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Debate: Should we be celebrating the Second Vatican Council?

Or should we be urgently seeking to fix the damage it did to the Church?

By on Thursday, 4 October 2012

Bishops gathered in St Peter's for the Second Vatican Council (Photo: CNS)

Bishops gathered in St Peter's for the Second Vatican Council (Photo: CNS)

Next week Pope Benedict XVI will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council with a Mass starting the Year of Faith. Joining him will be the surviving Fathers of the Council and the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences.

For many people, though, the Council is no cause for celebration. Daphne McLeod, of Catholic group Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, sees it as a disaster leading to widespread ignorance about the faith, a decline in vocations and a rise in Catholics leaving the Church.

On the other hand, the Council cannot be blamed for everything bad that has happened to the Church since 1965. And it had, some Catholics would argue, concrete achievements, such as its declaration on religious freedom, and its opening the door to an undreamt of era of ecumenism. It also dramatically improved relations with Judaism.

So, should we be celebrating the Second Vatican Council? Or should we be seeking, instead, to fix the damage it did to the Church?

  • JabbaPapa

    I’ve posted a thing about this in “the other place” about a week ago, FWIW :-)

  • JabbaPapa

    You certainly don’t get that from the NO Mass, the walkabout Peace, or a chorus or two of Bind Us Together and In Bread We Bring You. You just don’t.

    As I keep on saying, not every NO Mass is going to be abusive.

    Our own parish sings the Gloria, the Credo in Latin, and a variety of Gregorian hymns — with nary a guitar in sight.

    If the focus of the Mass is NOT on the Eucharist and the Sacrifice, every other abuse will follow from there.

  • scary goat

     I do not believe that God has withdrawn Grace, rather that we have to be suitably disposed to receive it.  I’m sure it’s still available on request.

  • Solly Gratia

    As someone new to participation in the Catholic Church, I have to say that that is not how I find the Mass at all. I am fully conscious that I, along with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and through the grace given to the priest, are led to the foot of the cross where Christ died, and then into resurrection life through participation in the sacrament (or at least, when i am received in).

    That is one of the things that draws me to the Church, after 20 years of sharing bread and ribena in a Baptist huddle. We are the Body of Christ, joined to Our Head. We are there in the holy sacrifice we could not make alone, as a Body, offered to God; that is plain from Scripture. We are also the Body of the Resurrected Head. Individualism is what has caused low attendance in Catholic and Protestant churches alike; it is community that will bring them back in, as the protestant Church I attend now has learnt, by setting up lay communities with celibates. Going back to Baroque ritualism will not solve the crisis, it will only bleed people away from one church to another.

    And I like hymsn better than choruses too, but the fact is, people don’t sing anymore, they don’t learn hymns, they don’t sing harmonies; they sing pop songs. I wish it was otherwise.

  • Mph

    “You certainly don’t get that from the NO Mass, the walkabout Peace, or a chorus or two of Bind Us Together and In Bread We Bring You. You just don’t. The very fact that the Priest faces the congregation speaks volumes.”

    And herein lies the problem with many critiques of the Ordinary Form. They don’t deal with the Mass per se, but the poor celebration of it. And a poor sense of the ars celebrandi is not a fault that the EF is immune from. 

    I have my issues with the OF: the offertory prayers, the complicated menagerie of EPs and prefaces, the plethora of options, the imprecise rubrics, and a few other things. And, yes, I deeply lament the fact that many OF Masses are so poorly celebrated. But before the Council, I’m sure that many Masses in what is now the EF were also very poorly celebrated. People sang rubbish hymns at Mass before the Council, and people still sing rubbish hymns at Mass now. Some priests said Mass sloppily before the Council, and some say Mass sloppily in these post-conciliar times. It was ever thus. 

    My point is, it’s not correct to claim that the problem is “the entire NO Mass as it stands”, when the only criticism you’ve made is about the way it’s said, not what is said. They’re different issues, and conflating them doesn’t help anyone.

  • Benedict Carter

    You’re wrong. 

    Traditionalists do of course accept Authority. What we want is that the Authority acts! The last fifty years, due to conciliarism and other reasons, the papacy has NOT acted in the face of every heresy and abuse imaginable. Vatican II led to religious Orders and many, many Bishops in effect throwing off papal authority. 

    In previous times, they would have been disciplined. Now, the Papacy has simply rolled over. That’s what appalls Catholics.

  • JabbaPapa

    As for the NO, have you ever lain the Old Mass next to the new, and compared one to the other?

