How the 60s affected the Catholic Church


I wanted to ask those who are older and grew up in the 60s if they could share what transpired during the time and how it affected the Church. CNN is doing an extensive documentary on the decade that is so beloved by many but I know from readings that it was a very turbulent time for the Church especially in the wake of Vatican II. I just wanted some commentary on the culture and if it was really the great upheaval it is labelled. I get the impression the sentiment of rebellion had long been there and it just happened to explode during this time. I’m in my early 20s so I would like some perspective. Thanks for sharing your wisdom :slight_smile:

(Sigh!) Do you really want to take the lid off Pandora’s box?

There are any number of threads within society that came together during the 60’s. Several of the driving forces which were at play:

In 1914-21, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic. 1934m Gregory Pinkus created the first test tube rabbit. 1951, Sanger meets Pinkus and convinces him to work on a bith control pill. 1951, Carl Djerassi, a chemist in Mexico City, creates a pill by synthesizing hormones from yams; alleged intent to work with some female issues other than birth control.
1952, Pinkus works with progesterone in rats (it workes); John Rock had been testing it in women, and Frank Colton, chemist for Searle independently develops synthetic progesterone.
1953, Katherine McCormick funds Pincus’s research. 1954, Rock and Pincus run a test on 50 women - it works. 1956 large scale tests in Puerto Rico (no anti-birth control rules) and they ignore serious side effects. 1957 FDA approval, but only for serious menstrual disorders. 1960 approval for contraceptive use.1962 finds it used by 1.2 million women; a year later, 2.3 M. 1964, the pill still illegal in 8 states; Paul VI starts a commission to review its moral side; many in the Church are in favor. 1965, 6.5M women using. 1967 African American activists chrge Planned Parenthood, by providing it in poor, minority neighborhoods is committing genocide. 1968, after changes in the commission and a leak of the minority report days before Paul VI releases Humanae Vitae, all heel breaks loose in the US with 82 theologians taking an ad in opposition. 1969 the book The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill comes out about side effects, including blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, depression, weight gain, and loss of libido. 1970 Senate hearings on the pill disrupted by women demanding a voice. And on it goes.

What started as (by at lest one of the researchers) an attempt to find a medical means of regulating irregular menstrual cycles in women turns into the biggest joke men have ever made against women; by “taking away” the potential for conception, they created the idea that sex should be frequent (often referred to as “on demand” by some) as it no longer had the possibility of conception.

Sexual activity outside of marriage is as old as society. However, once the pill was readily available, it spread like wildfire.

And this was just one aspect of the 60’s, and what lead up to it. More later.

Definitely, given calls for independence, political protests, military intervention and war, and other events worldwide, especially during the latter half of the decade.

The 60s was a time of questioning authority in any form, so of course this affected the Catholic Church. The sexual revolution was a big factor as well as a renewed interest in helping the poor through various government social programs. So, when the Pope at the time decided against birth control, most Catholics at the time did not accept that. Also, there was a big push to get rid of all the appearance of things that reminded people of the old ways, such as lots of statues in the church, elaborate churches, etc. When the Mass first changed to the vernacular, it was not that much different from the old Latin Mass except that it was in English except for a few parts of the Mass that were still in Latin. All the other changes came later. Then it seems like people went kind of crazy with all kinds of other changes that the Vatican II documents never mentioned.
I think it might be more helpful if you asked specific questions for us to answer. Otherwise, this is a wide open field.

I was born in 1957, and my brother was born in 1958. So we grew up in the 60s.

We weren’t Catholic, we were Baptist. My parents were raised on farms. My mother had three brothers in WWII, and my dad served in the Korean War.

Yes, the 1960s were the Great Upheaval. Do not doubt that. It’s true.

I remember my parents talking in hushed voices as they watched the news stories about race riots, “free love”, the war, the anti-war protests on various college campuses, the hippies, the drug experimentation, the explosion of interest in occult practices and the Satanic worship, and even some of the “adult” television shows like Peyton Place (which my mother refused to watch).

They kept saying, “It’s the end of the world.” Not “it feels like the end of the world,” but “It’s the end of the world.”

As awful as things get nowadays, I have never said, “It’s the end of the world,” although 9/11 felt that way. I’ve grown up with an awful world and very little hope.

