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A Long View of Vatican II Print E-mail
By Stephen P. White   
Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Catholics of my generation – the generation that came of age during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II – find it almost impossible to imagine the way the world was on October 11, 1962, the day the Second Vatican Council opened.

My generation knows only the post-Conciliar Church with its priest shortages, parish and school closings, and empty confessionals. Dissent, if “grayer” and less energetic than in recent decades, is in many ways more widespread and deeply engrained, especially on questions of sexual ethics and family life.

The self-inflicted wounds of the sex-abuse scandals fester while the enemies of the Church revel in recounting the sins and crimes of her priests. Liturgy, if not the mess it once was, rarely soars and occasionally wallows. But then, how could it be otherwise, given how ugly our church buildings are these days.

The list of gripes is scandalously long.

Compare all this to my generations oft received (and only half-true) account of the pre-Conciliar Church – pious, devout, and vibrant; liturgies well incensed and in Latin – and it’s easy to see the Council as the beginning of a time of decline, dissolution, and decay.

In some sense, of course, it was. The Council was convened before the most violent eruptions began, the cultural vents and spiritual rifts that spewed so much billowing smoke and toxic fume in the ensuing years had been opening and rumbling for decades, though few had the wisdom or vision to see.

It is tempting to think that, had the Council Fathers been more foresighted – more critical of modernity and less ebullient in their optimism – the catastrophes of the past forty+ years could have been avoided, or at least greatly mitigated.

While it’s obvious (especially in hindsight) that all men are imperfect, it is a grave mistake to “blame the Council” for the Church’s woes – as though we’d have been better off without it.

For one, it is impossible to conceive of a John Paul II or a Benedict XVI without the Council. These two popes have piloted the Barque of Peter through some very treacherous waters. In this, the Council has proved an invaluable aid.


Vatican II

In this view, Vatican II didn’t cause the ecclesiastical paroxysms that followed; it arrived just in time to ready the Church for the coming trials. The Council provided tools and weapons that the Church would desperately need in the radically altered cultural, social, and spiritual terrain that was emerging. The Council proved a prophetic antidote to the confusion that came after. But it meant entering the desert.

The desert is a hard place and hostile to life. In Biblical imagery, the lifeless desert is a stark contrast to the verdant paradise of Eden. Through the course of salvation history, the desert comes to represent much more than death and exile:  the desert becomes a place where the vices of the Garden – pride and rebellion – are unlearned. It is a place where God’s people relearn that their strength is in Him alone.

The desert is a place of fasting and of prayer, pointing the way, through temptation and self-denial, to Christ who himself fasted in the desert and in whose Passion our suffering finds meaning. Thus the desert is also a place of blessing.

It is increasingly possible to see recent decades not as a colossal disaster or setback for the Church, but as a time of blessing: as a painful but necessary time of fasting and mortification in preparation for the Church’s mission in a changed world. It was precisely this mission for which the Holy Spirit, through the Council, was preparing the Church. The Council was the Holy Spirit’s way of inoculating the Church against the worst of late modernity, and it remains one of the Church’s greatest assets in the New Evangelization.

Many Catholics today, especially the young, are increasingly hopeful. Theirs is emphatically not a worldly hope, but the hope of a people who proclaim with St. Paul:  “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.”

Against very long odds (long, at least, from a worldly point of view) the Church today is flourishing. This is not the result of “overcoming” Vatican II, or “getting beyond” the Council, rather it is one of the true fruits of the Council.

It profits us nothing to pretend the Council has brought only good and left no knots to untie. But neither should we forget that the Council was the work not of man so much as of the Holy Spirit. In this there is all the reason in the world for confidence. As the Prophet Isaiah wrote:

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

The Holy Spirit knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t.



Stephen P. White is a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and the coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society.

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Comments (38)Add Comment
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written by Brennan, October 12, 2011
I don't know if I've ever read an article more divorced from reality than this. Yet it's typical of the "Don't blame the Council! It wasn't the Council's fault!" scenario. While not everything was the Council's fault, the Council certainly paved the way for the reforms which have been nothing less than a disaster (and I'm thinking particularly about the liturgy and all the desacralization of Catholic life, art, and architecture that went with it).

"The Council provided tools and weapons that the Church would desperately need in the radically altered cultural, social, and spiritual terrain that was emerging. The Council proved a prophetic antidote to the confusion that came after."

