Historian and theologian Fr. Mark Massa, S.J. has just written a new book called “The American Catholic Revolution: How the ’60s Changed the Church Forever,” and he gave an interview about it to the Religion News Service:
Q: Why should American Catholics care what happened in the 1960s?
A: Starting with Vatican II, Catholics became aware that the church, its worship, and its beliefs change — that the church develops over history. The current battles between the left and the right are really between those who want to press a historical awareness of change and those who want to view the church as timeless.
Q: Why did the “Catholic Revolution,” as you call it, begin in 1964?
A: The new Mass (which was introduced in America that year) made real, or concrete, the changes that Vatican II made in ways that theology, or other declarations from the council could not.
Q: Why is change — not sex — the church’s dirty little secret?
A: A great majority of Catholics (once) thought of the church as outside of time altogether — that what they did on Sunday is what Jesus did at the Last Supper, and early Christians did in the catacombs. Vatican II attacked this notion of the church as providing a timeless set of answers to life’s questions about meaning.
Q: And that became a personal crisis for Catholics in the 1960s?
A: Catholics, like all believers, want security. The world seems, and can be, a very scary place; and they want their religion to provide them with some form of certainty, security, and peace of mind. But faith is a stance in history; it doesn’t preserve us from messiness, or from change, including to religious institutions.