AT ONE WITH GOD|
"...now they are no longer two, but one flesh" Matthew 19: 6
The Keys to Rediscovering the Sanctity of Life through the Charism of Conjugal Love
by Michael and Cyndi Cain
Lesson Seventeen: Putting the "Vitae" back in "Humanae Vitae"
part five: Taggers of American Graffiti Trigger the backlash against "Humanae Vitae"
In order to fully understand why so many Catholics in America rejected Pope Paul VI's divinely inspired encyclical "Humanae Vitae" we need to realize how this mindset evolved after decades of loyalty, of determination, dedication and the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors who immigrated to these shores, bringing the Faith with them.
It all began after World War II. The hard years of the depression in the thirties had given way to war and more hardships in the forties. Now the soldiers had returned home, intent on preserving the freedoms they had fought so hard to defend and uphold. Catholic schools were being built as the post-war boom began and families mushroomed. Patriotism was at an all-time high. It was the era of Norman Rockwell, Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams had returned to the diamond, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had passed on, replaced by the no-nonsense "give-em-hell" Harry Truman. Honesty was a trademark. People were huddled around the radio listening to Arthur Godfrey or Don McNeil's "Breakfast Club." Life was simple.
The fifties dawned and with it the troubled conflict in Korea. America had become the most powerful nation after the war and felt obligated to protect South Korea from the invasion of the Communists in the North. While China shut her doors to the world with the establishment of the People's Republic of China under Mao Tse-tung and the Soviet hammer and sickle cut a wide swath across Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe, including the erection of the Berlin Wall and the 1949 life imprisonment sentence for Cardinal Josef Mindszenty in Hungary, the United States concentrated its efforts in cutting the curse off first in the Far East on the 38th Parallel; their ally - the Japanese, who, just a decade earlier had been the deadly enemy. But the atom bomb on Hiroshima had brought them to their knees and elevated the United States as the world's greatest power ever, a country to be greatly feared. Yet, America, to this day, has never conquered a country. Rather, they have ennobled vanquished nations to rebuild, have given so much to help third world countries. Many believe, because of this unilateral philanthropic gesture and the many works of corporal works of mercy extended, the United States has been protected. For the pros and cons of how the Catholic Church in America dropped the ball after Vatican II, we refer you to the excellent treatise by Joseph Varacalli, "Bright Promise, Failed Community - Catholics and the American Public Order" available by calling 1-800-462-6420.
On the homefront as suburban sprawl began to stretch cities, more churches and schools sprung up. Country parishes on the outskirts of cities swelled with new parishioners. Vocations were at an all-time high as seminaries overflowed. There was a waiting list for seminaries and the formation of young religious women. Convents were teeming with reverent, caring nuns who educated our parents, and many of the cradle Catholics of today from that generation, including both of us. There was a glowing confidence as the Church enjoyed its "Golden Age in America" capped by the proclamation of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven as Dogma on November 1, 1950.
Onto this "utopian" scene came a seemingly harmless phenomenon that would surely improve life. Oh, if we had only known! We're talking about the age of television. It started out innocently enough with Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the Lone Ranger riding to the rescue upholding the Christian ideals we all were striving for. The good guys always won, even if it only took half an hour. You knew the guy in the black hat would be wrestled off his horse, and lassoed and hauled off to the pokey, while the hero would modestly ride off into the sunset to fight for "law, justice and the American way." There were only a few networks and, for the first time, the world was brought into the home. Where previously events could only be viewed on "Movietone News" in your local theater, now the nightly news began bringing these images to life, grainy though they might be. We began to know Edward R. Murrow as more than just a war correspondent. Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Imogene Cocoa, and Lucille Ball made us laugh and another made us love, love God and love our Faith. He was Bishop Fulton J. Sheen who took this new medium and used it for a quiet, convincing evangelization tool of common sense. With just a piece of chalk and a chalkboard, this outstanding, inspired prelate and poet mesmerized millions on Sunday evenings on network TV. Today, that would be considered an aberration in this insipid politically correct society.
