11 October 2012

Fifty Years After

Rorate Caeli links to this article by Kenneth Wolfe in the Washington Post on the occasion of the the 50th Anniversary of the convocation of the Second Vatican Council.  Until the dust settles on what is left of the Church, rocked as it has been for fifty years, I don't think we can reflect often enough on the revolution foisted on the Church in the name of this Council.  We need to know what happened, to be armed with knowledge of the truth, to address the current situation and to do the works of evangelization and apologetics.

Vatican II at 50
by Kenneth J.Wolfe

Fifty years ago today the Second Vatican Council began with a clear indication of who had gained control of the Catholic Church’s direction. From the Latin Mass to meatless Fridays to the concept of salvation, numerous components of the faith were set to be reformed, led mostly by clerical academics who had served on preparatory commissions. So powerful were they that Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, a conservative who headed what is now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which the future Pope Benedict XVI would later lead), was vocally heckled and silenced by his participating colleagues.

As described to journalist Robert Moynihan by Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, who attended the council and lives at the Vatican, Cardinal Ottaviani was addressing the 2,000 assembled bishops in October 1962: “As he speaks, pleading for the bishops to consider the texts the curia has spent three years preparing, suddenly his microphone was shut off. He kept speaking, but no one could hear a word. Then, puzzled and flustered, he stopped speaking, in confusion. And the assembled fathers began to laugh, and then to cheer...” This was on day three.

It turns out, according to Monsignor Gherardini, that it was Cardinal Achille Lienart, a leading liberal from France serving on Vatican II’s board of presidency, who cut Cardinal Ottaviani’s microphone. Ottaviani would later author a major critique of the vernacular Mass that came out of the council, a plea to Pope Paul VI that fell on deaf ears.

Some of the reformist-oriented clergy participating in the Second Vatican Council would eventually rise through the ranks of the Catholic Church. Karol Wojtyla (the future John Paul II), who was a young archbishop in Cracow, was seen as the liberal counterweight to Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, who was the conservative, yet popular, primate of Poland. Father Joseph Ratzinger (the future Benedict XVI), was the periti (theological expert) for Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne, writing the cardinal’s speeches for the council, including one calling Cardinal Ottaviani’s Vatican office too traditional and authoritative. Even though Raztinger had been ordained a priest over a decade ago, his attire throughout the Second Vatican Council was a secular business suit and necktie.

The results of holding a council during prosperity in order to modernize the institution quickly became disastrous. While countless priests, brothers and nuns quit, most Catholics stopped attending Mass and the remaining Catholics largely embraced dissent. Even Pope Paul VI, who led most of Vatican II, reflected 10 years after the council’s opening with an infamous observation that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.”

Fast-forwarding, the Latin Mass has made a comeback, in part because of the rightward-drifting Pope Benedict. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the church in the U.S., writes about restoring meatless Fridays and fasting. And the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a traditionalist order of priests, has forced the Vatican to address the substance of the Second Vatican Council. Religious liberty and the Mass are at the heart of the talks, including whether the SSPX is permitted to simply ignore these pastoral (as compared to dogmatic) writings. Ecumenism, which was called “the enemy of the Immaculata” by Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest killed in a Nazi concentration camp, is being weighed and discussed after 40 years of visits to mosques, temples and other non-Catholic houses of worship with little conversions as a result. To contrast, when Pope Pius XII negotiated with the chief rabbi of Rome, the rabbi converted to Catholicism and chose Pius’ name of Eugenio as he was christened.

Defenders of the Second Vatican Council from a center-right perspective have insisted that nearly all negative indicators of the Catholic Church have stemmed from the “spirit of the Council.” As seminaries continue to close (all but one remains in Ireland), parishes continue to merge and convents are redeveloped, a key question ought to be what tangible, positive results have occurred in those five decades. 

No one has been able to point to an actual statistical benefit of Vatican II and its 16 documents. Ironically, the only current growth in vocations is in religious orders such as the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter that reject the new Mass and most of the liberalizations of Vatican II.

Fifty years later, the greatest accomplishment that can be said for the Second Vatican Council is Pope John XXIII’s stated goal to “throw open the windows of the Church.” Yet from conversions to Mass attendance, it has produced nothing measurable in the upward direction. Perhaps traditionalist Catholics, led by the SSPX, are onto something when they call into question the council itself. Their solution is for the pope to simply erase all 16 Vatican II documents and restore the liturgy, teachings and discipline in place before the collapse of all that was considered good and holy in 1962.


