It’s early morning, still dark in Palmer Woods. The street lights are on, shining on the glaze of frost that covers the ground. There’s not a sound in my writing room, but the silence won’t last. Soon the rumble of engines and the thud of wheels on the pavement will break the quiet dawn
The neighbors are going to work. The few children who live in the great old houses will be shuttled off to school. An hour more, and the houses will be empty.
The life has been sucked right out of the neighborhoods.
The mothers are gone. Not just here, but all across America. There are a few who are holding on, raising their children, creating a home. But it’s a lonely task. Pope Pius XI wrote that woman is the heart of the home. That heart has been broken.
Women have changed. They had to, in order to adjust to what Pope Paul VI called “the recent evolution of society,” wherein “a change is also seen both in the manner of considering the person of woman and her place in society.”
It changed, all right.
And the Pope didn’t fight it. The bishops accepted it. The professors extolled it. And married Catholic women had to figure out what to do with their lives once their femininity was distorted and their queenship taken away. The home and woman’s place in it were reduced to an after-thought. Home became where you go after work.
Manners are different now that women have that “new place in society.” Men don’t stand up in a restaurant when a woman approaches the table. They don’t take off their hats in her company or watch their language. They don’t nod respectfully when she passes by on the street nor walk on the outside of the sidewalk. Nobody says ma’am. Why bother?
A new imperative, an artificial “gender equality,” has rendered these courtesies obsolete. Old women lament their loss; young women never knew such gallantry. Who remembers the reason for them? Who knows what they meant?
Please, may I remind you?
Men did all these things because women weren’t like them. There was something about womanhood, a dignity that commanded honor. It had nothing to do with business success or graduate degrees or winning elections. Her dignity was rooted in maternity—either actual or potential. It was the source of her power and her mystery. No man could do what she did. She could bring forth life. No worldly accomplishment could ever equal that.
So, of course, it had to be destroyed. The woman’s focus had to change. Her fecundity had to be monitored; her life had to be sterilized. It was all part of the transformation.
And Rome was complicit. Using their power to bind and loose, the popes of the Decade of Revolt engineered and imposed a systematic unravelling of the Catholic way of life. As I wrote in Parts I and II of this essay, there were three major attacks that destabilized the home and pushed the woman out: (1) The end of obligatory Friday abstinence; (2) The radical changes in the Roman Calendar; and (3) most lethal of all, the years-long “taking under advisement” the morality of the Pill, which will be treated in Part IV.
The attacks came in waves, spanning the decade of the sixties. Sometimes they were separate; sometimes they overlapped. Whether the onslaught was deliberate or merely misguided, only God knows. But even before the sacred liturgy was ravaged, the groundwork was laid. Tradition was shattered. The arrows of destruction hit their mark. Woman was weakened; her maternal governance, undermined. The home couldn’t stand.
No human society can survive once the home is ruined. The Church would endure, the Faith would live, but Christendom was doomed.
Let history record: we are witness to its collapse.
The First Target: The Kitchen Table
No one thought it was an attack when Pope Paul VI set aside the Friday Law of Abstinence. But it was. The relaxation toppled the universal order and discipline of the Church Militant. Abstaining from meat on Friday was part of our uniform. We wore it proudly. It was a mark of distinction and honor, demonstrating to everyone that we were in the world, but not of it.
We were soldiers of Christ.
The woman kept the uniform pressed. The iron was in her hand. As part of a sisterhood of homemakers, united in ancient custom and fidelity, she could carry out her mission undisturbed. Her house was in order. There were no arguments; the Friday abstinence was not open to negotiation. She planned the meals, made sure the discipline was observed at her table. It was under her control; she made it happen.
The tradition was safe. But Rome stripped it away.
No longer backed by law, the woman lost her authority. If her husband wanted steak and the children wanted hot dogs on Friday, who was she to say no? Her talent to unite and her role in remembrance were snatched from her.
She could try to carry on, but it wasn’t the same once everything was optional. The discipline she had upheld and the customs that flowed from it were gone. Now, she was subject to the vagaries of everybody else’s appetites.
The ranks were dispersed. Unit cohesion was gone. It was every man for himself.
The ramifications of the breakdown were horrific, and the effects are still felt. The Church wasn’t supposed to change—everybody believed that back then. Little things, maybe, but nothing important. God didn’t change, and the Church reflected His changelessness. There was security in that certitude and hope for Heaven.
But the pope pulled the rug out from under the people by destroying an integral part of Christian life.
What did it mean?
people wondered as they tried to reason it out. This whole Friday thing must not have been God’s will to begin with—it’s all just human stuff. They say it’s discipline, not doctrine. What’s the difference? Something’s sin one day and not the next? First you go to Hell for eating meat on Friday and now you don’t? Doesn’t make sense.
Confusion took hold. And Apollyon marked his first victory.
People forgot what the rule was all about. They weren’t reminded that the law of Friday abstinence was not an arbitrary obligation. It had deep meaning and substance: the virtue of obedience lay behind it.
That’s what the devil was after. We know his character—from the very beginning, from the Temptation of Eve, he wanted that obedience gone. He lusted for the submission of Christ’s bride, the subjection of the Church to himself.
The wind blew from the fires of Hell, and a new teaching took hold—the idea that the penance a person chooses for himself is better than that he does because he has to. It was more than error; it was a lie, but it went largely unobserved. People were no longer told that something done under obedience to the discipline of the Church is superior to that chosen by themselves because it entails a voluntary submission to the will of God.
