Pope Paul VI promulgated The Credo of the People of God on 30 June 1968, less than one month before releasing his prophetic Encyclical Humanae Vitae. I lived through these events. I remember them well. It was a very hot summer; I was volunteering in a program for disadvantaged inner-city children. Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated earlier that same summer on 5 June.
Priests, religious, and seminarians were thrust into a whirlwind of liturgical, theological, and moral confusion. Many lost their footing in the faith. Even “enclosed” monasteries were affected. It was not uncommon to find that Zen Buddhism, so-called “Catholic” Pentecostalism, and a fascination with Garabandal, with Mamma Rosa at San Damiano, and other apparitions had all made inroads into the same monastery. The Trappists, it seems, were especially hard hit by the rage for pluralism. The idea was that there should be something for everyone: “I’m OK, You’re OK” (published in 1967) was the new Summa. Everything was subject to redefinition and reformulation. And, not to be forgotten: The National Association for Pastoral Renewal came out with the “Make Celibacy Optional” bumpersticker.
The Landing of the Soixante-huitards
In Paris, student protestors and strikers launched the now famous social revolution of mai 68, the matrix of a generation of soixante-huitards (sixty-eighters), who, alas, would carry their groovy ideologies forward into the new millennium in both the world and the Church.
In the world of popular culture, the Broadway musical Hair opened in April 1968, offering young people a combination of music and lyrics that glorified every manner of sexual license and perversion. The pollution of the sexual revolution poured into the Church through the windows opened at the Second Vatican Council to let in fresh air. Young women religious, formerly so ladylike and prim, discovered the exhilarating buzz of theological dialogue with edgy John Lennon look–alike seminarians in jeans and sandals . . . and the rest is history.
The Undoing of the Lex Orandi
Among Catholics, there was a heady feeling in the air, enticing even the brightest and the best to believe that everything in the Church and in society had to be re-imagined and re-created, beginning with the liturgy. Tampering with the liturgy led to tampering with the doctrine of the faith; and tampering with the doctrine of the faith led to a skewed moral theological and ethical praxis.
The Mass Under Siege
Ad-libbing at Holy Mass was already becoming endemic . . . and this before the Novus Ordo Missae, which only made its début in 1970. Quantities of mimeographed wildcat “Canons” (Eucharistic Prayers) were in circulation. One summer evening, I came away from a Mass at the Jesuit House of Studies near Yale University feeling sick at heart. All remained seated throughout the celebration; the centre of attention was the priest, bright, articulate, and witty. The tone was one of wanton desacralisation. Then and there, even while engrossed in reading Jesuit Father Joseph Jungmann’s brilliant Mass of the Roman Rite, I resolved never again to trust the liturgical instincts of modernist Jesuits. There were Masses at which “Blowing in the Wind”, “The Times, They Are A-Changin'”, and Judy Collins’s “I’ve Looked at Love from Both Sides Now” were standard fare.
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say, “I love you” right out loud,Through it all, I knew that in Gregorian Chant I had found the native tongue of my soul. Singing Chant was life-giving for me. Even in monastic choirs, it had been cast aside. Guitar-strumming monks lulled themselves and others into the most astonishing liturgical amnesia in history.
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I’ve looked at life that way.
But now old friends are acting strange
they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
But something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.(Judy Collins)
All of this being said, when Pope Paul VI gave the Church his Credo of the People of God, I was ready and eager to receive it. What I couldn’t understand was why so few Catholics around me, including priests, seminarians, and religious, had little enthusiasm for it. Paul VI’s gift met with indifference. Was it a case of too little too late?
The actual text of the Credo of the People of God begins with article 8 of the Apostolic Letter, Solemni Hac Liturgia, 30 June 1968. Here it is, with gratitude to Blessed Paul VI from one who, with his help, survived those changing times of confusion, uncertainty, and iconoclasm. (Read more.)