Sunday, November 3, 2013

Vatican II: A Message for Our Time

I have been going through an identity crisis of sorts as a Catholic the last few months. I have no problems with Catholicism. My identity crisis involves what "camp" I belong in, which in and of itself is a problem because there shouldn't be separate "camps" in the Church. Unfortunately, "should be" and "is" are often not the same thing.

Since coming back into the Church over 7 years ago, I have identified strongly with "Traditionalists", i.e., those who love the Traditional Latin Mass and basically reject Vatican II, or at the very least the "Spirit of Vatican II", seeing the Council as the root of all the modern woes in the Church. When I started this blog just about 2 years ago, I was firmly in the "Traditionalist" camp. However, in writing the blog, I started carefully reading and analyzing Pope Benedict XVI's Wednesday audiences and other writings and sermons. Although Traditionalists loved Pope Benedict XVI for giving us Summorum Pontificum, he was still somewhat suspect because of his "Vatican II leanings." All of my Traditionalist heroes said this, so I assumed it was true and never questioned it.

However, when I started reading Benedict without anyone filtering his words, I was blown away. No one had told me how deep and profound he was. And yes, he was definitely a supporter of Vatican II. How could this be? How could someone be so spiritual and yet support Vatican II? This made no sense to my Traditionalist mind.

But there was no denying the great spirituality of Pope Benedict XVI, and I have also found this to be just as true with Pope Francis.  Traditionalists have had a problem with Pope Francis since the moment he appeared on the balcony in St. Peter's Square.  But when I read Pope Francis' words without the filter of any Traditionalist bias, I see a very spiritual and deeply holy man who truly loves Christ and His Church, as I've written on this blog.

So exactly why do Traditionalists have such an aversion to Vatican II and almost everything after it? I've asked a couple of "Trads", and I've been told more than once that the problem with the V2 documents is they contain "time bombs." This term comes from a book entitled, "Liturgical Time Bombs" written by the late Michael Davies, an English convert who strongly supported the Traditional Latin Mass and saw Vatican II as the great enemy of the Church.  The subtitle of this book is "The Destruction of Catholic Faith Through Changes in Catholic Worship."  Not surprisingly, his book is sold by Angelus Press, the publishing arm of the Society of St. Pius X. This is how they describe Mr. Davies' book:
In his latest work, Michael Davies expands on a famous saying of Archbishop Lefebvre, "There were time bombs in the Council." Davies explains, "These 'time bombs' were ambiguous passages inserted in the official documents by the liberal periti or experts - passages which would be interpreted in an untraditional, progressivist sense after the Council closed."
Davies shows how Father (later Archbishop) Annibale Bugnini - before being removed from his position by Pope Paul VI under suspicion of being a Freemason - was able to "reform" the Catholic Mass into the constantly evolving liturgy which continues to self-destruct to this day. Quoting Bishops and Cardinals, as well as liberal periti and Protestant observers, Davies points out the ambiguities or "time bombs" which were built into the Second Vatican Council's document on the liturgy and how they have been detonating ever since in liturgical abuses, both unauthorized and authorized.
Michael Davies concludes with statistics from Kenneth C. Jones's Index of Leading Catholic Indicators showing that the liturgical reforms have borne bitter fruit in a massive loss of Catholic Faith and practice in the Western World. He urges a return to the Traditional Latin Mass, which has always produced great fruit in vocations and sanctity.
Joseph Ratzinger and Yves Congar, periti Vatican II
This is a pretty heavy accusation. Mr. Davies says that the periti, or theological experts, inserted passages into the Vatican II documents that were specifically designed to destroy the Mass and, in effect, destroy the Church itself. Not coincidentally, young Father Joseph Ratzinger was one of those periti.

The major problem with this argument is that while the Bishops definitely relied on their experts, it was the Bishops who voted on and submitted the Vatican II documents to the Holy Father for approval. The responsibility for these documents lies with the hierarchy of the Church, not the periti. Since Catholics also believe that the Church is guided and protected by the Holy Spirit, I would submit that the Holy Spirit must have fallen down on the job as well. The periti not only pulled the wool over the eyes of the bishops and Pope, they even out maneuvered the Holy Spirit.

