Considering the Council

There's a bit of a public battle raging at the moment within the public Church about Vatican II. Whatever side of the discussion you are on, it seems clear that the Second Vatican Council did not achieve what it set out to achieve.

The confusion is not surprising at all and it seems to me to be a direct result of this papacy. Pope Francis tenure in the Holy See is marked by confusion and obfuscation, verbose, wordy documents that most people won't read and that baffle those of us who do bother to read them, a quagmire of corruptioncover-up, strange pronouncements & accords, loaded synods.

Recently I have seen numerous comments which recall the virtual Catholic world under Pope Benedict XVI - a world full of unity and hope where excited bloggers proliferated, engaging in a profusion of catechetical discussions and explanations, revelling in confidence at the splendour and rigour of Catholic doctrine.

Today this is but a memory. There's constant sniping on-line between divisions of Catholics. Some of the faithful are stalwartly trying to defend Pope Francis even though that means simply not talking about some issues - like the deal with China for example.
The result has been a broad division between those who want to embrace Pope Francis' vision of Catholicism and those who seek to be disciples of a recognisable version of the Apostolic faith.

The Church is not static - it moves forward in time and has to respond to the challenges of each new era. But that does not mean abandoning her founding principles. The clear dichotomy is explained brilliantly in this recent post by Evangelical Theologian Dr. Ian Paul. His analysis of the Gospel story of Jesus' encounter with the Syrophonecian Woman (Mk 7:24-30) highlights the contrast between exegesis - opening God's Word & seeking to be taught & eisegesis - which seeks to weaponise Scripture for personal & political gain. It has always been the case that some people open Scripture and seek understanding & some others seek justification for stuff they want to do despite knowing that the reality is it is selfish & wrong.

Two priests I really admire have exchanged essays on the argument recently. The discussion was sparked by an essay written by Bishop Athanasius Schneider & published by Lifesite here. Largely following the hypothesis in his recent book Christus vincit, Bishop Schneider proposes a revision of problematic areas of Vatican II, in this piece, he particularly refers to Dignitatis Humanae.  The context is Pope Francis signing a document on human flourishing which states that God wills a plurality of religions. When questioned by journalists on the flight home, the Holy Father's response was to recourse to Vatican II and state that what he asserted was nothing which was not taught by the council. +Schneider examines the objections against the presumed legitimacy of the exercise of religious freedom that the Second Vatican Council theorised and which would appear to contradict the testimony of Sacred Scripture and the voice of Tradition, as well as the Catholic Magisterium which is the faithful guardian of both.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano responded with this piece which praises +Schneider for clearly recognising the causal link between the principles implied or read into Vatican II and their logical consequent effect in the doctrinal, moral, liturgical, and disciplinary deviations that have arisen and progressively developed to the present day.

He states:
the progressives and modernists astutely knew how to hide equivocal expressions in the conciliar texts, which at the time appeared harmless to most but that today are revealed in their subversive value. It is the method employed in the use of the phrase subsistit in: saying a half-truth not so much as not to offend the interlocutor (assuming that is licit to silence the truth of God out of respect for His creature), but with the intention of being able to use the half-error that would be instantly dispelled if the entire truth were proclaimed. Thus “Ecclesia Christi subsistit in Ecclesia Catholica” does not specify the identity of the two, but the subsistence of one in the other and, for consistency, also in other churches: here is the opening to interconfessional celebrations, ecumenical prayers, and the inevitable end of any need for the Church in the order of salvation, in her unicity, and in her missionary nature.
This is the sort of thing I have often heard from staunch "trads" but to hear it from a prominent cleric is really interesting. The LG 8 argument this refers to was something I studied for my degree and I posted one of the essays I wrote about it here.

Viganò basically states that in the light of what has resulted from the council, widespread confusion about doctrine, abandonment of religious life by thousands, neglect of the sacraments by millions, it might be better if the Church just set it aside.