Though many listened and heeded the wise words of this great American bishop, many were lured by other sirens that were the omen for the rest of the century. It began in 1954, while the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was being proclaimed in Rome by Pope Pius XII, with the Senate Hearings on Communist Infiltration, chaired by Senator Joe McCarthy who turned it into a witch-hunt reaching all the way to Hollywood. It was this same industry that produced two movies that would expose the rebellious side of a new generation - "On the Waterfront" with Marlon Brando and "Rebel Without a Cause" with James Dean. In addition, mores began to break down as Madison Avenue saw the marketing opportunities available and the gullibility of the public. Fads became the rage from bermuda shorts to the yo-yo, from marbles to 3-D movies, from the Davy Crockett craze to Elvis Presley gyrating his way to fame and fortune. Polio had been conquered with Dr. Jonas Salk's life-saving vaccine. After 20 years of Democratic rule, a war hero was in the White House and the Republicans were back in power. Spending was at an all-time high as families sought their share of the opulence that was promised in ads in the magazines, on the radio and on TV. Highways and new roads were being built, entire housing developments and shopping malls rising up practically overnight. As the fabulous fifties wended their way towards a new decade Pope Pius XII, the steady, stoic Pontiff who had held sway over the Church since 1939, passed away on October 9, 1958.
Many had known only one Pope, now after 19 years, we had a new one on October 28, 1958. We had gone through three men named Pius, and one Benedict. Now, after 12 ballots, the Conclave had chosen a John - a relatively unknown, amply plump and jovial Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli from Venice, who took the name Pope John XXIII. It was three months after being elevated to the papal throne that he announced from St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls in Rome during a visit there on the Feast of the Apostle's conversion that he was proposing a Diocesan Synod for Rome, a revision of Canon Law, and an Ecumenical Council. It was the last that piqued the interest of most. The last Ecumenical Council had been held in 1870 during the reign of Pope Leo XIII. In this 20th Council, the first since the landmark Council of Trent in the 16th century, the Dogma of Papal Infallibility was defined. Interestingly, Vatican I was never officially closed. Now the new Pontiff was ushering in the 60's with a world-wide council and, for the first time, international media coverage would be invited, welcomed. The doors were being swung open, the Church had nothing to hide. It was, in a way, a refreshing change to the much more mysterious pontificate of Pius XII. 'Aggiorimento' was the watchword. Hopes were high. Maybe too high.
Here in America Catholics were euphoric. The nation had elected a Catholic president for the first time ever. It was the Age of Camelot with John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier. But it would be short-lived. A bullet would prematurely end the life of JFK in Dallas on November 22, 1963 and the world would never be the same. Three events just before the decade began had signalled this omen. First of all, Fidel Castro and his Communist guerrillas toppled the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista; then the rebellious, atheistic attitude of the beatnik philosophy began taking a firm root; and lastly, the highly popular televised quiz shows were exposed as fraud - the contestants had cheated. A nation was stunned. Their confidence and trust were eroding. Add to this the racial tension in the south, the growing danger of missile attacks from Cuba, the increased involvement in Viet Nam and the vast distrust of Kennedy's successor as president, Lyndon B. Johnson, who many felt helped plot JFK's assassination though it has never been proven. Also, in 1960 the FDA approved the first birth control pill and a new magazine challenged the moral map of America - "Playboy" - as Hugh Hefner, with $500, begins to build an empire that would contribute greatly to totally eroding moral values and sexual mores in America. The topless swimware fashions of Rudi Gernreich in 1964 only added to the prurience, as did Hollywood in trying to push the envelope of taste from the x-rated genre as "Lolita" to the opulence and condoned sexuality of "Cleopatra." Add to this that a report was released proving thalidomide caused thousands of birth defects, medical reports began to scare citizens with other things that were harmful to the body, while many totally ignored the soul. This left the door wide open for satan to march right in on the heels of all this and Betty Friedan's women's liberation code in "The Feminine Mystique." While America was recovering from the summer race riots in Watts in 1965, while militant females were burning their bras, the Second Vatican Council was coming to a close.