    Yes, following advice from you personally many months ago to do precisely that :-)

    There’s a Sunday evening EF Mass every week down in the town, and as soon as my health is at least slightly improved I WILL attend — but last time I attempted to walk back from that location, I collapsed and could not continue when I reached the foot of the mountain — this is not something that I’ll be risking at 9PM or later, with no bus in sight…

    “The only *real* issue with the Old Mass, from about 15th century
    onwards that is, is that the typical Lay Catholics no longer understand
    the Latin”. 

    Everybody had their Missal. “Oh, the peasants can’t read a Missal”.

    Oh, but they can now, Jabba.

    You’re distorting both the historical reality, and what I said.

    Up until the early 15th Century, Latin and the Romance languages were still — just *barely* — mutually intelligible, with a little effort and good will on the part of the speaker and the hearer.

    Two things happened in the 15th century that forever changed this state of affairs.

    1) Dante — his Commedia Divina not only established the vulgate languages as being noble and worthy of their own literature and attention and independence, but he also definitively established that the vulgate languages could speak of religious matters (as we arte engaging in right now BTW)

    2) The vulgate languages themselves underwent a sudden and massive upheaval, under the influence of the Renaissance, so that the mutual intelligibility of the Romance languages with Latin came to an end.

    Ben, the reason why there were no serious efforts to make new translations of the Bible prior to 15th century, was because up til that point, Catholics had no real linguistic problem understanding (with more or less effort) the Latin of Scripture and the Mass.

  • Benedict Carter

    Not just the liturgical changes, but the entire loss of the Catholic mentality and world-view. It’s my firm belief that 95% of NO Catholics are not Catholic in anything much but name.

    Given the destruction of the Catholic intimacy with things divine (this is probably the most profound difference between the modern Church and the Church we had for 1,900-odd years before the Council), a collapse was inevitable. 

    It’s my contention that the Council, being the victory of those who for decades had sought to undermine that Catholic intimacy, can be identified as the guilty party. 

    But behind the Council were three forces. Masonry first of all, Marxism and Modernism.

    In other words, all this was quite deliberate. 

    Sure, there was secularization in society as protestantism came to the end of its vibrant life and people stopped believing.

    But the Church still of course had vital energy, beauty, an uncompromising attitude to the world. She still called a spade a spade. if the Council had never happened, She would have ridden the storm, mitigated it; those tossed aside like leaves by the 1960′s and 70′s would have converted en masse. 

    This is another tragedy of the Council. It waved the white flag to the world, and the night swiftly followed. 

    It’s all about the life of Grace. We cannot, as Catholics, see the Church as a merely human organisation reacting to human affairs. 

    It’s all about Grace and its contention with powers, thrones and dominions. 

  • JabbaPapa

    French Riviera, and the catechesis of both the young and of adults is constantly improving.

    I’m not aware of any direct study of people’s beliefs in the diocese, but people are certainly NOT taught any modernist claptrap !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    We’ve had this disagreement more than once, and I do get tired of the “nu-church” epithet, as it has nothing to do with me.

    The doctrine on religious freedom is the most problematic of the issues raised by SSPX.

  • Benedict Carter

    Williamson’s historical views are at the least foolish and if anti-semitism lies behind it, iniquitous.

    But Muller cannot say he is not a Catholic nor a Bishop. Loose use of words AGAIN ……

  • Benedict Carter

    A hybrid Mass? God forbid.

  • Solly Gratia

    But the Vatican is renowned – indeed infamous – for acting. Liberation Theology was condemned; men like Küng were demoted, SSPX has been excommunicated. Is it perhaps the case that the Papacy is not acting in the way you and others desire? Perhaps it is better if someone else was Pope, someone who was Right?

    I have been browsing the internet for months now about Catholicism, and keep coming across dissident factions like Most Holy Family Monastery, and lesser lights who seem to be of the opinion that they know better than the Pope (or even the last 3 or 4, depending on what letters follow ‘SS..’. Is it not the role of Bishops to have authority in their diocese? Of priests in their parishes? Why must everything fall in line with some sort of caesaro-papalism? Why is it only the Papacy that is wrong? And why did the Papacy not ‘act’ before V2, in relation to certain ‘german bishops and theologians’ who always seem to get the blame. Either the Papacy was already wounded before V2 – which surely did not appear de novo – or perhaps the script runs a different way that what some believe?

    There are a certian kind of Protestant – hot prots, we call them – who think the Reformation was the BEST time, and if only we could get back to that, everything would be alright. Protestant Constitution, Protestant Throne, KJV Bible, 1662 Prayerbook for Anglicans, Hymsn of Watts and Wesley. The Traditionalists i have encountered on the net seem to be of the same ilk, harking back to a lost age. Sorry, but I have yet to encounter a ‘vocal’ Traditionalist who accepts that he or she is allowed to do these things (and appratnely always was; V2 never stopped them), without slagging off large portions of the church and its hierarchy.

