Thursday, April 25, 2019



When the various ‘right’s movements unfolded in the sixties, confusion, wounds, anger began to take root and spread.

We see the ongoing damage, flowing from the unintended consequences of sixties international ethical disorders, and the displacement of millions of people, this Good Friday, as Pope Francis led the Stations of the Cross in Rome, using meditations written by Sister Eugenia Bonetti, a Consolata sister who works with suffering women and girls on the streets of Rome:  What a thirst for vengeance we see all around us! Our societies today have lost the great value of forgiveness, a gift second to none, a cure for wounds, the basis of peace and human coexistence. In a society where forgiveness is seen as weakness, you, Lord, ask us not to stop at appearances…… For you knew very well that true justice can never be based on hatred and revenge. Make us capable of asking for and granting forgiveness. [1] There is an echo in the words of St. John xxiii convoking the Second Vatican Council: Today the Church is witnessing a crisis underway within society.[2]

Isaiah prophesied of Jesus: So He shall startle many nations….[Is.52:15], this is also the mission of the Church, of every Christian, for in Baptism we become participants in the prophetic mission of Christ.

If people are not startled by the Church, by Christians, then we must confess we have allowed ourselves to be compromised by the world, repent and begin again!

In 1961, St. John xxiii, wrote an apostolic letter on the Holy Rosary, "Il religioso convegno" appealing for the recitation of the Rosary for peace among the Nations. The Pontiff notes:…. the general feeling of acute anxiety about the problem of peace…….reminding us that all peoples, even those who are not Christian, are praying for peace. [3]

In 1961 the peoples of earth had good reason to be anxious: atomic weapons were still being tested, as were ever longer-range missiles; revolutions, civil wars were raging in Africa, Latin America, Asia; the Freedom Riders were being attacked in those early days of the Civil Rights movement, onto which a plethora of emerging ‘rights’ groups were starting to hitch their wagons; Kennedy would cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba, be suckered by the CIA into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, whose repercussions, within a year, would bring the world to the brink of nuclear war; on Broadway a play would be presented called: Big Fish, Little Fish, in which play the matter of male homosexuality was explored for the first time in such an open, albeit theatrical, setting; society in general was changing rapidly in ways, at the time, few understood the implications of.

There was a lot of work going on to prepare for the Second Vatican Council in 1961!

Some great events in salvation history seem to unfold without anyone not involved noticing, even when that event is a gift for the whole Church, a whole nation, the world community.

As an example, in 1961, Catholicism, which had been rooted in Norway since the 11th century and virtually disappeared when Norway was ruled during the years of the Reformation, by Lutheran Sweden, saw the ordination of the first Norwegian Catholic priest in 500 years, and subsequently the first Norwegian bishop.

The post-war Church, by this time showing signs of the precipitous decline to come, in North America and Europe to the greatest extent, nonetheless the trend was, and continues to be in Africa and Asia, the polar-opposite.

1961 was not a year of blatant clues to the future, indeed the year in the sixties when things would really explode was still some seven years away, but the seeds of the turbulence, the gathering of the waves of the tsunami were approaching.

The zeitgeist of the sixties is rooted in the so-called ‘beatnik’ era of the late 1940’s, 50’s into the 60’s.

It is extremely rare for a new era’s zeitgeist to originate amongst the rural population. Good and bright as they are, the demands of rural life rarely afford the luxury of disputatious exploration afforded urbanites, not all of whom are necessarily university graduates or well off financially, but do live in an environment where the cunning can find the needed food, shelter, a variety of stimulants to ‘enhance’ their so-called intellectual – often pseudo-intellectual – explorations. These tended, in the fifties and sixties, and even in our own day, to lead deeply into sexual, gender, ‘spiritual’, etc. confusion and increased pressure on governments, frequently of the left, to legalize these confusions, not unlike the chaos in the world of St. Augustine’s time, who stresses that: He who becomes the protector of sin shall surely become its prisoner.

A salutary warning not just for government leaders of all stripes, but for clergy and Christians in general who compromise with the world.

The so-called ‘hippie’ generation of the sixties would take the dangerous explorations of the ‘beatnik’ generation to new depths of darkness through the use of psychedelic drugs, almost de rigour in the early days of sexual, ‘spiritual’, political adventurism, until those and other axial shifts became embedded and we continue to live in the expansion of the culture of death and darkness rooted therein.

True some of the shifts, such as deeper equality between men and women, resistance to oppression of minorities, beginning with the civil rights movement, the struggle to de-conflict the human family, have within them a dimension of good not contradictory to the Gospel.

