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The second Vatican Council: a memoir.

A Council Is Announced: 1959

Several of us were in a crowded bus returning across the city from the church of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls to our residential college on the Janiculum Hill. We wore the traditional garb of Roman clerics--large soup-plate beaver hats and black cassocks with colorful trimmings that identified us as students attending the North American College, a training seminary in Rome for future Catholic priests.

That day my question to my classmates in the bus was why the man who had been elected as Pope John XXIII only three months before had just announced he was convening an Ecumenical Council, one of the rarest meetings held throughout Christian church history. Especially, I wondered, "since there aren't any new heresies or problems that have sprung up recently." Things to me seemed pretty theologically quiet and unchallenged, and the Catholic Church, particularly in the United States, seemed a flourishing organization.

Others also wondered why. The man who would become Pope Paul VI five years later believed that John was stirring up a hornet's nest. Another cardinal labeled John's action "rash and impulsive." (1) I had no idea how all of this would impact my life or the lives of other Catholics throughout the world. I could not understand what it might accomplish. I did sense that it might add excitement to my remaining years in Rome.

Four Years in Rome: 1957-61

In high school I had fantasized about studying in Europe, though not in a Roman seminary. Paris was my imagined residence. My freshman year at Penn State University (State College, Pennsylvania) was marked by lively discussions about religion with my High Episcopalian roommate. I decided to become a priest and the next year enrolled in a special program that condensed four years of high school Latin and two of Greek into one year so I could understand the languages I would need to pursue this vocation. Following graduation in 1957 from St. Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, I received a call from my bishop: Would I like to study theology in Rome? It would mean four years in Italy (no return to the U.S.). They needed my decision the next day.

Along with some 300 others I lived in Rome at the North American College and attended classes at the Jesuit Gregorian University, where we joined students from dozens of other residential colleges representing monastic orders and students from dioceses in most of the countries in the non-Communist world. Most classes were taught in semicircular auditoriums seating more than 500 students. Lectures and oral exams were in Latin. Summers allowed four weeks of travel throughout Western Europe. The remaining weeks were spent at a villa in Castel Gondolfo, down the slope from the papal summer residence. During the academic year, in addition to morning classes, we had mandatory afternoon walks in the city three times a week. Generally, we visited churches, archeological sites, museums, and sometimes concerts. The occasional Laurel and Hardy films (in Italian) compensated a bit for missing the off-limits movie theaters and opera that were forbidden as "spectacles" and were considered too secular or anti-clerical for aspiring priests. I recall no radios or television, although newspapers were acceptable, except for L 'Unita, the Communist daily. With my great interest in archeology, the Roman city and the surrounding campagna offered unsurpassed opportunities.

One story that captures the "old" pre-Vatican II church and my interactions with it occurred when I was taking my first course in Canon Law and encountered the Index of Forbidden Books. I discovered that having a forbidden book meant excommunication. Interested in psychology, I was at the time reading Sigmund Freud. I took his Moses and Monotheism to the church of St. Peter in Chains where Michelangelo's magnificent marble statue of Moses rests in a quiet corner. Freud had also gone there to reflect as he wrote his intriguing study on religion. That was one of the many things I loved about Rome. It was filled with opportunities to come in contact with all kinds of historical persons whose presence was vividly preserved in art or architecture or music or spaces. But, now I had learned that if I kept my slender monograph, I was damned! My confessor seemed nonplused and suggested that I simply discard and forget about such books. Destroying those engaging pages was indeed troubling, but not as much as eternal damnation.

Rome is constantly filled with rumors and conspiracy theories. Living near the Vatican, we had our share of what were later to be called "Vatileaks," revealing the machinations of factions involved in the upcoming council. The curial cardinals and their powerful staffs were reported to be working to delay the opening, hoping to solidify their control before hundreds of unknown bishops would arrive and begin deliberations. The word in the loggias was that, every time the curia tried to delay, John would move the opening up a few months. In his opening address to the council John labeled such obstructionist officials "prophets of doom."

Finally, I was ordained a priest, completed my studies, and returned to the U.S. John F. Kennedy was president, John XXIII was still pope, and the council would open on October 11, 1962. At 27, I loved the Roman experience but was glad to be home.

