The way we were: what did Catholics think of Vatican II in 1967?

Some intriguing answers can be found over at the excellent Pray Tell blog, which unearthed a Harris Survey from 1967.

What were American Catholics saying about the changes in the mass and the Church?

Check it out:

  • Asked of their opinion of the changes to simplify and modernize the Church, 66.7% of US Catholics thought it was for the better and 13.5% thought it was for the worse.
  • In an open-ended response explaining why they felt this way (yea or nay), 48.8% volunteered that Mass in English is easier to understand and follow, and 23.6% volunteered that people can participate more and it is more meaningful. These were the two most numerous responses. 5.7% volunteered that Latin Mass meant more to them, and 2% stated that much of the worship has been taken out or you can’t pray or meditate anymore.
  • 55% of respondents felt good and comfortable about the changes in the Church, but 31% thought it was watering down distinctiveness. Only 1.7% thought the changes weren’t going far enough.
  • Asked in an open-ended question what the most important thing to come out of Vatican II was, apart from those who said they don’t know, the responses most often volunteered were better understanding with other religions (24.9%) and Mass and its music in English (19.9%). How many thought the changes were destroying the Church and nothing good came out of Vatican II? 0.7%.

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22 responses to “The way we were: what did Catholics think of Vatican II in 1967?”

  1. Before the liberal deacons and laity on this blog get all giddy and triumphalist over the modern state of the happy clappy Mass, keep in mind that this survey is from the time of the transitional 1965 rubrics.

    These featured a stripped-down 1962 liturgy (no prayers at the foot of the altar, etc.), with limited vernacular in the readings and Mass propers. In other words, the changes envisioned by the Council.

    If that was the current state of the ordinary form, you wouldn’t have a traddie movement. You’d have a bunch of cranks on the Internet arguing with each other about folded dalmatics and such, ignored by everyone else.

    The Novus Ordo and its disordered, rupturous liturgical sense created the modern Mass crisis. God bless Pope Benedict.

  2. Exactly. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Mass as we know it today began to make an appearance–guitars, piano, the priest facing versus populum, disappearance of Latin, lay ministers, female altar servers, Communion in the hand, etc. If these people had known in 1967 that THAT would be the fruit of Vatican II, I guarantee the numbers would be reversed.

  3. I lived through Vatican II and the “Crazy Years” immediately following. When, and if, I comment on those times, I am doing it with a sense of first-hand experiences and knowledge. It is my observation that over 70% of folks in our Catholic parishes are younger than I am and thus — if they have the temerity to talk about the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican — they base their assumptions on second and even third hand knowledge — some of which is blatantly false.

    What I would recommend all to do — and that includes Ryan Ellis (Post #1) — is to go to your local flea-market or antique mall and dig through back issues of LIFE and LOOK to find those singular issues that those publications dedicated to the council and read some objective first hand reports.

    You might be fascinated at what you find!

  4. To Fiergenholt:

    I, too, lived through those interesting and often turbulent years.

    However, were it not for Vatican II, I, a member of the laity and a woman, probably would not have gone on for an graduate degree in Theology, taught in a diocesan Ministry Formation Program or been a lay missionary in Nigeria. (Hopefully, my contributions have been fruitful for the People of God that I have encountered.)

    Here is one of my favorite sources (besides of course “Documents of Vatican II” edited by Walter M. Abbott, 1966 now out of print):

    “Voices from the Council” edited by Michael R. Prendergast and M. D. Ridge

    The book contains interviews with some cardinals, bishops, theologians, and ecumenical observers, who attended the sessions, as well as journalists, who covered the event.

  5. So, here’s one of the “liberal deacons” checking in. . . .

    Like “Fiergenholt”, I too lived through the years in question. In fact from 1963-1971, I was in high school and college seminary, which means I was in formation during the Council and the first years of its implementation. 1967, the year of the survey, was in fact, the year I graduated from high school seminary.

    The simple fact, Ryan Ellis, is to see this survey for what it is: a simple snap shot of the time. There’s no ground for anyone to “gloat” or to judge. The bishops assembled at the Council were trying to face the challenges of a world torn apart by fifty years of world war, worldwide economic collapse, the spread of totalitarian regimes, the Holocaust, the nuclear age and the “Cold” War. If one studies the writings of any number of the priest-survivors of places like Dachau, you find them questioning how the Church might become a more effective witness to and in the world of the love of God and God’s Kingdom. They felt that had the church been more effective earlier in the century, some of those tragedies might have been averted. The simple fact is that the whole hope at the Council was that the Church might have a more effective impact on the world, with Pope Paul VI — at the conclusion of the Council — summarizing the whole point of the Council as being the declaration that the Church was the servant-Christ in the world.

