Tuesday 2 August 2011

It is pretty obvious that the Vatican II experiment has failed.

Danny Kaye tells the story of the Emperor's new clothes.

Fr Ray Blake has put up a brave post about the failure of the route the Church has taken since the Second Vatican Council. He starts by saying what some have long thought and others are only now beginning to allow themselves to express:
"It is pretty obvious that the Vatican II experiment has failed"
It's intentions may have been full of hope but perhaps caught up in the spirit of the age - the 1960's when everything seemed up for grabs and change was in the air. The brightest and best of those who were at the forefront of all that very quickly realised that it was not the answer. Among them was Fr Joseph Ratzinger who, as a peritus to Cardinal Frings of Cologne, was viewed as a reformer but as early as 1968 he realised that all that went with the "liberating" 1960's was not the answer. It's taken others a little longer to realise the same thing.

If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the evidence all around us can no longer be ignored. Our churches are empty and closing, our convents and monasteries (in any proper sense) are almost non-existent, the seminaries close one by one, Catholic education in our schools is a joke (a very poor one) but we keep hearing about the wonderful fruits of the Council. What are they? The intentions may have been good but the results have surely not been a success of any kind. I don't believe a wholesale return to the past is the answer but nor is carrying on with the same failed rhetoric. Only now, fifty years after the Council, are people willing to start telling the Emperor that he has no clothes on. Interestingly, in Hans Christian Anderson's fairytale, the Emperor is told by the tailors that only those unfit for position are unable to see the invisible couture, so everybody lies, saying how wonderful they look. The Spirit of the Council that has been Emperor for fifty years is finally hearing the truth but many who are still "possessed" of that spirit still act like the Emperor in the fairytale and hold on to the imaginary mantle:

"The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn't see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle."
The experiment has failed. Fr Ratzinger noticed realised the truth quite some time ago! Fr Blake suggests we need to draw on new leaders with views that don't match what has gone before for the last fifty years. In speaking to other priests, all agree that leadership is crucial. There are small signs that the type of men being appointed bishop is beginning to change - but they are indeed small. Let us pray for better - after all, fairytales are meant to have happy endings!


Part-time Pilgrim said...

Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit allowed an Ecumenical Council to make “failed experiment” with the Catholic Church? I think not. In the west the church has severe problems but if you ascribe those problems to the Second Vatican Council you have a false diagnosis (post hoc ergo propter hoc) and therefore the prescribed changes will not help and will most likely make the problems worse.

To challenge poor liturgy, lack of support for Catholic teaching by some Bishops and poor teaching in some Catholic schools is fine – in fact a duty, but to attack the Second Vatican Council is to attack the Church itself. It is sloppy and dangerous thinking; much better to say what needs to change and why.

The Second Vatican Council was not a failure; neither was it the last word. Yes we need to move forward as a Church, but with careful reflection, insight and vision, led by the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Church in the sixties and between then and now.

Fr Simon Henry said...

Dear part-time pilgrim. I'm afraid that you have not read the post thoroughly and therefore have fallen into the sloppy thinking you accuse me of - or Fr Blake (that is unclear in your comment) - who does just what you suggest by saying what needs to change and why. I specifically spoke of the "Spirit of the Council" - a term used by the Holy Father himself. I might add that there have been many Councils in the past that have not brought about the hoped-for fruits: the result of our fallen human nature, not of the Holy Spirit. The problem is not the Council but those who misinterpret it.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

Dear Father Simon
I am very specific in what I challenge, that is attacking the Second Vatican Council per se and I am not being personal, so whether it is you, Fr Blake, me or anyone else, it is "sloppy and dangerous thinking".

Both your and Father Blake's post go on to talk about the leadership of bishops - yours in passing and Fr Blake’s in more detail. Now my understanding is that whilst Vatican II did talk about bishops specifically in their collective, collegiate role, the "feudal" nature of Episcopal authority, which is one of the things Fr Blake is critical of, predates the council by some considerable time.

Fr Blake's attack on Vatican II is both unwise and unwelcome, especially as it detracts from the rest of his post which has some interesting points unconnected (I think) to the work of the Council.

Ductless Ontario said...

Fr. Henry, Part-time Pilgrim is a clear example of the resistence the "spirit of V2" crowd puts forth. They are oblivious to the destruction that has been caused and rely on faulty 'post hoc', politically correct, victim mentality defences. As many of them are in positions of influence within the Church, we'll have to rely on the biological solution before great progress in the restoration project can occur. The post-V2 generations have no emotional attachment to this issue and are objective and rational in assessing the council's fruits.

RJ said...

Can we not distinguish between the Council and the misinterpretation of the Council, whether by 'liberals' or 'traditionalists'?

RJ said...

I think perhaps your comments are too focussed on the local situation.

Based on figures for 2009, the number of priests worldwide increased by about 5,000 over the previous ten years. I believe also that the number of Catholics has risen. Are these signs of decline?

That is not to brush aside the problems you raise.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Perhaps we could mark the 50th annversary of VII by going back to the documents themselves, rather than the subsequent imposition of the "spirit of VII". The documents are full of scriptural references and refs. to previous councils, esp. Trent and VI. No discontinuity here.

shane said...

Oh Father, what a dangerous heretic you are. And yet you are in good company...

"Not every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis, many of them have been a waste of time."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Principles of Catholic Theology. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987, p. 378.

Anonymous said...