But my parents grew up in a world of decency and hope. Yes, during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, there was sin, certainly. People were having sex outside of marriage, and people were abusing drugs and even rebelling against authority. There have always been rebels who tried to convince others that right is wrong and wrong is right.

But not openly. Not the way they did in the 1960s. And sin was never called “good” by a silly entertainment and news media and even the churches. No one tried to pretend that their extra-marital sex was “good and healthy”. 99.9% of people recognized right and evil, and tried in daily life to be good, not evil, and taught their kids to be the same.

But in the 1960s, it all went down the toilet, and people began to abandon good and call evil good so that they could sin without guilt.

It was very, very bad. I was fortunate to be a young child during the 1960s, and so my brother and I mainly watched it all happening, and weren’t old enough to take drugs, or be drafted into the war, or protest the war, or become a hippie, or experience “free love,” or worship Satan. Thank goodness we were too young to actually do any of this stuff.

I can’t answer your question about the Catholic Church. But I can assure you that EVERY institution was affected, mainly in a negative way.

I suspect the new technology of mass TV coverage had an impact.

I also agree that it was a combination of factors with TV and universities the ‘enticer’ (then enforcer) of bad ideas.

I was a baby in 1969 so I would be interested in the comment of adults of that time.


There had been a heavy push for vernacular in the 50’s as Latin studies were being phased out and most who were following the Mass in their handmissals were following in the vernacular. In fact, the old popular St. Joseph handmissals had scrapped the Latin propers altogether. In spite of Veterum Sapientia, which tried to forbid vernacular, and Vatican II’s attempt to preserve Latin in the liturgy, there were groups which lobbied for the all-vernacular and bury the silent prayers and eventually got their way. And, as you noted, other changes quickly followed. And without much resistance, I might add. The rest just voted with their feet.

The question you have posed is interesting, but one that you’ll probably find very much agreement. As a man who is well on his way to being labeled an octogenarian, I lived through the entire period and remember it well. But what I could share is simply my perspective which may be quite different from someone else’s. Most importantly, I can assure you it will be very different from those who are simply repeating what they have herds from others; or worse, have an agenda that requires their version of events to be consistent with that agenda.

I should also tell you that I’m a daily Communicant in an OF parish, and have been so for a great many years. We have a place on the west coast of Florida, and when their I attend the daily TLM at the Church of Christ the King in Venice. I am a cradle Catholic whose parents were both from Ireland and who sent their 4 children to catholic schools. I was taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame. I married my high school sweetheart and we are blessed with 4 children and 9 grandchildren. Three of our children attend Mass regularly while our one unmarried daughter has all but given up the faith. With that background, let me share with you a few recollections of my earlier experiences with the Church.

Many people today believed the vernacular (English) Mass in substitution for Latin was a product of Vatican II. That is not correct. Vatican II wasn’t convened until October 1962, while the “changes” began long before that. I was living in the Archdiocese of Washington (suburban Maryland), and our first exposure to English in the Mass was in January or February of 1960. I seem to recall that the first change was introduction of the English translation of Domine, non sum dignus ut intros sub… (Lord I am not worthy that thou should …). It was originally said three times, just like the Latin; but after about 6 months it was cut down to once. The language was changed for a while, but as of the last “revision” it went back to the original wording.

There would be many more details such as that which might be interesting to someone trying to figure out just what had happened, but the important thing for everyone to realize, is that there was no “upheaval” or “rebellion” as you or someone has suggested. Catholics, at the time, were absolutely obedient to the Church. If the priest told everyone to dress in purple and come with their shoes off it would not have been questioned for a moment. All faithful Catholics at the time believed that their was only one Church, and that Church spoke with a single voice. So when the priest said sing we sang, and when he said stand we stood. No one every questioned anything.

Virtually no one at the time had any idea of what Vatican II was all about. It was never explained. We heard about it and that was about all. The details about Church Councils of the past, though important, were not part of the Catholic faith––at least as far as the relatively uneducated masses were concerned. The sermons (we did not call them “homilies”, and traditionalists like myself don’t call them homilies today) were about living sin-free Catholic lives. We were told there was a heaven and a hell and that those who died without being in Sanctifying Grace (there’s a phrase you don’t hear much these days) went to hell. Sins that were not considered to be appropriate for discussion form the pulpit were fully discussed in painstaking detail found in “free” pamphlets in the racks at the back (“narthex” was unheard of) of every church.