This is an interesting quote in that it's not followed by a single example of any tool or weapon provided by Vatican II to fight anything. But I supposed if you count letting an antidote ravage the body as a success than I suppose Vatican II was a wonderful antidote and someday the confusion will start to abate and we can see this wonderful cure kick in.

Regarding the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict VXI yes, I suppose it is a great thing if crew members shoot holes in the ship thus forcing the next few skippers to desperately bail water.

And while prayer and fasting is a wonderful thing, it is not laudable to head into a jungle environment by first pouring out most of your canteen water and then stepping out.

"the desert becomes a place where the vices of the Garden – pride and rebellion – are unlearned."

Again, this comment seems divorced from reality. When Catholics are sinning impudently, not going to Mass or confession, they are not unlearning pride or rebellion. They are wallowing in it. And I can't think of a single thing that has come out of Vatican II that has helped stem the tide of laxity in obedience and living a faithful Catholic life.

I hope and pray Catholic outlets such as The Catholic Thing start taking a good hard look at Vatican II and its effects in accord with reality (which requires wisdom and humility).

Vatican II was a valid Council, yes, but not all Councils achieve most or even any of the goals it sets out for itself. It seems as if one thinks of whatever Vatican II was supposed to produce: greater missionary zeal, evangelism, greater faithfulness and holiness among the laity, etc. we have produced its exact opposite.

God bless.
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written by Manfred, October 12, 2011
Well said, Brennan. Just recently Cdl Piacenza, in an address to seminarians, reminded them that there cannot be a pre-conciliar Church and a post-conciliar Church as otherwise one of them, the post-conciliar Church is "illegitimate". That is why this pope is scrambling around insisting on a "hermeneutic of continuity" in order to overcome the "hermeneutic of rupture" which was the thinking of the progressives (neo-modernists) who dominated at the council. They really began a New Order (Novus Ordo).
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written by Achilles, October 12, 2011
Thank you Dr. White for that outstanding essay. John Luckas noted that “pestilent habit of attribution” where we ascribe motives and reasons to complex things that are great reductions of reality, has taken on epidemic proportions. Everyone finds themselves an expert, a renaissance man: the more myopic, the more sweeping the attributions. I think of Manfred who thinks the rising price of tea in China was caused by the Vatican II council. Thank you again for a sane essay!


P.S. Brennon, either Dr. White is out of touch and the council was damaging, or you and Manfred are out of touch with reality. You two seem to fancy yourselves more Catholic than the Good Popes. Bailing out water? wisdom and humility? No one can fault your self esteem, but this is a value of the world and the world is a liar.
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written by Titus, October 12, 2011
Good heavens. Might we say that things are not quite as dire as Brennan says, even if Mr. White took an overly optimistic view of things? Of course one can't blame all of the Church's woes of the last decades on the Council: forces at work in western society as a whole were going to do a lot of damage regardless. The origins of much of the horrifying nonsense that we associate with the post-concilar period are readily visible in the years before the council. Nor should we view a period of confusion and discord as the unique aftermath of Vatican II: three-quarters of a century of the same sort of confusion followed the reforms of Trent.

The changes wrought in society by modernity justified a council. Perhaps the council would have been more immediately effective had it been called ten years earlier, or ten years later. But that is neither here nor there. Certainly, insofar as the human element in the council's work is concerned it is easy to conclude that the council fathers were far too high on modernity, too sure of man's abilities. But at the same time, it was the human element in the aftermath of the council that demonstrated the greatest failure: the council did not wreak havoc, for the reforms that it called for have never been implemented. Men with their own agendas wreaked havoc of their own making, and were able to use the council as a justification that it did not in fact provide. Laymen, for instance, had little access to the texts themselves, and Catholics were not then accustomed to reading official documents regardless.

So while I would not have phrased everything the same way Mr. White did, his thesis (at least at its most basic) is a fair one: the council was guided by the Holy Spirit, and the afflictions of the Church in the last fifty years must be laid ultimately at the feet of those persons responsible, not heaped haphazardly on the council. Whatever might have happened, we can be confident that there is no sacrilege, no number of lax bishops, no flawed hermeneutic of rupture that God cannot use as an instrument of grace. Blaming just the council, then, is shortsighted (for it presumes without basis that great bounties will not flow from it eventually) and unjust (for it declines to ascribe due blame to the individuals who were personally responsible for the post-concilar sacrilege).
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written by Grump, October 12, 2011
As a cradle Catholic growing up pre-1962, I was in awe of the Church. There was the mystery of the Mass, in Latin, of course, and the milieu, for want of a better word, was different. I do not know how much Vatican II embraced modernity, but looking around today nearly 50 years later, I see a much different Church -- still holding to its basic dogmas but fighting it hard to resist the strong forces of secularism.