However, as parents for generations have told overly adventurous children, it seems we adults have forgotten the adage of knowing when to ‘leave well enough alone!”

In May 1961, St. John xxiii would release his social encyclical MATER ET MAGISTRA/Mother and Teacher, a document which focuses on Christianity and Social Progress, but which contains
within prophetic insights into what was coming.

The Holy Pontiff begins with: Mother and Teacher of all nations—such is the Catholic Church in the mind of her Founder, Jesus Christ; to hold the world in an embrace of love….. She is "the pillar and ground of the truth."  though the Church's first care must be for souls, how she can sanctify them and make them share in the gifts of heaven, she concerns herself too with the exigencies of man's daily life, with his livelihood and education, and his general, temporal welfare and prosperity.

Pope John references Pius xi, who taught:….. what the supreme criterion in economic matters ought not to be. It must not be the special interests of individuals or groups, nor unregulated competition, economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort. …..On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity.

Pope John is also prophetic about what is unfolding in the sixties and still governments interfere: …..Certainly one of the principal characteristics which seem to be typical of our age is an increase in social relationships ….This development in the social life of man is at once a symptom and a cause of the growing intervention of the State, even in matters which are of intimate concern to the individual, hence of great importance and not devoid of risk.

One of the trends surfacing on the threshold of, expanding through the sixties, echoing still in our day, was the siren song of the alleged danger of ‘over population’, which the Holy Father noted: …..there are those who hold the opinion that, in order to prevent a serious crisis from developing, the conception and birth of children should be secretly avoided, or, in any event, curbed in some way. ……Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact. From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God. Those who violate His laws not only offend the divine majesty and degrade themselves and humanity, they also sap the vitality of the political community of which they are members.  ….We must reaffirm most strongly that this Catholic social doctrine is an integral part of the Christian conception of life.

With the contraceptive/abortion/homosexuality mentality [infecund by its very reality], poisoning more and more the lives of men and women throughout the sixties and beyond, it would fall to his successors, Paul vi, and John Paul ii, to take defense of the sacredness of human life: of pre-born children, the sacredness of sacramental marriage, into the heart of the battle St. John xxiii saw unfolding.

Towards the conclusion of this critical social encyclical, prophetic at its core, the Holy Father shines a light on the challenge of those times, a challenge still facing the Church, all Christians: The Church today is faced with an immense task: to humanize and to Christianize this modern civilization of ours. The continued development of this civilization, indeed its very survival, demand and insist that the Church do her part in the world. …. She is the Mother and Teacher of all nations. Her light illumines, enkindles and enflames…. She is ever powerful to offer suitable, effective remedies for the increasing needs of men, and the sorrows and anxieties of this present life.  [4]

1961 was also a year when many clues to what lay ahead were missed, likely because their full impact would not emerge until either the end of the decade or until the unfolding of the last thirty years of the 20th century and throughout the first decades of the 21st. A few examples: Margaret Mead became a darling of those in the sixties engaged in the sexual revolution, in particular because of her debateable conclusions about the sexual mores of Samoan teenagers; Carol Rogers, pushing a personalist approach to psychotherapy would be embraced by American Women’s Religious orders, with devastating results, as their example of rebellion would spread throughout the Church, including the disrespectful challenging of St. John Paul on his pastoral visit to the United States [5]; in December the United Sates would officially commit itself to the Vietnam war.

At times all of us are tempted to leave our vocations…..Remember the story which I tell you about our Bishop Founder, Archbishop Neil McNeil of Toronto, who, when I told him that I wanted to leave….bade me get a crucifix off the wall. When I did so, he told me to look at the other side; then he asked me for whom did I think it was reserved. I reluctantly answered: “For God’s friends.” He quietly went on saying: “Child, do you want to abandon the Cross, and leave God alone there? Do you truly expect Him to be happy about that? He who is so lonely? So few want to share His place with Him.”  [6]

 © 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph

[1] From the 7th Station Meditation:

[2] Apostolic Constitution, Humanae salutis:

[3] p. 357; Journal of A Soul; Image Books 1980


Cf. paras.: 1, 3, 37, 39, 59, 60, 187, 194, 222, 256, 262


[6] Dearly Beloved, Volume One, by Catherine de Hueck Doherty, pp. 215,216; Madonna House Publications, 1998

NB: A good resource is: E. Michael Jones’ study: Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehaviour. Ignatius Press 1993

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