Another major criticism of Vatican II is very much along the same lines as the "time bombs" theory. This theory says that the documents were intentionally left vague and ambiguous. They could be read and interpreted to say almost anything you wanted them to say, and were often contradictory. This has led to confusion and chaos in the Church and caused the great crisis we see around us.

It seems to me that I've heard these same arguments used against another theological document. It's called the Bible. The Bible has been interpreted in more ways than anyone can count. Many accuse it of being vague and/or contradictory. Differing interpretations of the Bible have caused untold chaos and division in the world. Every argument used against the Vatican II documents has been used over the centuries against the written Word of God. In fact, these same arguments have also been used against Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God.

An unfair comparison you say? Ah yes, of course, the Vatican II documents were "pastoral", not "dogmatic", and therefore they are not binding on the Church, so we have every right to reject them. I find this argument to be cognitive dissonance at best and hypocrisy at worst. Traditional Catholics are always accusing their liberal counterparts of being Cafeteria Catholics, picking and choosing what they like and throwing the rest out. Yet, this is exactly what Traditionalists are doing when it comes to Vatican II. They don't like Vatican II, and so they have found a way to reject it. But to reject the Second Vatican Council is to reject the hierarchy, which is the Bishops and the Holy Father.  This is very dangerous because there can be no Catholic Church without them.

To reject the Council is to reject the following words from Blessed Pope Paul VI:
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, assembled in the Holy Spirit and under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we have declared Mother of the Church, and of St. Joseph, her glorious spouse, and of the Apostles SS. Peter and Paul, must be numbered without doubt among the greatest events of the Church.
Is it really possible for a Catholic to turn a deaf ear to the Pope when he calls something "among the greatest events of the Church"?  The Holy Father gave us the following reasons why the above statement is not hyperbole:
In fact it was (i) the largest in the number of Fathers who came to the seat of Peter from every part of the world, even from those places where the hierarchy has been very recently established. (ii) It was the richest because of the questions which for four sessions have been discussed carefully and profoundly. And (iii) last of all it was the most opportune, because, bearing in mind the necessities of the present day, above all it sought to meet the pastoral needs and, nourishing the flame of charity, it has made a great effort to reach not only the Christians still separated from communion with the Holy See, but also the whole human family.
All of the Holy Fathers since the Second Vatican Council have emphasized how important it is to the Church, and yet many in the Church condemn it as the most destructive event in Church history.  What is the truth?  Are we free to treat the Second Vatican Council as a sort of bishops' tea party that we can take or leave as we desire?  Are we free to condemn Vatican II?

I think it is very important to go back to the time of Vatican II in order to understand what the Church was trying to do. Venerable Fulton Sheen said that we live in a unique age in that this is the first time in history people have lost the sense of sin and no longer recognize right and wrong.  That is now more true than when Bishop Sheen made that statement some 40 years ago.  Also, in the early 1960's, the world was still feeling the effects of two major world wars with untold destruction and loss of life. Mankind had never before experienced suffering on such a large, worldwide scale. There were still many wars around the world, and the United States was about to enter into the most divisive war in its history outside of the Civil War. A large part of the world was imprisoned under Communism, a government based on the rejection of God.  When the Council convened in October 1962, we had just experienced the Cuban missile crisis where America and the Soviet Union came perilously close to nuclear war.  For the first time, we had the ability to literally wipe all life off the planet.

All previous Church councils had been called to address some issue in the Church and/or to define dogma.   The previous councils had been inward looking, dealing with the wounds of the Church.  The Second Vatican Council is unique.  Blessed (soon to be Saint) Pope John XXIII called the Council because he saw not a Church in crisis but a world in crisis with billions of souls at stake, both physically and spiritually. The world was more in need of the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ than it had ever been.