When I went to Mass a few months ago to try to get back into the fold, it felt like I was in a Protestant church, what with the guitar playing, folk songs and a sterile altar devoid of any beauty. The homily was trite -- entirely read by the priest -- rather than spontaneous as I remembered it. Bishop Sheen would say that if you didn't remember your speech how could you expect the audience to?

The only thing that preserves hope is the Church's unyielding stands on abortion, homosexuality and other social issues, which virtually all the other so-called Christian sects have capitulated.

If Rome stands firm, there's still a chance one more prodigal son will return some day notwithstanding my nostalgia for the old days.
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written by JOE, October 12, 2011
Wow. Make that Double Wow.

A spiel worthy of the current President in its grand phrases and hollow content. I guess if something HAS to be good, we will eventually all see it as good, right?

"it is a grave mistake to blame the Council for the Church’s woes ... it is impossible to conceive of a John Paul II or a Benedict XVI without the Council ...In this, the Council has proved an invaluable aid."

Dude, the Council did not give us these guys, THEY gave us the Council. Get your history straight. And they presided over the ongoing decline.

"The Council provided tools and weapons that the Church would desperately need in the radically altered cultural, social, and spiritual terrain that was emerging."

SUCH AS?

"The Council proved a prophetic antidote to the confusion that came after."

Guffaw. That is why we have yet to get definitive translations of the documents. That is why basic questions like inspiration remain fudged and left disputed, and why the entire American Church in the ranks waffles on so many questions, and a Catholic mayor fearlessly legalese Gay marriage.

Pieces like these confirm for me that all the hype about Vatican II is a case of The Emperors New Clothes. The Council was an attempt at accommodation from which we are still reeling. Church architecture is the first and most easily observable sign.

I am personally glad for the changed attitude towards Protestants, so have to qualify my rant. But all in all, as a Council what a colossal failure.

How can you pronounce something a prophetic antidote if IT HASN' T WORKED.
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written by JOE, October 12, 2011
Titus:

If one reads the histories, he or she sees that many individuals "personally responsible" for the events were in fact players at Vatican II. Hence separating Council from personalities is not so simple. No, Vatican II was not all to blame. But neither was also it a gift pony.It would be nice if "we could all just get along," but an honest interpretation of history also demands calling a spade a spade. Vatican II was a flimsily conceived, poorly administered, and disaster-inducing council that threw the Church spinning into the 60s when what it needed was for the bed to stop spinning. The last two Popes have been like indulgent parents trying belatedly to reel in their wild children while keeping the family pride intact. Meanwhile, then neighbors simply rolled their eyes.
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written by jpac, October 12, 2011
Grump, come home please; we're not complete without you. Love, Joy
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written by Trish, October 12, 2011
To Brennan and Manfred:

If things were as hunky-dory perfect in the Church before Vatican II as you say they were, then why on earth did things go so haywire after the Council? Think about that for a moment. If everything was well, then whence came all the agendae and crazy experimentayion? The mere existence of so many people willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater suggests that there were problems well before the Council. Had everything truly been fine prior to the Council, then I suspect things would have gone very differently afterward.
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written by Louise, October 12, 2011
Dear Mr. Grump,

Look up the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, to see whether they are active in your area. And do a search for the list of locations for Latin Masses. The list is growing longer and longer. You will find beauty and faithfulness. I promise. There is great hope, and, while I can sympathize with the anger of faithful Catholics receiving a stone when they are asking for bread, I can also appreciate and sympathize with the hopefulness expressed in this essay. We have such a short-sighted view. We are like a corporate CEO that demands profits for the next six months without ever a glance forward for the next 10 years. Thank you, Mr. White.
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written by I am not Spartacus, October 12, 2011
The desert is a place of fasting and of prayer, pointing the way, through temptation and self-denial, to Christ who himself fasted in the desert and in whose Passion our suffering finds meaning. Thus the desert is also a place of blessing.