It was the demon’s masterstroke. By taking away the obligation—an easy one, at that—people lost the sense of obedience to the Church. Worse, they lost the knowledge that the Church spoke for Christ—that He manifested His will through the disciplines and rules of the Catholic Church. All that was set aside. It was each man for himself. Everyone became his own general, making his own rules, deciding what he would do, never mind regulations. There weren’t any.
At first, people might have tried to do something—give up meat, do an act of charity, give alms. But after awhile, the penitential aspect of Friday faded. One thing followed another. First, the fear of breaking the rules died away, soon followed by the loss of the fear of Judgment. Last, and most devastating, people lost their fear of God. What’s to fear? they said to themselves. It doesn’t matter. Rules can be broken. And they went their merry way.
But the fear of God is beginning of wisdom the Holy Scriptures say—and any fool can see there’s not much wisdom in the world.
All because of the relaxation of a simple rule.
The Second Target: The Calendar
The next attack was the radical reorganization and revision of the liturgical year. Like the relaxation of Friday abstinence, the changes in the calendar hit the woman first and hardest because she was the guardian of the culture, the Mistress of Ceremonies of daily life. Without even having to think about it, Catholic wives and mothers lived by the calendar. It marked the rhythm of their lives. There was always something to observe, something to mourn or to celebrate. They were the ones to do it.
It was different then. I remember the women at Holy Family long ago—aged Sicilian women, long departed, who took me under their wing while revolution rocked the church. They were holding on, refusing to change, keeping the customs of the Old World in the middle of Detroit.
Like mothers, they taught me how to keep the liturgical year in the kitchen. The calendar was our guide. There were different foods for different days: wheat for Santa Lucia, fava beans on St. Joseph’s Day, keep quietly during Lent, artichoke frittata and sweet peppers in sauce after Holy Face devotions on the third Thursday of every month. The rhythm rolled on, year after year.
But then the jolt came that disrupted everything. With cold disregard to Catholic sensibility, the old calendar was removed and a new one imposed. There were over two hundred changes. Two-thirds of the year jumbled! No one knows what day it was anymore.
It happened a long time ago, before the present pope was even ordained, and the wounds have not yet healed. How could they? Things have gotten even more confusing with Pope Benedict XVI bringing back the 1962 calendar for use with the Old Mass. So now we have two calendars! How’s that for the hermeneutics of continuity? Talk about confusion. The problem is, neither one seems real now. The connection to the past was broken.
But let’s go back to 1969 and Mysterii Pachalis, Pope Paul VI’s radical motu proprio that reorganized the liturgical year and “revised the liturgical celebrations of Jesus Christ and the saints.” It was done, the experts said, because of the “progress in historical understanding and hagiographical studies.”
The Roman Calendar had been changed numerous times over the centuries—a saint moved here or there, new ones added, new Feasts promulgated. It was development and growth of a living thing, the young sapling growing into a towering tree, rich and heavy with fruit.
This change was different. The New Calendar rocked the lives of ordinary Catholics. It was catastrophic. Feasts were moved; names were changed. Beloved saints were removed, cast off like dead fish. It was said that the lives of certain friends in Heaven could not be verified; their acts were “fabulous,” and not in the wonderful sense of the word, but pertaining to fables. A stinking pall of falsity and historical revisionism lay over the holy calendar.
This was dishonor at the highest levels. St. Barbara was gone, and St. Christopher. They were the most well known, but there were so many others—Telephorus, Domitilla and Marcellus. Symphorosa and her seven sons. The list was long. Other saints were determined not to be “of universal importance,” and were relegated to a few local celebrations: Valentine, Anastasius, and Canute. The glorious Passion of St. Boniface and the acts of Prisca, Dorothy, Eustace, and Giles were declared unhistorical. Two others, a certain Cyprian and Justin, were declared “fictional.”
So where was the certainty about canonizations, about the Church’s knowledge of heavenly things? Gone. Cast aside.
The psychological impact was profound. In days past, mothers of families, teachers, and nuns would mark the Saint of the Day, relating the wondrous works of virgins and martyrs, of popes and kings, of nuns and queens. Soldiers and sailors and confessors of the Faith were remembered.
But they couldn’t be sure anymore, could they? The past was mocked, as if previous popes and councils, the guardians of the Faith, were a bunch of medieval ignoramuses.
Nobody could really know for certain who was in Heaven and how they got there. A general conclusion was reached: Everything can change. It’s impossible to hold on, so why try? Better not be too rigid about anything. Things can change any minute.
And they were right. They did.
The third arrow was the worst of all. Worse than disciplines and days, human life itself was under attack.
The woman was stricken at the very heart of her nature—her maternity. So many staggered. So many fell. And the Catholic home was razed.
It will take the Hand of the Carpenter to rebuild it.
 Pius XI, Casti Connubi, December 31, 1930
 Paul VI, Humane Vitae, July 25, 1968
That noun of address is disparaged, as if it is insulting somehow, indicating a woman is—God forbid! —old. Foolish arbiters of how we talk. Don’t they know ma’am is short for madame, which means My Lady?
 I won’t call it the Extraordinary Form. The Novus Ordo is the thing that’s “out of the ordinary.” And Tridentine is imprecise. The Old Mass (old form, if you must!) predates Trent by hundreds of years. I much prefer simple words: old and new. The qualifiers are understood.