Elena at My Domestic Church said "In my life personally, I think the implementation of Vatican II, in the name of the elusive "spirit of Vatican II" robbed me of what it meant to truly be Catholic in how I lived my life, and learned my lessons, how I prayed, and how it was to actually LIVE A CATHOLIC LIFESTYLE. " I ask whether that happened because of Vatican II or just following it.
As a Church we do not exist outside the society in which we live--and challenging authority is what was happening in our society in the late 1960's and early 1970's. People were asking "why?" to many rules and schools were moving from rote memorization in many subjects to more of an inquiry-based approach (often to the detriment of the subject being taught, whether history, science or religion) The John Jay Report indicates that most of the priests involved in the scandals we are dealing with today were formed in pre-Vatican II seminaries--but most of the abuse was committed in the years closely following Vatican II--the years when "the establishment" was being challenged by young people on every front. I wonder if they were formed for an era that no longer existed and didn't have the background skills to deal with the era in which they lived, coupled with the temptations they faced.
It was also the time when many of our parents left the urban ethnic parishes in which they and their families grew up and moved to new suburban parishes which were hastily (and cheaply) constructed--parishes which never became the community centers those old city parishes did. Even in small towns, people moved further out of town or to new towns when the economies in the old towns faltered. I think that as social ties to the parish weakened, it was easier for those who did not want to attend mass to skip, since there was less (or even no) social pressure to go.
The great unknown is what our parishes and church would be like today if there had been no Vatican II. It is possible that we would still be attending Latin masses--but it is also possible that the vernacular could have been instituted without Vatican II--just as it is possible that what masses were said were said in Latin, but over the years fewer and fewer people chose to attend them. While it is possible that we would have rectories full of priests and convents full of sisters in every parish, it is also possible that the lower numbers of priests and religious have as much to do with increased opportunities for women, the decrease in stigma attached to living alone and increased resistance in society to commitment and responsibility. While it is possible that Catholics would shun birth control as a horrible sin, it is more likely that they would have done what they did--caved in to the economic pressure to have small families by using convenient methods (especially since the Vatican II document relating to family life doesn't endorse birth control). While it is possible that we would have learned religion from the Baltimore Catechism rather than those empty Sadlier books, memorization was "out" as an educational method at that time so its entirely possible that the BC would have been too--even without Vatican II.