Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Wake of Vatican II in Light of Pope John XXIII's Opening Address

The second Vatican Council and what has happened in its wake is a hotly controversial topic in and outside the Church. Since its close in 1965 few today understand Vatican II and what Pope John XIII really intended it to accomplish. As the old story goes, Pope John XXIII wanted to allow some fresh air into the Church. This fresh air consisted in some very controversial actions on his part. For example, it is no secret that he personally allowed non-Catholic observers into the Council. He also certainly had a radically different outlook on the Church and the world than his predecessors. The consequences of Vatican II must be understood according to actual history rather than by those in the Church today who wish for an outcome that has yet to take place.

The Second Vatican Council is more than just a collection of 26 documents. The Council fomented a unique attitude and ideology that has penetrated throughout the Church in its wake. An Ecumenical Council's effects are quite apparent in looking at prior Councils such as Trent. Not only do we have the documents of Trent, but we also have the attitude that the Council carried into the Church in her wake which can be verified historically. Trent for example among other things, generated a rich understanding of the Sacraments and further explained the Church's ecclesiology in the face of the horrific Protestant heresy. I think that it is fascinating to compare what actually happened after the Second Vatican Council to what Pope John XIII wished to happen, in light of his opening speech in 1962 when he began the Council.

John XXIII opened the Council saying,
"Illuminated by the light of this Council, the Church -- we confidently trust -- will become greater in spiritual riches and gaining the strength of new energies therefrom, she will look to the future without fear. In fact, by bringing herself up to date where required, and by the wise organization of mutual co-operation, the Church will make men, families, and peoples really turn their minds to heavenly things." 
John XXIII viewed that people in the world would by the efforts of the Council turn to God, and that the Council would develop spiritual riches throughout the Church. There is no doubt in my mind that the Council, its documents and liturgical changes that came after, have not accomplished this in the Church thus far. The vast exodus from the Church since the Council proves this fact. Mass attendance is at an all time low for Catholics throughout the world where Catholicism once flourished. The Catholic faith is little understood by Catholics, and catechesis under the new RCIA programs are largely disastrous. The same dismal track record carries over into the Church's failure to move souls to God. We see a general reversal of what followed Trent.

It is no secret that Pope John XXIII held contrary opinions as to how his predecessors had viewed the Church and the "modern" world. The Popes prior to Pope John XXIII all lamented the escalation of immorality all around them, and tried to combat the evils of the world. For example Pope Pius X wrote in his encyclical 'E Supremi' in 1903 the following,
"We were terrified beyond all else by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is -- apostasy from God..."

Pius X was not alone in his assessment, and every pope from Pius IX (1846) through Pius XII (1958) shared similar opinions on the modern world and its propensity to perpetuate gross evil. Did all of these popes hold the wrong opinion for over 100 years? What is baffling however is that in 1962 when John XXIII took office and convened the Council, things had only escalated throughout the world in regard to this, "deep-rooted malady." Pope Pius X probably would have shrieked in horror if he could see what would follow 60 years after he wrote his encyclical. Yet for John XXIII there was nothing to be worried about.

John XXIII drastically departed from his predecessors in his opening speech,
"In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse, and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former Councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty. We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand." 
What is readily apparent to any honest man living today is that all of his predecessors were right and he was wrong. This radical change in attitude towards the evil in the world certainly shaped the attitude of the Church towards the world during and after the Council. This naive happy go lucky polyannish tune which Pope John opened the Council with, has unfortunately been playing in the Church since 1962. It is like being stuck in an elevator for 60 years, essentially falling asleep while listening to Barry Manilow. This sickening slumber has been to the detriment of the Church's mission to combat the evils of its age. It seems those "prophets of gloom" seem to have been in tune to what was going on in the world and what was going to happen if the Church ceased to be vocal against the sinful world.