Return to the United States: 1962

The council had not yet begun, and I became engaged in the usual priestly parish activities: preparing sermons, teaching and organizing youth, trying to rebuild a neighborhood destroyed by redevelopment, and organizing parish social events. I also began attending classes and meeting with other priests to study and discuss the exciting developments taking place in the Church in the early 1960's. The visionary pope in Rome and president in Washington offered great hopes for a more just, open, and peaceful world. I felt a part of it all.

My first assignment was to a parish in downtown Pittsburgh located in a neighborhood that resembled a bombed World War II city. This was the result of Mayor David L. Lawrence's massive redevelopment that somehow got stalled, resulting in a bleak landscape of leveled structures extending over a large area. A few brick buildings made up the parish plant, which included a towering church seating over 1,000. Nearby, crowded row houses remained. Up on the "bluff' overlooking the Monongahela River stood Duquesne University, a Catholic institution.

One of the holdovers from the days when this downtown area consisted of Italian, Lebanese, and Irish neighborhoods was a weekly Sunday mass at 2:00 a.m. Originally, it served the men who worked until early Sunday mornings to put two Sunday newspapers to bed. Those plants were no longer operating, but the masses remained, popular with young bar-hopping adults who attended before going home. All masses were entirely in Latin, and during the week they usually consisted of Masses for the Dead paid for by family members. Day after day, the De Profundis (2) was intoned by a hoarse-voiced woman organist who acted as "choir" for the constant stream of requiem masses "sung" by priests clad in black vestments. Any sense of a liturgical year was buried beneath the need to pray for the dead. Oddly, I still appreciate the medieval chant melody and haunting Latin words of Psalm 129.

My first encounter with a total nonbeliever occurred on a visit to the home of an elderly Italian man in one of the remaining row houses. I was called by relatives to hear his confession and prepare him for death. He laughed at my offer, told me he did not believe in God or the Catholic Church, and seemed to enjoy watching the discomfort of a young idealistic priest. I never forgot his indifference to dying outside the Catholic Church. From my viewpoint, it meant he was almost certainly facing an eternity such as Dante describes in his Inferno.

Facing the World of Interpersonal Reality

Once I began working with people, I realized that all my schooling--my undergraduate bachelor's degree in scholastic philosophy, and four years of theology--did not prepare me for some of the most troubling interpersonal issues I was facing. The downtown parish provided services to the Allegheny County Jail. This meant that four of us rotated duties, each providing services for a week, which included Sunday mass, along with confessions and other spiritual services requested by prisoners or administrators. One day I got a call to come to the jail to provide last rites for a prisoner who had hanged himself. I had been trying to help him, but his problems were far more that I was trained for. It was a shock to me.

There were other personal issues that I encountered in daily confessions. Those confessing could expect total anonymity and freely spoke of marriages dissolving, infidelity, addiction, incest, child sexual abuse, stealing--on it went through the seven capital sins and beyond. It was not a theological problem if the person was repentant and did not intend to repeat the offense. The Church had trained us how to respond to "sins," but, when the actions indicated serious personality disorders, involved crimes against others, or needed restitution, rehabilitation, or healing, I had few guidelines for what I was facing. I was expected to find a solution during five or ten minutes of anonymous interaction in the confessional. Clearly, I needed much more training in psychology, social work, and even criminal law. So, along with some priest friends, I began taking counseling classes in psychology at Duquesne. Studying almost everything in Latin was little help in articulating a sermon, so I also enrolled in speech classes.

One of my early assignments was to serve as a recorder in the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, which I feared was an indication that that they would soon send me to study Canon Law (which I despised) rather than support my interests in psychology or biblical studies. The assignment required transcribing the hearings of Church court testimony from witnesses and persons requesting annulment of a marriage. Divorce was forbidden, and this was the Church's ill-conceived way to work around moral teaching related to the sacrament of marriage. I found the process appalling. Celibate clergy were probing into the intimacies of married persons, trying to make a legalistic case that the marriage had never existed since it was legally flawed or never fully consummated; therefore, it could be annulled. I soon found excuses for not participating in what I considered a hypocritical process that had become a personal ordeal.