Karen said...

Oh Bravo!! Yes someone PLEASE give us a statistical benefit of Vatican II! I don't think there is even ONE. I agree that all should be erased and we should go back to the days of complete and faithful catechesis; then we will see conversions and growth in vocations. "Save the liturgy; Save the world."

Latinmassgirl said...

That would be the solution to not only the Catholic Churches downward spiral, but the secular society on a whole. Contraception, abortion, children born out of wedlock, couples shacking up. That can all be attributed to the new morals that the new mass brought on. When people had morals, the Catholics were always the leaders of morality.

Who is there to lead the people now? A priest in sandals and shorts? A nun who speaks highly about the right to abort our chlildren?

JS said...

Funny you post this today, Timman. I am currently reading IOTA UNUM by Romano Amerio, at the suggestion of my TLM chaplain. I used to believe what the conservatives say about Vatican II: "the documents themselves are not the cause of the crisis, but their (non)implementation" in other words, the "spirit of the Council" is at fault. I'm not even halfway through the book, and I now call BS on that perspective. The documents themselves ARE the cause of the problems! Dump the council in its entirity and start over!

What is said about the seminaries, convents, parish mergers, etc. are also true (which is true for every other diocese in the US with the possible exception of the Diocese of Lincoln.) I live in a diocese in southern Minnesota (and it's not Winona!). The bishop recently made an ad limina visit, and the statistics of the diocese that were taken to Rome were also printed in the diocesan newsletter. All of the statistics showed a decrease in Mass attendance, etc. since the last visit. One of the liberals in the chancery can be quoted with saying "I was hoping they would stay the same!" These people just don't get it!

Rory said...

Good article Timman.

But I disagree with one thing at the end:

"Perhaps traditionalist Catholics, led by the SSPX, are onto something when they call into question the council itself. Their solution is for the pope to simply erase all 16 Vatican II documents and restore the liturgy, teachings and discipline in place before the collapse of all that was considered good and holy in 1962."

I don't speak for the society at all. However I go to their Masses almost exclusively and have a son in their seminary. I think the correct position can be stated with less rigor.

Speaking for myself, I "accept" Vatican Council II. It was a validly convoked and legitmately promulgated ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. There is no need to erase everything. It isn't all bad ideas or false doctrine.

I don't want to erase the document that insists upon the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas for the training of the Church's seminarians. What I want is the same liberty that the rest of the Church has. I want the liberty to pick and choose what I like.

There is a good article online in The Remnant by Fr. Francois Laisney, SSPX, where he highlights how the Council of Florence erred regarding the question of the essential matter for the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Pius XII defined with convincing scholarship that it has to be the laying on of hands of the bishop. Thankfully, that is why I am confident that Novus Ordo priests are truly ordained because the new liturgy has obscured what the Council of Florence declared to be essential.

The legacy of Vatican II will be teach tomorrow's Catholics more precision with regards to when the Church is speaking infallibly. I "accept" Vatican II as readily as I "accept" the Council of Florence or the Council of Nicea.

What makes no sense at all to me is how these appointees of Pope Benedict keep insisting that the Society "accept" Vatican II. What is that supposed to mean? Does that mean that every jot and tittle is infallible? Who could defend that and why would they? They and everybody else except the Society of St. Pius X get to pick through the Council and believe what they want. I am okay with them doing that. They don't think it is infallible when it comes to the document on seminary training. The SSPX accepts the Council as much as 99% of the bishops, thinking most is true, some is good, and none of it is infallible. I am unwilling to be labelled as "unaccepting of the Council" when nobody else behaves like, and few believe, that the Council was infallible, and rightly so.

(See Fr. Laisney's article for guidelines on when the Church is speaking infallibly.)

Anonymous said...

There has been a softening in the names used by the Holy Church. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith used to be called Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office before it was changed after Vatican II. Also the title of the Pope as the Patriach of the West was dropped in 2006.

Anonymous said...

Timman --

Always read your posts with great interest. I am a priest -- ordained in the JPII era.

And while I feel some sentiment for the "erase Vatican II" comment, did you know if, if that were done, you'd not be able to have a blog or add a new post without the permission of your local Bishop?

And would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

thetimman said...

Father, whether good or bad, it would be a great relief.