A Deeper Context: Overlooked book provides insight into Vatican II debates

Why I think there is no better book to help put the Council in context than Robert Royal’s tour-de-force A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.

(Image: Isiah Gibson/Unsplash.com)

In the first year of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI famously recalled the Second Vatican Council, which had ended 40 years previously. Benedict, with the steely-eyed realism that has marked his whole life, posed hard and honest questions, among them, “Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?”

For Benedict, it all depended “on the correct interpretation of the Council or…on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application.” According to Benedict, the “problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarreled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.” Benedict continued:

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform”, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church.

With the intensified crisis in the Church in recent years, many have begun to doubt Benedict’s assessment. For them, Benedict’s attempts at rescuing the Council, while perhaps noble, are no better than putting lipstick on the ecclesiastical pig. While this may seem hyperbolic, it is not. From the newly-minted position of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò to the more nuanced criticisms of Bishop Athanasius Schneider, to the recently issued petition of bloggers, commentators, and some scholars, the Second Vatican Council and its documents are seen increasingly as the problem. It was a rupture from what went before. Its ambiguities must be repudiated; its innovations scrapped. It has opened a festering and expanding wound in the Church and the best we can do is declare this pastoral council anathema and engage in the proper restoration of the old ways.

How are contemporary lay Catholics to negotiate these debates? How can they make sense of the questions? How can they attempt, with Benedict, to see the Second Vatican Council, not as a rupture with what went before but a deepening of the riches of the Church’s Tradition?

Undoubtedly there are many resources that can help. Certainly, Fr. Aidan Nichols’ succinct Conciliar Octet offers a helpful guide to reading the eight major texts of the Council in continuity with what came before. The late Fr. Matthew Lamb and Professor Matthew Levering edited two important scholarly books on the topic, Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition and The Reception of Vatican II. One could doubtless think of many other resources.

As someone who thinks the liturgical reforms after the Council were largely a disaster, pastorally and anthropologically, but whose theological ballast is found in the works of John Paul II, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and Joseph Ratzinger, I have reflected often in these recent months as to what resource can best help the troubled layman negotiate the Vatican II debates. As I’ve done so, I have kept returning to a book published nearly five years ago but lamentably overlooked, Robert Royal’s A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century (Ignatius Press, 2015). Indeed, I think there is no better book to help put the Council in context than Royal’s tour-de-force. Unfortunately, perhaps owing to Royal’s stature as a polemicist and a critic of Pope Francis on EWTN’s  “Papal Posse,” the book has been unfairly neglected. Now is an opportune time for people to pick it up.

While A Deeper Vision is not about the Second Vatican Council per se, it situates the Second Vatican Council in the living tradition. In other words, it helps place the Second Vatican Council within the larger context of the real intellectual gains and missteps of modern Catholicism. The span of the book is vast. Royal covers philosophy, theology, scriptural studies, poetry, history, and literature. And in Royal’s sweeping overview the “one subject-Church,” about which Pope Benedict spoke, comes into a clearer focus. And in reading this book, one can begin to see the Second Vatican Council not as a rupture, as so many traditionalists and progressives do, but as a deepening of themes and currents that were already very much alive prior to 1962.

Philosophy and theology

Part One of A Deeper Vision is titled “Faith and Reason.” In several hundred pages, Royal gives a detailed overview of the developments and debates in philosophy, theology, and scriptural studies during the 20th century. Royal begins with chapters on the Thomist Revival and Catholic philosophy’s response to modernity.

With respect to Thomism, Royal begins with Pope Leo XIII’s 1879 encyclical Aeterni Patris, the match that ignited a renewal in Thomistic studies. Royal notes that since the Second Vatican Council, “the revival of Thomism…has frequently been viewed as a narrow and restrictive movement identified with the most reactionary and rigid elements in the Church.” As is his wont in this balanced volume, Royal states that this “myth contains a kernel of truth” especially with respect to the training in European seminaries in the “first half of the twentieth century.” But such a view “cannot survive the slightest acquaintance with what was actually achieved by the many and diverse thinkers who belonged to a vigorous and creative current in Catholic thought that has continued well into the twenty-first century.” In discussing this current, Royal engages personages as diverse as Maurice Blondel, Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Henri Bergson, Jacques Maritain, Ives Simon, Joseph Maréchal, Bernard Lonergan, Étienne Gilson, and Josef Pieper.

In Chapter Two, “Catholic Philosophy in a Time of Turmoil,” Royal discusses phenomenology, by peeking at the work of a young Fr. Karol Wojtyła and that of the martyr-saint Edith Stein, the singularly unique work of Alasdair MacIntyre, and Charles Taylor’s attempts to wrestle with modernity. In engaging this wide range of philosophers, Royal shows off a mind equal parts supple and subtle. His accounts are by necessity summaries but are never superficial, and the sources cited by Royal provide significant opportunity to dig deeper. (Those citations are also dangerous for those who need little excuse to buy more books.)

