The 1960s: A Catholic Counter-Culture? by Charles Coulombe

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Image: Pope John XXIII at the opening of the Second Vatican Council

By Charles Coulombe, Crisis Magazine, June 1, 2020

Charles A. Coulombe is a contributing editor at Crisis and the magazine’s European correspondent. He previously served as a columnist for the Catholic Herald of London and a film critic for the National Catholic Register. A celebrated historian, his books include Puritan’s Empire and Star-Spangled Crown. He resides in Vienna, Austria and Los Angeles, California.


Charles CoulombeCall the generation of which I am an exceedingly junior member either “the Baby Boomers” or the “Generation of ’68” and you evoke two similar but distinct images. The first makes one think of self-indulgent hippies-turned-self-indulgent old people; the second, revolutionaries-become-establishment. While neither is completely accurate, neither is entirely false. Like it or not, the folk born in the two decades that began in 1944 shall be eternally linked in the popular mind (and in many of their own) with what Wikipedia calls the counter-culture of the 1960s.

Sit-ins and love-ins, protest songs and psychedelic tunes, Berkeley and Haight-Ashbury, and “God is dead” theology and the Age of Aquarius—this jumble of contradictions had many strands contributing to it. The civil rights movement that had labored long and at last successfully to end Jim Crow was part of the phenomenon, as was the growing opposition to the war in Vietnam on the part of many potential conscripts. The collapse of sexual mores contingent upon the legalization of the pill unleashed a wave of marital issues, of which the increasing respectability of shacking up was the most immediately visible.   …

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