Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reconcilliation with History

Today is the 50th anniversary of the convocation of the Second Vatican Council, our diocese was founded in May 1965, our first Bishop, David Cashman who was consecrated on 14 June 1965 and died in March 1971, only attended the last session of the Council which closed in December of 1965. I am told he rejoiced in the fact that he was the only Council Father in world with a full non placet voting record, apparently he voted against everything he could, unlike Archbishop Lefebvre.

One of the great Ratzingerian projects that is going to get a boost from the discussions with the SSPX is the question of the weight that we give the four Dogmatic Constitions of the Vatican Council and the Council itself. Other Councils were more easily dealt with, their documents all ended with declarations of Anathema: one knew where one stood. Their absence from Vatican II has actually been a disservice and left us floundering, either by us giving the Council too much or too little weight.

I reject out of hand those who speak of the "Spirit of the Council", if it is not enfleshed in a careful reading of the Council's documents, as rooted in Catholic Tradition, then it is merely a dangerously mischievous poltergeist.

In the same way too, as a Catholic, I have serious problems with those who reject the Council as being, merely, pastoral. They have obviously never even opened the documents, let alone examined the Acta. To distance oneself from the Council is profoundly un-Catholic.

I am sure that the Pope welcomes those of the SSPX who have the intellectual capacity to do more than rant, as somehow representing a significanct pre-Concilliar theological "school".

Reconcilliation with the SSPX is important and good but I suspect for Pope Benedict it is but a step en route to our reconcilliation with the Church's own Sacred History.

For Catholics Vatican II has to be seen in the context of a seamless hermeutic with all the preceeding magisterial acts of the Church. There are obvious problems with Vatican II that the SSPX happily point out but I suspect that good minds combined with goodwill, combined with a certain freshnes of approach can find a way through, what Bishop Fellay calls "reservations" about Vatican II.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Father for your clear and balanced exposition, it helps very much to see this complex subject in proportion for someone like me who (like I suspect the huge majority of Catholics) had only tangentially heard of SSPX.

Anonymous said...


I only wish prof. Gunnel Vallquist's three-part series Dagbok från Rom (published 1964-66) was available in any other language than Swedish. It is a fascinating yet shocking read for anyone even remotely orthodox. The radical intellectual Vallquist is throughout the series very open with her impressions, thoughts and meetings with all the important (mainly progressive) clergy who confides in her amazing things.

If it was ever to be translated, I'd almost guarantee people would hesitate before phrasing things as "seamless hermeneutic with all the preceeding magisterial acts of the Church".

Anonymous said...

Many people, when speaking about the Second Vatican Council, always mention that we need a Third Vatican Council to forward or smooth out the directives of the Second Council. Like you said, Father Ray, they probably have never read through all the documents of Vatican II or never read them at all. I have been reading the documents for the past four years and I am still learning new things, as the Holy Spirit
guides me through them. All the directives, instructions and information, contained in the infallible documents, pretain to Mother Church, present, future and for all time! We must not only re-conciliate with history, but we must become part of history, with our acceptance of Vatican II!!

God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, guide us in our implementation of Vatican II ideals in your Holy Church and the World in general. Let us be filled with Your Spirit when we peruse and review the divinely inspired documents of the infallible Second Vatican Council.

torchofthefaith said...

Dear Father

Thank you for all this balanced and nuanced commentary.

One of the many aspects of Grace which led Alan into the Catholic Church was reading some of the documents of Vatican II.

Then in the late 1990's he attended Ushaw Seminary and was shocked to hear staff and students claiming that the orthodox faith had 'all changed with Vatican II.'

This false implementation was the 'Anti-spirit' to the Council which the Ratzinger Report spoke so clearly about.

Sadly, as we encountered more and more of this anti-spirit over the years we also began to note that, not a few people who we knew, were then rejecting the Council in its entirety as a reaction to it.

We were then blessed to be able to spend time in more deep study of the actual documents and of the 1985 Synod of Bishops - plus the excellent Catechism which came as a fruit from these, and the further commentary on them in the Ratzinger Report and Crossing the Threshold of Hope.

It is indeed heartening that the Holy Father has lifted the excommunication of these bishops and that Fr. Tim Finigan and yourself are providing such worthy and accessible commentary. It offers new prospects to unity, deepening of faith, and as you say, further clarity regarding controversial aspects in the conciliar texts.

A key point for the Church will be to support the Holy Father in all of this and to pray for ever deeper understandings of the intentions of the Council within the Sacred Tradition.

We must also do all we can to ensure that the world knows that these moves are not in any way to be read as supporting the disturbing rhetoric of Bishop Williamson.

In Christ
Alan and Angeline

Anonymous said...

As catholics we must always remember to pray daily for our Holy Father and in this way seek graces for him for the Church and imbed our communion with Rome in our daily pray life.

Adulio said...

For Catholics Vatican II has to be seen in the context of a seamless hermeutic with all the preceeding magisterial acts of the Church.

