I read a post a couple of weeks ago by a Catholic blog that I follow (which shall remain nameless) that shared a video by a traditional organization calling for the complete denouncement by faithful Catholics of Vatican Council II. In fact, the video’s creator even went as far as to use the bold hashtag To Hell with Vatican II. To back up this claim, the writer basically says that even though the organizers and the documents that came out of the Council never actually called for the things that are now happening, e.g. the entire disposal of Latin from the liturgy and of ad orientem posture, among many other things, the Council was still the catalyst for all these things, so the whole thing should be done away with.
Well actually, the claim is that the actual event should be done away with, but not necessarily the documents, which doesn’t really make sense. If you do away with the event, why would the documents made as a result of the event continue to carry any weight? Might as well get rid of them too.
Both logically and in terms of being faithful to the Church, this whole claim is a problem.
Remember my 4th of July post about why we should stand for the national anthem? Because of the foundation that America was founded upon. What is going on now with the treatment of people of color in some places has nothing to do with the principles that our founding fathers used to lay the groundwork for America. Those behaviors may have evolved over time because of fallen human nature, but they weren’t what America was originally founded upon.
But let’s forget all that. People started acting up and they can’t behave themselves, so let’s just throw away all of the work that our founding fathers did, do away with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, get rid of America, and all go back to England.
Sounds ridiculous, right?
It’s the same thing with Vatican II.
Yes, there are problems. Big ones. The liturgy has widely lost the reverence that it had before Vatican II. Certain feasts were done away with and practices that were in place to promote reverence and devotion, such as meatless Fridays, were downplayed and eventually abandoned by most Catholics. And our present days in the Church are tumultuous and troubling to a lot of the faithful, myself included. And yes, this downhill spiral began after Vatican II. But keep in mind that many of the changes resulted from interpretations of the documents and other teachings that came out of the Council. And these interpretations came from fallible human beings. Just because bishops and priests are members of the clergy doesn’t mean that they can’t make mistakes and are without sin. We can see that quite clearly today with all of the sex abuse scandals going on. And just because certain interpretations come from human beings with a fallen nature doesn’t mean that their original endeavors should be abandoned at the first sign of trouble.
Vatican II was born out of a need felt by then-Pope John XXIII to bring a new focus onto evangelization and spiritual renewal in the Church. And there was, and still is, a great need for this. We are all called to evangelize and Pope Pius XII, a pre-Vatican II pope, even recognized this and brought television to the forefront as a means of evangelization during his papacy. And in fact, he was the most quoted pope in the documents of Vatican II. Notice I said we are all called to evangelize. Vatican II stressed the role of the laity in the service of the Church and it should be stressed. It is not just the members of the clergy who are called to imitate Christ and lead others to Him. This is a job for all of us. The lives of the saints are great examples of this.
A renewal to consecrated life also was a topic and it had its own document, Vita Consecrata. There needed to be more consecrated men and women dedicating their lives to Christ, leaving everything behind to serve Him as the saints did and as Christ Himself instructed. The beauty of this life was highlighted, just as it should be, in order to draw more men and women to it for the good of the Kingdom of God. This is still being stressed today, as vocations continue to be prayed for and certain orders and communities experience a blossoming of these new vocations.
The point of laying out all this is that the foundation and things that were actually said during the course of Vatican II were truly meant to be for the good of the Church and Her future. And in fact, the same blog that I referenced earlier just recently posted a quote by the late Cardinal Giacomo Biffi that seems to contradict their post from a couple of weeks ago that denounced Vatican II. In addition to saying that Paul VI, who took over the running of the Council upon the death of John XXIII, sincerely believed in the Council and its positive relevance for Christianity, Biffi also states:
“In order to bring a bit of clarity to the confusion that afflicts Christianity in our time, one must first distinguish very carefully between the conciliar event and the ecclesial climate that followed. They are two different phenomena, and require distinct treatment…”
Which begs the question, why would you post something that endorses doing away with the conciliar event BECAUSE OF the climate that followed and then turn around and post a quote that says they are two different things that require distinct treatment? But I digress.
If the foundation and basic framework of the Council were laid out to be for the good of the Church, why should we get rid of the Council entirely and act like it never happened? It seems that that would just erase years of the good that was done by the Council to better the future of the Church through evangelization and the renewal of service to Her and to Christ. Rather, it should be reexamined and steps should be taken to educate the clergy and the laity about what was truly meant by the documents and other teachings that resulted from it. Maybe even a Vatican Council III would be beneficial to take the things that helped the life of the Church in the teachings of Vatican II and combine it with the reinstatement of the parts of the liturgy (ad orientem posture and adding Latin back in as the primary language; perhaps in the future a gradual reintroduction to the Extraordinary Form) and devotions that established the appropriate reverence to God and the Church pre-Vatican II.
Let’s move on to how this claim affects being faithful to the Church. The aforementioned blog, in saying that the founders and documents of the Council may have not meant to endorse such changes that came about after Vatican II, implies that the author holds that the opening up of the Council was in fact valid and as I said earlier, was actually meant for the good of the Church. Pope Paul VI approved and ratified all 16 documents that resulted, thus making them valid as well (“Fifty Years of Vatican II.” Kenneth Whitehead. Catholic Answers. https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/fifty-years-of-vatican-ii). Here, it is worth reminding readers that Paul VI was the author of the very pro-traditional-Catholic-teaching encyclical Humanae Vitae. It is unlikely that he would have allowed progressive ideas to come out of the Council. In addition, then Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, who most traditional Catholics accept and respect, was an integral part of the Council (Ibid) and in submitting his apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which allowed for the use of the Extraordinary Form, he stressed that at the same time the usage of the revised missal by Vatican II was to be respected and not dismissed by the faithful who preferred the Extraordinary Form.
Ecumenical councils are binding, meaning that their decisions involve obligations that cannot be broken by the faithful. While not as serious as doctrines that are declared infallible, being bound means that the decisions and teachings of an ecumenical council must be respected and upheld by Catholic faithful and trying to separate oneself (if one is a Catholic) from these councils and their outcomes is a serious problem. Christ established His Church for a reason and it is our duty as Catholics to stand beside Her, Her ministers and Her councils, trusting in God’s providence and promise that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against It.” (Matthew 16:18)
Now of course, this would not apply if a council or member of the clergy happened to promote heresy, but I’ve already made the claim that Vatican II does not.
Now, keeping all of this in mind, let us step back and ask ourselves if Vatican II is REALLY the problem. Or is it simply the fault of people involved in the Church who went to extremes to promote what they thought was meant by Vatican II? Something that is intrinsically good should not be destroyed because of the fault of human nature. If we really want to make a difference, we must employ four things: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and education. Because ultimately the lack of education about what was taught is the problem, not what was taught in the first place.