Truly pathetic musings at the Fishwrap about priesthood and those halcyon days of Vatican II

The Fishwrap sure lived up to its name this time.  Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) has gushy piece about a reunion of old men who were seminarians of class 1966 at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.  The arrived in Rome in 1962 and were ordained in 1966.  Hence, they were in Rome during the Second Vatican Council.

That’s the point of the Fishwrap piece, of course: those halcyon days.  And, with Francis, they’re back… or should be.

The whole piece is rather pathetic.   Fishwrap’s breathy account of the reunion, with the cute little jokes and quips the ol’ gang bandied about, belies the underlying subtext.   Here’s a passage:

Fifty-five were eventually ordained. Sixteen are still active priests. Thirty-one left the active priesthood.

They came home aflame — and ran headlong into the mid-1960s. The turbulence of change was fierce, but so was their zeal. Something had to give. For many, it was the priesthood. Most thought, in the wake of Vatican II, that mandatory celibacy would soon become optional. They were wrong. They thought the ban on contraception would be overturned. They were wrong. As some joined the first great wave of resignation, laicization or whatever term you choose, they feared their fellow Council Class members would ostracize and reject them.

They were wrong.

Many forged new paths, establishing careers — frequently pastoral in nature — getting married, raising kids. Keeping tabs on one another wasn’t as easy then as it is today. There was no internet yet, no email.

But they had Bill Freburger, who left the priesthood in 1976 and worked for NCR.

That about sums it up.  They were wrong.  56% of the class quit.  But you could work for Fishwrap!

And, by way of explanation of the rot that infested theology and whole swaths of the priesthood in those wondrous, halcyon days that produced streams of men and women out of religious orders, the destruction of catechetics, wholesale obliteration of our Catholic identity in a new springtime of post-Conciliar transformation….

An article shared by Joe Reid about the old theological notion that an “ontological change” occurs through ordination became a running gag throughout the four days here. The class never bought that, had great fun with it, and gave it a serious thrashing.

Get it?  In this reunion group – the one that Fishwrap is all agog over – the ontological effect of the Sacrament of Orders is, for them, a joke.  They don’t believe in priesthood as the Church believes in priesthood.  One hero of the group, a priest from Detroit (whom I bet was involved in Call To Action back in the day) cited “lay empowerment” as the “blueprint for the future”.  These guys have been wrong about just about everything their whole lives, it seems, but they’ve got stunning insights for us now.  Here’s some more, straight from the Fishwrap‘s fevered imaginings:

I do think that will be the major challenge of the next several years, to break this clericalism and think of ways of transforming the sacrament of orders into a living kind of leadership sacrament that anybody in the church would be eligible to be appointed to, obviously with preparation and some kind of spiritual grounding.

Perhaps the sort of preparation that these jokers had?

This is warmed over Rahner and Schillebeeckx.  Choose someone from the community to preside.  When that person no longer embodies the needs of the community, choose another.  In seminary, in the 1980’s, this is crap we got, from faculty trained around the same time as this tragic reunion group.  We were even forbidden to use the word “priest” but rather to say “ordained minister”.  Everyone, you see, is a “minister”, either ordained or unordained.  If you don’t believe that there is an ontological change in the man who is ordained, and that change imparts something to what the priest does, then priesthood is simply a job, a role that any person could fulfill.  So, why not choose this person or that person who has – for now – what we want?  The selection effectively has nothing to do with God.

Of course, of the guys who were ordained for my native place, were I to be counted among that class of ’91, I’m the only one left.

Look.  No one begrudges a bunch of guys a reunion, but this is really sad.

Another quote also reveals something of the Fishwrap view.

“The Vatican Council gave a whole new vision of possibility for the Catholic church,” said Bob Livingston of Detroit, who left the active priesthood, married and, had a long career with General Motors. “That was personally transformative. It was the most exhilarating intellectual and faithful thing I have ever experienced. When Francis came in, it was like going back to 1966. It was like coming out of a long, dark tunnel. Francis was like stepping back into John XXIII, a breath of fresh air.

Ah…. those halcyon days of springtime and transformation!