Viganò’s suggestion sparked an uproar.

Viganò had said that which cannot be said in the Church today. For in the post-Conciliar Catholic Church, and especially in the Vatican, the affirmation that the Council brought a positive “new era” for the Catholic Church, a “new springtime,” has become a dogma that cannot be questioned.

Viganò did not claim that he himself was without blame.

In fact, he openly confessed that he had for many years accepted the ambiguities of the conciliar texts without any real hesitation.

He wrote: 
Just as I honestly and serenely obeyed questionable orders sixty years ago, believing that they represented the loving voice of the Church, so today with equal serenity and honesty I recognize that I have been deceived. Being coherent today by persevering in error would represent a wretched choice and would make me an accomplice in this fraud.
Astounding for a layman like myself, who has read the texts and wondered about the ambiguities.

And he added: 
Claiming a clarity of judgement from the beginning would not be honest: we all knew that the Council would be more or less a revolution, but we could not have imagined that it would prove to be so devastating.
Weinandy's response was very good and he warns against throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, which is an accusation often aimed at Vatican II itself!

He puts it like this:
The present problem is that all of the above evils that afflicted the Church after Vatican II, and continue to do so in various ways, are said to find their cause within Vatican II itself, or more so within the so-called “spirit of Vatican II” — the liberal hermeneutic that declared that what is important about the Council is not so much what it said, but more so the new liberating spirit that it engendered.

Nonetheless, the conclusion is often drawn that if it were not for the Council, the Church would have continued to thrive as it seemingly was doing prior to the Council. This, I claim, is an erroneous judgement.

It is naïve to think that so many priests, prior to the Council, were men of deep faith, and then, overnight, after the Council, were corrupted by the Council or the spirit of the Council, and so jettisoned their faith and left the priesthood. Monasteries, friaries, and convents could not have been filled with ardent religious who then subsequent to and because of the Council so swiftly lost their vowed fervor that they traipsed off into the world, leaving a remnant who were themselves often theologically confused and spiritually adrift. Catholic universities and theology faculties could not have been staffed by men and women who were alive in the faith and who enthusiastically communicated that faith to their students, yet who, upon the close of the Council, so eagerly, though often with the best of intentions, fed their students the latest theological fads and authored books that appeared to be the most theologically insightful and creative. In reality, they often turned out to be colorfully camouflaged versions of various antique and already disgraced heresies.
This brought a response from the Archbishop, which Weinandy responded to yesterday. You can follow the discussion yourself by clicking on the links, it is very illuminating I think and looks at areas of the faith I am very interested in.

The noise from all of this was so great that Bishop Barron even weighed in: 

We can't know what would have happened, but I think we can look at where we are and try to correct obvious avenues of error. I tend to agree with Fr Weinandy's approach, and Bishop Schneider. The Holy Spirit has taken us in this direction for a reason, we must, in all humility, try to learn what we can from the errors we have made and try with renewed vigour to follow Jesus at all times. I saw the following from an Irish ex-seminarian friend on Facebook and thought it was so poignant and so well written and that it expressed the way I think and feel about my faith currently so well, I would ask if I could reproduce it here. I do so, with the author's permission, on condition I withhold his name:

"Some will have to forgive me for being critical of Bishop Barron and his defence of Vatican II. I spent 9 years with the Legionaries of Christ and John Paul II used to refer to us a being central to the "new evangelisation" a term he started using in 1983. The Legion of Christ/ regnum Christi was held up as the future of the Faith. We embodied the proper implementation of Vatican II.

To be clear there are many many excellent and dedicated Legionary Priests who are doing stellar work. So I'm not criticising them here.

So while Priests have left the Church in their thousands, vocations plummeted, The Pope saw some hope in us, and in other groups like the Opus Dei, Neocats. (not the traditionalists)

Fr. Maciel managed to build the Legion and get it approved after the Council. When I entered in 1991 I remember them talking about how they were 100% approved and had constitutions approved in 1983. (however novices were not allowed to get a copy of the complete constitutions just certain chapters, if you were going to be a benedictine you would be expected to read the rule BEFORE you entered) anyway.