  • Benedict Carter

    The authentic face of the Novus Ordo Church once again shows itself …. 

  • JabbaPapa

    I do know Daryl, as does Jabba and the rest of the Catholics who know Thompson’s blog well.



  • Solly Gratia

     >>Not just the liturgical changes, but the entire loss of the Catholic
    mentality and world-view. It’s my firm belief that 95% of NO Catholics
    are not Catholic in anything much but name.

    What a sad reflection on the end results of a bunker mentality. And I thought I was narrow minded when i was a Calvinist! We at least knew as a doctrinal fact that not every ‘Christian’ was a Christian, rather than just as a personal opinion.

  • JabbaPapa

    Not “hybrid” — but following the explicitly expressed desires of the Council Fathers, rather than refusing or abusing them.

  • Solly Gratia

     One has to recognise that the bad implementation of something does not necessarily mean that thing is wrong. Luther reacted against indulgences sold to finance St Peter’s. The neo-protestants such as Benedict Carter want to tear down St Peter’s rather than reform the mishandling of indulgences.

  • Mph

    I’d love to be able to agree with you that the Church, had the Council not been called, would have ridden the storm of the 20th century and would be in a healthier state now. But I’m afraid I can’t. 

    The existence of Gaudium et Spes demonstrates to me that the Church in the 1960s was, by and large, overly optimistic and short-sighted. Such a Church would be in a crisis regardless of whether or not it had called a Council. 

    (Curiously, your opinion that everything would now be rosy if it hadn’t been for the Council is just as optimistic! But perhaps I’m the one being too pessimistic… who can say for certain?)

  • Benedict Carter

    I’m not arguing for some sort of Papal dictatorship, far from it. Ordinarily, the Pope can act through the Bishops who he can be sure share the same Faith. That absolutely cannot be depended upon today. 

    The Most Holy Family Monastery people have some good material on their strange website, but as they are sede vacantists, one has to regard them as ecclesiastically beyond the pale. There are very, very few sede vacantists in fact and 99.99% of Traditionalists are not such (though we may sometimes sympathise with their extreme angst). 

    Your last ten or so lines: all I can suggest is that you haven’t perhaps yet either grasped the nature of the Revolution that has happened, nor its importance.

  • am-s

    As I said in the post to which you are referring: The EF is so different from the NO as to be virtually unrecognisable. Have a look yourself to see where the emphases are different and how watered down the NO content is by comparison.

    The OF as it stands is entirely different from the EF.

    The NO detracts from the Real Presence and the Sacrifice, by virtue of the insertion of all those participatory things for the audience to do which are not present in the EF Mass, and some pretty big omissions. Again, have a look. 

    This is not a conflation of different issues, these are concrete differences, whether or not there is poor application of the rubrics. Although there usually is.

  • Benedict Carter

    What a bizzare assertion.

  • Benedict Carter

    But it is the truth.

    They do not know the Faith, 75% reject the Real Presence and so and so on.

    It is you, Solly, who have yet to learn the reality. We Catholics have been living it for fifty years.

  • am-s

    You can bung in as much Latin as you like, but the structure of the OF Mass diminishes the meaning of Calvary. Compare and Contrast…

  • Benedict Carter

    So, as I have said before, we go back to the Old Mass with the Gloria, Creed, Epistle and Gospel read in English. THAT’S what the Council Fathers apparently had in mind. 

    It means the binning of the NO. But it won’t happen. The Revolution will continue on its merry way. 

  • Benedict Carter

    I have invited Jabba and others to do exactly that am-s, but they never bother. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Astonishing that you can say your last when you are in France, the country of total meltdown, zero vocations and the openly heretical “Pierre Vivants” Catechism.

  • daclamat

    He and Congar were the two greatest theologians of the last century – at least Paul VI, John-Paul II and Ratzinger thought so. How to use De Lubac to evangelise? Ask the aforementioned Popes who read, tried to understand and enthused. As a start to evangelisation try being polite and even nice to people, like De Lubac whose greateste insight was perhaps his understanding of paradox, so that he transcended the conservative-liberal divide.

  • Jon Brownridge

     Actually, Protestants had plenty to protest about.

  • Cjkeeffe

    One of things that would support or contradict whetehr Bishop Williamson is a bishop or not and I’m happy to accept he is as he was brought back into the fold as it where by Pope Benedict XVI along with the other three, is the lineage of those who conscreaetd him a bishop. Archbishop Leverbe (spelling???) and the Brazillian bishop (whose name i forget) where both validly conscreated catholic bishops. So in a sense his episcopla DNA from the line of his consecreators is catholic. The prescence or lack off pontifical approval is another matter I think which is best left to canonists etc.
    As he recieved valid baptism, as teh Council text on ecumenism says in is incoroporated into teh mystical body of Christ. He would only be expelled i suppose if he made a formal act of defection (such i suppose in Germany not paying the Church Tax) or excommunicated – but thats been lifted. His views on many things I think are a bit strange but ultimatly it is the Father in Heaven who decides who is with him and who is against.