But the changes were endless. As were the new inventions. For a while they were hanging a seemingly endless supply of meaningless colorful banners that always had “holy” phrases and words, but never really said anything. Depending on the church, over the years they put up the “Table” and took down the Altar Rails and told us that we were now going to file up in lines to receive Communion. The Communion “in the hand” didn’t start right away, that was later, but the relaxing of the rules regarding fasting before receiving was early on. Of course the real changes did not begin until after Pope Paul VI instituted he “New Mass”, but there were many changes that preceded it. At the time, it should be known, there was not a clear understanding of why any of this was happening, or for that matter, when it would all finally settle down and become “finalized”. Of course, as we later learned> it never would and still hasn’t.

There is much much more that I could say on this topic, but this is a forum and I’m simply trying to respond to a very complex question that cannot fairly be answered in this format. Nevertheless, perhaps my recollections would be a piece of the answer that might be helpful, but I’d be happy to answer any specific question you might have as well.

The 60s affected clergy, the laity, seminaries, the liturgy, etc, while the Church and her doctrines remained intact. But at a personal level, individuals joined with others determined that the Church was wrong in various ways, and took Vat II as a license for changes that the council never intended nor expressed. They introduced modernistic concepts and liberal beliefs that conformed to the values of the world around them. We’re all vulnerable to this; pursuing our own agendas or brand of “righteousness” has been with us since the Original Sin of disobedience; the “herd mentality” has a very strong pull and we’re all here to learn-to learn the hard way -of our need for God and obedience to Him and the Church He established as His mouthpiece. IMO we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in terms of fully understanding the revelation He’s given us centuries ago-and missteps or detours along the path are inevitable parts of the process of coming to the perfection He’s intended for His creation.

The point of view that Vatican II was “hijacked” (my word) is one that I have heard many times over the years, and I certainly have respect for those who find validity in it. I, however, am not one of those. I believe that reasoning is simply an excuse being offered by the modernist bishops of the Church today (almost all of whom are) to justify the failure of what was advanced. They have convinced many good Catholics that there is truth in this reasoning, but that is false. Whether there was anything diabolical underpinning to the Council, or whether it was simply ignorance and error on the part of foolish men, I’d leave for others to speculate. But there are few faithful Catholics today, who grew up in that earlier period of time, that now believe there was ever a useful purpose in calling it. By any measure, the late 50’s were the halcyon days of the Church. There was no spiritually good reason to change anything.

Today, not only has the Church (and when I say the Church I only mean that as a metaphor for the modernist prelates and priests of the Church) have gone off the rails of the true Catholic Church in countless ways. The Council has turned so many away away from God and toward humanism that it is an absolute tragedy. We are told that it’s all about redistributing wealth and seeking “peace on earth” and “social justice”. In the meantime sin (the word is never mentioned) abounds without a bishop or priest’s voice to be heard to reign it in. Homosexuality (the bishops have adopted the secular term “gay” so they don’t offend them), fornication, adultery, contraception, false religious practices, atheism and many many more evil actions advance without an end in sight. That was not the Church or the world that I knew during days before the Council.

So when I hear it said that the Council was just “misinterpreted” and that it was some villainous types that have subverted something that was good, I sense I’m listening to an agenda that does not comport with what I believe is the true mission of the Catholic Church––to lead all men to salvation. Much of what you have said is absolutely correct when you speak to our need for obedience unto God; but I’ve heard and read so many apologists for the Council cleverly back into defending it over the years using that polemic, I have a tendency to over-react. But under any circumstance. what I’ve said is certainly not meant as a criticism of you in any way. Indeed, I would expect the same response that you’ve offered from my local pastor and priest if they were asked if Vatican II was a positive or a negative event for the Church.

What I don’t understand is this: The sinful behavior in the 1960’s was committed by adults who obviously would have been children in the 1940’s and 1950’s when teacher-led prayer was a part of public schools. (“Teacher-led” being a critical distinction because it’s impossible to take prayer out of public schools.)** If teacher-led school prayer was such a great thing, then why didn’t it help prevent the flood of sin that permeated the 1960’s?** That’s what I don’t understand - the people doing drugs and fornicating and everything else - those were the same kids who had teacher-led school prayer all through K-8.