It is increasingly possible to see recent decades not as a colossal disaster or setback for the Church, but as a time of blessing: as a painful but necessary time of fasting and mortification in preparation for the Church’s mission in a changed world. It was precisely this mission for which the Holy Spirit, through the Council, was preparing the Church. The Council was the Holy Spirit’s way of inoculating the Church against the worst of late modernity, and it remains one of the Church’s greatest assets in the New Evangelization.

The opening speech of the Council by Pope John XXIII renounced ecclesiastical discipline and we have seen Mandatory Penance relaxed to the point of non-existence, the fast from midnight rule eliminated, the end of Rogation Days/Fasts eliminated etc etc etc.

I have no idea what those two paragraphs have to do with the modern Catholic Church which has turned its back on penitential strictures/practices: i have no idea what those paragraphs have to do with a Mass that eliminated Propers having to do with penitential acts, Scriptural readings having to do with Hell and punishment etc etc etc etc.

The Holy Ghost still guides and protects the Catholic Church and the proof of that is the Second Vatican Council was a Pastoral not a Doctrinal Council and it produced no Canons and Decrees.

At least 80 Bishops, eighty Bishops, voted against one or more of the Documents of Vatican Two and yet were allowed to leave the Council in full communion with the Church.

The sooner these defenses of Vatican Two ceases, the better. Every single objective measurement - #s of Priests/Religious./Mass Attendance shows a steep and rapid decline (and the Priesthood did not recover its numbers during the Papacy of Pope Blessed John Paul II) - is negative and the assertion that "it would have been worse absent Vatican Two is simply not provable.
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written by Steveo , October 12, 2011
The mis-interpretation and mis-implementation of VII is the problem. If you read the documents, virtually none of the changes that occurred after VII are even in there: Nothing about turning altars around to face the people, nothing about abolishing Latin, nothing about communion in the hand, nothing about getting rid of chant but chant was to have "pride of place" in the Mass, etc...

Trish earlier said the problems existed in the church long before VII and that is true. What went wrong with VII was progressivists (liberals) in the church hijacking the council and making the Mass into what they wanted it to be, with apparent permission from a lot of bishops.
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written by Nishant, October 12, 2011
Where is your faith in Holy Mother Church? Are you faithful sailors or, forgive me, bilge rats who will abandon the barque of Peter at the first sign of trouble? An Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church must be accepted with solemn and religious reverence in accord with the mind of the Church.

The response and dissent to Humanae Vitae in 1968 showed how much of the Catholic faith had already been lost, and so early, and it was obviously only going to get much, much worse, especially in the west, as immorality abounded everywhere.

But whenever the Catholic Church loses ground on one continent, she, almost miraculously, one could say, gains adherents in another. It happened during the time of the Protestant Revolt, it happened again this last century.

"The Church worldwide has been blessed since 1978 with a surge in the number of seminarians. According to data published in L’Osservatore Romano and the Vatican’s statistical yearbook (the Secretariat of State’s Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae), there were 63,882 diocesan and religious major seminarians when John Paul II began his pontificate in 1978; by the end of 2005, that number had grown to 114,439—a remarkable increase of 79.1 percent.

Most of the growth in the number of candidates for the priesthood took place in Africa, where seminarians more than quadrupled from 5,636 to 23,580, and in Asia, where the number nearly tripled from 11,536 to 30,066.
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written by Patrick, October 12, 2011
I am inclined to agree with the author of this article, as well as with Trish and Steveo.

A reactionary attitude during a time of great change might please people of a certain aesthetic sensibility, but it runs the danger of indulging in nostalgia. Just because certain trends were/are misguided -- the sexual revolution, moral relativism, cult of individualism -- does not mean that their logical inverse is necessarily correct. This sort of dualistic thinking is a simple-minded way out of a highly complex problem.

Cracks began to show in Western Christendom as early as the First World War. (Or, if you prefer, the French Revolution or even the Protestant Reformation.) The decline in church attendance is much more likely due to influences like atheism, existentialism, individualism, scientisim, nationalism, vague "spirituality," and mass popular culture than to Vatican II.