A New Assignment: 1963-64

Within a year I was reassigned to a parish that consisted mostly of second- and third-generation Italian families. It was in a small town along the Ohio River at the edge of the Pittsburgh city limits. The pastor was one of the most generous people I have ever known--and the laziest. His needs fed into mine, and I pretty much took over all the activities in the parish except the financial. I ran the extensive religious education program and the men's, women's, and youth organizations, and I began classes for persons converting to Catholicism. Moved by the openness emanating from the council, I joined an ecumenical group of clergy, wrote a column in the local weekly paper explaining the council, and joined in civil-rights activities advocating greater racial understanding. I stopped saying requiem masses for the dead in favor of following the liturgical cycle. Then, I began to read the Epistle and Gospel aloud in English at weekday Masses--after first reciting them, as required, in Latin.

On my one day a week off, I signed up for classes at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian institution with an excellent faculty. Niebuhr's theology and ethics, John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, modern biblical criticism, biblical archeology, Hebrew Bible and Second Testament studies, and Hebrew language were some of the courses I attended.

A summer institute for priests was operating in Chicago. Between 1962 and 1966 I used vacation weeks and personal money to enroll. It brought me into contact with some of the best Catholic biblical and theological scholars (including Gregory Baum, on the editorial board of this Journal). An added attraction was meeting men who were actively following the leads of the council and progressive social and theological thought in both Catholic and non-Catholic circles. Those weeks invigorated my work.

Pope John died in June of 1963. Paul VI, his successor, was less than pleased with many of the directions of the council and attempted to constrict its freedom and openness. (3) However, the spirit that John had initiated, along with the ideas filtering down from the discussions in Rome, had its impact on me. My pastor looked on quietly, albeit with concern regarding my growing involvement in the civil-rights movement. Reaction to a talk I gave to the local Knights of Columbus urging racial integration was, I think, why I was reassigned to a suburban parish north of Pittsburgh. There was no explanation or consultation about this decision. I was devastated. Until that happened, I had felt welcome and fully at home in my assignment.

Final Assignment in Pittsburgh: 1964-68

The new setting was entirely different from the previous two. It was a large parish with a majority of college-educated adults, many successful businesspersons, upper-level managers of large Pittsburgh companies, and an elderly pastor who was kind but still constrained by his rigid theological training from the 1930's. He allowed me freedom to do much of what I wanted to do. I recall our first evening meal together. I had been to a civil-rights march in downtown Pittsburgh that day, and now realized that he, his dog, and I were to watch the evening local news as we ate dinner together. I had carried a poster with a powerful and emotional image in the march and knew the television station had filmed it. Since the pastor and I had just met, I really wanted a bit of space so we could get to know one another before he saw a rather vivid and alarming image with no other background introduction. When the part of the news footage came on the screen, where I knew I would be featured, I pointed to the wall behind the pastor and asked something about a nondescript picture that hung there. He looked puzzled, but turned to see what I was talking about, and I and my civil-rights poster escaped his notice in that evening's news. Our views did conflict, however, as when he forbade me to engage an eighth-grade girl to read the Gospel or Epistle at the weekday mass attended by students enrolled in the parish school (a boy as reader presented no problem).

Vatican II was taking on a real life in the sometimes contentious debates in Rome--but not much in Pittsburgh. By the time it ended in 1965, the council had approved four major documents titled "Constitutions." These addressed the Church's understanding of itself, the Bible, the Liturgy, and the Church in the modern world, all important areas in Catholic identity and theology. An additional twelve policy papers included topics such as ecumenism and its relationship to other religious communities. (4) This was breaking new ground for official Catholic thinking. Other than reports in the media, I saw little leadership and very few parishes taking steps to help parishioners understand what was emerging from the discussions and decisions taking place in the council. (5)

Some dramatic changes were occurring. Latin disappeared entirely from the liturgy. The altars were turned from the wall where they had been since medieval times. Now, the priest faced the people, as was done in the earliest Roman churches, and used a language they could understand. The ritual returned to a more ancient form with a shared interaction around a communion table rather than conducted at a mysterious altar of sacrifice designed in early medieval times to reflect the values of that era. This was important, but from my perspective we also needed to help people accept the deeper understanding and "aggiornamento" (updating) of the entire theological and moral structure of Catholic beliefs that the council was addressing. I did not see this being done by diocesan leaders or most local parishes.