After setting the table with an overview of the currents within Catholic philosophy in the 20th Century, Royal turns to theology. Royal, first in a fair but critical reading of Pope St. Pius X, demonstrates how Pius X, despite his good intentions, may have primed the Catholic theological world for some of its excesses in the latter half of the 20th century. Royal describes Pius X’s encyclical Pascendi Dominic Gregis as seeing “only danger in change or growth of any kind and, therefore,” seeming “to propose a static Church that proudly ignores engagement with the modern world—that is, the world in which Catholics and the Church live.” This was compounded by the Anti-Modernist Oath of 1910. Royal states that the “goal of fidelity was the right one, but it would be difficult to say that the means proposed and the ways of formulating them were equally right.” Indeed, under Royal’s telling, “the explicit disavowal of trying to speak in a way so as to be heard in contemporary culture prepared the way for an explosion.” In other words, some of the seeds of the chaos of the second half of the 20th century were sown with the well-intentioned Anti-Modernist Oath.

This is not to say that Royal is unable to see the genuine insights and gifts of a Thomist of the Strict Observance such as Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Indeed, he describes Garrigou-Lagrange as someone who, in Fr. Nichols’ phrase, can help us to “reason with piety.” The “main purpose” of such Thomists “was to use the metaphysical, epistemological, and moral resources available in the tradition as a means of opposing and refuting the anti-metaphysical, skeptical, and relativist currents to be found in Catholic modernism.” And they offered a robust approach to dealing with various contemporary problems.

But it was also here before the Council that Catholic theology reclaimed old themes that had lain dormant for too long. Royal writes Catholicism “moved from a tightly disciplined and rigidly conceptualized philosophical and theological stance—most notably informed by the Neoscholastic revival that looked back to Saint Thomas Aquinas as a model for how think about the truths of the faith—to a fluid, multifaceted, unsystematic way of reflecting on God and man.” This broader approach can be termed “nuptial mysticism” where the “passionate love of God for his people is best expressed as an analogy: by the passionate love between a man and a woman.”

A prime example of a transitional theologian is Fr. Romano Guardini. Royal discusses Guardini’s contribution to the liturgical reform movement and the manner in which he straddled different theological worlds. As Royal contends, “Guardini was regarded by many as an inspiration and precursor of the Second Vatican Council. But the conciliar optimism about modern culture contrasts quite sharply with his realism.” Indeed, Royal argues that “[m]uch of the chaos, disorder, unrest, heartache, and outright wordliness that ensued” after the Council “might have been avoided if Guardini had been better assimilated.”

Royal describes Dominican Marie-Dominique Chenu as another “significant” figure who “began the move away from adherence to strict Thomism.” Royal writes that Chenu “used historical studies to try to open up the text of Thomas, as Thomas himself was open to examining various objections, and to give greater weight to biblical elements and the human side of the great thinker.” While Chenu recognized the importance of the strict Thomists’ defense of “timeless metaphysical principles,” he also showed how this defense “needed to be balanced with truths about God’s acting in history, persons, actions, and ‘becoming.’” Royal also recognizes similar gifts in Chenu’s Dominican confrere Yves Congar. According to Royal, it was Congar who was “largely responsible for the heightened sense of the role of the laity in the Church.”

Royal conducts a careful analysis of Henri de Lubac, S.J. He highlights the importance of de Lubac’s book Catholicism—a prime example of the nuptial mysticism that typifies the real insights Royal sees in 20th century Catholicism. According to Royal, Catholicism’s “organizing thesis…is that the early Church, patristic sources, and great figures such as Augustine and Aquinas all speak of salvation, not in the exclusively individual terms that sometimes marked Catholic piety in the first half of the 20th century, but in social terms that recognized the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. On its way towards its promised end.” Royal argues that a truly “careful reading of de Lubac shows that he is not at all trying to deny the properly individual side of the spiritual life, but merely to situate it and add to it—as it seems we must—in the larger life of the Church and salvation history.” Royal also fairly describes the more controversial aspects of de Lubac’s work on nature and grace without being a partisan for either side of the debate.

The Council and After

After describing the philosophical and theological ferment of the first two-thirds of the 20th century, Royal discusses the Second Vatican Council itself and its aftermath. Royal is candid about the shift that occurred around the Council. Whereas during the first two-thirds of the century “efforts by Church authorities to preserve revealed truths often took the form of nervous defensiveness toward much that was, and is, threatening to faith in the modern world,” Royal states that during the “last third…Catholic intellectual life—by then, for the most part, radically independent of Church authority—seemed to run to the opposite extreme.” It often embraced “the world and modern ideas with uncertain relationship to the revealed truths of Catholicism.” According to Royal, the “single most important factor in that massive change” was the Council.

Here, Royal sees a failure not of the Council teaching but the failure of the Church herself “to instruct her own people about the Council and implement it in an orderly way.” She allowed the dominant political narrative to take over rather than helping her flock “focus on the perennial religious search for the One who is good, true, and beautiful.” “Once the earlier, rather rigid authoritarian stance was relaxed, many Catholics assumed everything was up for grabs.” In Royal’s reading, “there is nothing whatever in any document approved by the Council Fathers that countenance[d] [the] radical departures” that followed the Council. Royal backs up his claims by a survey of the key documents. And, like Fr. Nichols’ recent study, Conciliar Octet, mentioned above, he concludes that the Council was not the Copernican Revolution of the Church, but reform in continuity.

Nor was everything bad or fruitless after the Council. Royal writes that “despite the appearance of chaos, the postconciliar period was also a period of considerable theological ferment in the Catholic Church.” To demonstrate his claim, Royal focuses on four key theologians: Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karol Wojtyła, and Joseph Ratzinger.

