On December 1 last, Cardinal George Pell delivered an address in Glasgow in which he both analysed the history of our Faith over the past 50 years and the behaviour of Catholic Christians in the post Vatican II era, good bad and ugly – and they were all there – and then suggested a programme for continuity with all that was good. In it he looked back to the optimism of the 1960s:
The 1960s was initially an age of optimism exemplified in the person of Pope John XXIII. President de Gaulle in France and Konrad Adenauer in West Germany were strong Catholics and the election of John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic president of the USA electrified the Irish diaspora everywhere in the English-speaking world.
The permissive revolution which followed the invention of the contraceptive pill in 1962 had not properly got under way and the social dislocation which accompanied the unpopular war in Vietnam had not reached its peak. The student uprisings in France and Germany in 1968 followed after the Council, but triggered a whirlwind of revolution in the Catholic world.
Pope Paul VI’s long delayed decision against artificial contraception in 1968 was a catalyst. Many realized their exaggerated ambitions for change would not be realized. 10,000 priests around the world left in the pontificate of Pope Paul VI and a larger number of religious. A number of my contemporaries had been ordained expecting to receive permission to be married later; they were disappointed.
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life declined in many Western countries and Catholic life collapsed in countries with an extraordinarily high rate of religious practice and with many missionaries overseas, e.g., Holland and Quebec. I was fearful in the past that we faced such a prospect of collapse in Australia; but the situation there has been stabilized, although the gains are still fragile.
Mixed fruit followed the efforts of the Second Vatican Council at New Evangelization, many of them not intended by the Council and not direct consequences of the Council teachings.
Where are we now? What can we do? Read on to get his answer.