The Second Vatican Council enacted the most sweeping changes the Catholic Church had seen in centuries. In readable and compelling prose, Mark S. Massa tells the story of the culture war these changes ignited in the United Statesa war that is still being waged today. The first stirrings of upheaval took place in the pews, where changes to the mass were felt immediately and viscerally by the faithful. Suddenly, one Sunday, the mass as they had always known it was very different, and so was the Church they had believed was timeless and unchanging. Skirmishes quickly broke out over the proper way to worship, with "liberals" welcoming change, "conservatives" resisting it. Soon, Catholics found themselves bitterly divided over everything from birth control to the authority of the Church itself. As he narrates these turbulent events, Massa takes us beyond the "liberal/conservative" stereotypes, offering new insights into the last fifty years of American Catholicism.
This latest effort to digest the impact of the Second Vatican Council on Catholicism attempts to show that significant change did occur in the church in a way that is permanent and thus unlikely to be undone. Massa, professor of theology at New York's Jesuit-run Fordham University, dismisses the view ascribed to the late Pope John Paul II that Vatican II changed nothing essential in the belief and practice of the church. To say this, the author claims, is tantamount to trying to put the "genie back into the bottle." He defends his position by citing the changes in worship that were introduced and, for the most part, warmly welcomed by Catholics, touching off a revolution that he says was felt in the widespread rejection of the message of Humanae Vitae, the 1968 papal encyclical on birth control, and in reforms in religious communities, and also in social activism on the part of Catholics. Although by no means a comprehensive examination, Massa's work is thoughtful and will be of special interest to students of Vatican II and the 1960s social revolution. (Sept.)