    Rather than polarizing our efforts into “conservative” and “liberal”, perhaps we might simply rededicate ourselves to being the best “heralds of the Gospel” that we can be in and for the world today.

    May all have a blessed Holy Week,

    Deacon Bill Ditewig

  6. Addendum to Deacon Bill:

    In his last talk to the bishops of the council, Pope Paul VI said that the model of the spirituality of the council is the old story of the Good Samaritan.

    Somehow, that statement inspires me.

  7. It is accepted by scholars ( even those who are not Christian) that Jesus spoke in a clear, vernacular language that was both powerful and understood by the mostly illiterate common folk in First Century Galilee.

    He did not speak in languages that were only known by the educated classes. Or use mumbo- jumbo terminology that would confuse and attempt to impress just how smart he was compared to everyone else.

    Not a bad model to follow- even 2,000 years later

  8. To reply to Joe Post #7

    I have always believed that Jesus of Nazareth was bi-lingual and bi-cultural.

    Aramaic at home and at various places where first century Palestinian Jews met; and Greek in the wider cultural context.

    Part of that insight comes from the simple fact that Nazareth was on a hill overlooking a fairly popular caravan route. It could be compared to an “interstate-truck-stop” in XXI century America. Regardless where those camel-drivers would have come from, all of them would have spoken Kione Greek since it was the universal language of everyday multi-national commerce at that time. All of them would have had to stop by Nazareth for provisions and to water their animals. Teen age boys from the locale would have interacted with them, run errands for them, directed them to proper accommodations for them and their animals.

    Let’s also not forget that the New Testament, in several places, notes that Nazareth was located in a district called “Galilee of the Gentiles.” What that really means is “Galilee of the ‘Greek-Speakers.'”

    In the Gospel of John, some of the apostles were approached by Greeks asking to “see Jesus.” This is just another factoid which supports this bi-lingual/bi-cultural nsight.

    It is certainly clear that Jesus would NEVER have spoken Latin at all — nor would it have been likely for him to have spoken Ancient Hebrew since that was a “dead language” even at that time — restricted to the Temple rites — much like Latin was for much of the history of Roman Catholicism.

  9. Deacon Norb — According to the Nooma video “Dust,” virtually all Jewish boys of Jesus’ time would have memorized the entire Torah by the time they were 10. I think it’s unlikely that they memorized the Septuagint, given that even today, Jews use Hebrew for scripture readings in the synagogue. When the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him, I believe he’d have had to read Hebrew.

    Maybe we don’t disagree. I’m not saying that he spoke Hebrew in everyday conversation, although he probably could have orally composed some sentences in Hebrew on occasion (much as I could have composed a few sentences in Latin when I graduated from college in 1964 after studying Latin for four years in high school and two in college and following the Mass with a Latin-English missal). And you aren’t saying exactly that he didn’t know Hebrew, just that he didn’t speak it.

    So consider this a suggested clarification.

  10. So it seems to me that Joe is partially correct. Although Jesus spoke in the vernacular, he worshipped in a “dead” language.

    And our current day “church-speak” is precise and clear if you know the jargon, but it is easily misunderstood by those who aren’t familiar with it or don’t make the necessary effort to sort through the nuances.

  11. Following up on Natugesetz #9:

    “Maybe we don’t disagree.” We’ll, probably not about Jesus speaking Hebrew. To be honest, I had not considered that reading the Torah during one’s first-century-equivalent of a Bar-Mitzvah would have been done in Ancient Hebrew in the first place. I was relegating Ancient Hebrew to the ceremonies of the Temple itself and simply considered that he would have spoken Aramaic when he was asked to proclaim those texts in his neighborhood synagogue at the proper age. AND didn’t Qumran prove that there were Jewish Scriptural translations in Aramaic available in manuscript form? AND wasn’t that the reason why the Jewish scholars at Alexandria wanted to make the translation into Greek in the first place — their own children had not learned aAcient Hebrew and thus were missing those stories of their own Salvation History?

    The point you make about a ten year old memorizing the entire Torah in Hebrew makes little sense to me as a parent and grand-parent. I can, however, believe that a ten year old can memorize a lot in their own native spoken language, especially if they hear those same stories constantly.

    It does, however, remind me about how a lot of PhD candidates got their way through their language exams. Often the text of the source document was known by both the committee and candidate in advance. Then the candidate would memorize the text in translated English, look for cue words in the original source language, and then would babble forth the correct translation at the proper time. My committee gave me a text I had never seen before and I had to sight-translate it in their presence. That was a far more credible exam.

    In other words, while I can accept that the sacred scrolls at the synagogue in Nazareth were written in Ancient Hebrew, I am more apt to believe that — like the scribe Ezra did in Nehemiah Chapter 8 — the lad Jesus was asked to accurately proclaim his assigned text in his everyday spoken mother tongue of Aramaic.

