Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your post.
“In the early nineteenth century the Catholic Church had a problem.” In my mystery novel, this sentence refers to the idea of the Gregorian Chants. But the Catholic Church now has more than one problem. It has many problems. It has a serious problem with pedophile priests and priests who have abused women as well. It has lost many of “the faithful” who no longer attend Mass of Sundays and confession on Saturdays and no longer believe in the authority of the pope, the bishops, and the priests. Most American Catholics ignore the Catholic Church’s teachings on birth control. What has happened since the 1950s when there were so many “good” Catholics and today when there are so many lapsed Catholics and Catholics who have adopted other religions or no religion at all?
Society began to undergo a radical change during the 1960s. People began to question authority more–political authority, social authority figures, and religious authorities. People were encouraged to think for themselves rather than to accept without thinking the pronouncements from on high. The Vietnam War in the United States and the conflict it engendered encouraged people to question authority. The Drug culture also did. Popular music also contributed to this idea. Young people readily adopted these new ideas, the baby boomers, who grew up to be the largest segment of the population. Our generation (I include myself in this generation) questioned everything even as we mellowed a bit to get on with our lives. We found that God didn’t strike us dead if we didn’t go to church. We saw hypocrisy in the Church and little by little, the dirty little secrets about pedophilia and abuse of women became known and the outrage became a terrible outcry. People rebelled against the patriarchy and authoritarianism of the Church, its paternalism. The Church saw its power wane, at least in America. People around the world still honor the Pope as a man of peace, but call on him to deal with these problem and to treat women in the Church with more respect.
The Catholic Church has just begun to attempt to address its many problems. How serious they really are about making changes remains to be seen. Change rarely comes quickly to large conservative institutions. But change it must, or in time it will become irrelevant. And we will be saying, “In the twenty-first century, the Catholic Church had a problem.”