Between the Catholic school studies of 1963 and 1974, NORC studied the priesthood for the Catholic hierarchy, the last venture into sociology that the hierarchy would assay (NORC 1972). I shall return to this study in subsequent chapters. However, there were several items in the study that provided ominous signs for the structures of Catholicism. In the summer of 1968, after a papal commission recommended a change in birth control teaching, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclicalHumanae vitae, which rejected the recommendations of the commission and dismissed its arguments for change. Unfortunately for the pope, the establishment of the...

    • FOUR What Happened?
      (pp. 41-60)

      What happened between the end of the Council and the 1974 study?¹ Some blamed the temper of the country in the late 1960s. A youth culture had spawned drug abuse, rock and roll music, sexual promiscuity, and disrespect for authority. This culture had infiltrated the Church and was responsible for the catastrophic change in Catholic belief and practice. Such a view, however, cannot stand up to analysis that shows that the change in sexual attitudes occurred in every age cohort, not just the young. Even those in their sixties changed their minds about birth control, divorce, and premarital sex.


    • FIVE “Effervescence” Spreads from the Council to the World
      (pp. 61-70)

      What happened at the Council, and subsequently, to sweep away the old structures? In her deft and brilliant study of the Council, Melissa Jo Wilde invokes a theory of collective behavior to explain the astonishing events (Wilde 2002). The tradition of collective behavior theory and research (e.g., Zald and Berger 1978 and McCarthy and Zald 1994) is impressed by the frequently observed phenomenon of the experiences of individuals merging into a group experience that is (or seems) more powerful than the sum of the individual experiences, a group experience that often overrides and even reverses the emotions the individuals bring...

    • SIX How Do They Stay?
      (pp. 71-80)

      Granted that in the Catholic revolution of the late 1960s the lower clergy and the laity in effect repealed many of the rules they did not understand or like, how can priests and laity reject an essential, or allegedly essential, dimension of the Church’s teaching and still act as though they were devout, churchgoing Catholics?

      Before 1965 the model was clear and precise: If you were a Catholic (in this country at any rate), you accepted what the Church said on everything, large or small, important or unimportant. When Rome decided a difficult matter, your choice was simple. Either you...

    • SEVEN New Rules, New Prophets, and Beige Catholicism
      (pp. 81-89)

      Revolutionary events and the collapse of institutional structures (paradigms and their motivations) always leave chaos, confusion, and conflict in their wake.¹ The conflicts over the French Revolution, energized by the storming of the Bastille as its eventful symbol, continued in France until the return of Charles de Gaulle from Colombey in 1958. A fervent Catholic and a fervent Republican,le généralprovided the occasion for healing the breach between the Church and the Republic, an occasion many on both sides had sought for years. The shape of the Fifth Republic seems to have institutionalized that new tolerance. Will the confusion...

    • EIGHT Only in America?
      (pp. 90-98)

      Might not this revolution that I have described have been a uniquely American phenomenon? Curial bureaucrats (particularly Dr. Navarro-Vals, the pope’s press spokesman) delight in saying that American problems are unique and are the result of the materialism, consumerism, secularism, and “pan-sexualism” of American society. The curialists, however, are European or European-influenced intellectuals, which means that they are obdurate haters of the United States. Thus, at the time of the worst period of the child sex abuse scandals, the curialists took the position that this was what one might expect in a country where everyone was obsessed with sex, and...

    • NINE Why They Stay
      (pp. 99-119)

      “If you don’t like the Catholic Church,” the woman in theDonahueaudience, by her own admission not Catholic, screamed at me, “why don’t you stop being a priest and leave the Church?”¹

      I had been criticizing what I took to be the insensitivity of some Catholic leaders to the importance of sex for healing the frictions and wounds of married life and perhaps renewing married love. I was taken aback by the intensity of her anger. Why did it matter so much to her that I had offered some relatively mild criticism? Why did such criticism seem to her...

    • TEN Priests
      (pp. 120-128)

      Priests were the officers in the Catholic revolution. Their changes in attitude toward birth control, masturbation, and divorce occurred at the same time as the revolutionary effervescence spread among the laity. Their change in attitude may have been caused by the lay change. It is likelier that they supported and reinforced the idea that laypeople should follow their consciences. As leaders of the revolution they should be pleased with lay independence, which appeared so suddenly. Priests also are responsible for the emergence of beige Catholicism and the new authoritarian pragmatism. The priests who persisted in the beginning of the revolution...


    • ELEVEN Recovering the Catholic Heritage
      (pp. 131-149)

      In the remaining chapters of this essay, I turn away from analysis to discuss the implications for the Church of that analysis.¹ I stand by the integrity of my data and the soundness of my analysis. My policy reflections go beyond my analysis but seem to me to flow from it.

      John Shea has written somewhere that it is the Catholic genius to search in the trash cans and the junkyards of history for forgotten symbols that might still have value. Thus if one tries to recover some of the potentially useful and valuable symbols of the heritage, one must...

    • TWELVE Religious Education and Beauty
      (pp. 150-167)

      I should note that this chapter is written from the perspective of “religion from below.” I am not a theologian or a catechetical theorist. I am a sociologist, hence I must take a worm’s-eye view of religious education and focus especially on the reactions of those we are trying to teach.

      My thesis is that the beauty of the Catholic heritage, flawed as it often is in practice, especially in this country, attracts, enchants, and will not let people go no matter how hard they try to escape. To reshape this thesis, the question is not whether a Catholic catechesis...

    • THIRTEEN Authority as Charm
      (pp. 168-178)

      In this chapter I propose that the problem of authority is experienced in the Church not so much with the authority exercised by the Vatican or by the Chancery Offices but by the local parish.¹ For weal or woe, the laity figure that the former two levels are far away, have no direct influence on their lives, and can safely be ignored. However, it is in the local parish where the Church exercises its only remaining power to control the lives of the people—the denial of access to the Sacraments. Reception of baptism, confirmation, First Communion, and matrimony has...

    • FOURTEEN Liturgists and the Laity
      (pp. 179-190)

      It is symptomatic of the problems of liturgy and liturgists that there has never been a national survey of the impact on the laity and the reaction of the laity to liturgical reform. One can only conclude that the laity don’t count, so they don’t get to vote. Much less do liturgists feel they need to learn in any systematic way about the laity’s experience of the liturgy. Have not such liturgical prophets as Aidan Kavanagh and Richard Galliardetz written of the laity as middle class, suburban, consumerist materialists? Who cares what they think?

      Liturgists tend to be apriorists—and...

    • Conclusion
      (pp. 191-196)

      The Catholic Revolution began on October 13, 1962. Cardinals Lienart and Frings rose to demand a free vote for the members of the commissions that would draft the texts of conciliar documents. With the support of Pope John XXIII, thiseventbecame the equivalent of the storming of the Bastille. The Council fathers began to realize that they could overcome the entrenched power of the Roman Curia. It would be possible to change the Church, not drastically, it seemed to them, but in certain important areas like liturgy, ecumenism, the interpretation of Scripture, attitudes toward Jews, and religious freedom. With...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 197-206)
    (pp. 207-210)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 211-224)