So, I initiated several series of lectures, organized book clubs among parishioners, began classes that addressed what was happening with modern biblical scholarship, and wrote articles for both liberal (Commonweal) and conservative (The Priest) Catholic publications. These were not always well received. The bishop was furious that I had written critically in a national publication for priests about the expensive vehicles bishops were using, as well as that I had given a talk on "Why Priests Are Leaving" as part of a lecture series being held at one of the largest and wealthiest parishes in the diocese.

A "New Church" series of lectures addressed social and cultural issues within the framework of what had taken place in Rome--and perhaps pushing a bit forward in some areas. Topics included psychoanalysis and belief, Christianity and existentialism (which conservative cardinals wanted to have condemned at the council), art, poetry, and aggiornamento. Arlene Swidler discussed "Modern Women and the Church"; John Deedy, editor of the Pittsburgh Catholic, presented "A Layman's View of the Council"; and Gordon Zahn, a nationally known peace activist spoke regarding Catholic ideas on a "just war," a hotly debated topic at the final session of the council.

Another series, "A Dialogue between Science and Faith," reached out to include programs in surrounding parishes where nothing was being done to help parishioners understand what was taking place at the council. One program was a presentation on sex education by a Catholic child psychiatrist from the University of Pittsburgh. The host pastor was aghast that I agreed with the speaker who said masturbation for adolescents was normal and should not continue to be considered a mortal sin that would condemn the perpetrator to hell unless confessed and absolved. Other series introduced Protestant and Jewish theology and ethics to an interested, mostly Catholic audience. Vatican II was brought to the Pittsburgh Diocese, and then the backlash began. (6)

Journal of Ecumenical Studies: 1964-

I met Leonard Swidler during my first assignment, when he was teaching history at Duquesne. He, his wife Arlene, and Elwyn Smith, a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, were preparing to publish a peer-reviewed journal devoted to ecumenical dialogue. Within a few years they were invited to bring the Journal of Ecumenical Studies to Temple University and join its rapidly expanding Department of Religion.

Ecumenism was one area that surprisingly did not greatly trouble Americans as much as it did those in some traditionally Catholic countries. John Wright, bishop of Pittsburgh, invited groups and theologians to the diocese who were in the forefront of interfaith dialogue. The new journal echoed this initiative. Its contributors provided energy to a local scene that was rapidly breaking down the walls of distrust between Catholics and Protestants that had begun with the Reformation--and the even more ancient tragic-laden relationship between Christians and Jews. The interfaith animosity of centuries seemed to end in a whimper in the mid-1960's when Protestants, Jews, and observers and theologians from other religions were invited to attend the council and were seated in places of honor opposite the cardinals.

In Pittsburgh, a few priests, ministers, and rabbis began to meet to discuss differences and search for ways to bridge ideological differences. When he announced the council, John XXIII had included the promotion of Christian unity as a major goal. The progress in mutual respect during and following the council was astounding, especially given the history of relationships among the religious groups.

New Developments in Catholic Morality and Sexual Ethics

By 1965, a topic of wide discussion among Catholics was the oral contraceptive known as "the pill." It had become widely accepted in America as an efficient method of birth control, and the Catholic laity expected it would shortly be declared acceptable by the Church. John Rock, a respected Catholic physician and author who worked on its development, argued persuasively that it accommodated Church concerns about "unnatural" sexuality in marriage, since it merely regulated the natural "rhythm" in the female fertility cycle. But, when the issue emerged at the council, Paul VI arbitrarily removed it from the agenda, reserving the decision to himself. In 1963, John had appointed a commission consisting of physicians, scientists, and theologians, both laity and clergy, to study the matter and make recommendations. Just as it was to submit its recommendations, Paul added fifteen cardinals and bishops to the commission. Still, it was expected it would find that the pill was acceptable within the principles of Catholic morality. Paul received, but declined to release, the commission's recommendations. Instead, he issued an encyclical restating that only a natural "rhythm" method was morally permissible "and in harmony with human reason." (7)

This decision, just a few years after the council's conclusion, created a crisis of credibility and was a major blow to Catholic teaching in sexual ethics. It caused further questioning of Church teachings in other areas as well. If one expected infallible teaching on faith and morals, this decision by celibate clergy in the Vatican did not inspire confidence. In addition, it undermined major council recommendations to engage in dialogue and act collegially. Many consider this a watershed event in the postconciliar era. Ultimately, the price for ignoring council recommendations was punishingly high.

