Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

That's sooooo 1968!

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 13, 2013

If you read the Daily Telegraph interview with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, you could be forgiven for thinking that contraception is the toughest issue facing the Catholic Church today. I’d phrase the problem somewhat differently. The toughest issue facing the Catholic Church today is the continued influence of prelates who think that contraception is the toughest issue facing the Church today.

Back in 1968, when the future cardinal was a young priest in the Portsmouth diocese, contraception was the issue on everyone’s mind: the controversial issue on which the Church was most flagrantly at odds with the popular culture. (And we can probably guess, based on his comments in 2013, what young Father Murphy-O’Connor was telling young couples at the time.) But that was a long, long time ago.

Today the burning issue is not whether married couples should use contraceptives. Western democracies are now arguing over whether homosexuals should be recognized as married couples, over whether abortion should be accepted as a form of contraception. (Pope Paul VI would not be surprised by these developments; he pretty well predicted them in Humanae Vitae.) In the eyes of the world, the argument over contraception is over. The goalposts have been moved, and the cardinal doesn’t seem to notice.

Rigid military establishments tend to churn out generals who are prepared to fight the last great war. Unfortunately the Catholic hierarchy has produced many prelates who are prepared to fight—or, all too often, to surrender—the last great battle.

The good news is that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor is now 80 years old, and won’t be participating in the conclave that chooses the next Pope. The generation of clerics scarred by the battles of 1968 is passing from the scene, and a new generation, accustomed to sharper cultural combat, is arriving.

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: Duns Scotus - Feb. 14, 2013 11:02 AM ET USA

    jtlebherz3705, you think the good Cardinal arrived at his position through reasoning?

  • Posted by: jtlebherz3705 - Feb. 14, 2013 9:04 AM ET USA

    Phil, I must be the most naive person on the planet but I just cannot comprehend someone who, early in life, decides to become a priest, takes all of the neccessary classes, studies theology, philosophy and becomes immersed in the glorious history of the Catholic Church. And then, after an earth shattering encyclical (Humanae Vitae) for all to read, his opinion is what it is. The article cited is quite short so none of us get to peek into his reasoning but, I just don't get it.