It is in his reading of Rahner that Royal demonstrates again the subtlety and care of his analysis. Even in conservative theological circles—as opposed to traditionalist circles—Rahner is often seen as a dangerous and heterodox theologian. Royal writes that “read fairly, Rahner—successful or not—must be seen as, at bottom, sincerely engaged in exploring how to offer modern theological arguments for Christian truths.” While Royal notes that “there are many ways in which” Rahner’s “contributions are tied to a specific moment in the twentieth century,” he argues that “[n]o fair reader of Rahner…can help being impressed with his boldness in engaging the modern world with a universal vision and his equally relentless embrace of the Christian mystery in the person of Jesus.”

Royal also devotes a significant number of pages to the great Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. In Balthasar, Royal writes, “high culture was combined with an immense capacity for work and dazzling creativity.” For Balthasar theology begins from the recognition of the sheer gratuity of being itself. Royal writes, “[R]eflection must begin from our discovery of ourselves as contingent and finite beings in a contingent and finite world. Everything that exists in our world could just as easily not exist.” And yet “both we and the world are somehow also open to the infinite and eternal.” Royal’s assessment of Balthasar is a theologian who is both rigorous and creative.

And Royal takes head-on the accusation that Balthasar was some sort of crypto-modernist. Royal argues that Balthasar was a thoroughly Christocentric theologian who “worked within the Church and sought to keep the strictly theological and the spiritual always together.” And Royal offers a 1965 quotation from Balthasar that puts to lie such notions:

The Church, they say, to appear credible, must be in tune with the times. If taken seriously, that would mean that Christ was in tune with the times when he carried out his mission and died on the Cross, a scandal to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles. Of course, the scandal took place in tune with the times—at the favorable times of the Father, in the fullness of time, just when Israel was ripe, like fruit ready to burst, and the Gentiles were ready to receive it on their own soil. Modern is something Christ never was, and God willing, never will be.

While recognizing the “speculative power of Rahner and von Balthasar,” Royal argues that “in several respects Catholic theology in the last twenty years of the twentieth century was most significantly shaped by a figure who was not a professional theologian,” namely, Pope John Paul II. Royal states that Saint John Paul II “stepped forward less with a new theological system than with a desire to affirm a reading of Vatican II that was both orthodox in terms of continuity…and confident in facing new challenges from the kind of biblical, patristic, and pastoral perspectives most notable in conciliar documents.”

In particular, Royal highlights John Paul II’s important contribution to moral theology in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor. While in recent years Veritatis Splendor has become the forgotten encyclical, it was a genuine breakthrough, helping reconcile freedom with truth and showing that the two are inextricably intertwined. Indeed, it was a sterling model for the renewal of moral theology called for in the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Priestly Training, Optatam Totius. There the Council Fathers, “pursu[ing] the work begun by the Council of Trent,” had called for the “theological disciplines [to] be renewed through a more living contact with the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation” with “[s]pecial care to be given to “moral theology.” John Paul II with his deep and powerful thinking helped to demonstrate to the world that morality is not something extrinsic to the person—imposed from the outside and opposed to freedom. Rather, it is the “very expression of what we must be to become who were intended to be by our Creator.”

The last of the 20th century theologians Royal examines is Joseph Ratzinger. Royal writes that Ratzinger has a “tremendous capacity for integrating thought and experience into a whole.” In Royal’s telling, Ratzinger’s thinking was “the polar opposite of [a] kind of nostalgia for the past.” Rather, he was “truly trying to think through what an evangelical Catholicism should mean in the conditions of modernity and postmodernity.” Benedict, both as Ratzinger and then as pope, was trying to articulate a vision of “human affairs…informed by a fuller sense of reason, a reason rooted in the Logos that is also Caritas.” In Royal’s judgment Pope Benedict “has provided a kind of summa of modern Catholic thought and given theology a set of task in the realms of both faith and reason that cannot help but be a driving force, not only within the Catholic Church but in the now-global dialogue of religious and cultures.”

Scriptural studies

In the final chapters of Part One of A Deeper Vision, Royal turns his analysis to scriptural studies. Royal argues that in the 20th century Catholic Scripture scholars tried to “recuperate and develop parts of [the] multiform tradition, which had fallen into neglect.” The Church had “never tried to read the Scriptures through a single, simple perspective.” Indeed, in the first centuries of the Church, the Fathers had read the Scriptures through multiple lenses and in multiple senses.

To show this recovery of tradition, Royal traces the history of modern biblical studies, looking at the 18th century background and the first tentative steps in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Among those Royal discusses is Marie-Joseph Lagrange, O.P., who “introduced several changes of perspective that lessened the tension between what seemed to be the unbridgeable gap between modern historical approaches to the Bible and ideas of inerrancy going back to at least the Council of Trent by way of more recent Church documents.”

With the Second Vatican Council, the impulses begun by Lagrange were carried further—not without hiccups. Ultimately, Royal concludes that the “Church in the twentieth century began to move away from a narrow and defensive position on ‘inerrancy’ to a stance that not only gave a better theological account of the Bible and its composition, but, perhaps surprisingly…was actually well attested in the Catholic tradition as well.” In short, the Church in the 20th century reclaimed an understanding that “every page of the Sacred Scriptures is directed toward an overarching vision of God and creation” and this “must be studied and interpreted by its own standards and principles, which should include a proper role for scientific disciplines but not be limited to them.”