Criticisms of Vatican II and its' ensuing spirit are verboten; everything else prior to 1962 is up for grabs by way of insults and condemnations.

Unfortunately, I will be long gone before either Vatican II or the spirit thereof can be discussed sans emotion and rhetoric.

However, the fruits do speak for themselves, and the emperor has no clothes, no matter what they tell you.

Now it is time to gather the fragments of whatever is left that can be of use into baskets, lest they be lost too, and move on.

There is much to recover that has been lost, and the sooner we begin, the better the Church will be.


Barking Bob said...

Well said Shane!

"Certainly the results (of Vatican II) seem cruelly opposed to the expectations of everyone, beginning with those of Pope John XXIII and then of Pope Paul VI: expected was a new Catholic unity and instead we have been exposed to dissension which, to use the words of Pope Paul VI, seems to have gone from self-criticism to self-destruction. Expected was a new enthusiasm, and many wound up discouraged and bored. Expected was a great step forward, instead we find ourselves faced with a progressive process of decadence which has developed for the most part under the sign of a calling back to the Council, and has therefore contributed to discrediting it for many. The net result therefore seems negative. I am repeating here what I said ten years after the conclusion of the work: it is incontrovertible that this period has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church."

— Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 1984.

Barking Bob said...

Dear Part-Time Pilgrim,

Neither of the good Fathers was attacking the Council - but rather the abuse of the Council that has taken place by the (now geriatric) liberal elite. We await the proper implementation of the Council. In this we are not alone:

'the real reception of the Council has not yet begun . . . The task, therefore, is not to suppress the Council but to discover the real Council and to deepen its true intention in light of present experience.'

Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology. Ignatius Press: San Francisco (1987), p. 380

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the abuses and faulty implementation have been allowed to take root and will be that much harder to correct because of that. Had this campaign begun in the late seventies or early eighties, an awful lot could have been avoided.


Jacobi said...

The Vat 11 experiment has failed, but the reality is worse than just that.

In the post Vat 11 period, what we can now see as a Reformation movement, Secularist in nature tried to take over the Church, attacking liturgy, Catholic education and Catholic Spiritual practice. The Pope has called this the Hermeneutic of Rupture and has offered Continuity as a solution.

You are right Father in saying that, although many suspected this, it is only in the last 3-4 years that it has become possible to dare to say this openly.

The damage to the Church has been enormous, and as in the last Reformation, will take years and even decades to put right.

But put right it will be.

Cleaning Up The Mess said...

If I may continue the Cardinal Ratzinger theme. When journalists asked the then Cardinal Ratzinger if the Holy Ghost is always present at the Conclave, he replied: "No, but He comes along later to clean up the mess." Perhaps the same applies to certain Councils?

Part-time Pilgrim said...

Barking Bob

I am not so sure about the posts on both blogs. They seem to me to be advocating a return to the status quo ante when it comes to Vatican II. The idea that the experiment has failed implies it needs to be abandoned. This is a "Hermeneutic of Rupture backwards". As I understand it, what the Pope insists is that Vatican II and the liturgical reforms that followed should be interpreted as a development from what went before rather than a decisive break with the past. That's his "hermenuetic of continuity".
Clearly the "rupture" view of Vatican II is harmful and may go some way to explain some of the problems we face in the west. However it can't be the only problem because some of the difficulties we face are faced by other Christian denominations and the problems seem to be prevelant in Europe and the USA. Reverting to 1960 won't solve these problems. We must do what the Pope calls for and move forward, correcting any errors that may have been introduced.

Cleaning up the mess
We are required to believe that Ecumenical Councils are infallible. I think the Holy Spirit is present in such councils but that the Devil creates mess afterwards. This may be why some Councils turn out to be a "waste of time".

Anonymous said...

Part-time pilgrim:

'We are required to believe that Ecumenical Councils are infallible.'

Are we REALLY required to believe that everything said and done at an ecumenical council is infallible ? I don't think so. Look at the regulations introduced at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) concerning the distinctive clothing that the Jews were obliged to wear, for example. Was this 'infallible' ? Be very careful. We should also note that the last ecumenical council (i.e. Vatican II)was mainly pastoral, while, at the same time, we should give our assent to its teaching in the appropriate manner. We are not, for example, required to believe that Vatican II, in its prudential judgements, was infallible (e.g. the reforms concerning the divine office), while the doctrine on the Church in 'Lumen Gentium', and its 'nota' does require a level of firm assent - but still, as far as I'm aware, nothing was formally defined as infallible.

Fr. A.M.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

Fr A M

As we both very well know the infalibility refers to matters of faith and morals, so dress regulations are not infallible, neither are the changes to the divine office. I don't believe a Council has to formally define its teaching as infallible since the meeting of a Council is in itself a "definitive act". Therefore "the doctrine on the Church in 'Lumen Gentium', and its 'nota'" requires even more than "firm assent". However this is a bit of a side issue. The purpose behind reminding Cleaning up the Mess that the Council had the charism of infallibility was to challenge the idea that the Holy Spirit was not present in the Council. The infallibility is not something that comes from the individual bishops but through the Holy Spirit working in them.

Anonymous said...

With great respect Part-time Pilgrim, you really ought to study, not only the history of the councils of the Church (particularly the last one), but have try to understand the 'theological nuances' of assent. Can you, for example, show me the 'canons' of Vatican II with their anathemas ?

By the way, I am not against the council - how could I be ?

Fr. A.M.