An interesting reflection by former SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson (Kyrie Eleison Comments, January 12, 2012) should cause us to reflect on why the Church fell so precipitously in the 1960s. Cardinal Ratzinger himself reflected on some of the causes following the 1988 episcopal consecrations, outlining the aspects of the crisis in the Church that provided Archbishop Lefebvre with his belief in the need for the consecrations. This post being not a debate on the SSPX, but a reflection - from whomever the source - on the intrusive secularism that demolished much of the Church from the mid-60s onwards. Williamson's argument - not original - is that many see a return to the 1950s as a golden age (here, he accuses the present SSPX leadership of this). Yet, the 50s and far earlier, contained all the elements that exploded in the 60s. My opinion - and, I am sure it is also not original - is that the 60s was but a continuation of the Roaring Twenties (brought to an abrupt halt by the Depression, the War and post-War rebuilding). (As an interesting cultural observation, the aftermath of the 60s are seen in even the most "traditional" Mass settings. For example, many women (even little girls) are dressed in a manner reminiscent of the Flower movement. Fascinating, but I digress).
In part, Williamson argues:
For was not the Catholicism of the 1950's like a man standing on the edge of a tall and dangerous cliff ? On the one hand it was still standing at a great height, otherwise Vatican II would not have been such a fall. On the other hand it was dangerously close to the edge of the cliff, otherwise again it could not have fallen so precipitously in the 1960's. By no means everything was bad in the Church of the 1950's, but it was too close to disaster. Why ?
Because Catholics in general in the 1950's were outwardly maintaining the appearances of the true religion, but inwardly too many were flirting with the godless errors of the modern world: liberalism (what matters most in life is freedom), subjectivism (so man's mind and will are free of any objective truth or law), indifferentism (so it does not matter what religion a man has), and so on. So Catholics having the faith and not wanting to lose it, gradually adapted it to these errors. They would attend Mass on Sundays, they might still go to confession, but they would be feeding their minds on the vile media, and their hearts would be chafing at certain laws of the Church, on marriage for the laity, on celibacy for the clergy. So they might be keeping the faith, but they wanted less and less to swim against the powerful current of the glamorous and irreligious world all around them. They were getting closer and closer to the edge of the cliff.
And who can say Williamson is wrong? When one reflects on the collapse of the Church in Quebec, was the Faith truly embedded in that society? Were the bishops and priests integrally Catholic? Were the laity? We should not forget Pius XI equal condemnation of social modernism along with doctrinal modernism. Catholics began to compromise socially, and - human nature being what it is - before long began to look to excuse and justify doctrinal modernism. So, socially winking at protestantism led to a false ecumenism and so on.