As the speech progresses we see more of what John XXIII had in mind for the Council. "The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously." Again we see that this was also a colossal failure. The documents of the Council have had an extremely limited value in deepening our understanding of the deposit of Christian doctrine, if any. Instead of promoting the scholastic Thomistic theology which John XXIII's predecessors had all called for to defend the Church from modernism, Pope John allowed many theologians who were hostile to St Thomas' theology to gain a foothold in drafting the new documents. As we know, these documents eventually replaced the originals prepared prior to the Council that were prepared using Thomistic scholarship. As a result, instead of the Church deepening its understanding of Sacred Doctrine, building the city of God upon strong foundations, we became a village of useful idiots building the city of man.

Saint Thomas' theology was either hi-jacked, misrepresented, or completely dismissed during and after the Council. For example new theologians such as Hans Urs von Balthasar, who became popular after the Council, butchered Saint Thomas. Balthasar took many of his ideas from a Jesuit misfit theologian by the name of Erich Przywara and combined it with ideas from Karl Barth, and the delusional Adrienne von Speyr, who criticized the Angelic Doctor after having one of her alleged "visions". In the alleged vision Christ supposedly told her how deficient St. Thomas was in his spirituality! She criticized Aquinas' intellect, "Wherever possible he always contemplates things that fit in with the work he is doing at the time. Here, too, he is the one who leads God, as it were, rather than allowing himself to be led by God. he lacks a certain magnanimity." I think that anyone who would think that God almighty would put down one of the greatest Saints in the history of the Church in a vision is out of their mind! But this is the general mentality that von Balthasar also had towards the great Saint, often thinking that his theology was superior to the dry scholasticism of the past. Likewise, Congar and many others who were out of favor before the Council have been lauded as theological geniuses since the Council. Sadly Congar had his hands in many of the documents during the Council.

In practice most people in the Church since the time of the Council have departed from any traditional sense of Catholic doctrine, dogma, or practice, and yet Pope John XXIII did make the following comment in his speech.
"In order, however, that this doctrine may influence the numerous fields of human activity, with reference to individuals, to families, and to social life, it is necessary first of all that the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate." 
It seems that the first principle he addressed concerning the patrimony of the Fathers was never truly adopted by the spirit of the Council, and the second principle which lauded new conditions and forms of the modern world became the anthem of Vatican II. The modern world and its modernist mentality has negatively infiltrated the Church over the past 60 years causing great damage. We have only to look at the pathetic misfits who pass themselves off as "theologians" today like the charlatan Cardinal Walter Kasper. Kasper would not have passed as a practicing Catholic, let alone a Cardinal under John XXIII's predecessors. He would have been branded a heretic, and rightly so. Yet, look at the platform he has been given today. Amazingly even "orthodox" Catholics are taking his heretical thoughts on marriage and ecumenism seriously because of the platform he has been given by recent popes. That is another article for another day, but my point being, we have on a great scale departed from the truth received from the Fathers. None of the Fathers would have taken Kasper's heretical ideas on marriage seriously in the past. Rather than holding fast to the Fathers, we are instead looking to the modern world for answers.

Following on this thought we look again to John XXIII's words,
The manner in which sacred doctrine is spread, this having been established, it becomes clear how much is expected from the Council in regard to doctrine. That is, the Twenty-first Ecumenical Council, which will draw upon the effective and important wealth of juridical, liturgical, apostolic, and administrative experiences, wishes to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion, which throughout twenty centuries, notwithstanding difficulties and contrasts, has become the common patrimony of men.
Again we must look at reality and what actually took place after the Council. Distortion is the name of the theological tune of our age. The theological patrimony handed on to us concerning the liturgy for example, has been distorted since the Council. Many of the Sacraments including Baptism and Confirmation have also been distorted. The doctrine of original sin is now often distorted under titles such as "the sin of the world", downplaying or ignoring the actual sins committed by Adam and Eve which caused the fall of the human race. Adam and Eve never really existed, claim many of today's "orthodox" theologians! Of course this undermines the nature and need for baptism, but who is worried about such things today? Whats with all of this red tape? John XXIII's idea on this "pure and integral" transmission has never taken place under the banner of the Council in any tangible form in the Church. Yes, the truth is intact and is being passed on, but it is in spite of Vatican II, not because of it.