Europe has been in decline since the world wars. Clinging to a liturgical aesthetics based in medieval Europe is simply nostalgia. Moreover, were it not for Vatican II, it's unlikely that the Church would be growing in places like South Korea, where she was historically regarded with suspicion as a form of European cultural imperialism. Vatican II allowed native language and customs to coexist with Catholicism, just as the church in Europe was influenced by pre-existing pagan traditions.
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written by Manfred, October 12, 2011
I truly do not mind if anyone criticizes my comments. I only ask they stay on point. Show me anywhere in my comments on TCT that I say the pre-Vat II Church was halcyon or serene. It cannot be denied that religious practice was more pervasive and "normal" in those days. Great Popes? Have we learned nothing from Frs. Euteneuer, Corapi, Maciel and Pavone. Have you not seen pictures of Fr. Ratzinger as a peritus at the Council dressed in his black suit and tie? How about JP II kissing the Koran? Have you any idea how many Christians over the centuries have been flayed alive because they would NOT kiss the Koran? Who covered for Maciel for decades in order to protect him and the monies he brought into the Church? Why one of the "Great Popes", JP II himself. Summorum Pontificum was an act of penance by a Pope who realized that The Mass had been murdered by the neo-modernists (including Paul VI and Bugnini)and buried for almost thirty years. SP brought it back so that the Church would know it was alive and well. It had not died! Mark my words-in thirty years it will be the only Mass being said in the Church.
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written by Steve, October 12, 2011
Had the entire Fatima Message been released by 1960 as Our Lady wished, the Council would have been the perfect venue for the consecration of Russia and a complete success. The world would now be a very different place. However, as foretold by Our Lady, "In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph." In the end meaning after the annihilation of many nations.
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written by Chris in Maryland, October 12, 2011
Manfred:

While I agree with some of your points, especially regarding the liturgy, I don't believe that it is a correct understanding that all of these things together are part of one monolithic modernist capitulation. And the popes can make mistakes...let's remember St. Peter cowardly denied Christ.

And I might suggest you temper your judgment about Joseph Ratzinger, and keep in mind, (1) IT is Pope Benedict WHO LIBERATED the EF from the prison of unjust Bishops, and did so under pressure of a tsunami of vindictive personal attack; (2) IT IS Joseph Ratzinger who for years fought the good fight against Cardinal Sodano and Maciel, and brought Maciel to justice, again fighting against the enormous web of dysfunctional alliances within the Church.

It is unjust to resort to words like "JP2 covered for Maciel" - there is no evidence whatsoever that he believed Maciel guilty and covered it up for money. JP2 was apparently duped, but so were many other very good Catholics.

Yes, JP2 made a big mistake kissing the Koran...this gesture, and the whole approach to connecting Islam with the Judeo-Christian revelation, was terribly unwise.

But you haven't ever seen any such thing by Pope Benedict - it was Jos. Ratzinger who penned Dominus Jesus, in the face of scorn and mockery from the progressive machine inside and outside The Church.

Mark my words Manfred - if it wasn't for Pope Benedict, and his faithful attentiveness to Msgr. Gamber, Michael Davies, and thousands of others who suffered persecution inside The Church - and yes - especially his loving faithfulness to those Catholics in the SSPX (even those who scorn him while he fights for them) - those who hoped for a restoration of tradition in The Church would still be suffocating, instead of seeing the dawn.

And I don't mean to scorn you - I simply mean to fight for the good name of Pope Benedict, a man who combines Christian intellect, courage and charity in one of the most Christ-like temperments I think we shall ever see, or shall ever be seen.

Say a prayer for him...and may God help him guide us all throught the dark valley ahead.
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written by Chris in Maryland, October 12, 2011
And also Manfred...it was Benedict who confronted Islam and The Reformation in one genius stroke in one of the most powerful intellectual critiques you will ever see - in The Regensburg Lecture. Please read that and ponder the fury of the storm he withstood for daring to make a reasoned analysis in the face of the double leviathans of western relativism and radical Islam.

As for the article and comments, I believe that V2 is largely known/misunderstood because of its various interpretations (e.g., progressive versus reform), which does seem to indicate that at least some of its documents were susceptible to manipulation. I think this is the case with Sacrosanctum Consilium (the only one which I have read thoroughly).
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written by Manfred, October 12, 2011
Chris in Maryland: You and I are more in accord than you might think. Yes, it was the priest/peritus Fr. Ratzinger in his black suit and tie at the Council who became the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cdl Ratzinger in 1979 at the request of JP II, and served in that office until 2005 when he was elected pope. From 1979 until 2005 he was made aware of all the ills and excesses in the Church. He did give me a birthday present on 9/5/2000 entitled Dominus Jesus, but this was immediately pushed in the cupboard, to be released again in his pontificate. He knows full well the enormous task he faces to back the "train" over fifty years of track. I would ask all TCT readers to pray for him each day. We must.
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written by Howard Kainz, October 12, 2011
@Manfred: I am convinced that Pope JPII simply had no familiarity with the Koran; if he knew what the Medinan parts of the Koran had to say about Christians and Jews, he would never have made that gesture. But after 9/11 there was a strong incentive for many of us to investigate what is going on in that strange religion.
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written by Brennan, October 12, 2011
"P.S. Brennon, either Dr. White is out of touch and the council was damaging, or you and Manfred are out of touch with reality. You two seem to fancy yourselves more Catholic than the Good Popes. Bailing out water? wisdom and humility? No one can fault your self esteem, but this is a value of the world and the world is a liar."