A Bit on Beauty

And that is simply the first part of this immensely readable and learned book. In the final third, Royal discusses the 20th century’s distinguished Catholic historians, poets, novelists, and other assorted writers. While a detailed account of the portion of the book would make this already-too-long review longer, Royal deftly introduces his readers to the culture and beauty generated in the 20th century by the encounter with Christ in the Church. Among the figures to whom Royal introduces his readers are: Christopher Dawson, who challenged the notion that “for humanism to emerge, Christianity had to recede”; Hilaire Belloc, the Catholic Dr. Johnson; G.K. Chesterton, a Dickensian Catholic; Sigrid Undset, who could bring the Middle Ages alive by showing the “universal human experiences” present within that age; Charles Péguy, a man whose “life and…work form a unified witness to integrity and catholicity”; Paul Claudel, who saw the Catholic’s vocation as one of striving to “‘enlarge the world’ and embrace it in its totality”; François Mauriac, who used passion and sin to show man’s universal desire for the Infinite; Evelyn Waugh, who brilliantly skewered society to show the fleeting nature of its pleasures and the call to the Infinite; and Czesław Miłosz, the “most culturally sophisticated and wide-ranging” Catholic writer in the latter part of the 20th century. While the entirety of Royal’s discussion of the cultural achievements of 20th Century Catholicism is worth reading, it is with the French writers, in particular, that Royal, is at his most engaging. About Péguy, for instance, he writes that he “is rare among modern Catholic figures in that he faces squarely the de-Christianizations of Europe without blaming it on external forces.” Rather than primarily blaming the Church’s diminution on outside attacks Péguy recognized the Church’s own “massive internal failure.” These writers and poets lived the theological truths that Royal discusses for much of A Deeper Vision in a creatively concrete way.

An Assessment

As Royal closes the book, he writes that the “Catholic intellectual tradition carried out important labors in the twentieth century, even as it bequeathed many ongoing questions—not to say outright problems—to our own time.” Royal does an incredibly fine job making this case and synthesizing the varied intellectual threads that make up 20th century Catholicism. To make the heady and abstruse exciting, as Royal does, is no small feat. To take the breadth of material covered here and make it so accessible to the layman is a stunning achievement. Those are reasons enough to read it.

But, now, with Vatican II in the dock, Royal’s book takes on increased importance. He helps put the Council in context and to see the trends that were already at work in the Church prior to the Council and that continued after it closed. In particular, his highlighting of the emphasis on nuptial mysticism—a “theme” that “had long existed in the tradition”—prior to the Council is a key insight. His description of the advances—and hiccups—in biblical studies is another. Still another insight is that pre-Conciliar Catholicism was much more disparate than many want to admit. And many of the Conciliar themes were simply the fleshing out of work that predated the Council. Certainly, after reading Royal’s careful study of 20th century Catholicism, one could not claim that “what the Council produced was not remotely in continuity with the past” or that after the Council there was not “the faintest desire to carry on the Catholic religion as existed before,” as one recent commentator on the Vatican II debates recently put it.

Indeed, to accept the thesis that the Council should be rejected requires a rejection not just of the Council itself, but the work of figures such as Guardini, Chenu, Congar, de Lubac, Ratzinger, and Balthasar. Many traditionalists seem to be fine with this move but they should be clear that they are not asking simply for the Council to be declared anathema but much (or most?) of the 20th century Catholic intellectual tradition to be declared anathema as well. This raises the question of to which date the clock should be reset. 1950? 1940? 1910? Earlier?

While still a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger wrote, “Not every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis, many of them have been just a waste of time.” He continued that, “[d]espite all the good to be found in the texts it produced, the last word about the historical value of the Vatican Council II has yet to be spoken. If, in the end, it will be numbered among the highlights of Church history depends on those who will transform its words into the life of the Church.”

Royal’s book gives the troubled layman the tools to transform the Council and the 20th century Catholic intellectual tradition into real fruit. With Royal, we can reclaim the Second Vatican Council from those on polar extremes of the Church who see it as a rupture and break from what came before. If the Second Vatican Council is to be fruitful, it will be the work of men like Royal who help us to appropriate its genuine insights and generate a living Catholicism that can bring men and women back to Christ and his Church, so that their deepest longings can be satisfied and their greatest questions can be answered. While Royal’s impressive book is not going to answer all the thorny questions regarding Vatican II that have been raised in recent months, A Deeper Vision, unfairly neglected in the last five years, offers the single best resource to put the Council in context.

