Daily Archives: February 18, 2008

A "Footloose Footnote"; or "A Step Out of TIME"?

In my postings from the TIME magazine article “Catholic Freedom vs Heirarchy” (Nov 22, 1968), I inadvertantly omitted the following footnote. There are some things that just have to be read to be believed, and then there are others that are even unbelievable when you read them. This is one of the latter.

The prestige of the papacy reached its peak during the lengthy reign of the learned, ascetic Pius XII, who issued the only ex cathedra statement of the century that was clearly labeled infallible: his 1950 decree that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven after her death.*

* Although it is still an article of faith, the dogma has little bearing on the lives of Catholics; many theologians take for granted that it will wither away, especially since it remains a strong barrier to ecumenism.

Of all the predictions in this astounding article, this one perhaps takes the cake for being the most wide of the mark.


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The following is also from the November 22nd 1968 edition of TIME magazine, where it was included as an insert in the article “Catholic Freedom vs Heirarchy

FRED N., 35, is a regional sales representative in California. He was educated at Roman Catholic schools from first grade through college. He and his wife Cathy, 31, are regular worshipers at their parish church; their three daughters attend its parochial school; one young son is still at horne. Convinced that they cannot afford to have more children, Fred and Cathy for the past few years have practiced birth control. Otherwise, they are loyal Catholics and typical in their disaffection from what they feel are the church’s outdated ways, in their hopes for further renewal.

“At one time,” Fred told TIME’S Mayo Mohs, “it was enough that I memorized my catechism lessons so I could go home on time. I engaged in no serious questioning of the system until my junior year of college. It would be peaceful to go back to the time when I accepted all the planned out answers. But I, like hundreds of thousands of Catholics, can never go back. That is why there is a crisis in the church today. I wonder how long the Catholic church that I have known will survive. When this generation of hierarchy passes away (old cardinals don’t really live forever, they just seem to), it will have to be replaced by a group of men who can sell their ideas. If the bark of Peter is to be a living vessel rather than a historical oddity, direction from the top .must give way to a ‘reasoning together.’

“I suppose that I haven’t dropped out of the church because of two main facts: first, after hearing so many people say the same thing so many times, I can’t quite shake the feeling that they just might be right. No one has ever proved it, but maybe there is a fire on the other side. I feel that I’ve got to keep up the premiums, just in case. Second, I still feel that the church has a tremendous capacity to do good, if it can only orient itself to this era of history. It could be a positive factor in mankind’s quest for survival. That’s why I’m a little more patient with what seems at times to be a 13th century operation.

“I’m sorry that the church isn’t in the 20th century, but then, who knows precisely what to do with the 20th century anyway? We live in a time when men may be standing on the surface of the moon and other men may be transplanting human brains. You’ve got to look for equilibrium somewhere. The Catholic church could stand a million improvements, and it’s going to have to have them, but it is better than the great foggy unknown.”

“My parents,” says Cathy, “were loyal immigrant Irish-Americans, completely subject to the Pope and to all of his edicts. I am not; as long as the Pope is unable to relate his teaching to the needs of all the people, I consider him fallible. Papal infallibility will never be restored until all Christians are returned to the subservient classes or until the Pope advances to a sympathy for the ‘real Christian.’ I am not convinced that Christ would ever condemn anyone who practiced contraception to save his family from disaster–disaster can come in many forms–or to save his fellow man from the problems of overpopulation.

“As for fears, I am fearful! I fear the loss of grace (which I do believe in), not because I use birth control but because the church denies me the grace-giving sacraments. I miss Communion most of all, and I cry when my daughters receive the sacrament. Why do I not receive Communion? I suppose it’s because I cannot fully tear myself from the early years of teaching. I don’t feel that I am wrong, but where will I find absolution if my own church says I am wrong?

“For better or worse–perhaps worse–just now I believe in the Catholic church. I really do believe that Jesus founded this church, and I really do not want my children to grow up in any other. After all, if we can somehow come to the true teachings of Jesus, we’ll find more than Camelot we’ll find heaven. The teachings of Holy Mother Church may be the only force that can keep our children from the evils that surround them today. That, to a mother, can be the greatest force on earth.”


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For the Last TIME: Saintly Reformers or Angry Heresiarchs?

I have one more installment of the TIME magazine article from November 22, 1968 (“Catholic Freedom vs Heirarchy”; see here for Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four) to post which will consist of an “insert” box article called “The Anguish of Two Dissenters”, but in the mean time I have discovered that I left off the closing paragraph of the article in the last post. Here is how the article ends.

Nothing for Everything. Serious questions are raised by the Protestant-like diversity suggested for the church by some reformers. A certain monolithic uniformity in ritual and belief has been the unique glory of Catholicism–at times, even, its salvation as a definable entity. Even Protestants dissatisfied with what often seems to be the spiritless confusion of their own churches would contend that Catholicism should profit by the Reformation but not use it as an example. For better or worse, millions of Catholics like the church the way it is. They want to be told what to believe and how to act. And they share the suspicion of Cardinal O’Boyle, who told a group of his priests recently: “You new people, you want to tear down everything and put nothing in its place.”

Whether the “new people” turn out to be saintly reformers whom future Catholicism will revere or angry heresiarchs who will leave the fold in discouragement and dismay depends in large measure on the skill and sensitivity of Pope Paul. An accomplished ecclesiastical diplomat, he has successfully weathered one potential crisis by bringing Vatican II to a peaceful conclusion after the death of John XXIII. Some Catholic voices calling for reform he may rightly ignore as imprudent or irresponsible. Others he would probably do well to heed. If not, the “silent schism” of Catholicism may turn out to be very much noisier than it already is.

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