On the 8th of January 1965, on page four hundred and ninety five of The Commonweal, on the right hand side of the page, we find an advertisement. It depicts the profile of a man in a tie placing a cigarette to his lips. The matching tagline reads: “Can a priest be a modern man?” The copy below clarifies that Priests can be men of “this age, cognizant of the needs of modern men.” Free from formalism, the priest is a pioneer, a missionary to his own people, utilizing his individual talents and modern technology to preach the word of God. A clearer image of the changing demographics and temperament of the American Catholic Church (as painted by Commonweal during this time) is difficult to find.
With these issues we step not only into the middle ‘60s, but into a world and Church beginning to look like those with which I am familiar. In September of ’64 we see not only the third session of the Council opening, but also the incipient Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. November brings the victory of Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater, and the initiation of English into the liturgy. 1965 sees the assassination of Malcolm X and the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the Watts riots in Los Angeles, and anti-war protests springing up across the country. Commonweal keeps pace with such modern events. In its pages we begin to see Church conflicts framed along a progressive/conservative divide and phrases such as the “post-Christian West” and the “re-conversion of Europe.” Commonweal even describes its mission as one that meshes perfectly with the signs of the times, writing in an self-advertisement: “Now, in the new climate engendered by Popes John and Paul, this widely quoted, lay-edited journal of opinion has more to contribute that in the years before.” And contribute it does, the questions are: what does it contribute? Why? And to what end? Read the rest of this entry »