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About Conor Dugan 15 Articles
Conor B. Dugan is a husband, father of four, and attorney who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  1. I have a copy of “A Deeper Vision”. It provides a good explanation of all the various thinkers the church has produced. In particular, it rebuts the nonsensical conspiracy theories of Vigano, Schneider, and Taylor Marshall. (These three are almost certainly in schism, based on Vigano’s letter of yesterday – where he claims he is the true church and everyone else in the world is schismatic. What a loon). These three SSPX backing men have a problem. They cannot maintain their right to schism unless Vatican II was illegitimate in some fashion. So they have used Lefebvre’s conspiracy theories to tar all modern theologians as the bad, evil, nasty guys, who, according to them, were totally out of step with the church, and probably in league with the devil. But it seems that no pope, no cardinal, no bishop, no theologians agree with this bizarre take on things. No matter. They merely misrepresent these theologians, because according to their warped interpretation of reality, the SIMPLY MUST be evil.
    We now will spend the next few months showing that this tiny little rebellion of Vigano, Schneider, and Marshall is hogwash and unwarranted. We could be united in trying to figure out the McCarrick/Bernardin network, but no, now we have to address their nonsense about Vatican II. Reality does not matter, what these men actually said does not matter. These three have an almost Alinskyite plan to besmirch anyone who gets in their way.
    Here are a couple of other good books that can help:
    Thomas Guarino “The Disputed Teachings of Vatican II – Continuity and Reversal” He addresses all of the controversial documents and carefully shows how they are in line with tradition. The nice thing is he takes the complaints seriously, and carefully addresses every complaint the Lefebvrites have.

    James Likoudis “The Pope, The Council, and the Mass – Answers to Questions the Traditionalists have asked”
    A comprehensive list of all the challenges that Extremist Traditionalist make, and good solid answers as to why they are almost always wrong.

    • There is another smaller book specifically refuting the SSPX’s arguments, but I don’t know if it’s still in print. The author is Pete Vere and it’s called “More Catholic Than the Pope.” It’s a fairly easy read.

      I agree with you. It seems that Marshall, Schneider, and Vigano are rerunning the Lefebvre narrative and it’s almost like a form of online radicalization. Their followers spout out the same tired circular arguments of the SSPX and when refuted they move onto the next one. It’s like they are incapable of reflective thinking, which occurs during brainwashing and abusive relationships. This points to a basic need for the catechism to be taught so that people can defend their faith from attacks and remain truly Catholic.

      • I know of a book I very highly recommend. Its the little Catechism on Modernism. Immediately after St. Pius X officially condemned the Modernist heresy, a priest wrote a small Catechism based on what St. Pius X condemned. St. Pius X read this Catechism, and was very pleased by it, he recommended that it be distributed widely. When I read it I found that what is condemned in Modernism, is today the official practice of the Church of Vatican ll. Vigano, Schneider and the SSPX are right. If you should read this Catechism you will be 100% convinced of the Traditionalists Movements motives. I guarantee it.

        • I read that catechism many years ago.

          There is modernism practiced by individuals in the Church, sadly, but it is not “the official practice of the Church of Vatican II,” as though it were somehow codified within the documents. If so, that would mean that the Church has fallen into error, which it can’t, due to Christ’s promise of indefectibility. So…where do you think the Church is? When exactly did it happen? Did Christ lie? It seems to me the burden of proof is on those who think the Church fell into error. Lefebvre died excommunicated from the Church. That should be a sobering reality for the copycats Vigano and Taylor Marshall, and anyone else toying with the idea of attending Masses with the SSPX.

          • Porter Girl, Very well put. But I have heard those arguments before. The Church is alive and well. Which is why we Traditionalists hold to the Faith as taught by the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Our Lady said in an approved apparition, “A false religion will be taught and it will start from the top”. The Church cannot fall into error but men can and certainly have. Re-read the Little Catechism on Modernism and look at the Church around you, you will only see what St. Pius X condemned.. Cardinal Bea led the group at the Council that trashed the Second Vatican Council of St. Pope John XXlll. Have you heard the term that we Trads repeat, “The second Vatican Council was hijacked”, we have had the right point all along. Lefebvre died excommunicated but it can be lifted as was done with his 4 Bishops. If Pope Francis gave legitimacy to all the Sacraments conferred by the SSPX priests, then why speak against them? We are just beginning to take up where the battle left off, between the 450 Traditional Council Fathers vs Modernists at V2. It ain’t over till its over.

      • I remember the book your talking about, “More Catholic than the Pope”. It was a series of interviews with SSPX priests talking about their experience as priest of the Society. When I first read it I was expecting fireworks. But the name of the book is a misnomer for what it is actually about. It caused me to be steadfast in my Traditional Catholic Faith.

    • The Church is in its worst condition than the times of the Arian heresy. The Church is lost in a whirlwind of confusion. The sacred is lost. Because of Vatican ll all the ancient prayers are lost. Vatican ll only took our Catholic Church away from us. Vatican ll only took away but gave nothing in return. How I wish I could attend the SSPX Mass regularly. I several times did attend and in their tattered old Chapel, I found it was safe to be a Catholic. This was God the Holy Ghost who granted me this respite from all the ugly confusion. Now I ask, where is the greatness of Vatican ll?

      • “The Church is in its worst condition than the times of the Arian heresy.”

        Hmmm. Do a search for “pornocracy”. Also known as Saeculum obscurum.

          • I don’t disagree at all. And it’s very difficult to compare various eras and ages of the Church, especially considering that we have immediate access to nearly everything done and said by a pope, compared to times when the ins-and-outs of papal politics (good, bad, or ugly) were largely unknown. Then again, we also have access to a far, far wider range of texts and information; the catechetical opportunities (formal or otherwise) are immense.

      • I did attend SSPX Masses regularly and exclusively, for nineteen years, from the age of about fourteen to thirty-three. I joined them in 1983. I was confirmed by Lefebvre and my family was good friends with “Bishop” Williamson (of Holocaust denial notoriety, for those of you who are unaware).