Blessed Pope John XXIII in his opening statement
In his opening message to the council, which you can read here, Blessed John XXIII said the inspiration for the Second Vatican Council came to him suddenly and unexpectedly:
As regards the initiative for the great event which gathers us here, it will suffice to repeat as historical documentation our personal account of the first sudden bringing up in our heart and lips of the simple words, "Ecumenical Council." We uttered those words in the presence of the Sacred College of Cardinals on that memorable January 25, 1959, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, in the basilica dedicated to him. It was completely unexpected, like a flash of heavenly light, shedding sweetness in eyes and hearts. And at the same time it gave rise to a great fervor throughout the world in expectation of the holding of the Council.
It is interesting to note that the inspiration for the Council came on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. St. Paul was sent not to the Jews, his own people, but to the Gentiles. St. Paul was to preach the Gospel to a world that did not know God. St. Paul was called to open the Church to the world. Does this sound familiar? Just as St. Paul was confronted with a blinding flash of light, Pope John XXIII said the idea of the Council was "like a flash of heavenly light, shedding sweetness in eyes and hearts." The world of the 20th Century, standing on the brink of its own destruction, was in greater need of the message of the Catholic Church than at any time since the Apostle Paul. It was time for the Church to turn outwards towards a world in desperate need.

Pope John XXIII did not call the Council to change the Church, but to change the way in which the Church related to the world and, more specifically, to re-define her missionary role in the world so as to make the saving message of the Gospel more effective.  From Pope John XXIII:
Illuminated by the light of this Council, the Church -- we confidently trust -- will become greater in spiritual riches and gaining the strength of new energies therefrom, she will look to the future without fear. In fact, by bringing herself up to date where required, and by the wise organization of mutual co-operation, the Church will make men, families, and peoples really turn their minds to heavenly things.
The above statement is truly prescient in that the world of the early 1960's was about to embark on a quest for materialism, hedonism and exaltation of self never before seen in the history of mankind. Technology was about to explode and change the world in ways never imagined. There was now a more urgent need than ever before in history for the Church's message of spirituality to counter the world's descent into itself and away from God. Just as St. Paul was the great missionary to the Gentiles, so the Church as a whole must become the great missionary to those overcome by the false gospel of the exaltation of man.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Blessed Pope John XXIII knew the Church had to intensify her role in the world.  The question is, how do we go out into the world without becoming a part of it?  Reading the documents of Vatican II with this view in mind gives them an entirely different meaning than that seen by people like Michael Davies.

The Second Vatican Council, more than being a pastoral council, was a missionary council, appointing all Catholics to be missionaries where they lived.  The Council's purpose was to look at the world and give us guidelines on how to interact with a world that was rejecting God and headed to self destruction.

Cardinal Francis George
Cardinal Francis George gave a recent talk in Brighton, England which explains this very well. This is from The Pilot:
"The mission of the Church everywhere in every age is to introduce people and the entire world to Jesus Christ. We call the Church 'mother' and mothers introduce their children to other people," he said.
The cardinal cited the original purpose of the council as redefining the relationship between the Church and the world for the sake of a more effective mission in the world. He said he hoped to explore where episcopal and priestly authority fit into the mission.
He said that in calling the council, Pope John XXIII noted divisions -- nation against nation, race against race, and class against class -- as a context to be addressed in the modern world.

