|Pat and Patty Crowley|
Hope and anticipation for Vatican II was fostered by the Christian Family Movement which was founded by a Chicago couple, Pat and Patty Crowley. Essentially a lay movement within the Roman Catholic Church it fostered ecumenism, status for the laity, liturgical reform, and Catholic action with the goal of a better world. Vatican II was encouraging but Pope Paul VI's Encyclical, Humanae Vitae, prohibiting artificial birth control, restricted progress. This disappointed the Crowleys, but they continued in their efforts for church reform. I am confident you will find the following story about the Crowleys moving and insightful. It is written by their oldest daughter - Patricia Anne Crowley, O.S.B. Bill Lange
Our 103 year old Sister, Vivian Ivantic, has been urging me to write about my parents for a couple of years now. However, until William Lange invited me to write about my parents for his blog, I kept procrastinating saying to myself, I am just too close to this topic…..I will try to write next week…I just don’t have time right now, etc.
So let me at least begin. My father, Patrick F. Crowley, the son of Irish Catholic parents, was a fascinating combination of traditional religious practices and creative avant-garde spirituality. His lifelong friendships from his early years at St. Mary of the Lake grammar school and Loyola Academy persisted even though those men were of various political persuasions and religious practices. He adored my mother and with her and those friends, formed what was known as “The Poker Club” or, at one point as “The Stork Club”. He used his professional career as a lawyer to serve both sides of the family as their corporate counsel as well as to provide for his immediate growing family and to help all who came to him for legal advice and / or financial support. He was a learner par excellence and reached out to emerging voices in our world to come and share with the hundreds of couples who gathered each year at Notre Dame for the annual conventions of the Christian Family Movement. My impression always was that no one could bring themselves to dislike him and hardly anyone could say “no” to him! What I suspect that people seldom saw in him was a soul that felt great anguish at other people’s suffering. His disappointment was particularly evident to me when the encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae, was published. He took that turn of events to heart and felt keenly the pain of couples around the world at that time.
Patty Caron Crowley, my mother, was the daughter of a Jansenist French-Canadian father and a Baptist mother, who converted to Catholicism when Patty was young. She was often misunderstood by her mother, when as a student of the late Father John A. Ryan at Trinity College in D.C., she learned of Catholic social teaching and began to make decisions based on what she had learned. Her social and political views were even more radicalized when she connected with the handsome Pat Crowley, who had been formed to think broadly in his years at Notre Dame University. When they met, Pat was smitten immediately. Patty, probably to please her mother who did not think a poor Irish law student was good enough for any daughter of hers, went off to Paris for a year and there dated several continental guys. She apparently always remembered those times and never ever regretted her acceptance of Pat’s proposal for marriage upon her return home.
Pat and Patty were soul mates. Their personalities could not have been more different! Their relational complementarity was their gift to all of us. Their roles fit their personalities – he the visionary and she the organizational and practical one. Together they graciously welcomed people of all faiths and origins into our home.
In the 31 years between their deaths, I came to know and appreciate my mother’s strength and determination. She, too, suffered greatly from the Church’s decision to go against the majority opinion of the Birth Control Commission. It took her 25 years after Humanae Vitae was published, to speak out publicly about their “conversion” experience. They, along with the vast majority of that group, were convinced by letters from couples around the world, by scientists and theologians on the Commission that birth control was not intrinsically evil. The official Church chose not to follow that advice and, as a drastic result, lost much of its authority among many of its members.
That is the context in which I grew into adulthood. The family I knew in the first decade of my life was pretty typical of the times – as many children as possible, parochial school for the kids, daily mass at 6:30 a.m., family rosary after the evening meal, regular visits to grandparents, nightly family dinners, summer camp experiences and so much more. That all changed during the next decade of my life.