What a springtime it has been!

A final piteous example, making reference to John XXIII’s “Moon Speech” on the evening of the Council’s opening day…

Most of all, they are, as Jim Murphy put it, by way of Thomas Merton, a finger pointing at the moon — in all its phases, including its exhilarating fullness, even when obscured. These classmates would say, “Don’t pay attention to us. Pay attention to what we’re pointing at,” and the moon they’re pointing at is the Second Vatican Council, reflecting the light of that major eruption of the Holy Spirit, a moon capable, in its fullness, of lighting our way forward into the future.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, Priests and Priesthood, Vatican II, You must be joking! and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. pbnelson says:

    No thanks, guys, we’ve had enough of being Charlie Brown to your Lucy. Will you ever stop trying to get someone to kick your balls?

  2. Dan says:

    I have recently taken to reading many of John XXIII’s writings in the hope of understanding what was going on inside his head, and what he envisioned Vatican II to be vs. what actually happened during it. In reading, it seems to me, he noted the issues in the seminaries with seminarians pursuing theology that had a twisted expectation that they might get to have the best of both worlds, priesthood, wife, and contracepted sex.
    A couple of his encyclicals caught my eye and relate to this post Religiosorum institutio (1961) he identifies reasons for priests and religious leaving the clerical state. And makes specific recommendation and warns of the need for “Quality not Quantity”. In Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia (1959) he makes specific recommendations for priests referencing St. John Vianney on what it takes to pursue holiness and pitfalls to avoid. Also, lets not forget his bold statement, Veterum Sapientia (On the promotion of the Study of Latin 1962) which has all since been eradicated from memory. The Vatican does not even provide translations for it (although had it been followed no translation would be needed)
    I think John XXIII identified a weakness in clerics, and in their formation. I think he probably called Vatican II to address many of those issues. He certainly did not intend for Latin to be completely removed, much to the contrary. He saw the issues with those priest coming into seminary at that time and sought to correct it. Had those 55 priests read Religiosorum institutio they could not possibly have said they thought that celibacy or contraception of any of their delusions would be overturned. I would recommend those three encyclicals for anyone to read but particularly clerics. I think they demonstrated the hidden undercurrent in VII that hijacked the council for their own purposes which were not necessarily those of the Pope

  3. The Egyptian says:

    and not a ONE of them stayed in the priesthood, the spirit of V2 in action, what a success story.
    My uncle left the seminary over V2, he started at Brunnerdale seminary high school in Canton, Ohio operated by the CPPS, in the mid 50s, he left one year before ordination. said it was like the nuts took over the asylum

  4. ChrisP says:

    I didn’t know NCR had a dementia outreach. It’s nice they reported on it.

  5. Amerikaner says:

    NCR always gives me good laugh… like The Onion.

  6. frjimt says:

    in the 35th anniv of my class: mount st mary’s, emmitsburg, we count very few who’ve left, 2 bishops (Dallas & Oklahoma city) & a great number of us shepherding…. (in my diocese, i think we’re the only ones, six in number, who have kept the faith & still serve)… the strong bond of st john vianney!

  7. chantgirl says:

    I wonder if these men are using the term clericalism in the same vein that Francis and his cronies are. If so, are they blaming the sex abuse crisis on clericalism in order to usher in lay presiders?

  8. Benedict Joseph says:

    “They came home aflame …”
    You can say that again, and here we are today.
    Talk about the attempt to turn a swine’s ear into a silk purse…will no one rid us of these sixties priests?

  9. Unwilling says:

    Agree with Dan re John xxiii. Can anyone point to the main cause or origin of the theological craziness and pastoral self-destruction that (as far as I can tell) emerged and exploded sometime in the early 40s?

    I seem to recall that Fr Leo J. Trese wrote sympathetically that most (American) priests in the late 40s understood very little of what they formally celebrated in Latin. I can’t imagine how that could be, but I believe it must have been an honest perception. Granted that Trese in 1950 Vessel of Claywas concerned about what now PF seems to mean by “clericalism”.