Achilles, no, I'm not more Catholic than the Pope. I think our present and past two Popes have had to rule during the worst crisis in the history of the Church.

The Council led to damage, regardless of its lofty intentions. And thanks for letting me clarify, I consider recognizing the crisis we have been going through and the part Vatican II has played merely stating the obvious, hence no self-esteem uptick is involved. For a much better assessment than I provide I would recommend reading someone such as Dietrich von Hildebrand.
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written by Brennan, October 12, 2011
"To Brennan and Manfred:

"If things were as hunky-dory perfect in the Church before Vatican II as you say they were, then why on earth did things go so haywire after the Council? Think about that for a moment. If everything was well, then whence came all the agendae and crazy experimentation? The mere existence of so many people willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater suggests that there were problems well before the Council. Had everything truly been fine prior to the Council, then I suspect things would have gone very differently afterward."

Hi Trish,

First, I do not maintain that everything was "hunky-dory perfect" in the Church before Vatican II. The Church was filled with sinners then just as it is now, which is one reason why beauty and reverence or so essential to the Church's life in any age (and are not mere "nostalgia" as another poster put it.)

I liken the collapse to having a basketball coach with a championship winning team. A new coach comes in to head the same exact players and considers all the layup drills, the line running, passing drills, etc. to be "old fashioned" and out of step with the way modern kids want to play basketball. So he scraps all the drills and practice. Would it be any wonder if this same team went on to have a dismal season and many quit altogether because they no longer took it seriously?
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written by Achilles, October 12, 2011
Chris in Maryland, thank you for excellent words about our Holy Father who in good faith serves Our Lord and Mother Church. Christ himself asks us to “judge rightly” not on appearances. John 7:24. I, like you, love our Tradition, the Deposit of Faith, and all that entails. The liberalism that has infiltrated Mother Church has been foretold by more than just Pope Leo XIII. Many good Catholics have road mapped the anatomy of the confusion that besets so many of us. I am most concerned for our traditionalists brothers who have many things right, but seem to suffer from a reductionism characteristic of our age. Attributing all our problems, including the liturgical holocaust, to the Vatican II council is like blaming the whole “gay marriage” fiasco on the Obama administration.
I always appreciate your comments and I especially admire the even comments you made here today! Pax Christi tecum, Achilles
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written by Achilles, October 12, 2011
Brennon, thanks for the clarification, I too would reccomend Von Hildebrand.
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written by Manfred, October 12, 2011
@Howard: You are "convinced that Pope JPII simply had no familiarity with the Koran;.."??? It is called syncretism, the idea that one religion can assist in salvation as well as another. Pope JPII's pontificate was riddled with it as Assisi I and Assisi II clearly demonstrate. Cdl Ratzinger refused to attend Assisi I because it was clearly syncretic. Do you really believe that JPII had never been exposed to Islam and its "bible", that he had never studied the Crusades, that he had never heard of the janissaries who were Christians who had been captured, made to convert to Islam and then trained to fight for the Muslims? You do know that many of the "Turks" who were killed at Lepanto were, in fact, these janissaries fighting for the Sultan's fleet against the Catholic fleet, don't you? H. Belloc wrote of Mohammedanism as a heresy 80 years ago.
Granted that Pope JPII was Polish but he could have sought out Cdl. Ratzinger who proved himself an expert on the subject at Regensberg(sp?).
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written by Patrick, October 12, 2011
Brennan, it is not beauty and reverence that I consider nostalgic, but first and foremost the Latin language, and then, representational artwork in the Western mode (particularly such executed using white models), Gothic and Classical (i.e. Greek revival) architecture, and Gregorian chant. However aesthetically pleasing they may be to Western Europeans, these are NOT essential items for the Church.