We were 21 Irish Novices in 1991.

The Legion of Christ wholeheartedly embraced Vatican II, but they did keep a lot of Latin, we had novus ordo in Latin. Communion kneeling on the tongue (never on the hand).

Sadly we didn't have divine office and there was practically no asceticism. The founder wasn't fond of asceticism and he never wrote about it.

In the 1990's there was no talk about traditional movements, the SSPX were some evil group who hated the Pope and were ignored. that is how they were viewed. I remember once hearing about the FSSP who had a seminary in the US and who had "special" permission. The impression I got was they were tiny and ring fenced.

I have never seen or went to a traditional Latin mass. I knew very little about the various pre-Vatican II traditions we had lost.

So many of us bought into the Vatican II new evangelisation as the ONLY future of the church. Vatican II must be protected, it seems to be working right? we were growing, we were reassured about being the future of the Church.

I really think John Paul II understood the problems too late, his last Encyclical was Ecclesia de Eucharistia, and the Church lives around the Eucharist.

I've meditated on the Eucharist for years, and the more you turn to the Eucharist the more you understand how our Church has created an open wound in the faith. We turned away from the Eucharist. We took out our tabernacles in thousands of Chapels, we removed our Altar rails, we don't celebrate the Eucharist in-front of the Cross. Priests have to be entertainers at mass. Before Vatican II the Priest was leading the congregation in prayer.

I go between Novus Ordo Irish Parish congregations and SSPX Chapels in Ireland (I would prefer Silverstream for Latin mass, but COVID stopped that) So I am going to pre-Vatican II and post Vatican II chapels. We have two completely different ways of practising the faith. It is really painful to see what we did to the faith in Ireland.

I know traditionalist are a mixed bag, some may seem extreme. But something happened to the Faith in Ireland and the radical changes were enabled by Vatican II, those changes to the way we practice the faith would never have happened without Vatican II. Vatican II was the catalyst of every bad change in the Church. Maybe there are no errors in the documents themselves (let the theologians debate that out). That fact remains, we had a council, we had change, the change was bad. Religious communities with no identity and no vocations. Every indicator on the changes made after Vatican II is negative.

People might point to one or other growing group and forget the thousands of convents and monasteries that closed. The Thousands of chapels closed in the last 50 years. Look at the Netherlands.

In 2020 Ireland we have reached the moment that the Eucharist is given like a potato crisp in the hand as people leave the chapel. Priests who didn't want to celebrate mass, Bishops chastising faithful for asking for mass. (while the left wing activists march in their thousands )

Someone said to be once that uncertainty always drives people to return to familiar positions. That returning to traditional Latin mass is the wrong thing for Catholics to do. But remember I never grew up with this, I discovered tradition myself, I sought it out. I am not returning to what is familiar for me, I am discovering what I never experienced.

To me tradition fits with the faith I love, Its not a rebellion. Its about putting Our Lord back where he belongs at the centre of the Mass. Its the mass of mystics, of Saints. Of all ages.

Anyway if I sound angry or frustrated on Facebook it comes from sadness what what is being done to the Faith. Sadly too many Priests don't understand what has happened.

I don't want to be critical of the hierarchy, but I'm saddened some lost faith in the Eucharist.

Some day a council will be called to address this, Our Mass will return and we will have ONE Latin rite not two."

I don't want to revoke the Second Vatican Council and I know we live in the shadow of a great council of the Church - such situations are often fraught with choppy waters - but I do think if we are going fulfil the commission Christ has given us, we need to be honest about the problems that we face and where we have gone wrong. Looking at history & Scripture (especially) this always seems to be when we fail to trust God and instead think that we have no need of Him and have all the answers ourselves. That sounds like the definition of modernism/ progressivism to me. 


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