"He believed that the Church's internal unity was secure. There was no need to re-examine the deposit of faith, as councils usually did, but there was need to look at it and find new ways for the Church to exercise her mission more effectively, so that the world would find its own integral unity, not exactly the unity of the Church that we now call 'communion' since the council, but rather a solidarity -- the union of the human race," he said.
The cardinal said the unity of the Church and the unity of leaders in communion acted as a level to pursue peace in the world "Pacem In Terris" -- in the words of Pope John XXIII.
"The second Vatican Council is therefore a missionary council. It was called not directly to change the Church, so that she could catch up with a tortured world, but rather to change that world," he said.
"In this sense, Pope Paul VI returned at the very end of the council to Pope John XXIII's intention in calling it, and explained that the Church -- as the Good Samaritan of our age -- sees a wounded world, introduces it to Christ, and binds its wounds through dialogue and service," Cardinal George said.
He said the missionary intent of the council became muted in application afterward, but over time, the Church reestablished its spirituality as a kind of Good Samaritan to the world's injured traveler.
"The method is always dialogue, but the purpose is to heal the world's wounds, and through God's grace, bring the world to its own internal unity," the cardinal said.
A statement from one of Pope Francis' interviews echoes this same idea:
The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. ... And you have to start from the ground up.
The reason so many Traditionalists and others have problems with Vatican II is because they do not understand its purpose. Vatican II is unique among all other councils ever called by the Church. Its purpose was not inward but outward. As Cardinal George said, the purpose of the Council wasn't to change the Church, it was to change the world by opening the Church to the world. If you don't understand or accept that, you will always misinterpret the documents.

Blessed Pope John XXIII explained this in his opening message to the Council. Below are some excerpts:
In calling this vast assembly of bishops, the latest and humble successor to the Prince of the Apostles who is addressing you intended to assert once again the Magisterium (teaching authority), which is unfailing and perdures until the end of time, in order that this Magisterium, taking into account the errors, the requirements, and the opportunities of our time, might be presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world.
. . . 
The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously. That doctrine embraces the whole of man, composed as he is of body and soul. And, since he is a pilgrim on this earth, it commands him to tend always toward heaven. 
This demonstrates how our mortal life is to be ordered in such a way as to fulfill our duties as citizens of earth and of heaven, and thus to attain the aim of life as established by God. That is, all men, whether taken singly or as united in society, today have the duty of tending ceaselessly during their lifetime toward the attainment of heavenly things and to use, for this purpose only, the earthly goods, the employment of which must not prejudice their eternal happiness.
Could there ever be a more timely message than this in our modern, materialistic world?  Because of the material wealth and advanced technology in our world, we are more separated from God than at any time in history.  In the above statement, Pope John XXIII is warning us that our first and foremost goal in life is the "attainment of heavenly things" and that all earthly things should be used for this purpose only.  Human beings have never had to counter the pull of materialism as strongly as we in our modern times do.  We must be constantly fighting against putting materialism above the Kingdom of God.

Pope John XXIII emphasized how important it is to maintain the doctrine of the Church while spreading the saving message of the Gospel to the world.  The Holy Father said that guarding the doctrine of the Church was understood:
Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure [of the sacred doctrine], as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the Church has followed for twenty centuries.
The salient point of this Council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all.
For this a Council was not necessary
Pope John XXIII then explains how the method of promoting of the Gospel and the correction of error must change in our modern era, that the Mercy of God must be a central part of promoting the Gospel. Is it a coincidence that our Lord appeared to St. Faustina on the eve of World War II with the message of Divine Mercy? That message is the driving force of the Church today. It should be noted that St. Faustina's message was not accepted by the Church at the time of Vatican II.  In fact, Pope John XXIII himself forbade the circulation of the Divine Mercy images and writings based on a faulty translation of St. Faustina's diary.  Yet it was this same Pope John XXIII who made mercy towards the world a central point of his opening statement. Surely this is the work of the Holy Spirit:
At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity.
Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations. Not, certainly, that there is a lack of fallacious teaching, opinions, and dangerous concepts to be guarded against and dissipated. But these are so obviously in contrast with the right norm of honesty, and have produced such lethal fruits that by now it would seem that men of themselves are inclined to condemn them, particularly those ways of life which despise God and His law, or place excessive confidence in technical progress and a well-being based exclusively on the comforts of life. They are ever more deeply convinced of the paramount dignity of the human person and of his perfection as well as of the duties which that implies. Even more important, experience has taught men that violence inflicted on others, the might of arms, and political domination, are of no help at all in finding a happy solution to the grave problems which afflict them.
The above statements perfectly describe our world today: "those ways of life which despise God and His law, or place excessive confidence in technical progress and a well-being based exclusively on the comforts of life" and "violence inflicted on others, the might of arms, and political domination". This truly is the world we face today.

