Interesting comment from Rod Dreher on Amy's blog:
As George and Amy point out, something went seriously wrong in that generation before the Council, else we wouldn't have had such a rapid and complete collapse. I think what George means by "rule-based formation" is the old model of being told what to believe without it being explained to one. The first priest to do my personal instruction (I bailed on RCIA because it had zero content, and was all about feeling good about Jesus) was an elderly Irishman formed in that system. I appreciated him at first because he cared about doctrine. But I quickly saw that he was unable to explain in any depth why the Church taught what it did. He thought it was sufficient to say, "Look, here's what the Church teaches, accept it if you want to, or reject it, but here's the deal." You can imagine how frustrating that was for somebody like me, who had great sympathy for the Church, but really wanted to know where this doctrine comes from. Yet I don't feel harshly toward this good priest. That was how he was raised.
I'm thinking that a lot of folks in that Conciliar generation were never taught the deeper reason why the Church teaches what it teaches, and when confronted with a culture, but within the Church and outside it, that forcefully challenged the Church ... found that they couldn't withstand the blast.
Let me find a political analogy, and see if that helps. I wrote a cover story for Natl Review that examined in part why the Netherlands went from being one of the most religious and conservative countries in Europe to being the most secular and liberal in a single generation. In a nutshell, it's like this: the Dutch are a strongly consensus-oriented people, very averse to conflict. In the 19th-c., leaders of the three blocs in the country -- the Protestants, the Catholics and the Socialists/secularists -- got together and worked out a power-sharing system, called "pillarization." The idea was that the country rested on three pillars, and that maintaining social and political unity depended on everyone trusting the leadership and falling into line. Disputes were worked out at the top, and everybody stayed in their own little pillar. They even had Catholic grocery stores, Catholic soccer teams, etc. Everybody stayed in his own pillar, and got along fine.
The Second World War broke all that up, and by the time the 1960s came, people began to question why they were still living according to pillarization, and all that entailed (esp. religious devotion). The leaders had no answer for them. And lacking the ability to articulate why it was impt to live this way, the old order collapsed. People had ceased to believe in it, because at some point they had grown comfortable in their belief that the world would always be the way they arranged it.
Holland has never recovered. And because the Dutch are strongly consensus-oriented, when the leadership stopped being able or willing to articulate its raison d'etre, the people crumbled too.
I think that dynamic may explain a lot of why the Church collapsed as it did post-Vatican II, even though in America, the 1950s were a golden age.