Some Vatican II readings

This year is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, so here are some worthwhile readings on the topic. First, Fr. Z. asks if another ecumenical council was really necessary, and Fr. Bede Rowe relates an interesting anecdote:

There was a world wide consultation of Bishops before the initial preparation of the Council began.

It has to be said, that the response was not rip roaring excitement. After all, once you have the Pope being able to solve the problems, why do you need a Council? You can’t second guess what was in someone’s mind or heart, but could Blessed John XXIII really have meant to call a Council like the ones in the past? I very much doubt it. So in a spirit of enthusiasm and exuberance Blessed John asked them all what they wanted to talk about. And what do you think the answer was? Liturgical reform? Religious liberty? The theology of being a Bishop?

No. They wanted a tighter adherence to the rules and discipline of the Church and a new Marian Dogma. That’s right – more Our Lady and more obedience. Think of what happened in the aftermath and then again at what the collective mind of the Council Fathers was on the eve after the consultation.

On the other hand, this seems belied by the story related by Archbishop Lefebvre about the intentions of the Council:

This work was carried out very conscientiously and meticulously. I still possess the seventy-two preparatory schemas; in them the Church’s doctrine is absolutely orthodox. They were adapted in a certain manner to our times, but with great moderation and discretion.

Everything was ready for the date announced and on 11th October, 1962, the Fathers took their places in the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. But then an occurrence took place which had not been foreseen by the Holy See. From the very first days, the Council was besieged by the progressive forces. We experienced it, felt it; and when I say we, I mean the majority of the Council Fathers at that moment.

We had the impression that something abnormal was happening and this impression was rapidly confirmed; fifteen days after the opening session not one of the seventy-two schemas remained. All had been sent back, rejected, thrown into the waste-paper basket.  This happened in the following way. It had been laid down in the Council rules that two-thirds of the votes would be needed to reject a preparatory schema. Now when it was put to the vote there were 60% against the schemas and 40% in favor. Consequently the opposition had not obtained the two-thirds, and normally the Council would have proceeded on the basis of the preparations made.

It was then that a powerful, a very powerful organization showed its hand, set up by the Cardinals from those countries bordering the Rhine, complete with a well-organized secretariat. They went to find the Pope, John XXIII, and said to him: “This is inadmissible, Most Holy Father; they want us to consider schemas which do not have the majority,” and their plea was accepted. The immense work that had been found accomplished was scrapped and the assembly found itself empty-handed, with nothing ready. What chairman of a board meeting, however small the company, would agree to carry on without an agenda and without documents? Yet that is how the Council commenced.

One of Fr. Z.’s commenters suggests that, if nothing else, Vatican II usefully exposed the rot that was slowly eating the Church from the inside out:

Yes, it was needed. The response to Humanae Vitae and Eastern Orthodox caving on on contraception shows that liturgy is no protection on doctrine. VII exposed the rot that was slowly creeping in to the seminaries and universities and Church and would have overtaken the Church in the same way that a frog is overtaken by the heat of a slowly heated pot of water.VII exposed the crisis and woke up the complacent and lukewarm. But it also provided for some tools (e.g. Laity now read encyclicals/catechism/Bible/LOTH as a reference tools for daily living. Lay apostolates now flourish) for combating the crisis as well as a renewed love of Tradition and a clear demonstration that that modernism ultimately leads to the destruction of the Church. It may take a generation or two more to recover from the VII vaccination, but the Church will be better for VII.

Already, momentum seems to be shifting against the renegades. Could we have expected a reaction at all if the triumph of the renegades had been Fabian and incremental?

11 thoughts on “Some Vatican II readings

  1. Perhaps this episode reveals the fatal flaw of Catholicism. The most important time in history they needed to stand firm; but, they did not.

    “But then an occurrence took place which had not been foreseen by the Holy See. From the very first days, the Council was besieged by the progressive forces. We experienced it, felt it; and when I say we, I mean the majority of the Council Fathers at that moment. But then an occurrence took place which had not been foreseen by the Holy See. From the very first days, the Council was besieged by the progressive forces. We experienced it, felt it; and when I say we, I mean the majority of the Council Fathers at that moment.”

