It’s a fact that our Church didn’t see the mass exodus percentage of devout faithful in the decades prior to '64 that we’ve seen since then, and I personally think we’ll be paying for most of the changes throughout many more decades to come, BUT, the change to permit such ecumenical activity, on both the parts of the priest and the laity–that absolutely was prohibited before Vatican II–is a good thing (one of the few that I can think of).
Back “in the Dark Ages” when I was in high school, Baccalaureate was celebrated in rotating churches from year to year and Catholics had to get special permission to attend their own Baccalaureate, and their families had to get special permission to sit inside the hosting Protestant church and observe.
I can’t tell you how many tears our family shed over a course of about three months because our monsignor said that our Baccalaureate had always been held in a Protestant Church, and so it was time to hold it in our Catholic church. I went to a small school about twelve miles from the small city (county seat) in which we attended Mass, at the only Catholic church in the county. You would not believe the uproar that resulted. The principal said that he would not force the other students and their families to drive to another town for our Baccalaureate, and that I had to attend in order to get my diploma later at graduation. Without a special dispensation for all of our family to attend the Baccalaureate we would be committing deliberate sin, so it was a definite time of upheaval for all of us.
This was an area in which the Ku Klux Klan had ridden with masks and torches on horseback to burn my grandfather’s barn because my mother was marrying a Catholic. Monsignor couldn’t have helped to give the church a blacker eye in my hometown than if he’d spent decades planning it. My classmates treated me despicably. None of our family felt Monsignor was being reasonable, and the episode irreparably marred the second half of my senior year. Although Mother later became Catholic, she was not Catholic at that time, and my parents came very close to splitting. .
It was standard operating procedure for Monsignor to give the dispensation, and he was normally so reasonable and considerate, but we never found out what caused his utter obstinance at that time. The graduating seniors in the other eleven country schools kept quiet and didn’t ask until my ordeal had run its course.
How ridiculous that all was! What a waste of time and emotions! I believe, though, that the same scenario played out, to a greater or lesser extent, across the country. I know we had to ask permission to attend any service, including weddings or funerals, conducted in a Protestant church. I don’t recall that anyone was ever denied, but the asking was anxiety-laden. It’s good for our parishioners that we don’t have to go through such rigmarole any more, and it eases Protestant understanding of Catholics now that those restrictions are no longer confining.