Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Judging the revolutions of the 1960s by the standards of those days

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 02, 2023

Maybe I misread the headline, or maybe its wording was changed after I first saw it. Whatever the reason, I looked at this CNA report and saw (or thought I saw): “Cuban priest: 64 years is enough to prove the revolution didn’t work.” The priest in question was talking specifically about the Cuban revolution, and of course he was right. But Castro was not the only revolutionary of his era, and the same logic applies to them all.

If we can now say definitively that the Castro regime did not bring a socialist utopia to Cuba—and we can—what should we say about the whirlwind that hit the Catholic Church at roughly the same time? And the sexual revolution, proclaimed just a few years after that? The Batista government that Castro overthrew was corrupt and authoritarian; but are the Cuban people better off today? The life of the Church may have been dulled by routine in the 1950s, but have we seen the “new spring” that was so confidently promised after Vatican II? Americans had their sexual hangups in the era of Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best, but do Modern Family and The Bachelor(ette) represent progress?

We have seen revolutions, in the Church and in American society, in the past 60 years. We are living now with the consequences of those revolutions, and should recognize how radically our lives have changed, for good or for ill, in the space of a lifetime. We can’t go back to 1963, of course. But if we could, would we be worse off?

Or let me ask the question in a different way. If we could take a time machine back to 1963, and tell some prominent people of that time what they could expect from the glorious future of 2023, would they be pleased? Let’s try it—and pose the questions not to stodgy conservatives, but to leaders who were (and generally still are) regarded as liberal icons of their time.

  • Tell Mother Teresa of Calcutta that missionaries must not hope to convert needy people to the Catholic faith.
  • Tell Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that in 2023, the President of the United States will say that the most important civil-rights battle of the day is the campaign to allow young people to change their sexual identity.
  • Tell Pope John XXIII that the habits of self-discipline that he developed—such as “custody of the eyes”—are signs of emotional rigidity. While you’re at it, tell him that the liturgy he celebrated must now be suppressed.
  • Tell Dorothy Day that Catholic institutions should include abortion coverage in their health-care programs, in order to retain government funding.
  • Tell President Kennedy that the Pride flag will be flying over the US embassy to the Vatican.

Having fun yet?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: CorneliusG - Jun. 03, 2023 3:07 PM ET USA

    Spot on, but the aging standard bearers of the revolution (here and Cuba) will never, never, never admit it's all a failure - their perverse minds will never see truth. Au contraire, they'll argue it hasn't been fully implemented and we need more, more, more. Bah, away with them.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Jun. 02, 2023 6:41 PM ET USA

    It's not a good track record, that's for sure. Despite my determination to not indulge in nostalgia or sentimentality as I age, I sometimes think it would be nice to go back to 1963.