One question that she posed was: "There must have been abuses because the changes were accepted so quickly and readily" (my paraphrasing of her comments).
Well, I am sure there were abuses but whatever they were they were not recognised as such.
By and large, the Church in Westminster Diocese (which was the only region within my knowledge at that age) was boringly the same as it had been for many years. For centuries, in fact.
Mass was in Latin, not a Novus Ordo in sight.
|We had processions back then. Many processions especially in May and June|
Admittedly, there were a few illegitimate children (morality tends not to fluctuate too much over the centuries).
Homosexuality was barely visible, not just in Catholic circles but in society generally.
Priests were not known as anything other than models of spiritual probity (although one or two rather nasty occurrences took place in the late 60s, especially in Chertsey, Surrey, a diversion beyond the boundaries of Westminster).
|And every parish had nuns |
(who looked and acted like nuns)
There was a sort of rather fierce disciplinarianism about many of the older priests and that was not altogether welcome or a good thing.
Discipline is one thing, control is another.
But, above all else, we had obedience within the ranks of the laity.
A level of compliance that would not be recognisable today.
We lived and breathed fealty to our Parish Priest, our Bishop and the Holy Father and the rupture of that loyalty may, I believe, may be the key to why the Catholic Faith changed more or less overnight from being an assured place of redemption to an uncertain retreat of those who believed in the concept of revolution.
The loyalty ruptured because of the changes that were taking place in society.
"Change is good" became a sort of silent mantra.
I recall the laity being called to a conference in Liverpool, possibly in 1962 or 1963.
There they were invited to "speak out" and give form to the concerns that they had regarding the Catholic Church.
This was heady stuff. No one had ever asked the opinion of the laity before.
In fact, the laity had never had a voice as such before. Now, suddenly, the chance arose to "out" your Parish Priest for being stern and strict.
But remember, we were still in the post war era. All of society was on the move challenging the code of conduct that existed.
The sixties was a period when the boundaries of decency were being dismantled daily.
'Lady Chatterley's Lover' was featured in the high courts and won the case against charges of obscenity in favour of freedom of speech.
Homosexuality, a criminal offence in 1960, was declared legitimate in the Sexual Offences Act of 1967.
London Theatres began to feature plays and musicals where nudity and promiscuity took centre stage, literally. A move that would have subjected them to prosecution only a few years earlier.
And the Beatles, Rolling Stones and other rock groups suddenly made anti establishment views fashionable.
Change was in the air and it infected most people.
The Catholic laity was not immune, they found their collective voice and began to think liberally (aided, by some of the clergy).
Requiem Masses began to be "joyful" occasions where the life of the deceased was celebrated and all thought of praying for the immortal soul forgotten.
My own parents, staunch Anglo Irish Catholics fell hook, line and sinker for all that was taking place.
Why? I cannot fathom a certain answer to that one.
They certainly did not subscribe to the popular calls for change and I can only put their ready acceptance of all that the Church threw at them down to blind obedience.
In the Reformation era, Catholics in England and Wales switched their allegiance from Christ and Rome to heresy and Canterbury within a remarkably short period of time.
And, in a similar time frame in the 1960s and 70s, Catholics moved from the doctrinal certainty of the Faith to a mishmash of liturgy and an uncertain concept of Christ's truth.
I recall attending Mass while on honeymoon in Dulverton in 1972 only to hear the 'Latin' Mass sung in English in a direct translation from the pre 1962 missal.
The singing was most definitely not plainchant but Gelineau psalm style.
Back home a few weeks later and the congregation at Mass began to vote with their feet and walk out after Holy Communion. Priests would stand in the porch in an attempt to stem the exodus.
Despite the fever of change, Mass in the vernacular did not appear to be meeting with approval.
I remember one Canon exhorting his flock by saying: "It's still the same Mass, you know".
But, of course, it wasn't the same Mass and many left the Faith. Laity, priests and nuns just got up and walked away, released by a breaking of the covenant of perceived and actual truth.
Were people unhappy with Latin? I don't think so. And, certainly the modern myth that Latin was unpopular because it was "gabbled" is just that, a myth.
Priests then spoke Latin fluently; it was their second tongue and, of course, it flowed and was more voluble as a result.
I believe that the only two factors influencing the faithful were the element of obedience and that of being caught up with the desire to 'change and modernise'.
Remember, this was the era of house renovation and DIY when people of impeccable taste would panel over Georgian doors with sheets of hardboard and hack off any architectural decorations of beauty that even hinted at being old or traditional.
Brass was replaced by plastic and good taste was cast to the wind.
All had to be hidden behind a façade of wood and plaster; all had to conform to modern tastes; all character and continuity with the past had to be eradicated.
And that really is a metaphor for the changes that swept through the Church.