        The so-called “respite from the ugly confusion” you found there is because many, if not all, of the people in attendance there were probably conservative, had larger families, openly carried/said rosaries, and the like. Men were men, and women were women. Their priests dared to speak out against contraception. These values are rejected by society at large, and are done so by Catholics right alongside the rest. The people sitting next to you in a “novus ordo” parish often don’t know their faith, are apathetic regarding it, and quite secular and liberal-minded by comparison.

        Many conservative people were disaffected in the days after the Council, which coincided with a massive, worldwide cultural shift. But you must understand this is not the fault of the Council itself, nor a by-product of it, but rather a liberal reaction to the Council, a misinterpretation. The SSPX is also a reaction to the Council, and also misinterpretation, just cloaked in a very conservative dress, hiding behind the Latin Mass. Both reactions are in error, because they reject the authority of the Church. Lefebvre was not condemned because of his faithfulness to the Latin Mass or Tradition, he was condemned for his disobedience to and rejection of the authority, the Supreme Pontiff, which is, ultimately, a rejection of Tradition.

        The reality is Vatican II is here to stay. It’s not going to be changed, added to, nor revoked. To reject it’s validity is to reject Catholicism. It is correct to reject the errors of modernism, but those errors are not a product of Vatican II.

        Where is the greatness of Vatican II? It’s in the embodiment of the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Ghost, protected by Christ until the end of time. It’s called indefectibility, a tenet of the faith. It is in a visible Church, not in an obscure one that is only discovered by an esoteric few.

        Ask God to show you where the true Church is. I did. I left the SSPX. Now, it pains me to see a whole new generation go down the schismatic rabbit hole. Lack of authority leads to in-fighting, more schism, and unhappiness due to disunity. I saw a lot of things happen in the SSPX that were nothing but a mimicry of Protestantism. That snake oil ain’t worth it, believe me.

        • Porter Girl, What you wrote here on Sept, 05 is an excellent piece to think about. I just read an interview with Archbishop Vigano on Lifesite titled “Archbishop Vigano: We will remain in the Church, fight the modernists who undermine the faith” What the Archbishop said is like a manifesto of being a Traditionalist. Should anyone want to know what a Traditionalist is, read the article. I don’t completely reject the Council, I desire the Council of St. Pope John XXlll. There are HUGE questions about what went wrong at the Council and its time they are studied and scrutinized.

          • One cannot remain inside the Church, while simultaneously remaining outside of it, whether the person is formally excommunicated or whether they subconsciously reject communion with others in the Church, through a sort of…dissociated state.

            I know for a fact that the SSPX believes they are Catholics, and belong to the Church. And whether they are officially classified as schismatic or not, their status has always been irregular almost from the get-go. They’re not recognized by Rome. They want Rome to join them, as though they are the authority, the ones in charge. They want Rome to recognize them only if Rome accepts their “doctrinal” arguments. But it doesn’t work that way. Rome doesn’t have to kowtow to them, it’s the other way around. They’ve essentially created a parallel church, though they don’t think so, nor intended to. Look at the Eastern Churches that have been in schism since 1054. Same. Darn. Thing.

            They do still have valid sacraments, however (as far as I know), but they’re not licit. That’s an immensely important distinction. An analogy: If I am a highly skilled driver, with no tickets and a perfect driving record, but no license, then I am in error. A valid, “real” driver, if you will, but not a licit one. The authority doesn’t recognize me.

            Martin Luther was in a similar situation. He, like the SSPX, claimed, “the true Church is where the true sacraments are administered and the true faith is preached.” But the Church condemned this statement as being false. He wasn’t in communion with Rome, yet he believed he was a Catholic until the day he died. Just because one claims they are in a group, and may be qualified to be in it, doesn’t mean they are if the group’s authority doesn’t recognize them.

            Lefebvre didn’t initially reject the so-called “novus ordo” Mass nor Vatican II – at first. Then, by constantly criticizing those things, he progressed down a trajectory to where he outright rejected them, along with the people who accepted them. It seems Vigano is heading down the same road.

            The SSPX also claims to “recognize the Pope,” and pray for him. But that’s not the same thing as obeying him. My Mormon friend “recognizes” the Pope as being the leader of all Christians, but she doesn’t obey him. My atheist brother-in-law “recognizes” him as being a world leader, but he doesn’t obey him.

            The SSPX carefully and conveniently chooses their words, tiptoes around the facts, decides for themselves what counts as the truth, and lures unsuspecting (though well-meaning, often devout) folks into their web. And it’s difficult to get out. Just don’t go there.

          • Pope Paul Vl suspended Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre asked for the reason, St. Paul Vl refused to give him one. Lefebvre appealed as was his right, his appeal was denied. How was Lefebvre supposed to fix what he broke when he was denied the knowledge of what it was he specifically broke? Lefebvre said that by Church law the suspension was invalid. Lefebvre recounts one of his meetings with Paul Vl, he said to Pope Paul, There are Bishops out there spreading heresies and destroying the Church (he was referring to the very Council Fathers themselves), You say nor do nothing to them. I am protecting the Church and her sacred teachings and you want to punish me? At this Paul Vl remained silent. The only real thing standing in the way is an invalid suspension, St. John Paul ll and the then Cardinal Ratzinger along with Lefebvre signed an agreement. In part it says “The SSPX remains as it is”. The modernists are said to be the ones to keep interfering which caused frustration to John Paul ll. The agreement called for a priest from the ranks of the SSPX itself to be consecrated a Bishop to succeed Lefebvre. Lefebvre had a mandate from St. John Paul ll to consecrate one Bishop but he Consecrated 4, that brought him excommunication Latiae Sententiae. He cited the Code of Canon Law on the case of necessity. Here to preserve the infallible Tradition of the Church. History has now proven and its being recognized that Lefebvre was right.