    You know — I may just have to ask Jesus that question at the appropriate time.

  12. I appreciate the follow on notes from Deacon Norb and naturegesetz. I did not mean to imply that Jesus would not understand ” temple hebrew” or the greek of the traveling caravans.

    However let me be more brutally direct- I don’t pine for the pre- Vatican II church– not even a remote iota. Mr. Elliss is welcome to call me a “liberal” for thanking God that he gave us John XXIII to lead a “pilgrim people” away from defining Jews as “perfidious” or a Church that silenced Courtney-Murray and Congar or moved to a liturgy away from the 16th century latin to the vernacular language of the common folks who speak Spanish or English or Mandarin or whatever. ( Improve the translation if you must, address excesses where necessary but all this overly romantic view of the pre- VII Church being so wonderful and the Novus Ordo is the root of all evil since– sounds if you will pardon the expression Mr. Elliss — happy clappy.)

    Sometimes I wonder if in the 15th and 16th Century we had comparable people who cried for the good old days before the Counter-Reformation. ( Back in the day if you needed an indulgence, it was clear how to obtain one)

  13. “The point you make about a ten year old memorizing the entire Torah in Hebrew makes little sense to me as a parent and grand-parent. I can, however, believe that a ten year old can memorize a lot in their own native spoken language, especially if they hear those same stories constantly.”

    –one big difference between then and now–Jesus lived in a primarily oral culture. Memorizing by ear would have been typical and the way to begin learning. Learning necessarily changed when cultures became primarily reading-based.

  14. Deacon Norb — I guess there’s no way we can be absolutely sure. But in Nehemiah 8 Ezra does two different things at verse 8. First he reads the book of the law. Then he interprets it so the people can understand. I think this means he read the Hebrew text aloud and then gave a gloss in Aramaic.

    Whether all Jewish boys of first century Israel learned Hebrew to the extent Jews nowadays learn it in Hebrew school may be a matter of conjecture, but I’m confident that Jesus understood the Hebrew when he read Isaiah and told the people that the prophecy was fulfilled in their hearing.

    The Septuagint: a fair point. But that’s the diaspora, not the land of Israel.

  15. And as for Qumran, it does show that there were people who could not understand Hebrew (as Nehemiah 8 suggests), so a translation was needed (for private study?).

    My point isn’t that every adult male understood Hebrew (even if the video I referenced means that they memorized the Torah in the original). My point is that I believe that Jesus understood Hebrew well enough to read and interpret it.

  16. Jeff — refer back to my post #3.

    If you WERE alive then, and you are nostalgic about all of that scene; that I can understand fully. In fact, you can easily be an additional first hand source to many of the folks who blog here who teach Church History in various forums. At least two of them, Deacon Bill (#5) and HMS (#6), have admitted on this blog they lived that era as did I.

    If you were not alive then, be careful what you wish for. You may have already fallen into the trap that I mentioned in the middle of my earlier Post #3.

  17. Fergenholt, please reread Jeff’s post. He’s pining for the fleshpots of pre-Vatican One. If he was alive then, it makes him more than a first-hand source–he’s a first-class miracle.

    And I have to say how much I love how swiftly the combox path swerves from a historical note on contemporary attitudes toward Vatican II to a linguistic symposium on Jesus. Good thing I sprang for the optional GPS so I can keep up!

  18. “I pine for the pre Vatican I church. Those were the days.”
    Sure they were! Why, that’s just the way Our Lord intended!
    Don’t you know that during the Last Supper, Jesus rose up from reclining at table, put on a fiddle-back, faced the wall of the Upper Room, and began to chant in Latin.
    All the while telling the Apostles that this way was the only acceptable way to “do this in memory of me…”

    The days of the liturgical craziness of the ’70’s are over.
    I serve in a diocese where both the Ordinary form and Extraordinary form are celebrated. And I have found that the Novus Ordo can be just as reverent, just as holy as the Tridentine Mass if it is done properly, as it is where I am from.

  19. Yes I was talking about Vatican I, not Vatican II. Men were men back then, and women were women.

    My point really being that all of these “pre/post” analyses undermine the truth that there is only one Church. One Church which has had many councils. Some effective, some less so. Vatican II was not the Mother of All Councils.

  20. Jeff (Post #20). Ooops! My apologies. It appears that you were speaking of Vatican I. I thought it was a “typo”!

    I would love to know how you came to the conclusion that: “Men were men back then, and women were women.”

    No one I ever met actually lived through the Vatican I era but I knew a lot of folks who lived through the following generation. One, a great-uncle (older brother to my grandfather — born in 1885 I think) was one of the most racially bigoted white men I had ever met! And he would walk over a mile to attend daily mass at his local country Roman Catholic parish church!