When you understand the true purpose of Vatican II, that of mercy in reaching out to a world firmly set on the destructive path of materialism and rejection of God, then statements such as the following will make a lot more sense:
If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge? 
I thought the following was a wonderful analysis of Pope Francis' statement which comes right out of Vatican II.   This is from, of all places, the Huffington Post:
"'Who am I to judge' may end up being the most-quoted five words spoken by a modern pope," said John Thavis, author of the best-selling book The Vatican Diaries and who covered the Vatican for 30 years for the U.S.-based Catholic News Service.
"Pope Francis has realized the simple truth, that when the Church preaches on pelvic and political issues like birth control, abortion and same-sex marriage, many people stop listening. So instead of repeating the rules and revving up the 'culture of death' rhetoric, he's focusing on another essential side of Christianity, mercy and compassion. And of course, that's much more inviting," Thavis said.
When a medic goes out on a battlefield to treat the wounded, he is not there to judge the wounded.  He is there to treat them and possibly save their lives.  That is the world we live in today.  It is a totally secular, humanistic world turned away from God.  The world has become a battlefield littered with the spiritually wounded and dying.  Is it our job as a the Mystical Body of Christ to stand and point fingers at them, telling them what terrible sinners they are, or is it our job to bind their wounds and compassionately lead them to the great Physician, Jesus Christ?  When we see them making steps to turn away from our godless world to the True God, such as a homosexual who "seeks God and has good will", shouldn't we do all we can to encourage them, which is exactly what Pope Francis is demonstrating.

Traditionalists blame this great Council for the woes of the Church and the crisis we see around us. But in a homily on April 16, Pope Francis said the problems in the Church stem from our resistance to the Holy Spirit, and that is exemplified by our resistance to Vatican II, which he says has not been fully implemented.  From Vatican Radio:
Pope Francis’ homily at the mass was centered on the theme of the Holy Spirit and our resistance to it. It took its inspiration from the first reading of the day which was the story of the martyrdom of St. Stephen who described his accusers as stubborn people who were always resisting the Holy Spirit. 
Put frankly, the Pope continued, “the Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward.” He said that we wish “to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong.” Pope Francis said “that’s because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward” but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar. 
Nowadays, he went on, “everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it.” The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called “a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit.” But 50 years later, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,” he asked. The answer is “No,” said Pope Francis. “We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.” This, he went on, “is called stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”
The Pope said the same thing happens in our personal life. “The Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this.” He concluded his homily by urging those present not to resist the pull of the Holy Spirit. “Submit to the Holy Spirit,” he said, “which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness.” 
The Second Vatican Council, it seems to me, has in many ways fulfilled the statement of the righteous Simeon to the Blessed Mother when she presented Jesus to the temple:
"Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--and a sword will pierce even your own soul-- to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
Truly, the thoughts from many hearts have been revealed in their reaction to the Second Vatican Council.  Liberals have co-opted the Council as a means to change the Church, not the world, and justify their disobedience to God.  They have looked at the Council as the Church saying we can do our own thing and become like the world when it comes to worship and obedience.  Traditionalists have also seen the Council as trying to change the Church, not the world, but they have perceived the Council as the great destroyer of the Traditions of the Church, and have seen resistance to the Council and all who support it as the only legitimate reaction.  Both of these groups have displayed stubbornness and resistance to the Holy Spirit as stated by Pope Francis.

One can only wonder, if Vatican II had been truly embraced by the the members of the Church instead of becoming a source of division, if the people in the Church had taken the missionary aim of Vatican II to heart instead of using it to promote their own agendas, how different might our world be today.  In the meantime, while Catholics fight among themselves, resisting, as Pope Francis said, the work of the Holy Spirit, our world continues to die, spiritually and physically.  