I ask you sincerely to consider the position of newly converted and devout Catholics in Eastern Asia. None of them have ever known the Latin Mass or the Latin language. At the same time they are hardly uncivilized. In fact, you will find their societies to be much more stable and free of crime than in the West.

What possible purpose do you think it would serve to deprive the Asian churches of Mass in their native languages, and replace it with a dead language from a dead continent? Some abstract idea of aesthetics? A devotion to historicism? Jesus did not speak Latin; the Bible was not written in Latin.

I think some of you underestimate the extent to which European chauvinism and "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" pervaded the Church before Vatican II. Are you really willing today to defend a special status for Latin, and to defend "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus?" Are you really?
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written by sebastian zacharia, October 13, 2011
very good and informative
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written by Sam Schmitt, October 13, 2011
I hope you're willing to defend "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" (though not in the Feeneyite sense) since it's still the teaching of the Church - see the Catechism 846-48.
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written by Trish, October 13, 2011
Manfred: Perhaps religious practice was "more pervasive and 'normal'" but that doesn't mean the situation was anywhere near a healthy one. Things had to have been pretty bad already before the Council for things to have gone the way they did afterward. When the kettle whistles, the water didn't get hot instantly -- it's been brewing a long time already.

Perhaps I misspoke, and I guess you haven't said that things were hunky dory, but it's definitely the impression that comes across from the vast majority of your comments here on TCT. It would appear that you think that everything was just perfect, and then BOOM, there comes Vatican II to mess it all up.
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written by Howard Kainz, October 13, 2011
@Manfred: Well, let me make some distinctions: I suspect Pope JPII was familiar with all the things you mentioned. But I doubt whether he knew that the Islamic holy books -- the Koran and the Hadith -- actually recommended doing many evil and barbarous acts. There have been a lot of evil Christians, but they were not fulfilling mandates given in the New Testament.
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written by mydogoreo, October 13, 2011
Thank you, Titus! That Vatican II was "too sure of man's abilities" is obviously true. After two devastating world wars and the greatest loss of vocations (after WWI, actually, not after Vatican II), it became clear that the clerics were not handling their flock too well. But they put the ball in the court of an unprepared laity by urging more lay involvement. While that laity was better educated than at any point in history, it had learned a superficial faith, a piety without substance.

Getting to the substance of the faith, learning to read encyclicals is not easy. It requires an openness, an acknowledgement of vulnerability, humility. It means asking the Holy Spirit for help.

For all the bachelor, masters, and doctorate degrees out there, can they not read "Fides et Ratio"? - is it easier to build up our often very complex careers than it is to find out what the Church teaches?