    I mean, that says it all, doesn’t it.

  2. I do not think the Catholic Church can be blamed much or perhaps at all for ultimately having crumbled. The real thing contended with the altered Greek copy, and in the long run the real thing won.

    I mind the consequences very much, but you can’t blame emerald for being ground down by diamond.

  3. There is no fatal flaw in the truth, nor has the Church
    . We are still here. We still maintain doctrinal, visible and universal unity, something that no other Church can claim.

  4. The Church was blessed with both Vatican councils, whose fruits are ripening now. I think people underestimate the collapse of the culture by WWI and the subsequent global thirty years war. So much of Christianity became wrapped up in Protestantized Christendom, where the nations held captive the Church. The horrors we’ve witnessed were oncoming regardless of the Church’s actions and the confusion produced afterwords probably inoculated her from both greater troubles and the total suppression some of our more modern barbarians.

    Do not underestimate how small the Church has always been. It should be recognized that during the French Revolution, which the Church faced a great chance of extinction, only 5 to 10 percent of the population remained loyal in word and deed to her, and she not only survived by still thrives in producing good fruit. The Church maintains its doctrinal, visible and universal unity (as Ralph says) and that is the most important thing. God will bring whom He Wills to be a part of his bride. May God, in His Infinite Mercy, keep me and count me among those in communion with His Church.

    • Indeed, she may continue to dwindle. But that is completely irrelevant to the question of whether her teachings are true.

      Have you actually read the documents of Vatican II, Bruce, rather than relying on second- and third-hand accounts, and speculating thereby on what Tolkien would have made of them? If so, what are your specific objections?

      Once again, I remind my fellow reactionaries that we should stand aloof from the media churn and short-term thinking of the present day. Ever since AD 33, people have been pointing at the Church and saying “She’ll never survive this. Unless she explicitly repents [the Gospel, the Trinity, the Hypostatic Union, the Filioque, Indulgences, Purgatory, Sacred Tradition, Papal Infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, …], she will continue to dwindle.” And we Catholics shrug and say, “Maybe. But the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, and she’s seen off every empire, political system and cultural novelty that’s come along since his Ascension. Chances are, someone will be predicting her imminent demise 3,000 years from now, should the world last that long. So thanks for your concern, but we’ll take our chances.”

      As others have pointed out, every ecumenical council has resulted in several decades of tumult. Each council has had its opportunists who have tried to use it to steer the Church in a direction more congenial to them. And each time, the Barque of Peter rights herself, though never as quickly as the faithful (in our brief threescore plus 10 lifespan) would like. May it please God to reconcile the SSPX with His Church and thus hasten her return to unity.

  5. @Murray, no I haven’t read the Vatican II documents (and I am not competent to read them) – but I know how they were interpreted, which is the essence of the matter. I know how they were received.

    I also read-through the recent official Catechism – which, although I expected rigorous Thomism, I found to be incoherent and marbled with the grossest PC nonsense.

    The size of any particular denomination of the Church is not my point – if numbers and devoutness were a measure of truth and validity, then we would all be Muslims, since Islam is expanding very rapidly and also increasing in devoutness.

    If people are aiming to back a winner, then Christianity is not the strongest horse.

    If the Christian Church was reducing in numbers because it was holding fast to Christianity, that would acceptable and it would not be a decline of the Church but a decline of mankind.

    The shame is to be a shrinking Church in the face of watering-down of the Truth, caving-in-to and actively propagating political correctness, and a continual shift of emphasis towards the worldly and Leftist.

    • “@Murray, no I haven’t read the Vatican II documents (and I am not competent to read them) – but I know how they were interpreted, which is the essence of the matter. I know how they were received.”

      And in the lifespan of the Church, the period since Vatican II is the blink of an eye.