Restless Priests

In the mid-1960's a group of Pittsburgh priests began meeting, seeking a strategy to bring diocesan officials and other clergy to a greater awareness of the promise and potential of the council that had ended in 1965. From these meetings came the formation of "The Association of Pittsburgh Priests." The existing official Council of Priests was appointed and controlled by the bishop. In our view it was similar to a "politburo" that rubber-stamped the bishop's decisions. We envisioned, instead, an independent organization serving as a voice of local priests for social justice, church reforms, and public discussion of issues that we believed were not being addressed by diocesan officials. Such a group had formed in Chicago, and we were in contact with them to learn from their experiences. Western Pennsylvania had a history of local organizing and a strong union tradition. A "union" of priests was considered, but it did not seem appropriate for our objectives.

When we decided to go public, the problem we faced was how to enlist others and overcome the anxieties of clerical professionals, born and bred into thinking that the Church was hierarchical, from God to pope to bishop to clergy to laity. "Pay, pray, and obey" was the mantra that governed the laity. The last two elements of the mantra were for the lower clergy. For many bishops, any challenge to this was still tantamount to heresy. Pope Pius X had forbidden priests to meet together except with the bishop's permission. That admonition still held disciples. Where could we meet to introduce our plan to other priests, knowing that someone would immediately report back to the chancery? The church where I was stationed had a large hall. I volunteered to arrange with my pastor for its use. He thought the idea of gathering priests was a great idea until the next day when he began to receive phone calls from the bishop and others. By then the genie was out of the bottle.

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests exists today and includes lay men and women as members, "who act on their baptismal call to be priests and prophets." It advocates for social justice and church renewal, including married clergy and women priests. No priests ordained after 1970, however, are currently members. (8)

Bishops of Pittsburgh

During the years surrounding the council I had interactions with two Pittsburgh bishops, both of whom eventually became cardinals. John Dearden (bishop, 1950-58)--Signified, taciturn, cold, and aloof--led the Pittsburgh Diocese when I was sent to Rome. His well-known nickname, "Iron John," was a fit description for him as well as the industrial city where he served as bishop. When Dearden was reassigned to become bishop of Detroit, he was replaced by John Wright (bishop, 1959-69), a man who had a reputation as a scholar and liberal thinker. I was delighted with the change, and, when he met with us in Rome soon after his appointment, he confirmed that assessment.

One of the ironies of the time was that Dearden returned from Rome after Vatican II to Detroit as a changed man. He had grown to appreciate the collegial spirit he experienced in the council, and he worked to implement that style in his diocese. Later, when he tried to extend that spirit across the U.S. as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he had less success. Wright, however, turned the other way. He was no longer the progressive man he once had seemed to be. He delayed implementing many of the council reforms for as long and as much as possible. It was to this type of intransigence that many of us were reacting. Perhaps he sensed that the winds of power at the top had shifted. Following the council, he returned to Rome to head one of the important curial posts in the Vatican: Prefect for the Sacred Congregation of the Clergy. There was little hope that reforms suggested by the Council for the clergy would ever be implemented.

Wright's replacement, Vincent Leonard (bishop, 1969-83), had no compunction about failing to implement council reforms. A long-delayed and carefully choreographed diocesan synod planned by Wright was finally opened under his successor. Leonard let it be known that he did not intend to implement any changes, even as he promulgated the pre-arranged synod in a dramatic ceremony staged in Saint Paul's Cathedral. There would be no commissions to implement any reforms or write any new legislation. One historian wrote that "Bishop Leonard's determination to downplay the synod effectively stifled the opportunity for significant structural reforms in the diocese for the next three decades, and may have cost the diocese its opportunity to regenerate the Church in Pittsburgh." (9)

A Move East to Temple: 1968

By the time the Priest's Association became fully operational, and prior to the synod, I had moved in another direction. I could not see myself remaining in a Church that I experienced as a suffocating organization, whose stated ideals were being undermined at every turn. Several priest friends had already left the diocese. One close friend enrolled at Temple University in Philadelphia to begin graduate work in the exciting new Department of Religion at that state-related school. By the Fall of 1967, I decided I would do the same.