  10. vetusta ecclesia says:

    They are died-in-the-wool Protestants. Plenty of “ecclesial bodies” they can join!

  11. Robert_Caritas says:

    Interestingly, I heard that Golias, the French NCR, is staffed in large part by former priests and seminarians. No one else I think would be interested in the ideologized brand of Catholicism which they are pushing, other than people who studied it for several years and attempted to dedicate their lives to it…

  12. Simon_GNR says:

    vetusta ecclesia: you echo my thoughts exactly. These ex-priests might do quite well as ministers in various protestant sects. But why were they ever selected for priestly formation in the first place? They don’t seem ever to have had a Catholic belief in the sacraments.
    In not very many years from now that entire generation of priests will all be retired or dead: many of the younger generation of priests are much more sound and orthodox. There are better times ahead – we might have fewer priests, but better ones.

  13. iamlucky13 says:

    For all their enthusiasm over Vatican II, the article is surprisingly short on details about the frustration I assume they must have shared that so little of Sacrosanctum Concilium was followed.

  14. amenamen says:

    In Greek mythology Halcyon (Alcyone) threw herself into the sea, in grief over her husband, Ceyx, who had been killed by Zeus (for good reason). In an act of pity, the gods transformed them into beautiful blue birds, who nest in the sea in January. The myth explains that a brief period of warm and gentle weather in January (the halcyon days) is provided for their nesting period.

    The kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) throws itself into the sea. Full immersion.

  15. hwriggles4 says:

    I have met some Catholic men who are alumni of some high school seminaries from the 1960s. A few told me around that time (particularly if you were a student from 1965 to 1970) these seminarians (14 to 20 years old) were allowed to date – their superiors thinking celibacy would end soon. I also heard around that time that several priests (particularly if they were under 40) were dating women, thinking the celibacy discipline would end. I heard some bishops were concerned because they would have 4 ordinations one year ( say 1969), but 6 priests in the same diocese would leave active ministry that same year. (There was even an auxiliary bishop in a large midwestern city who resigned in 1968, went to law school, began a secular career, and married.)

    Now getting back to high school seminary . . . I think some of them where stricter houses of formation, while others were simply all boys Catholic high schools, with the sign out front saying “high school seminary ” or “minor seminary. ” I could see if a school was more like a “all boys college prep school “, dating would be allowed.

    Many high school seminaries were closed by 1978. Sadly, some of these were fairly new (opening after WWII), and some of the older ones had begun “wreckovations.” Lower enrollment was one reason, and several dioceses and orders felt they were no longer needed. Priests leaving active ministry between 1965 and 1978 also hurt staffing. Some of these buildings have been demolished, others are now diocesan offices, high schools, nursing homes or retreat centers.

  16. Legisperitus says:


  17. Anneliese says:

    1. If you don’t want to be celibate, why become a priest? You can’t assume the requirement of celibacy is going to change just because you want it to. 2. If you’re a priest, why would it matter to you if the Church permits or prohibits the use of contraceptives? You’re not in the position to use them because of your station in life.

    Is it surprising that the laity can’t be obedient to Church teachings when our shepherds seem incapable of being obedient?

  18. The Egyptian says:

    Brunnerdale was a seminary high school by the time they were seniors the boys were pictured in cassocks for class photos they went from there to St Charles seminary for further education then one year of silent continplation at the St Mary’s noviciate at burkettsville Ohio then back to St Charles for final formation and all of these including the high school were working Farms as well now all gone but St Charles which is a retirement home for priest and laity the high school is now a country club near Canton Ohio

  19. Gaetano says:

    It is sad to see them so committed to the misguided reforms that brought chaos and near-complete destruction.

    It’s like watching the members of a cargo cult insist that if they do just a little bit more their aspirations will be achieved.

  20. L. says:

    “They came home aflame.” My diocese has been full of flamers for years.

  21. Percusio says:

    I am amazed at the priests who entered the priesthood expecting days when celibacy would be tossed aside, basically entering the priesthood conditionally, while at the same time overseeing marriage prep. If the relationship required of engaged going into marriage were the same for the priesthood, then these priests had an impediment to their “vows”.

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