Vatican II is not part of the problem, but the lie is being spread that it was.


If the proverbial ‘Good Old Days’ were in the 1940’s and 1950’s - before the 1960’s - then what influence did those then-children have growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s that would have prompted them to turn to the pill and LSD and “free love” once they turned 18? The “good old days” must not have been that good if it yielded so much sin - I cannot begin to count how many ‘baby boomers’ I know who were molested by family members. (Again, originating from the “good old days” that pre-dated the 1960’s.) So, logically, the “good old days” could not have been in era generation past the 1800’s since people born in the 1800’s would have already passed by the time the 1960’s rolled around.

I was born in 1953, so I literally grew up in the 60’s. Change is always hard. Think of the differences between 1960 and 1970. In 1960 there was still segregation in schools and housing and Jim Crow ruled the South. By the end of the decade the Voting Rights Act had passed and school desegregation was underway. To my group, the assassination of Robert Kennedy was a true marker. We realized that Vietnam was not going to end quickly. It was a hopeless feeling. The Pill became the norm for everyone. I distinctly remember my very Catholic Aunt who was under forty telling me that the Pill was the most important invention of the past fifty years! There was a very popular poster that college kids hung in their dorm rooms with a picture of Pope Paul pointing his finger and the caption was “the Pill is a NO-NO!”

At Church we no longer had to worry about putting pink Kleenex on our heads or about watching old women gossip or say the Rosary during mass - the congregation actually listened to the priest celebrate the Mass in the vernacular and we’re quiet and respectful. People my age tend to romanticize the 60’s, I think it’s easy to do, because our generation did have the most awesome music ever!!! There are members here on CAF that believe the sixties were the evil beginning of the end of the wholesome time of the golden era 1950’s. What they fail to remember though is that the real world was not “Father Knows Best” - if you were African American you were certainly not availed of all the rights that this country allows in the fifties. Women who “needed” to work could be a secretary, or if college educated then a RN or a teacher. If you were a women who found herself pregnant with no wedding ring then you were shamed and a disgrace to your family. This has nothing to do with feminism, it has to do with Victorian Age social shaming.
The best thing about 1970 was that girls could wear pants to school on Fridays!! What a hoot!:rolleyes:

Those days were much better than today. Much better. Or to put it another way - what we call society today is not better. Sin was spread by deceivers, liars and others. It was all planned out. It didn’t happen by itself. I was there. I did not just wake up one day in the late 1960s and decide sin was better. It was also a time of purposeful confusion. Logic? No. “Permission” was handed out to a Christian society by giving us a new set of what’s “good” - a set of rules for a “better” way to live - but they lied. They lied to a Christian nation that was taught to not turn away the stranger. But the strangers turned out to be wolves and serpents.


The 1960’s remains a unique decade in human history.

Hey great question! I was born in 1957 as well and for me the last 50 years in my mind have been the greatest time of renewal and societal growth that we have seen in human history (just a lightly stated opinion :slight_smile: The Vatican II church has become alive to our time in history and progressvie revelation. It has been a church of excitement of change…I remember my first time recieviing communion in the hands…and while I understand and support my brothers and sisters who want to weave the traditional mass back into our landscape as Catholics, it is not a route I choose for myself…the more “novus” the better for this Vatican II kid :slight_smile:

Pope Francis said that we should be able to talk about anything and that we should not be a scared of the truth nor put the teachings of the church or the Lord in a box defined by a time in history. The sixty’s question everything as we should. It was a time where we questioned the war in Vietnam, it was a time for students to be engaged in the future of the globe and we were aggressive in social reform, the green revolution (a mistake in modifed food) but a mistake that was based on feeding the world. So yes, our decades were full of awesome wonderful mistakes. Our decades is not just defined by the the movement towards reproductive rights yet, the posters are absolutely correct our time and place also made mistakes, how could we not? We moved the abortion issue from a coat hanger issue to an issue of women’s health which is good, but we stopped half way in terms of making abortiion obsolete…so I have to say that the 60’s were and are a great tiem in history… I long for our Bishops that laid their body down in front of trains delivering nucelar chemicals, or our nuns demonstrating against injustice…we were a church in the 60s that cared for the children murdered by abortion but as a faith communtiy we were not defined by that issue only.