Pope Francis is doing all he can to bring the true message of Vatican II, the message of mercy and compassion, to the Church and to the world.  We need to listen to him and stop fighting him.  We need to hear his words without the filter of our own prejudices.  We need to leave our egos at the door. We need to empty ourselves of ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. As Pope Francis said, "The Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this. . . .Submit to the Holy Spirit which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness."  

The world awaits the Church.



  1. This is extensive and very well put together. Beautiful work. I need to return to read it and ponder it. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Terry. This is part of my spiritual journey, trying to make sense of all the madness. I have found that listening to the Holy Father and trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide the Church always leads me back to sanity.

  2. And through great sorrow can also come great joy. I continue to remember you, your parish and all concerned at Adoration and while meditating on Mary's seven sorrows in regard to all our sins against the Holy Spirit, her well beloved spouse.

  3. Ah, so that is why are churches are empty. Everyone is out engaging with the world. On missions. Right.

    1. You obviously missed the point of this post. The problem is, there are very few who understand the message of Vatican II. Liberals have misinterpreted VII as a means to disobey the Church, and conservatives see VII as an attack on them. If only people were on missions, at least in their families and neighborhoods.

    2. Maybe you could direct me to somebody who can interpret for me what your document is "really" saying.

      PS, I don't think I will be able to wait 50 years, so, please don't dither around with changing the layout of your web blog, hoping that will get your message across better.

    3. Coldstanding, perhaps this might help?

      He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

  4. I think Vatican II might have turned out to be a good Council if Pope John XXIII had forced the prelates to stick with the preliminary schema which the curia had spent something like 2 1/2 years preparing. When he allowed them to be ditched it gave the opening for the progressives to begin fresh and a battle between progressives and traditional Catholics ensued and so we ended up with documents which were the result of battles between the two factions (with the progressives winning quite a number of them).

    Add to that the type of language (pastoral) as opposed to the clear, scholastic language of previous Councils (did anyone have to spend more than 50 years attempting to interpret Trent or Vatican I?) and you have another issue. As being demonstrated today by Pope Francis, all you need to do is make unclear statements, or statements which lend themselves to various interpretations and people will go off to the races as evidenced with how various groups have interpreted Pope Francis.

    Now, is this entirely the fault of the groups who are "misinterpreting" Pope Francis? No, not entirely. This type of action will follow statements that are not clear and unambiguous as night follows day. If you leave room for misinterpretation because of the way something is written or said, that's the fault primarily of the writer, and not the interpreter.

    Further, I think traditionalists and others are very well aware of what Vatican II "intended". We all know it was supposed to spark a wonderful missionary zeal and usher in a new springtime for the Church. However, if you want to know the actual results of the Council all you have to do is to take its intentions and posit the exact opposite and you will have the actual results of the Council.

    New missionary zeal? Not only have we utterly failed to help convert the secular world (for the most part) we have even failed to keep the Catholics we did have in the pews or even pass on the Faith to the next generation.

    New springtime? We have hemorrhaged members since Vatican II and the actual practice of the faith, measured in things like baptisms, conversions, marriages, vocations, etc. have plummeted since the Council.

    Yes, Vatican II had wonderful and lofty intentions (like encouraging the holiness of the laity--how has that worked out?), yet we need to take a good hard look as to why the Council not only utterly failed in its intentions, but quite often produced the exact opposite result of its intentions.

    And yes, I'm aware of how people like to blame "the world" for everything that happened after Vatican II as if the Council had nothing to do with anything bad that happened after it, but really, we need to start asking hard questions in order to find strong solutions. God bless.

    1. It is comments like this that make me really fear that there is a huge schism coming in the Church. You honestly believe that liberals and others opposed to the Church were able to hijack Vatican II and as a result, the Church is slowly dying.