I met with the bishop and told him my plans. During one of the conversations I also informed him that I no longer considered myself a believing Catholic and that I seriously doubted the existence of God. Yet, I was still a priest--saying mass, preaching, and administering sacraments. I struggled with this conflict daily. I walked a fine line, trying to be honest to myself and with others. Advanced study of religions, outside a Catholic frame of inquiry, seemed a productive way to address my personal and professional questions. The bishop listened and said little beyond expressing his disappointment. He did offer me a few thousand dollars to help with the transition.

I knew I must support myself while in graduate school, since I would no longer be receiving the small diocesan salary or the stipends from requiem masses. I had already stopped taking the stipends in order to protest what seemed to me something equal to selling indulgences. To my mind the Catholic Church had never really settled Luther's accusation about selling salvation, even though it was now under a slightly different cover of masses for the dead, paid for by stipends from faithful Catholics.

My financial problem was resolved when Leonard Swidler helped me obtain a part-time teaching assignment at Villanova (PA) University, an Augustinian school. I had previously been rejected by the Jesuit-run St. Joseph's College (now University) in Philadelphia, because of my stated intention to wear a black tie in the classroom in place of a clerical collar. In January of 1968 I began teaching two sections of "Introduction to World Religions" at Villanova and attending graduate classes at Temple. I continued teaching there for three years while completing my course work. Then, it was necessary to leave to do field work for my dissertation. Those years of college teaching were total enjoyment.

During the time in Philadelphia, I continued to write occasional pieces for Commonweal and was invited to write a chapter for a small book Elwyn Smith was editing, What the Religious Revolutionaries Are Saying. (10) The chapter, "Communes: A Revolutionary Alternative to Institutional Religion?" (11) was derived from my doctoral dissertation, investigating the psychological functions that myth and ideology play in holding a group intact. I was also studying my personal journey through strongly held beliefs, the disintegration of that world, and the reformulation of a new set of constructs to use in organizing my own personal intellectual and spiritual worlds.

A Change of Status

The early years at Temple (1968-69) allowed me to live in a sort of limbo regarding the Catholic Church. Officially still a priest, I did not wear a clerical collar and introduced myself as "Mister." I did not attend mass or have any official dealings with the local clergy. I did join persons of all political and religious beliefs to promote civil-rights and peace issues and with those who believed in neither politics nor religion.

I enjoyed taking classes that focused on the interactions of social psychology, anthropology, and religion and teaching similar classes at Villanova, which allowed for open investigation of myriad issues. During that period Villanova was a truly "catholic" institution; the chair and faculty of the Religion Department were open and viewed the required courses in religion as academic investigations free of ecclesiastical jargon and dogma.

During this time I decided to clarify my status with the Church, my family, and my friends. I would apply for a "laicization." This meant I would officially return to the "lay" state and not minister as an ordained priest. It also would allow me to marry within the Catholic Church. (12) I wanted official approval for my decision for my devout Catholic parents and family, although personally I felt no need to request something from an institution that I no longer believed to be legitimate. I knew by then that I wanted to marry and have a family. The loneliness of celibate life had haunted me during my later years working in the parishes, and now with my evolving status there was nothing holding me back. Wright secured the approval quickly, but several of my friends who initiated the same process were never granted their requests, nor were they told why.

In 1970 I met a wonderful woman, and we decided to marry. We met with the priest at her parish in Philadelphia, made the arrangements, and prepared to send out invitations. I went off to my last field-study site to live for six weeks with a group of young adults who had formed a 250-member commune in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. During one of our weekly phone calls to keep in touch, my fiancee informed me that the Philadelphia Archdiocese was refusing to allow us to marry in a parish church because "the marriage of a former priest would cause scandal." No matter that Rome had approved my laicization; we had to be married in a private chapel in the chancery, with only two witnesses. I phoned the Archdiocese to speak to the official in charge. He was adamant, and so were we. We refused to be married in a chapel with only two witnesses, and he refused to permit a public ceremony in any diocesan church.

I turned to Pittsburgh and contacted the chancery. They agreed to approve the ceremony, provided it would be kept low-key, in a parish church, with a priest of their choice. Family and a few friends were permitted to attend--and so we were married. I was deeply moved when some former parishioners learned of the ceremony and attended. The "scandal" was not in the marriage but was deep within the Church itself.

