Since it seems that there is a determination on the part of the so-called "traditionalists" to posit statistics to try and buttress their assertions that the changes of the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform movement, the intention of this appendix is to address this fallacy for what it is. But before that can be done, this writer anticipates a criticism that will be launched if it is not addressed here first. So that is what will be done at this time after a brief allusion to what will be covered in this section:
The American hierarchy poo-pooed our research and so did many of the Catholic Wise Persons who referred vaguely to long-run "secularization trends." But no one found anything wrong with our mathematical models; and one archbishop who had repeated the party line publicly told me privately, "You're right of course..." [Andrew Greeley: The Making of the Popes 1978 pg. 16 (c. 1979)]
The reactions of certain individuals towards this writer's referencing of Andrew Greeley can be anticipated in advance. And yes, the author has read some of his books including the two which are referenced in this section. (The third was his 1999 memoir which was a sequel to the autobiography.) But before getting to the meat of this section, this writer wants to get on the record his personal impressions of Fr. Greeley.
To start with, Fr. Greeley is an excellent writer and he paces himself well in this discipline. Furthermore, as a researcher he is from what the author can tell thorough and he holds his views it seems in good faith. He is a trained sociologist and thus can speak in this area with more authority than a lot of Catholics can. (Certainly more than any so-called "traditionalists.") He also has a decent grasp of Church history -though he seems to read more into certain historical situations than this writer thinks is warranted. However, he is no theologian and this is the area of his books which stand out as the weakest. But then he would not (and does not) claim to be any kind of an expert in these areas.
Fr. Greeley's strength is in the area of sociological trends and this appendix section will draw on his strength in presenting a thesis that this writer challenges the statistics manipulators to confute. The conclusion is one that this writer has for some time held though for reasons that will become obvious, did not want to discuss in any public forum. This has shown in reality to be no longer possible -as the theory that the Council was responsible for the Church's decline will not seem to fall by the wayside on its own. For that reason, the intention of this appendix section is to help give that theory a swift kick over the precipice.
The conventional wisdom blamed the obviously declining Catholic practice on the Vatican Council, a position recently repeated by the Lord High Inquisitor, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, three different groups of observers were arguing that the great mass of the "simple" faithful were shocked by the changes: conservative priests and bishops, reactionary journals like The Wanderer and The National Catholic Register, and the more liberal and radical journals like The National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal.
The former two groups claimed to be protecting the poor, simple laity and argued that there was an obligation on the part of the church to slow down the pace of change in order that said poor simple laity would not be any more shocked than they already were. In the case of the Catholic liberals, there was a certain snobbishness -snobbery is the vice of Catholic liberals: we who are Commonweal or the National Catholic Reporter readers understand the changes and approve of them but the ordinary folks out in the pews -hardhat, conservative, chauvinist hawks- do not understand the changes and are against them.
I thought these commentaries on the Vatican Council were wrong and subscribed then to what I called then the "meat on Friday" theory - you make it alright for people to eat meat on Friday and they will feel less obligated to follow the other rules. The decline in church attendance and other observable forms of religious behaviour, it seemed to me, was the decline in respect for rules, but not the result of opposition to the Council.
There was no support for a Conciliar explanation for the decline in our data. Three quarters of the Catholic laity approved of the Vatican Council changes, seven-eighths approved of the English liturgy. Moreover, three quarters could accept the idea of a married clergy and half actually supported optional celibacy. A little less than half (at that time) supported the ordination of women. At all age levels, there was majority support for the Vatican Council changes -even 60 percent support among those who were over sixty years old. Most of the laity, therefore, approved of a changing Church...
Moreover, support for the changes instituted by the Council correlated positively with religious devotion: those who approved of the changes were more rather than less devout -so much for my "meat on Friday" theory. I began to hunt for an alternative explanation. Could it be that what so many of us considered a post-Conciliar decline in the Church attendance and religious devotion was in fact a post-encyclical decline?
Suddenly, the pieces of the puzzle began falling into place.
We were able to compare the birth control attitudes of the Catholic population in 1963 with those in 1974 and demonstrate that while in 1963 about half of American Catholics accepted the birth control teaching, ten years later this had declined to less than 15 percent. Moreover, acceptance of Papal authority in these matters had declined almost as precipitously. Finally, by a complex social change model, we were able to demonstrate the decline in Catholic practice between 1963 and 1974 -a decline of 20 percentage points in Sunday church attendance -was the result not of the Vatican Council but of the birth control encyclical.
All the changes in Catholic religious behavior -church attendance, support for vocations, Sunday contributions- could be accounted for in our social change model by the decline in the acceptance of Papal authority and Papal birth control teaching. The model indicated that the Council itself had been a huge success and that left to itself would have led to an increase in Catholic religious practice...[T]he positive change brought about by the Council was cancelled by the negative reaction to the birth control encyclical...
We quickly found supporting data from other studies. Between the end of the Council and the issuing of the encyclical, the Gallup measure of church attendance ("Did you attend church last week?") fell only 1 percentage point. Between the encyclical and 1973 it fell 11 percentage points. Later we noted that between 1973 and 1985, the net decline has been only 3 more percentage points.
Moreoever, in 1965, 28 percent of the Catholics and 50 percent of the Protestants in the Gallup data said they though the Church was losing influence in American society. In 1968, the year of the encyclical, the percentage increased 9 percent points for Protestants and 34 percentage points for Catholics. By 1974, with the war winding down, the percent thinking the Church was losing influence had declined to 52 percent for Protestants but remained at 59 percent for Catholics. In ten years Catholic opinion about the waning Church influence had increased from 28 percent to 59 percent. Protestant change had been from 50 to 52 percent
Something had happened to American Catholics during that decade that had not happened to American Protestants. That...encyclical. [Andrew Greeley: Confessions of a Parish Priest - An Autobiography Chapter 18, pgs. 358-360; 362-363 (c. 1986)]
The author should note at this time that none of what is noted above is intended to call into question the actual teaching of the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae. The intention is simply to advance a theory with supporting evidences that (if true) dramatically undermines the "regime of novelty" theory. The reason for this is that (i) none of the statistics noted above even remotely sustains the "regime of novelty" theory and (ii) the judgment of Humanae Vitae cannot be legitimately referred to as a "novelty" -indeed it was the very antithesis of what David Palm (DP) and his allies refer to.
Hence, this writer challenges those who theorize as David and his allies do to confute the proposed theory point by point. Otherwise, let it be recognized that the research of Fr. Greeley and his associates remains unanswered thirty years after it was originally published. If the latter remains the case, then the handling of the birth control matter is the predominant reason for the Church's decline subsequent to 1968. And since Pope Paul VI upheld the norms set down by his predecessors, the theory of Fr. Greeley and others -which it must be noted has substantial statistical backing in every relevant parameter- by itself and apart from anything else in this essay lays the axe to the canard of pinning the problems subsequent to the Council on the Council itself or any theory of "regimes of novelty" thereof.
 To confute in advance another couple of objections sure to surface
if they are not addressed, this writer wants to make it clear that he accepts
without reservation the Church's teaching on women priests. (The latter
having received definitive confirmation in 1994.) There is also an acceptance
on his part -albeit with some reservations- of the Church's discipline
on married clergy.
©2004, "The 'Tradition is Opposed to Novelty' Canard", written
by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be
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