Humanae Vitae And D-Day

Last month marked the 40th annivesary of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae. Mary Eberstadt did a wonderful piece for First Things vindicating a document perhaps more maligned than Pius XII. But if you're Catholic and already convinced, and you're going to read only one article on the subject, let it be Cardinal Stafford's, which is the most important perspective I've ever read on the topic. He begins with a fascinating first-hand description of what it was like to be the only priest in a room full of his brothers in the cloth who was unwilling to sign a statement of dissent a few days after HV was released (and this with the document yet unseen!). The abuse and ridicule is amazing, but more to the point is his recognition that this dissent tokened more than a misguided attempt to help married couples have a little more flexibility in family planning; and it was also more than an attack on marriage; it was an attack on the priesthood. Here's how he describes dissent's ring-leaders in his diocese at the time:
By every ecclesial measure they should have been aware that the process they supported that evening exceeded the “norms of licit dissent.” But they showed no concern for the gravity of that theological and pastoral moment. They saw nothing unbecoming in the mix of publicity and theology. They expressed no impatience then or later over the coercive nature of the August meeting. Nor did any of the other priests present. One diocesan priest did request privately later that night that his name be removed before the statement’s publication in the morning paper. For a long time, I wondered about the meaning of the event. It was a cataclysm which was difficult to survive intact. Things were sorted out slowly. Later, Henri de Lubac captured some of its significance, “Nothing is more opposed to witness than vulgarization. Nothing is more unlike the apostolate than propaganda.”
The friend who sent me the article describes it(the issuing of HV) as the Church's D-Day, which I took at first to be an allusion to the bodies figuratively strewn about the beach, but which, upon reading Cardinal Stafford's account, I see is an even more apt analogy. Please RTWT.

Not unrelated, I think, is this post from Fr. Z. for which I'm grateful, since I always have precisely the question his reader poses, yet never a true tradionalist around to whom to pose it. The question being: if the Church was so great in the 50s, why did it fall apart so quickly? It was the Eucharist that drew me into the Church, and while we are always fragile and anyone can be a Judas, it is nonetheless difficult for me to imagine having a profound love for the Eucharist one day and having an abbott or formator come in the next and tell me it's just a cookie and falling for it. There has to have been something happening --or maybe not happening-- or maybe both at once in distinct groups of people-- for things to have fallen so far, so fast.

Fr. Z's readers (not to say Fr. Z. himself), and most traditionalists I've encountered, seem to assume that Vatican II was responsible. I think of that as a post hoc propter hoc fallacy. I think in fact the Holy Spirit saw what was coming and inspired the Council as a pre-emptive strike, so the tools for overcoming the dark period that begain in earnest in 1968 would be there for those with the wisdom to take them up. I feel justified in that view by the fact that the author of what Fr. Z. aptly refers to as the "Marshall Plan" for the Church --Benedict XVI-- recently asked every Catholic to read and study the Council's document on the liturgy. So if our model for good liturgy thinks we should return to the Council, that's instructive for us, no? Previously he's urged us all to re-read the Council's main documents (and not, say, the Council of Trent). But to return to the question, Cardinal Stafford's reflection seems to suggest the great moment of decline was not Vatican II, but Humanae Vitae --not that the document caused the problem, but it caused the crisis after which there was a definite fault line. And as Cardinal Stafford also points out, a crisis is not necessarily a bad thing --but you'll have to read his account to see what I mean.