Post-Temple: 1972-2013

With no academic teaching positions available in my field, we moved in 1972 so I could begin a job as director of an Upward Bound Project at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. I received the Ph.D. the following year. In our new life together we adopted a wonderful son and lived a quiet life in a rural area of Maryland between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. My wife obtained her doctorate in health education and worked as an administrator at a nearby state university.

The Catholic Church (or any church) is not a part of our lives, though we sometimes miss some of what it offered. We do not miss the Church of "triumphalism," which viewed itself as superior to all and the source of all Truth. Sadly, that seems to have returned as a dominant feature in the years following the council.

Today, my wife and I find meaning in many other areas: helping students from poor families prepare for and succeed in school and college; working to make the local political atmosphere more open and understanding; involving ourselves in local environmental efforts; and other endeavors including Habitat for Humanity, art and music and the local public radio station, and research and writing. The Catholic Church had prepared us well for many things--just not for the closed and myopic institution it has become under its recent leadership.

I continue to follow the events in the Church and wonder why those in charge have chosen to guide it in such a self-destructive direction. Paul and the Roman curia ultimately prevailed, restricting and, in many cases, stifling many of the council's most promising visions. In Pittsburgh and elsewhere the promised renewal never saw the light of day. I shall always remember a brief but decidedly shining period when the Spirit of Vatican II offered hope and energy to the Catholic world.

(1) Peter Hebblethwaite, Pope John XXIII: Shepherd of (he Modern World (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1985), pp. 323-324.

(2) De Profundis (Psalm 129 Vulgate, Psalm 130 (King James Version).

(3) John W. O'Malley, What Happened at Vatican II (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), p. 294.

(4) The four documents of highest rank were the "Constitutions": Sacrosanctum concilium, on the Liturgy; Lumen gentium, on the Church; Dei Verbum, on Revelation; and Gaudium el spes, on the Church in the Modern World. Next in rank came nine "Decrees": Inter mirifica, on Mass Media; Orientalium ecclesiarum, on the Catholic Eastern Churches; Christus Dominus, on Bishops; Perfectae caritatis, on Religious Life; Optatum totius, on Training of Priests; Apostolicam actuositatem, on the Apostolate of the Laity; Ad gentes, on Missionary Activity; Presbylerorum ordinis, on the Ministry and Life of Priests; Unitatis redintegralio, on Ecumenism. Finally came three "Declarations": Gravissimum educations, on Christian Education; Nostra aetate, on Non-Christian Religions; and Dignitatis humanae, on Religious Liberty.

(5) For an extensive analysis of the process implementing the reforms of the council in Pittsburgh, see Timothy Kelly, The Transformation of American Catholicism: The Pittsburgh Laity and the Second Vatican Council. 1950-1972 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009).

(6) M. A. O'Connor, "The Anguished Young Priest: A Word to Father Groutt," The Priest 23 (November, 1967): 890-897. The backlash was not only in Pittsburgh but extended even within the curia and to the new pope. See Massimo Faggioli, "Pope Paul VI and the Seeds of Discord," National Catholic Reporter 48 (October 11, 2012): 16-18.

(7) In 1968, the encyclical Humanae vitae of Pope Paul VI prohibited contraception for all Catholics, saying it falls short of total and fruitful conjugal love and, therefore, is always sinful.

(8) Francis F. Brown, The Association of Pittsburgh Priests: A Brief History (Steubenville, OH: privately printed, 1987). Updated information was obtained through personal communications of the author with Fr. Donald Fisher, an active member of the Association.

(9) Kelly, Transformation of American Catholicism, p. 270. For a more global description of the phenomenon that occurred in Pittsburgh, see Desmond Fisher, "A Journalist at the Council Considers What's Been Lost," National Catholic Reporter 48 (October 11, 2012): 27-28.

(10) (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971).

(11) This chapter was reprinted in the National Catholic Reporter as "The Counterculture: Alternative to Religions?" (March 26, 1971), pp. 1 ff.

(12) One of the several topics that Paul VI repeatedly forbade the council bishops even to discuss was clerical celibacy. Despite that prohibition--as with the prohibition against discussing birth control--the topic kept surfacing during various speeches given by bishops.
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Author:Groutt, John
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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