    • Samton909, “Lefevbre’s conspiracy theories”??? Lefevbre was a highly acclaimed Archbishop before the Council. It is a contradiction that overnight he was demonized as rebellious. St. Pope John XXlll called on him to assist him in preparing the 9 Schemata that was to be the Second Vatican Council. The Council we never knew! It is said that at one point Lefevbre walked out of the Council, yelling in Latin to the Bishops, “You will destroy the Church!!!”. This goes to show that there were many errors proposed at the Council. An example would be that a certain Bishop gave the suggestion to dismantle the whole Church and start again from scratch. Cardinal Ottaviani blasted him for this suggestion. Goes to show how evil many Fathers of the Council were. In 1966 Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre wrote a letter to Cardinal Ottaviani stating that, “What we feared would come from the Council is now materializing”. Read the book “The Rhine flows into the Tiber”. You will be shocked to find you know nothing about the Council nor of Lefebvre. Read the book “A letter to confused Catholics” by Archbishop Lefebvre. Before you condemn the Archbishop, find out first what he was all about. Then you will understand Vigano and Schneider. Otherwise you can’t condemn these two courageous Prelates.

  2. If the combined theological ballast of De Lubac, von Balthasar, Ratzinger, Rahner, et al., plus the larger-than-life, 26-year pontificate of no less than John Paul II, was not enough to bring stability to the post-Vatican II Church, then what, realistically, do you think will? A few more nice arguments? Maybe another winsome book or two, or ten? I submit, basing anything on Vatican II is just building on sand. Spare yourself the burden of propping up Vatican II, and return to tradition.

    • Sorry, Charlie. The 26 year pontificate of JP II and of Benedict did bring stability to the church. They basically defeated all the guys trying to pervert Vatican II into something it was not. It is you that must come back to tradition, the tradition of Catholicism. Give up your teeny tiny rebellion against the Catholic church. Look, the SSPX has been around for 50 years and they have not succeeded in convincing anyone. They have a tiny cadre of 600 priests – WORLDWIDE – so they are hardly anything to crow about. Now, stop diverting our attention from the real problems in the church and give up your rebellion

      • “The 26 year pontificate of JP II and of Benedict did bring stability to the church. They basically defeated all the guys trying to pervert Vatican II into something it was not.”

        Yes, I agree. That is exactly what Fr. James Martin and Bishop Cupich told me!

        • Not to mention my local pastor who has a pro-abortion nun giving his homilies week after week condemning male patriarchy and the denial of women’s rights with no more than a few of us, who choose not to be sheeple, objecting.
          Yeah, lots of stability in today’s Church.

          • And while we’re contemplating the restoration of “stability” in the Church to sustain claims that VII really did no permanent damage, should this necessarily take in the near universal “stability” of moral wimpiness among our bishops and Cardinals? Unless the wistful thought of Our Lord finding only sparse faith on Earth proximate to His return is dismissible as so much “flowery language” as the breast beating enlightened like to say. Almost a year, and I’m still waiting for our prelates, among the many present at the Amazonian Synod, to issue a statement denouncing the practice of children buried alive in Francis’ Amazonian paradise. But then I’ve been waiting for bishops in America to stop parroting the perverse moral sense of American liberalism. I’ve been attending the March for Life for decades. We’re still forced to occasionally chant, “Here are your people, where are our bishops.”
            Yes VII established blueprints for Catholic intellectuals to talk theology around brandy and cigars while PHD theologians teach infantile sophistries to the young that include rationales for the extermination of inconvenient life in “Catholic” universities immersed in the secular march of progress extolled, with insufficient sober warnings and criticism, in Gaudium et Spes.
            Of course taking note of the very highest of prelates complicity in the culture of moral degradation and providing a thoughtfully rational and necessary exhortation to resign, along with dozens more astute criticisms concerning the moral and theological corruptions of a pontificate damaging the Church and her moral witness, especially on life issues, qualifying him as one of the greatest prophets in centuries, is enough to provide Archbishop Vigano with resent filled reflexes among many, and to be slandered as a “loon.” Granted this was by a reader, but it is in this forum, in this worthy journal, that does generally represent earnest attempts to be intellectual and loyal. Such is the state of the Church’s “stability.”

      • Samton909, St. John Paul ll and Pope Benedict XVl certainly did bring an invisible stability to the Church, I say invisible as no one listened to them. The Modernists accused them of going back, they undermined them and they led others to do the same. I kept up in reading the General audiences and Angelus talks of St. John Paul ll, in his 26 year pontificate he condemned every Modernist error that came after the Council. Much to the howling of the heretics. He so wanted an agreement with the SSPX as did Benedict XVl. During the reign of Benedict XVl the SSPX was ready to sign the agreement but the modernists threw a wrench in it. The SSPX was to sign an extra document which the SSPX sternly claimed it would make them heretics, and they would only be signing their own damnation. The Vatican need only take out that document and the SSPX will lead the Church. There is where the fear of the Modernists exists, they know if the SSPX signs, the SSPX will mow down the modernists and their heresies. God Blesses all that is good, in 1988 there were 200 SSPX priests, today there are 639 active priests. The Church is in disarray because God in no way Blesses the Modernist heresy which reigns in the Church today.