    That era had different sins than ours!

  21. In response to the original article, I can only say the fruits of Vatican 2 speak for itself. I am a cradle Catholic, who also lived through the change of new theories and teachings. Unable to defend my faith, I bit the line of Protestant thinkers who easily reeled me in. Impressed with their knowledge and lack of mine, it would be ten years before I finally returned home.I became immersed in traditional Catholic theology realizing Catholicism, through her sacraments, devotions and Mass contained all that is needed to live in grace and holiness. I found the authentic teachings on grace, soul, sin, sacraments in Vatican 1 material clearly written with little to question on what constitutes salvation. My love for Catholicism grew as I uncovered the truth of our 2000 year old faith.

    My eyes were opened last year when our children s religious education program adapted the Catechists of the Good Shepherd, based on the Montessori method of teaching. A hominid in the timeline, which the instructor said was removed from current timelines, did little to change the theistic evolution theory found the book and weaved through the curriculum of Sofia Cavalletti and Maria Montessori.

    I can not stop reading about the men who inspired Cavalletti and Montessori s teaching, and who where contributors to the Vatican 2 council. Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner and E Schillebeeckx, as the council professes, never changed a Catholic dogma, but instead successfully emptied their meaning. Theistic evolution, new definitions of creation, redemption, parousia, rewrite of the Blessed Trinity, and demythologization of angles, demons, human soul and miracles, just begins the propaganda now printed and taught to our children.

    I am mystified to learn that Jesus no longer multiplied the loaves and fishes. A nun teaching high school religion taught my son that the people just shared the fishes and broke the bread in half. Thanks to the great theologian K. Rahner, who is revered by many and thought of as a great scholar of Vatican 2. Read Demythologization In The Theology of Karl Rahner. by Michael Barnes, University of Dayton. This child is the fruit which fell from the Vatican 2 tree. Out with the supernatural and in with the natural world, which promotes the connection between theology & natural science. Sanctifying grace, the sacraments and other traditional Catholic teaching taught over the years were devalued and redefined with the descent of the new council.

    I reflect on the ease which the last conciliar council replaced the historical, theological teaching the church fathers compiled and previous councils defended. No answer was needed to unvalidate the writings of Teilhard de Chardin. Karl Rahner or E Schillebeckx. Oath against Modernism and On the Doctrine Against Modernism, by Pope Piux X detailed the modernist ideology looking for a door to enter the Catholic Church. When reading these encyclicals, it seems they were divinely written in preparation for the onslaught of material banned and deemed heretical, soon to be repackaged as “new truths” by the Vatican 2 visionaries. I relate this story to the emperors new clothes, there are still a few of us left who see the the naked emperor, who have not accepted the “new propaganda” from the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, Rahner, and other Vatican 2 illusionists.

    So what do Catholics think about about the changes between the two councils? Many have only a vague recollection of the “Old Mass” and sacred theology and teaching of which it consisted. The Vatican 1 parishioners fill seats at Mass and participate in sacraments on a regular basis. They believe in a Divine, Christ, who imparts his Image and Likeness to his adopted sons and daughters, through the sacraments of the Church. The Beatific Vision is their desired goal for eternity. Vatican 2 placed a new thinking for the next generation

    Ecumenism has blurred the distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism. Teilhard de Chardin’s teaching permeates much of our current catechesis, unknown to many. Sofia Cavalletti and Maria Montessori place theistic evolution as the foundation of their teaching indoctrinating our youth and adults. Sanctifying grace, the supernatural, original sin is replaced with cosmic christ/ education, connecting man and matter. New Agers made Teilhard writings and theories number one on their list for supporting New Age ideology….and I have just begun. (Pope Benedict embraces Teilhards ideas.)

    So can Catholics even give an insightful answer on what they like about the changes between Vatican I vs Vatican 2. Is there much thought concerning the effects on one’s spiritually adapting the new subjective learning mode. Objective learning has become passe, how novel to now learn moral absolutes and authentic church doctrine. Many Catholic ‘s fed the new teaching accept it, being unaware of the original church teaching. The theological changes of Vat 2 led to the visual changes in the church, altar, Blessed Sacrament removed in some cases to it’s own room no longer visible at Mass, music, vestments, prayer, devotions etc.

    After reading material written by various Vatican 2 contributors, you decide the meaning of a “New Springtime in the Church”. Had I not read various material on my own, I would never believe the content of writing to become accepted and taught as a viable truth embraced by many and unchallenged by few. Material and teachings written by the new church fathers following Vatican 2 explains the mass exodus from Catholicism and the confusion and indifference which followed.

    May the Holy Spirit fill you with divine wisdom as you pursue the apostolic truths which have guided our church.

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