      As I pointed out in my post, the world in the early 1960's was already set on course and headed to where we are today. Vatican II was a response to a world that was turning completely away from God. The Vatican II documents were very much like the Bible in that they could easily be interpreted any way you want. Those who truly did want to destroy the Church used the VII documents as an excuse to do so, just as people down through the centuries have used the Bible to turn people way from the one, true faith, the Catholic Church. Is the Bible to be blamed for the fact that Christianity has splintered? Hardly, even though people point to that. If you believe that Vatican II can be blamed for the crisis in the Church, then you obviously don't believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding and protecting the Church. You and all who think like you are putting yourselves in a very precarious position.

    2. Okay. First, the protection afforded to the Church in an ecumenical Council is a "negative" protection. In other words God will ensure that an ecumenical Council will not teach heresy when it's teaching on faith and morals. This doesn't mean of course that the Holy Spirit necessarily "inspires" Council documents the way the Bible is divinely inspired. Thus a Council's documents can be ambiguous or be subject to multiple interpretations without being heretical.

      Second, you bring up a good point about the Bible. The fact that people can, and do, interpret the Bible in all kinds of ways is precisely why we need an authoritative teaching Church to clear up any ambiguity, particularly when it comes to Faith and Morals. A Church Council really ought to clear up confusion rather than lend to it by promulgating documents that can be run off with by all kinds of people putting their own "spin" on them.

      Writing Council documents in a pastoral manner lends itself to people interpreting them in all kinds of ways. And I simply know of no other Council in the history of the Church that lends itself to this type of varying interpretations. People may agree or disagree with Trent or Vatican I, but you don't hear a lot of argument about what they actually say.

      So no, I am not putting myself in a "precarious" position (though I pray for the grace of God to always remain faithful). I simply do not believe that it is part of Catholic ecclesiology that one has to hold that prudential decisions, such as whether to call a Council or not, whether or not to throw out the original schemas, how one should revise the liturgy, etc. are necessarily going to be good decisions or the types of decisions that actually help, rather than harm, the Church's mission in the midst of a secular age.

      The fact that the Church still teaches the truth in her official teachings on Faith and Morals despite some awful prudential decisions which have not led to a greater faithfulness on the part of Catholics or helped her mission to the world is a sign of her divine and indefectible nature.

    3. You've made a lot of statements advancing them as facts with no proof: You say that the Church is afforded "negative" protection, but is not afforded "inspiration" to preach the correct things. "Thus a Council's documents can be ambiguous or be subject to multiple interpretations without being heretical.," How does that make any sense? Seems to me the Holy Spirit is doing a very poor job of guiding and protecting the Church.

      We either believe the Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ guided and protected by the Holy Spirit or we don't believe it. That doesn't mean we have to understand everything or even be in personal agreement, but we do not have a right to sit in judgment of the Church. You admit that you "just don't happen to believe." When we do that, we put ourselves outside of the Church, and as I told you previously, we put ourselves in a very precarious position.

    4. Okay, just to clarify, I do believe what the Church teaches infallibly on Faith and Morals. All of it. This belief does not require me to hold that prudential decisions, as I've mentioned above, are necessarily guided by the Holy Spirit. The hierarchy of the Church may make wonderful decisions, or poor decisions, and naturally we pray it's the former.

      A quote from Fr. John Parsons may help to further clarify what I'm getting at:

      "There is the famous story of how the Dominican Cardinal Browne urged the Council Fathers to beware of allowing the vernacular, lest Latin vanish from the liturgy within ten years or so. He was laughed at by the assembly, but as so often, the pessimistic reactionary proved to be more in touch with the flow of events than the optimistic progressives.