This would be good but let us not fool ourselves into thinking it will be easy. There are many discrepancies between the conciliar texts and previous papal pronouncements. Cardinal Ratzinger coined Gaudium et Spes as the "counter-syllabus".

We also have the glaring issue of whether the new rite of mass can be said to be really in continuity with the older form, as hence both be forms of the same rite. Joseph Gelineau S.J. was a member of Bugnini's Consilium that helped "reform" the liturgy. He said in his book The Liturgy of Tomorrow:

"Let them compare it with the Mass we now have. Not only the words, the melodies and some of the gestures are different. To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed. Some walls of the former edifice have fallen while others have changed their appearance, to the extent that it appears today either as a ruin or the partial substructure of a different building."

Then there is the question of religious liberty. Yves Congar, one of the more radical voices at the council, could hardly believe his luck when he said:

"It cannot be denied that a text like this [Dignatatis Humanae] says materially something different than the Syllabus of 1864, and even almost the opposite of propositions 15, and 77 to 79 of that document." Yves Congar (O.P) La Crise de l'Eglise et Mgr. Lefebvre

These are just examples of the many things the Vatican has to resolve, not for only the SSPX, but for the Catholic world at large.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Quite! But there must be an interpretation consummate with Catholic Tradition.

PeterHWright said...

The "spirit of Vatican II" is indeed a poltergeist. That is very well put. And it is still doing its michief in the Church.

This false spirit is easily identified by its revolutionary character, denying the old doctrines, acting always in a spirit of discontinuity, of rupture, with the past. Everywhere it manifests itself, it is always contradicts tradition, and is therefore uncatholic. It is dangerous and is to be avoided.

Prayer, much prayer, especially the Rosary, will overcome it.

This is why, despite all the good things that have happened, and are happening, there is still in many places a massive disconnection with the Church's past.

But one day the Church everywhere will reconnect with its past, with all its teachings down the centuries, especially with its rich liturgical heritage.

The battle will not be over, not in this world. But the tide will have turned.

All will be well !

David said...

The infamous "Spirit of Vatican II" didn't arise out of a vacuum. The documents themselves - in contrast to the precise statements from previous ecumenical councils - were pastoral essays and by that fact and the often ambiguous wording therein offered kindling to those who wanted something much more radical.

I teach the Catechism to teenagers and I find much in Vatican II that brings ambiguities in an orthodox understanding of the faith and so I believe I can in good conscience ignore the documents. Just as Pope St Gregory the Great advised those uncomfortable with the failure that was Constantinpole II.

People sometimes say that the true fruits of an ecumenical council are only know generations hence. However, what they have in mind is usuallty councils like Nicea which clarified the Deposit of Faith.

One should judge an ecumenical council by it's purported aims. In the case of Vatican II it was to lead to a renewal of fervour and holiness amongst the faithful and to engage with the modern world to re-Christianise it. In order to start fixing the messes of the last 45 years and to prevent the Catholic faith from dyeing out in these Islands we have to accept the possibility that this ostensibly pastoral council failed in it's purpose - and disastrously so. And the fault must be partly directed towards the looseness of the documents themselves and the ambiguities contained therein.

Very sad.

Anonymous said...

I believe I heard some learned bishop say that the false spirit of Vatican II was is great part due to the constant media briefings by theological advisers to bishops throughout the council. This lead to media articles which were not based on the documents and hence a false sense of what these documents finally contained. Perhaps these days blogs such as this would help counter such a situation.

Volpius Leonius said...

"Quite! But there must be an interpretation consummate with Catholic Tradition."

Yes there absolutely MUST be I agree Father, and I believe there is.

However the problem is the texts plain meaning is not naturally so. Hence the use of it by revolutionaries within the Church to try and destroy her, with Vatican II the Church has gave her enemies the bullets they need to shoot her.

The cure is twofold, one there must be a complete clarification from the Pope himself on what exactly all these many, many documents from Vatican II actually say but two and even more important all previous councils which Vatican II MUST conform to or be declared a false council be be made known. Because Vatican II on its own simply cannot be understood correctly in isolation from the rest of the Churches tradition. And the rest of the Churches councils are never ever mentioned by anybody anywhere, its like they never ever happened at all.

As most people seem to manage ok in complete ignorance of every other council in the Churches history I personally feel it would be easier to simply throw the whole blasted Vatican II Council out complete with its double speak and ambiguities, not because it can't be interpreted in the correct manner but simply because its not worth keeping.

The council itself has proven a danger to souls and should go.

JARay said...

A very dear friend of mine, a priest, now deceased, said to me at the time of Vat. II
"When Pope John proposed the Council he said that it would open a window and let in the Holy Spirit. Now there are many saying Shut that B****y window".

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

I agree with Jonathan. The blogosphere could have saved the Catholic Church from much of the post-conciliar chaos if the internet and PCs had existed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Just imagine if we had had a "What does the Second Vatican Council Really Say?" blog back in 1970! All of the conciliar decrees posted and carefully parsed, orders from liturgical gauleiters to rip out altars and impose all-vernacular Masses carefully fisked and referenced to the source documents, anonymous laments from priests and laity given due airing, the manoeuvrings and schemings of the Bugnini department duly leaked and exposed, "new catechetics" textbooks reviewed and debunked...