Everyone began to question institutions and citadels, that hitherto had been above the fray, were placed under the microscope. This included the Church. To satisfy reporters and to truly make it an "ecumenical" congress, both John XXIII and his successor Paul VI, who reconvened the council after John's death, had allowed non-Catholic observers to take part. The problem was their part was not passive, but sometimes too active and, sadly, some influenced various aspects of the Council. One way they did was to misinterpret what the Council Fathers intended and announce their misinterpretations as facts even before the Council closed. Rumors were flying around the world and settling very purposely in the US, in chanceries where dissidents were intent to change to the Church the way they wanted, not the way it actually was determined at Vatican II. The fault, as we have said before, lies squarely with the bishops of that time for not policing their chanceries, for not communicating the truths of the Council Documents more thoroughly and clearly to the pastors and their flocks. Lies were allowed to be grandfathered in and many bishops permitted it. Perhaps it was their own trust or laziness that perpetrated these fallacies, perhaps it was intentional. Whatever it was, it played right into satan's ploys and America's mentality.
Americans have always prided themselves on ingenuity, on their independent spirit - from devising tactics to ambush the staid red-coats in the Revolutionary War to establishing new frontiers from the Mississippi to the Pacific in the Old West. Their ancestors had come through hell and highwater to forge a new life in the new world from many places in the Old World. For years families would grow up in the same house, marry and stay in the home as it was passed down generation to generation in the city, solid foundations and firm family roots were established. With the suburban sprawl of the 50's and the wanderlust of the 60's, many had left hearth and home.
But there was a new spirit permeating this newer generation, one of rebellion against the tenets taught them by their parents. The parents, who had experienced so many hardships, and out of love, wanted to provide their children with all they had been deprived of, this included education as well as material things. As technology improved, generations became lazier, expecting things they wanted, not needed. This, too, played right into the evil one's hands for indeed, idleness is the devil's workshop. The work ethic of the first half of the century had given way to expecting the easy life through the most expedient means possible. This contributed to the convenience of the birth control pill over the more calculated, conscientious rhythm method of natural family planning. It contributed to the decline of moral values and ethics. Everybody was doing it, therefore, why couldn't I? The bar was lowered considerably. Rationalization reigned supreme as the great American tableau lost its color and value. Various shades of gray, and extremely dark shades were cast from the palette in abstract brushstrokes that represented a haphazard logic of confusion. Combine rationalization with relativism and we can see clearly how the taggers of American Graffiti were able to trigger the rejection of "Humanae Vitae".
Confusion had ruled the roost since the close of the Council three years before the Pope released "Humanae Vitae". The false prophets and fifth columnists of Vatican II had so manipulated minds with unreal perceptions that many were not properly prepared for the frank and firm words of Paul VI on July 25, 1968. Many were under the extremely false impression that rather than tightening restrictions, the Pope was going to grant more freedom, to give in to the left and relax sexual mores, to go along with society and compromise. How could anyone who was truly Catholic believe such an anathema? Yet, many did because they listened to men and women who they thought were representing the Catholic Church. Little did they realize these prevaricators were purposely misleading in order to project their own agenda as we indicated in our last installment. Little did they realize that, like the Jews in Christ's time, they were rejecting truth - the truth of God, and, in so doing, putting their own souls in great, great jeopardy for once contraception was accepted, then the next two steps would be much easier to ensconse into America's culture: Take God out of the schools by outlawing prayer, and make legal the "right" to murder a child in the womb. Sadly, this is exactly what has happened and, now, if we are not careful, the institution of marriage itself is greatly endangered by the acceptance of homosexuality and extra-marital sex. We have become nothing but animals succumbing to our own baser instincts. Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed for such behavior; The Greek and Roman Empires imploded because of this debauchery. Are we going to allow it to happen in America, too?
In the next lesson we will turn our attention inward, as Cyndi weighs in with a special, inspiring chapter on how we can begin to turn around the ill effects of the rejection of "Humanae Vitae" and re-embrace this wonderful, divinely inspired encyclical to bless marriages and families, and to change hearts in order to restore fully the Sanctity of Life.
NEXT WEEK: Lesson Eighteen: Restoring the Values of "Humanae Vitae"
For previous Lessons in this Series, see At One With God
February 17, 2001
volume 12, no. 48
AT ONE WITH GOD - Special Series on Conjugal Love in attaining Oneness with God