What excuse do we have?
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written by Achilles, October 13, 2011
Mydogoreo, most university graduates are illiterate for all intents and purposes of true grammar. On top of that you would want them to read Fides et Ratio? And understand it? To hope for such a thing is irrational. Our problems with literacy are moral and we keep throwing technology and techniques at them.
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written by Manfred, October 13, 2011
Trish: When you have a moment, you might want to read PASCENDI and LAMENTABILI which were written in 1907 by SAINT Pope Pius X on the errors of the Modernists. He suppressed them with the Oath against Modernism which every bishop and priest had to renew every year until 1965 when the fey Paul VI declared it was no longer necessary. The same ideas the Modernists put forward earlier were introduced at Vatican II by the neo-Modernists, Progressives such as the idea that the Church was a democracy (the people of God, the priesthood of the laity), that the Pope was one bishop equal in authority to all the others,(collegiality), that Luther was correct that there was no evidence from Scripture for a sacerdotal priesthood and therefore the laity could serve as priests, that the Eucharist was a "Community Meal" presided over by a Presider and not a priest who possessed the charism to confect the Eucharist (Transubstatiation). Recall this fact: no layperson ever asked for this Council. It was hijacked by the same sort of misfit and malcontent priest/bishop who has plagued the Church for centuries. It directly opposed the teachings (Dogmatic!!!) of the Council of Trent. See the TCT article for Oct. 13th on the Austrian Priest Initiative.
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written by Manfred, October 13, 2011
@Howard. Let me lock on to the central point which is missing in our conversation: after the Council the Church dropped the study of apologetics as this taught that Catholicism was the One, True Faith. ALL others,including Judaism since the death of Christ, were false! Why was this subject dropped? Because it interfered with the New Order which had little to nothing to do with Faith, but had everything to do with WORLD PEACE. Therefore no lines would be drawn in the sand. Everyone would be together on this side of the "line". The operative word would be DIALOGUE even if it resulted in achieving NOTHING. As long as we were talking there would be no more hostility or wars. These European bishops had seen WW I, WW II, Naziism, Communism, gulags, the Holocaust, concentration camps. All these things could never happen again. That is the whole point of the SSPX's argument. Whatever occurred/is occurring has nothing to do with two thousand years of Catholicism. Call it something else. That is why a pope kissed the Koran-anything for peace!
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written by Howard Kainz, October 13, 2011
@Manfred: I think we're on the same page as regards that photo-op with the Pope. But 20 years ago, how many of us were aware of how different Islam is from other "world religions" like Hinduism and Buddhism? I still chalk it up to ignorance. And as far "no salvation outside the Church," I don't know how old you are, but I can still recall the trouble Fr. Leonard Feeney got into for taking that saying literally during the 40s and 50s. One of the main "fruits" of the Council were the movements towards ecumenism, and this resulted in some extremes. But, as I mention in my October 9 column here, "The Spirit of Vatican II," JPII became identified with the "reform of the reform." Two major JPII contributions included the call to the "New Evangelization" and the Catechism of the Catholic Church during the 80s, which so irritated some liberals.
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written by Tom T, October 13, 2011
I am afraid I have to side with those who stated the complete lack of reality in this article. God can of course make good come from anything trough the Holy Spirit. But lets us reflect on the warning before Vat. II by Pope St Pius X. After all he was the one who issued MotoPropio the Document with the old oath Sacrorum Antistum against progressive modernism and secularism in the letter Pascendi dominici gregis. An dhas anyone here who thinks that Vat II
was the great council actually studied the discussions that went on between the liberals and the hard core conservatives? You might find some startling surprises as to who came out a winner on that back and forth with Pope Paul VI. Dose anyone here happen to know the names of the six protestant ministers that were invited to help write the Conciliar Documents? And who rescinded the promise that all religious had to make against secularism and modernism which Pope St Pius X called a heresy in 1907? I`ll help you with that one. Pope Paul VI. Pax
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written by Brennan, October 14, 2011
Hi Patrick,

First off, my defense of the liturgy is primarily of the prayers and rubrics of the Gregorian rite, regardless of the language. Hence I would take the Gregorian rite in the vernacular over the Novus Ordo in Latin any day of the week.

Regardless of that, Latin is still the operative language of the Church and was hardly abolished in Sacrosanctum Concilium (although there were huge loopholes as Christopher Ferrara has pointed out) and thus is hardly "nostalgia". It is still the only worldwide ecclesiastical and liturgical language we have which helps provide a visible unity and bond with others of very different backgrounds. Pope John XXIII's Veterum Sapientia is a good take on this.

I would hope and pray that the Gregorian rite would foster distinctive beauty in art and architecture as it has done throughout its history. It does not obliterate cultures but allows them to reach their pinnacle. Thus Spanish sacred art and architecture is not the same as the German or French and thank God for that. I would want the same distinctive flourishing for Eastern Catholics as well. And this is a far cry from the bland sameness and desacralization which has seemed to accompany the Novus Ordo and tends to obliterate distinctions between cultures rather than fostering them.
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written by Brennan, October 14, 2011
"Perhaps religious practice was "more pervasive and 'normal'" but that doesn't mean the situation was anywhere near a healthy one. Things had to have been pretty bad already before the Council for things to have gone the way they did afterward. When the kettle whistles, the water didn't get hot instantly -- it's been brewing a long time already."

Hi Trish,

I'm not sure if your post above was meant for me or Manfred since I directly took on you assertion that things must have been pretty bad before the Council for things to have gone South so quickly after it. Frankly, I would say that the reason Mass attendance didn't plummet even further than it did was precisely because many pre-Vatican II Catholics were taught what Mass is and its importance and hence stuck through what could only have been volcanic changes for them.

I still believe my analogy of a new coach coming in and changing everything around is apropos. As Catholics we learn and experience our Faith primarily through the liturgy and the accompanying devotions along with art and architecture. If that is drastically messed with and Church practice starts going South the lesson learned should be the importance of not drastically altering Catholics' primary experience of their Faith which is actually an embodiment of that Faith.

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