  • Cjkeeffe

    I acccpet VCII as being a proper council inspired by the Holy Spirit, but corrupted by satan and some liturgical experts and specialists.
    Despite teh Consitution on the liturgy which said that Latin had to be perserved and thatthe faithful should be taught the latin responces. My quetion is why have i been denied Mass in latin even teh Mass of Pope Paul VI in Latin has been denied me!
    Why can i hear Mass in bantu, but in Latin your an odd ball!

  • Patrickhowes

    Well fair point!But It is man who alienates himself from God.Of course God´s grace is omnipresent as is HE.But it is we who have to raise our hearts up to Him…

  • am-s

    Fabulous, Paul!

  • Patrickhowes

    Well actually it had obviously collapsed way before then to have allowed Adolf Hitler
    to raeigb havoc upon the country.However,there was fierce opposition in both Catholic southern Germany and Austria.The Nazis in Vienna entered the Archbishop´s palace and threw priests and nuns out of the windows.The Archbishop was smuggled out through underground passages but almost risking his life to rescue the Blessed Sacrament!That´s the Catholic we like to see.Germany had been since Martin Luther a volcano of  false ideologies.The war was the consequences of these

  • Patrickhowes

    But you have to accept the withdrawal of Grace argument as it is evidenced in the scriptures.God longs for man to follow Him.In the tribe of Israel he founded his chosen people,but they sought to worship the golden calf rather than God.It is not God who forces man to alienate himself but rather man has free will to chose and he makes bad choices

  • John McCarthy

    I think one should trust in the workings of the Holy Spirit and celebrate Vatican II. 

  • albertcooper


  • JabbaPapa

    That’s not exactly what the Council Fathers had in mind, and there’s no reason at all to abandon the beauty of the Gloria in Latin, but yes that’s certainly the true “spirit” (if you’ll forgive me) of what the Council Fathers intended.

  • JabbaPapa

    The NO detracts from the Real Presence and the Sacrifice

    erm, no — ABUSES of the Mass detract from its Essentials…

  • JabbaPapa

    Oh deary me, Ben, I have done …

    The issue is that you are comparing the Old Mass with  ABUSES of the NO, rather than with the more orthodox rendering of the New Mass.

  • JabbaPapa

    Our diocese is not actually a French one …

    The “Pierres Vivants” Catechism I see more as being woefully inept, than heretical — looking over its contents, I was more struck by its vacuity than any kind of falsehood in its teachings.

    And situations vary greatly from one part of France to the next, as I have discovered during my several foot pilgrimages.

    Catholicism is very alive next to Italy, in the Basque country and Gascogne, Paris, and a few other such places — and almost entirely absent from some rather wide areas OTOH.

    The trouble in France is the institutionalised nature of the anti-religion.

  • Alexander VI

    Much of pre-Vatican 2  Catholicism was  based on fear, ignorance and  the pressure  of social conformity. But the Vatican claims that church membership has increased from 653 Million in 1970 to the current figure of 1.6 Billion. Is this increase part of the damage caused by Vatican 2?  

  • Benedict Carter

    “Much of pre-Vatican 2  Catholicism was  based on fear, ignorance and  the pressure  of social conformity.”

    With that ludicrous statement to start, there’s little point in reading further.

  • Benedict Carter

    Actually Jabba, that’s EXACTLY what the Fathers had in mind, as many of them wrote and said later in horror when they saw what they got. 

  • Benedict Carter

    When you start attending the Old Mass regularly, you’ll see that am-s is 100% right. 

    The whole ambience, the whole mentality, its soul, is entirely different from the NO. Far more profound, centred wholly on God, transcendent. 

    This is something intangible Jabba, it’s all about Grace. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Doesn’t matter, is what am-s is saying, and he’s right.

    They are DIFFERENT rites, and forgive me, that’s the case whatever PR the Pope gives you on the matter. 

  • JabbaPapa

    I think we’re just quibbling over details.

    The horrendous abuses of some liberal “masses” are clearly NOT the intentions …

  • JabbaPapa

    … which I experience regularly …

    We are agreed in any case about the true nature of the Mass, I think …

  • Alan

    I don’t mind insults, I’ve had far worse from athiests on other websites.

  • Tim

    That was a qualified like from me because I have one quibble: according to Mother Teresa’s order there is no evidence for the quote about receiving in the hand often attributed to her – so I should ditch it and quote the HF’s remarks about reception instead. Some good stuff otherwise.