      The Council Fathers' incredulous laughter at Cardinal Browne helps to remind us that a general council, like a Pope, is only infallible in its definitions of faith and morals, and not in its prudential judgements, or in matters of pastoral discipline, or in acts of state, or in supposed liturgical improvements. It is thus false to assert that a Catholic is logically bound to agree with the prudential judgments a council may make on any subject. It is still more illegitimate to extrapolate from the negative immunity from error which a general council enjoys in definitions of faith and morals, to belief in a positive inspiration of councils, as if the bishops were organs of revelation like the Apostles, and their prudential decrees inerrant like the Scriptures. It is only a false ecclesiology and a false pneumatology that can lead to the exorbitant assertion that a council is "the voice of the Holy Spirit for our age". Are we really obliged to believe that the Holy Spirit demanded the launching of a Crusade at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215? And must we hold that in 1311 the Holy Spirit dictated the Council of Vienne's rules regulating the use of torture by the Inquisition? And is it de fide that when Alexander IV ordered those suspect of heresy to be tortured to confess their guilt, this was what "the Spirit was saying to the churches" on 15 May 1252? If so, are we to condemn the Catechism of the Catholic Church of 15 August 1997, which comes to us on the same papal and episcopal authority and which condemns the use of torture to extract confessions of guilt, and openly says that "the pastors of the Church" erred on the matter?"

    5. So what you're trying to tell me is that if the Church promotes something that we don't like or that we personally see as wrong, then we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit had no part in it and we are free to reject it. This seems to me to be a very Protestant position

      The problem I have with so many who are trying to tell the Pope how to run the Church is their total lack of humility. I never hear these people saying, could it possibly be that I'm wrong? Maybe I don't have total understanding, maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture. And just maybe what is right for one time is not right for another.

      Yes, I can believe that Holy Spirit inspired the Crusade and any of the other things mentioned in your comment. Do I personally find them abhorrent? Yes, I do. But my understanding is very limited and colored by my own experiences. I cannot see things the way the Holy Spirit sees them. Those were very different times from our time. The world changes, and the Church must change in how she relates to the world. And that is what Vatican II was all about. Those who are trying to hold the Church back must listen to Pope Francis when he makes statements such as the following: “This is the temptation to go backwards, because we are 'safer' going back: but total security is in the Holy Spirit that brings you forward, which gives us this trust - as Paul says - which is more demanding because Jesus tells us: “Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law”. It is more demanding! But it does not give us that human security. We cannot control the Holy Spirit: that is the problem! This is a temptation”

      Do we trust the Holy Spirit to lead us? We cannot be truly Catholic unless we do.

    6. (Cont.'d)

      So one is of course free to argue that all the practical decisions that came out of Vatican II and the official decisions of the hierarchy (such as the altering of the liturgy, allowing Communion in the hand and altar girls) were wise and wonderful and just what our present times needed.

      However, what one cannot do is posit that to be a faithful Catholic one simply must believe that all these official decisions actually were wise and wonderful and necessarily led by the Holy Spirit.

      You used the word "precarious". Now, I'm not applying this to you personally but believing that all prudential decisions of the hierarchy simply must be guided by the Holy Spirit what happens when one comes across a decision or decisions by the hierarchy which one personally cannot square with being "guided by the Holy Spirit"? Well, as you noted, one should try to see if they themselves are wrong or are missing something. And yet what if even after doing that the decision still seems to be poor? Well, if you believe that all practical decisions of the Church must ipso facto be led by the Holy Spirit and one confronts decisions which manifestly do not seem to be led by the Holy Spirit because they are unwise then one may start flirting with Sedevacantism.

      If the decisions of a Pope or the hierarchy do not seem as if they are led by the Holy Spirit and one believes they must be then one may conclude that there is no real Pope sitting on the chair of Peter. Which is false of course. True Catholic ecclesiology such as that evinced by Fr. John Parsons, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and even Pope Benedict XVI lead one away from such a position because you do not have to try to hold that every official prudential decision of the hierarchy is necessarily led by the Holy Spirit.

      It would be great if they all were but this is one reason why we pray for the Pope and the hierarchy so that as much as possible they make good and wise prudential decisions which positively benefit the life of the Church. God bless you.

    7. The Magesterium must always be the final authority in any Catholic's life. I hope you learn that very vital lesson. Our discussion is at an end.


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