A parish is made up of persons all along the political and religious spectrum .There are those who were excited by Vatican ll and others who thought that any change in the church was some form of betrayal. This was also true of every aspect of Catholic practice and doctrine. There were tugs at personal conscience and it was not so much that people were ignoring tradition, but rather exploring their faith through the eyes of the belief that the church was a living evolving organism.
There were many times that Jack and I were caught in these tensions and it was critical that we not only be respectful of different views we needed to listen to the hearts and souls of all. Some of the parishioners thought that we had lost our moral compass, and there was more than an occasional angry phone call to the pastor about our behavior.
There were those who believed that guitars on the altar were tantamount to heresy. In their view we were catering to the youth without giving them the sense of wonder and majesty of the sacred rites. They loved the tradition of the Latin Mass and felt that having the Mass said in English took away from the solemnity and beauty of the ritual. On the other hand there were others who so strongly believed in a female priesthood that they could not listen to the traditional reasons for a male clergy. Add to these the tensions surrounding patriotism and protests against the Vietnam War and a host of other societal issues and you realize it was far from a boring time to be in Westfield.
.Birth control had come raging upon the scene, and there were disagreements about the morality of the pill even among prominent theologians. I was not careless about the traditional prohibition but anyone who listened to the stories week after week of the marital issues that the policy created would have difficulty not believing there were grey areas.
The climate was in our minds a tremendous time especially for the young to be involved in respectful dialogue about their beliefs and values. It was more and more apparent to us that a blind adherence without discussion and a degree of openness would push the youth further from the church. Some argued that this was a compromise that would weaken their bond with the church. We found that argument plausible but not persuasive ,and so we tried to give both sides and clearly lay out current church teaching without ignoring their concerns and criticisms. We stressed that the more you invest in the exploration of your faith the more rewarding faith becomes. If there was no doubt then faith would be so easy but the willingness to challenge and seek was a wonderful way not to diminish the church but rather to make it more vibrant.