I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and my college education was received in a Roman Catholic Seminary/College and my Seminary training was in a Roman Catholic Seminary. I was preparing to become a Roman Catholic priest and decided not to do so. The reasons are many and varied and not really the point of this passage. I do want to say something about how part of the crisis we face today came by way of Rome.
When John XXIII was elected the Pope he began a series of reforms which continued under Paul VI. The 1960's was a decade in which the Roman Catholic Church was seeking to rediscover its identity. Up to that point it very much was a medieval denomination in a modern day world where things were changing. The spirit of reform was in the air.
One of the major issues facing them was on the issue of contraception, or best stated, artificial means of contraception. Many people believe that the Roman Catholic Church is opposed to birth control. It isn't. It is opposed to using artificial means of birth control, better known as contraception.
In the late 1960's the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on this were being challenged for two reasons.
The first was that there was a world wide population explosion and limiting the number of children being born seemed to be an excellent and socially responsible and moral thing to do.
The second was that the classic teachings were based on a medieval understanding of human sexuality and conception. The 'rules' had been made under some biological premises which were not accurate.
Paul VI established a commission to study this and ultimate write an encyclical on the subject. He had some of the finest minds in the world come to Rome for a variety of sessions to debate and discuss this. One person on the commission who never quite made it to the meetings was a man from Poland name Karol Wotija.
The commission, according to many who were part of it, agreed to a change in the policy. However, Wotija traveled to Rome and convinced Paul VI that this was a bad idea and Wotija wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae, the encyclical that affirmed traditional Roman Catholic Church teachings on contraception. Paul, upon reading it, ended his address with the words, "Let the lively debate begin." He had no idea.
Frankly, Humanae Vitae was a disaster. Much of it was brilliant and well written and even well argued. It had one huge problem. It came to the wrong conclusions and came to those conclusions in the face of a world wide population explosion that was dangerous and it continued to be based on a medieval biological perspective. Wotija, who later on became Pope John Paul II had begun, in many ways, reversing the reforms of Vatican II.
The release of Humanae Vitae launched a major exodus of priests and nuns and plunged the Roman Catholic Church into chaos. Pope Paul VI, a highly underrated Pope and a very good man, ended up being shattered and almost frozen in place. He no longer pushed for reforms, to the anger of many, and no longer pushed for traditions, again, to the anger of many. When he died and John Paul I was elected there was a sense that he was going to begin the reformation process again----but his reign ended quickly and John Paul II had no desire for further reform.
I was in the Seminary from 1977-1980. He was elected in 1978 and by the early 80's most of th faculties of Catholic seminaries were purged of anyone with progressive thoughts and replaced by hard lined traditionalists.
This movement within Catholicism has been met with a wide range of responses.
Some are delighted and believe that the 'old' church is back.
Many have left.
Some are still there, hoping for reform.
Many are still there, hanging out, pretty much ignoring what they want to and choose to ignore. The reality of Humanae Vitae is that most Roman Catholic ignore it and have gone on to live their lives guided by their own consciences.
The reluctance/failure of this reformation in Roman Catholicism still is present.
The recent abuse scandals have come from, in part, the celibacy teachings and, in part, of a failure to address the psycho-sexual development of priests. This abuse had been targeted only at those who had sexual relations with minors. Clergy abuse is really not only about that, but sexual abusing church members who are adults, seeking comfort from clergy, and ending up in a sexual affair. Within most denominations this is an issue that has been and is constantly addressed and dealt with. The Roman Catholic Church has not ventured there in large part because they have a dreadful shortage of priests.
Most of the priests are extraordinary people doing amazing work and are deeply talented. They are, however, being overwhelmed with demands because there are simply not enough of them.
Much of this is still residual impact from Humanae Vitae. When a modern day church remains medieval it impacts everyone.