Crisis Magazine recently featured an article by Stephen M. Krason entitled, “1965: The Dawn of Our Current Age.” The piece is actually a review of a book penned by James Patterson called, The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America. (How’s that for a pick-you-up title?) The article addresses the “How did we get to this point?” theme that was discussed in the “Catholic Recovery” post of a week ago. Krason delves into the political and cultural currents of the time, from the rise of feminism, to LBJ’s welfare-on-steroids-policy known as The Great Society, to the Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to contraceptives on demand. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best year for advocates of the traditional family life. It’s as though everything that could have gone south did. Sadly, the Catholic Church was not spared from being hit by these currents. As Krason points out,
Vatican II concluded in 1965. As far as the Church in the U.S. was concerned, that meant that right after that the much-discussed misinterpretation of what the Council meant and the misapplication and even twisting of its decrees was to begin. It also meant that the secularization of a significant part of the American Catholic community—getting us to the ‘I’m Catholic, but I can believe what I want’ mentality—began.
As Allan Carlson writes, 1965 was also the last year of rising fertility among American Catholics. In the years immediately following, Catholic fertility plummeted, especially among the better educated, and was no longer even related to frequency of Mass attendance. The anti-natalist and contraceptive ethic became implanted among Catholics and, of course, widespread dissent followed from Humanae Vitae three years later.
For those seeking to make sense of the current state of affairs, Krason’s article and Patterson’s book are good places to start.