In my opinion. the Council documents set a poor example for theologians. They are the most poorly written documents in the history of the Church's Ecumenical Councils. Likewise many of the encyclicals and other documents penned today are poorly executed and written in a manner which leaves much up for discussion due to a lack of clarity. Many of the books written today by Catholic "theologians" are more like spending an evening fluffing up the pillow on your bed rather than using it to get a good nights sleep. They just don't amount to anything meaningful.

The next part of John XXIII's speech allows us to view Vatican II in a different light than all of the Ecumenical Councils that came before it. This is extremely important as to the nature of the Council. It was never intended to be a super dogmatic council that defined anything. Yet, for 90% of the practicing Catholics today, the Church started with Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council. This is an egregious error that must be addressed. Almost all of the Catholic authors today spend their time dredging over the same Vatican II documents as if they can stand on their own. Pope John points out that the Council was not called to address any one doctrine or to defend a teaching of the Church. It was not called to define anything or bind anyone to something different doctrinally than what came before it. Yet few "experts" today haven't a clue as what the encyclicals written prior to John XXIII had to say. It is important to quote this part of the speech at length.
Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the Church has followed for twenty centuries.The salient point of this Council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. 
For this a Council was not necessary. But from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a Magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.
It seems clear that Pope John XXIII did not intend to change or obscure any teaching of the Church, but he desired to try and experiment with how Church teaching should be taught in the modern world. What he had in mind for these new approaches is not made clear in this speech, but he did emphasize that the Council was to be "predominantly pastoral in character." Again, it seems that this pastoral approach, if we are going to measure its success with any standard rule, was a miserable debacle. There has been no mass conversion to the Church since Vatican II. Our understanding of the faith did not progress, but regressed. Even at the most "conservative" Catholic colleges such as Steubenville, there has been a poisoning of the well by promoting crippled theology and new philosophical systems which have helped to slowly erode doctrines of the Church.

For example, Protestant mentality is now heralded as part of Catholic patrimony due to the popularity of a few Protestant converts. Every effort is made now to applaud deficient Protestant ideas while trying to synthesize Catholicism with them This has moved many Catholics to adhere to man centered ideas, which has its root in the errors of Protestantism. For example man has become the center of the Mass instead of God. Eucharistic adoration has in many places become an emotional hootenanny rather than proper worship due to God. Worshipping God in many Catholic universities and parishes has now taken on the irreverence of the pretended "Reformers." It is all about what we can get out of going to Mass rather than the worship we owe to God Almighty. The liturgical experts that were put in charge to concoct the new Mass of Paul VI like Bugnini, were frauds hiding behind their "pastoral" felt banners hanging from the ceilings of wreckovated churches. This "pastoral" path has left the Mass in a butchered state where the sacrificial elements of the Mass have been buried and replaced by a horizontal style of community worship.

As we progress through Pope John's opening speech, again we see a departure from his predecessors in regard to the present day calamities. He feels no need to correct any of the dangerous errors terrorizing society.
At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.
Not, certainly, that there is a lack of fallacious teaching, opinions, and dangerous concepts to be guarded against an dissipated. But these are so obviously in contrast with the right norm of honesty, and have produced such lethal fruits that by now it would seem that men of themselves are inclined to condemn them, particularly those ways of life which despise God and His law or place excessive confidence in technical progress and a well-being based exclusively on the comforts of life. They are ever more deeply convinced of the paramount dignity of the human person and of his perfection as well as of the duties which that implies. Even more important, experience has taught men that violence inflicted on others, the might of arms, and political domination, are of no help at all in finding a happy solution to the grave problems which afflict them.
Over the past 60 years now we have seen that the so called "medicine of mercy" approach has not faired well for the Church. As any parent should well know, one cannot be a good parent by avoiding condemning the erroneous actions of their children. Yes you can teach, but you must also prudently rebuke. This is however exactly the approach that has been taken since the Council. Error does not fix itself, and society must be guided and corrected by the Church for order to be maintained. Not only has the world suffered, but heresy and error have since been openly proclaimed throughout the Church by men in the highest positions, without one word uttered in opposition by anyone! Pope John seemed to naively think that man had learned its lesson, that violence and error were a thing of the past, and that the errors of society were going to magically disappear into a puff of smoke. Instead of these noxious errors dissipating like the smoke ring from the mouth of Humphrey Bogart into the night air, we are now living under the stench of a heretical smog so thick that it blots out the sun! It has almost choked out any goodness left on the planet. I know, I sound like one of those "prophets of doom." Certainly we have seen no "happy solution" to what ails society since the Council. This expectations of Pope John XXIII turned out to be a pipe dream. Does this mean I am an eternal pessimist? No, I just think it is time to do what Pope John's predecessors told us to do.

