On consigning Vatican II to the dustbin of history

30 06 2009


From Fr. Anthony Chadwick:

The good priest of St. Mary Magdalene’s comments on the idea behind Vatican II as it was back in the post-war period I knew as a small child. The idea then was that civilisation had defeated barbary, and this was necessarily a sign of man’s inherent goodness. On the other side, they were anxious times as it was the Cold War and the threat of nuclear armageddon, the spread of Communism and the libertine cultural revolution in the west. Therefore, it was time to bring the Church into the modern age. The Church of the early 21st century faces a different situation – a post-Christian world. The Church is no longer welcome in any form. We need a new ecclesiology, or perhaps the oldest one – the way the Church dealt with Nero and Diocletian – dig in deep and weather the storm, and be prepared to offer your life if the chips are down. The Church simply retreats to the Catacombs to await better days, and emerges all the stronger for the purgation she has suffered.

The writing on the wall is that Vatican II will be relegated to the history books as something no longer relevant, and a new era is coming. The Church is not about politics or social causes, but about Christian identity, the priesthood, the Mass and the other Sacraments, prayer and devotion, a personal relationship with Christ. Naturally, good works flow from faith and the life of grace. It would seem that Pope Benedict XVI is looking at pre-concilar theology and the experience of the Church under persecution.

As much as I don’t like talk of the “catacombs”, and as skeptical as I am that the present Pontiff does not have an irrational attachment to the Council, I think Fr. Chadwick’s analysis is right on point. Less than a decade after the documents of Vatican II were signed, modern society went into a phase that the Marxist theorist Ernest Mandel called “late capitalism”; the general economic and political shift that is at the heart of the postmodern malaise in the developed world. Such is the hazard of trying to read the “signs of the times”, or trying to re-package perennial dogmas to suit the fancies of a particular age. Those left trying to do so are attempting to fit square pegs into round holes. Those still trying to defend the relevance of Vatican II in the face of naysayers are akin to those who defend bell-bottoms or disco music as the latest fashion. We have all moved passed it… except them.

In the decrees of Chalcedon, Trent, or Vatican I, one has to be an expert in history to know that they are addressing the “signs of the times”. No doubt they have the mark of their historical period; they were councils held by men, not angels. But the most “current”, “relevant” way to address the “signs of the times” is to proclaim perennial truth to a society enamoured with change. It remains to be seen if the Catholic hierarchy has learned its lesson, or if will continue to be obsessed with innovations.



11 responses

1 12 2012
To Read stuff to integrate « o3811236

[…]  https://arturovasquez.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/on-consigning-vatican-ii-to-the-dustbin-of-history/ […]

27 08 2012
test « Ryan Bilodeau's Blog

[…] On consigning Vatican II to the dustbin of history « Reditus: A Chronicle of Aesthetic Christianity […]

11 07 2011

Love this faith because of God’s mercy and love, the holy Sacraments, the most blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion.

8 10 2009

I’m a catholic man in french polynesia
I write from here
I love this religion because
It is very biggest church in the world

1 07 2009
brother Charles

However you judge the work and legacy of the council, the inner point of this critique remains for all: Much of the logic of the council’s most important documents derives from an acceptance of the categories and language of the humanistic optimism of the European Enlightenment/middle modernity. The problem is that the Church took up this language after it had–for the rest of thinking humanity–lost its utility for understanding history and humanity.

Thanks for the post!

1 07 2009

When you get right down to it, does it really matter whether the Church has “the vernacular liturgy, the permanent diaconate, or the RCIA”? The Church got along just fine for many centuries without any of these things. That is, they are simply responses (good or bad) to the times in which we are currently living. In the end they will simply go away or, if they survive, be almost completely unrecognizable compared to what they are today (for example, the permanent diaconate may survive but the married permanent diaconate almost certainly will not). In that sense they are quite irrelevant. And whether the Pope’s successor gives up on ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue doesn’t really matter; what matters is whether the Church will still be talking about these things one or two centuries hence. Really, these practices already seem dated; how long can Church hierarchs go on signing documents with non-Catholics about “understanding” and “agreement” that don’t result in unity? It’s been same-old, same-old for decades now. When you get to a dead end you have to back up before you can start to go forward again.

30 06 2009

But the most “current”, “relevant” way to address the “signs of the times” is to proclaim perennial truth to a society enamoured with change. It remains to be seen if the Catholic hierarchy has learned its lesson, or if will continue to be obsessed with innovations.

Amazing that Arturo doesn’t consider himself such a person “enamoured with change”.

Will schismatics and those like-minded ever learn its lesson and come to recognize the rather poignant fact that papal primacy, as in both ancient and midiaeval days, is not an innovative work of papist fiction but, on the contrary, something based primarily on [Christian] reality; not to mention, on a patrimony that flows principally from Tradition itself?

Or must we simply conduct ourselves in blatantly nihilistic narratives, as the moderns are so wont to do, and indulge ourselves in rather risible tales given to such things as sedevacantist notions?

30 06 2009
Michael Liccione

At a moment when the Pope has just signed a new social encyclical, I hear a bit of cognitive dissonance in the suggestion that the “writing is on the wall” for making the social teaching of the Church—which has been steadily developing since Leo XIII— “irrelevant.” In such areas as the death penalty, just war, and health care for the poor, the West has generally been moving in the direction of said teaching. Obviously, the Church is not being widely heeded in other areas such as abortion, contraception, embryo destruction and manipulation, and same-sex “marriage.” But it doesn’t follow that her public witness on such matters is irrelevant. As a lonely and prophetic voice, she is only doing her duty. And for the last twenty years or so, the hierarchy from the Pope down have been doing it. They should continue.

As for Vatican II’s becoming “irrelevant,” I find the observation itself mostly irrelevant. The Church is not going to abrogate the vernacular liturgy, the permanent diaconate, or the RCIA, all of which grew out of Vatican II. The Pope is not about to give up on ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue; nor, given the composition of the College of Cardinals, is his successor likely to. The Vatican is not likely to call for restoration of the temporal power of the papacy. What has already gone by the boards is much of the optimism that was evident in Gaudium et spes. Ratzinger criticized GS for that almost forty years ago. And I think he’s also right that we may well be looking at a “smaller, purer” Church in the years ahead. So of course times change, and Fr. Anthony is right that “the Church’s response to the new situation will need to be both traditional and innovative.” That’s what the “hermeneutic of continuity” is all about.

30 06 2009
Fr. Anthony

Thank you, Arthur, for your kind words. I have added something to my column under tomorrow’s date –

The taboo is being broken, but the Church’s response to the new situation will need to be both traditional and innovative.

“What made the Church great, and what made her stand up to all and everything was – – – her Christian identity. That means the priesthood, the liturgy, spirituality, holiness and learning”.

Fr. Anthony

30 06 2009
The young fogey

I’d be fine if they keep the teachings on religious liberty and ecumenism rightly understood but the common-knowledge version of V2 ought to have been chucked out long ago.

30 06 2009

“…as skeptical as I am that the present Pontiff does not have an irrational attachment to the Council…”

I’m no expert on the current crop in the College of Cardinals, but is there anyone there who’s really a traditionalist? I would think that almost every cardinal there has hitched their wagon in some way to Vatican II. If there are any traditionalists that could be considered papabile (whenever that might occur), I doubt they’d get elected. Maybe someone who’s more of a “Vatican watcher” can provide an answer.

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