So yeah, celebrate the 60s and the post Vatican II church…so hope that gives you a balanced and positive perspective that balances the very true and heartfelt points that the other posters have shared with you.

Bruce FErguson

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said…there were two Councils. The Council of the Fathers, the true Council and then the council of the media and unfortunately the world perceived the Council through the media. Sounds familiar huh? Much like today with what the liberal media has tried with Pope Francis. Fortunately today with the internet it is much easier to detect but it wasn’t so back then. Liberals and modernists (the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II) did much damage to the Church. I heard a talk by Sister Ann Shields of Renewal Ministries that described what it was like for her. She was a young sister at the time and said it almost destroyed her Faith and it put her in depression. I heard another talk by a sister but I forget her name but she actually became sedevacantist because of what transpired after Vatican II. Thankfully she returned to the Church. I was too young to fully understand what was going on. All I knew was that I didn’t have to learn Latin but what was very noticeable was that all of a sudden many of my teachers who were religious orders were gone. The true Council I think is finally taking root helped along by Pope Benedict himself with the reform of the reform and Summorum Pontificum.

After the development of doctrine in Vatican II, and the faithful stewardship of St John Paul II and Pope Emereitus Benedict XVI, readers should know that:
The crisis in Christ’s Church is due to the modernist errors abroad before Vatican II, whose promoters tried to take over the Council, referred to in *Christ Denied *(TAN, 1982, by Fr Paul Wickens).

But before Vatican II, by May of 1964, the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) had approved the sex education program put forward by 2 Swedish delegates, and the whole sordid conglomerate is exposed in Claire Chambers The SIECUS Circle, 1977. The power structure exerts pressure on local schools and the gullible public for its school sex education program. The network promotes population control, legalised abortion, homosexuality, pornography, sensitivity training and drugs. (p xv). We surely know how dissenters have spread these into the People of God.

The '60’s saw the rise of anarchy in the USA with much that was good in society decried and destroyed with nothing worthy to replace it. The new religion of the so-called Enlightenment was welcomed by selfists.

The degradation of sacred order, at the invitation of nuns, occurred from 1967 in the USA through humanistic psychologists especially Carl Rogers, and I have heard one of his lieutenants, Dr J W Coulson in person, apologising for the grave harm caused. [See *The Emperor’s New Clothes by William Kirk Kilpatrick, 1985, p 149-150]. The destruction of whole Catholic school systems and religious orders occurred.

Then followed the disgraceful public dissent against Humanae Vitae by Rahner and numerous dissenting theologians, Richard McBrien’s Catholicism (full of errors), the revolt of the Catholic universities and the bureaucratic/theological tail wagging the episcopal dog so to speak – coupled with lax or dissenting bishops this resulted in a grave crisis, which is worldwide with relativism, selfism and secularism.

How many Catholics know this? The great papal teaching and guidance of popes St John Paul II and Emeritus Benedict XVI have nurtured the reform of seminaries and the rejuvenation of the apostolate of the laity, with a resurgence of faith and action among the young, in the midst of the secular chaos of today.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, places Vatican II in its rightful place:
"I am convinced that the damage that we have incurred in these twenty years is due, not to the ‘true’ Council, but to the unleashing within the Church of latent polemical and centrifugal forces; and outside the Church it is due to the confrontation with a cultural revolution in the West: the success of the upper middle class, the new ‘tertiary bourgeoisie’, with its liberal-radical ideology of individualistic, rationalistic and hedonistic stamp. The cardinal exhorts all Catholics who wish to remain such “to return to the authentic texts of the original Vatican II.” The Ratzinger Report, Vittorio Messori, Ignatius, 1985, p 28-31].

“It must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points…” (The Ratzinger Report, p 28).

Cardinal Ratzinger expressed the required fidelity to Vatican II as: “to defend the true tradition of the Church today is to defend the Council…And this today of the Church is the documents of Vatican II, without reservations that amputate them and without arbitrariness that distorts them.” (The Ratzinger Report, Ignatius Press, 1985, p 31).

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I’ve always wondered, why did we stop using Ad Orietiam (forgive my ill spelling)?


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