Pope John XIII continues his speech with another grandiose idea concerning the unity of Christians.
The Church's solicitude to promote and defend truth derives from the fact that, according to the plan of God, who wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (l Tim. 2:4), men without the assistance of the whole of revealed doctrine cannot reach a complete and firm unity of minds, with which are associated true peace and eternal salvation. 
Unfortunately, the entire Christian family has not yet fully attained this visible unity in truth. The Catholic Church, therefore, considers it her duty to work actively so that there may be fulfilled the great mystery of that unity, which Jesus Christ invoked with fervent prayer from His heavenly Father on the eve of His sacrifice. She rejoices in peace, knowing well that she is intimately associated with that prayer, and then exults greatly at seeing that invocation extend its efficacy with salutary fruit, even among those who are outside her fold.
The Pope also had high hopes here. But rather than pursuing the conversion of those outside the Church to achieve unity, the last 60 years has been more of an act of justifying those outside the Church to remain outside the Church. The call for those outside the Catholic fold to come into it has been largely ignored on a wide scale. Again Cardinal Kasper comes to mind, for he was once the head of ecumenism in the Church. The 2000 year call for the conversion of those still practicing the Jewish faith has been largely done away with. Now it is almost a sin for a Catholic to call out to the people of the Jewish community to convert to Christ and His Church. Theologians like Kapser have invented new definitions for ecumenism and evangelization, and have thus muddied the waters concerning the state of those living outside the Catholic faith.

Finally Pope John XXIII called the Church to unite itself with the Saints and to have the "wisdom of deliberation." As we know, many of the original ideas and theological underpinnings of the original documents were done away with and replaced by the deliberation of theologians who were previously censured under the reign of prior popes! Take for example Yves Congar, who cried and whined like a spoiled brat when he was removed from his teaching office in 1953 by the Dominicans, and was forbidden to teach or lecture at all in 1956 for his dangerous theological ideas. He unfortunately became a big influence during the Council and often recalled his past censures as being redeemed by the Council. He wrote in his diary that the Council...
"...put an end to what may be described as the inflexibility of the system. We take 'system; to mean a coherent set of codified teachings, casuistically-specified rules of procedure, a detailed and very hierarchic organization, means of control and surveillance, rubrics regulating worship- all this the legacy of scholasticism, the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic restoration of the nineteenth century, subjected to an effective Roman discipline. It will be recalled that Pius XII is supposed to have said: 'I will be the last Pope to keep all this going.' Indeed, John XXIII, a priest of classic piety, gave a completely different image to the papacy."
There was much optimism by Pope John XXIII on how the Council would be carried out.
We might say that heaven and earth are united in the holding of the Council -- the saints of heaven to protect our work, the faithful of the earth continuing in prayer to the Lord, and you, seconding the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order that the work of all may correspond to the modern expectations and needs of the various peoples of the world.
This requires of you serenity of mind, brotherly concord moderation in proposals, dignity in discussion, and wisdom of deliberation.
I do not think it is hard to see that much of what John XXIII desired for the Council never came to fruition. Perhaps much of what happened with the liturgy and other changes that came after the Council he had never intended. I do not think it is harsh to say that some of the contrary ideas he had to his predecessors helped to unleash the disastrous tidal wave of heresy, apostasy and sloth that followed in the Councils wake. Again, I do not think it was his intention to lead us to the state we find ourselves in today. His call for the Church to head in an entirely new direction than his predecessors, did not have the positive results he had hoped to achieve. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. We are where we are, not where John XXIII said we would be as a result of the Council. The real question is how are we going to get to the promised land. At this point the Vatican II route looks like a dead end. It may be time to look back a bit further in time than to Pope John XXIII for some answers. In looking back then we may be able to actually move forward.

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