With all the scrutiny that the internet affords, the Spirit-of-Vatican-Twoers would not have got away with what they did.

Well, the worm is turning at last and better late than never, I suppose.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I fully agree with your comments Father,

To the one commenter: I do believe it's a stretch to call the 2nd Vatican Council infallible, but I do believe that we as Catholics must assent in our judgment towards the documents. The SSPX and the Pope himself have pointed out the errors within the Council texts.

St. Josephat, pray for us.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Ironically, the SP from Benedict was itself ambiguous given that it was accompanied by a strange letter, written to assuage the wrath of childish, petulant Bishops. The document itself also contains one or two "timebombs".

By the SP the Holy Father has proved himself to be an obedient son of the council in form if not in substance.

David said...

We also have to recall that the Oath against Modernism (given in 1910) was not rescinded until 1967, that is 2 years after the end of the Council. That means that every bishop and priest at the Council had sworn a solemn oath to God that they renounced the errors of Modernism.

Amongst the many explicit errors that the Oath denounced there was the following paragraph:

Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas.

This means that any teachings that these priests (as periti) and bishops submitted or to which they assented that contradicted the teachings contained in Pascendi or Lamentabili constituted at the very least a material breaking of this oath which they had taken before receiving the subdiaconate.

However, many of the documents from Vatican II clearly contain teachings on the part of the non-infallible Magisterium that contradict the teachings given in Pascendi and Lamentabili. This, other than the 'fruits' of Vatican II, should give us pause when lauding this - sadly - very questionable Council.

David said...

One of the great problems of Vatican II was the abandonment of scholastic philosophy by those who 'led' the Council. This is apparent in statements that turn the classical definition of truth on its head (which goes back certainly to Aristotle and certainly much further in that it constitutes a precise definition of what is known through common sense by ordinary people throughout the millenia) that truth in the human mind is the "adequation [conformity] of the mind to reality".

In §10 of the decree on ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio we find the following, rather odd, sentence:

Sacred theology and other branches of knowledge, especially of an historical nature, must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond more exactly with the facts.

So, that is to say, that the requirements of ecumenism must determine what is true and what is false, especially when teaching theology! This is disconcertingly like the Modernist-Immanentist view that truth is determined by our needs - be they individual or communal - as typified by the philosophy of Maurice Blondel et al.

Fr Ray Blake said...

David, That is a possible interpretation, a more generous one might be that dogma is placed in its historical context. For example one looks at both the Catholic and Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist when teaching in seminaries. When teaching about Protestantism one looks at its development rather than just its condemnation and its damage to the Church.

David said...

I have to say, Father, that is indeed a very generous interpretation of Paragraph 10. I have to say I don't agree with your interpretation; which, in fact, highlights one of the greatest problems inherent in the conciliar documents: their bland and verbose ambiguity. Church documents - and above all conciliar documents - have traditionally been so precisely worded that they afforded no room for manoveur, that is for error. The documents of Vatican II, on the other hand, allow such a huge amount of 'wiggle-room' as to render them practically worthless as a basis of an authentic renewal of the faith. Further, it was the very ambiguity of these documents that acted as the catalyst for the collapse of Catholicism, so to "return to the documents" will only succeed in further exacerbating the problems in the Church whilst theologians argue for years over what such and such a paragraph really meant.

We are looking at the very real possibility that the Catholic faith will for the most part disappear from these islands, through contraception, indifference, and persecution, leaving only small enclaves of the faithful. The longer we insist on the shibboleths and taboos that came in the wake of a fundamentally compromised ecumenical council, the less we shall be able to salvage something for the very grim years ahead of us. The documents are ambiguous and in many places contradict the prior teaching of the Magisterium. Through their ambiguity and, indeed, "timebombs" (as recognised, for example, by Cardinal Heenan) they opened the gates to error and have helped empty the House of God.

The Emperor - simply put - has no clothes on.

Fr Ray Blake said...

My interpretation, not yours, is what most seminaries would follow, now. I am sure that was not so in the heady days, but I am sure it was what the Council Fathers intended, see the Acta!

David said...

From what I have heard from priests who have gone through the seminaries it was the more liberal interpretation that they have been taught.

I am sure that was not so in the heady days, but I am sure it was what the Council Fathers intended, see the Acta!

Father, this is a conciliar document! Something is very wrong when we need to go and look at the Acta for what the Council Fathers thought!

Furthermore, the very fact that we are having a discussion about something that by it's very nature should not admit of any ambiguity is quite a damning verdict on the final draft.

Fr Ray Blake said...

We need anathemas!
They clear the mind of woolliness, I think we agree, the fault of the Council is that, wooliness.

Adulio said...

David has really smack the nail on the head and succintly outline the major problems with the texts of the council: i.e. they're as clear as mud in many places.

Anonymous said...

Someone once said that Vatican II is Catholicism with an "however" and a "but". Read the documents. They are right.


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