      I’ve noticed this tendency in you before, Bruce, most especially in the contraception debate you hosted on your blog: You evaluate the Catholic Church–the world’s oldest living insitution–and her teachings by the standard of how closely she currently corresponds to your immediate political goals and cultural preferences, in your short-term pinhole-like view of her existence. While I largely share your goals and preferences, you have things exactly backwards. The Church is properly not concerned with Bruce Charlton’s current state of mind, except insofar as it can effect the salvation of his immortal soul. All other goals are subordinate to this one.

      I agree, of course, that the Church has seen better days, but she has also seen far worse ones–most especially in her first few decades, but also during the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Great Schism, and the Reformation. During each of these periods, the Bruce Charltons of the time were declaring her moribund, hopelessly compromised, and shrinking. Even notwithstanding Christ’s promise to her, the odds are surely on her side.

      • @Murray – I think the main difference is that I regard Roman Catholicism as a denomination, and not as The Church (although some of the RCC is The Church). Therefore – from my perspective – the RCC might disappear altogether (although I do not think it will) without refuting the Biblical prophecies.

        Don’t misrepresent me: “…Bruce Charltons of the time were declaring her moribund, hopelessly compromised, and shrinking.”

        The RCC *is* shrinking, that’s just an objective fact. It is compromised – but I would never say ‘hopelessly’. Moribund? I don’t believe that at all.

  6. It is hard being a traditionalist Catholic, specifically because of Vatican II. How does one explain the hideously ugly, gobbledygook-infested, ambiguous mess of its documents and subsequent Magisterium? How does one explain that some of it was written by heretics and more of it was influenced by heretics? How to explain its noxious effects?

    VII exposed the rot

    This sounds like what I call the chemotherapy interpretation of VII. I first saw this interpretation in Malachi Martin’s novel, Vatican. I find it very interesting. Chemotherapy is, of course, both poison and medicine. (As an aside, it is a truly Catholic part of medicine—both/and baby, not either/or!). It makes you sick but it makes your cancer sicker, thus its benefits. So, the idea is that VII had the effect of bringing Modernism/Liberalism/etc fully out of the closet in all its sappy, worldly, incoherent, infantile, totalitarian horror. All sane people turned from it in revulsion or boredom, so that it would die, eventually, of simple neglect.

    As long as it was in the closet, its adherents could always say “If the MAN would just put us in charge, man, you’d really feel the love. Hear the music, man: Come on people now! Smile on your brother! Everybody get together try to love one another right now!” Having failed after more than a century of trying to repress Modernism, the Church, in effect, said: “Fine, show us the love.”

    What we got was Cardinal Mahoney, Abp Bugnini, Fr McBrien, et al. A group of people who are somehow simultaneously comically retarded, aggressively authoritarian, and deeply threatening to teenage boys. This demonstration, then, is the point of the Council. Once this menagerie has completely and totally discredited Modernism forever, we can proceed without it.

    And why is the Church forced to use such bizarre methods? Because, over the course of the Endarkenment, it lost many of its other tools. What do you do if you can’t burn Teilhard de Chardin and Hans Kung at the stake? Let people listen to them, good and hard, that’s what. And one should be clear: burning at the stake is preferable. Why? Because the weak-minded are going to find them convincing. Because the weak-of-stomach are going to turn away from the spectacle in disgust. Because even the orthodox remnant is going to be in danger of becoming bitter and losing their way. Souls will be lost.

    It is interesting to notice how the perception of the Council is evolving over time. Now that the wasteland it engendered is laid out in front of us with such clarity and its architects are mercifully passing from the scene, the discourse is changing. We hear less and less about the “Springtime of Vatican II.” From those clinging to the Council, we hear a parade of excuses. From the Pope, we are given permission to consider the possibility that the Council was a failure and also are told that its most visible manifestation, the new Mass, is a “banal, on the spot product.” So, maybe soon, the cancer will be in remission and the chemo can be turned off.

    Anyway, that’s how the theory goes. I don’t know whether it is true or false, but I find it helpful to think about when Satan threatens me with thoughts like “How can the Church of Card Kasper/Shoenborn/Etc be the Bride of Christ, exactly?”


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