        • This is highly significant! Thank you for pointing out these essential points. It seems that the Church is already equipped with the intellectual/doctrinal armoury with which to “mow down” all modernist heresies. All it would take is for a holy Pontiff to come along and put such spiritual artillery into effect.

          God knows that the task of such a future Pontiff has been made easier because, under Pope Bergoglio, the modernists have been coming out of the shadows, so confident are they of final victory.

          But with the likes of Archbishop Vigano and others it has become abundantly clear (for those with eyes to see) that the doctrinal divide between traditionalists and modernists is irreconcilable, has no middle ground, and constitutes a fight to the death or until the Second Coming of Christ.

          There is much that is balanced and valuable in this article by Conor Dugan but, sadly, it begins with an unproven premise: that Vatican II *does* somehow fit in to the continuity of the Sacred Tradition of the Church. I don’t want to disparage or discard what is valuable in Dugan’s article but, sadly, it ignores the cogent objections, the real insights and the valid criticisms of Vatican II that Archbishop Vigano presents.

          The Church cannot “un-hear” what she has heard from Archbishop Vigano. Some have criticised him. Some have by now offered a counter narrative of the Second Vatican Council. But *no one* has refuted his arguments, his testimony. Vigano’s illuminating and powerful words are propagating inexorably and progressively throughout the very fabric of the life of the Church–like the ripples of a powerful explosion in the sea.

          All that the counter narratives can do, in due course, is to fall like leaves at the foot of Vigano’s unshakeable testimony because, in the final analysis, there are real errors and problems *within many of the texts* of the Council documents. No amount of well-meaning or spin on the part of theologians from either before or after Vatican II will do anything to correct that.

          Vatican II has to be corrected, re-written, or else consigned to the dustbin.

  3. Thank you, I have ordered a copy.
    Much of what happened to the Church after VII in its heartlands of Europe is a result of war. Germany/Austria above all, but also the Low countries, France and Italy, had seen the effects of a “rather rigid authoritarian stance”. Seminarians and young priests utterly and rightly rejected it in politics, and were not prepared to accept it in the Church, though many were prepared to give the temporary appearance of conformity. Those who continued in ministry, and many did not, where in charge of seminaries in the eighties and later, so it is only now we are beginning to recover from that war.
    I am fortunate in being English, only 1 at the outbreak of war, and taught in my teens by Benedictines who exacted obedience in behaviour but equipped us with intellectual foundations to think for ourselves.

  4. I wish I had time to read Dr. Royal’s book. Reconciling Vatican II with tradition is at least an order of magnitude easier than trying to server it from tradition. We really do need to make the effort to reconcile it, though, the left side disappears altogether (as it is in the process of doing) and the right starts overemphasizing things that need just a bit more balance and nuance.

  5. I would agree with the author, and commentators, however there seems to be one small problem no mentions. The current pontiff seems to be on the side of rupture when it comes to Vatican II. Although I will admit, I am not exactly sure where he stands on many issues, as he is inconsistent. Also many of those whom he has appointed and surround him believe the Council is a rupture or revolution. So for a layperson like myself, I find it difficult to believe your take. During the prior two papacies, I was hopeful and onboard but that changed over the last seven years. Until the official church gets on one page, the arguments that Vatican II is in conformity with past teachings are moot. I also think the name-calling must stop by the commenters. Argue your point, but refrain from demeaning people. Vigano and Schneider have every right to aire their viewpoints without being called names. Respectfully!

    • Well said !!

      No doubt John Paul II and Benedict XVI did so much good, tried to work with the hermeneutic of continuity as far as possible, and achieved great things on so many levels *in spite* of Vatican II, not because of it, I would argue. Pope Bergoglio, in all the malpractice and error and heterodoxy, on the other hand, demonstrates that he is in continuity with Vatican II, sadly.

  6. 1/ Loved the HvB quote. Thanks you.

    2/ “This raises the question of to which date the clock should be reset. 1950? 1940? 1910? Earlier?”

    Come on. This quote assumes the faith has changed so much that different decades give us different Catholicisms. But isn’ that the traditionalists’ essential complaint? Vatican II offered not statements but essays, so verbose it would be a little unfair to require anyone to give unconditional allegiance their rambling length. Prior councils issued straightforward affirmations and condemnations. Vatican II… I still can’t figure if it meant to affirm inerrancy or provide a way around it. It certainly seems evasive compared to earlier encyclicals on the subject.

    The bottom line is no other council provided cover for modernists like this council did and does, and no pre-Vatican II popes spoke in the ambiguous terms postconciliar popes have. If I have to read a lengthy book to convince me the documents aren’t in continuity with tradition, that seems like a giveaway the documents in paces may *not* be in sync with tradition. As for Lefevbre, I can’t imagine anyone reading his material and coming away with anything less than admiration, no matter his overreach. Can’t say the same thing fro Congar’s diaries.

    I would never have the chutzpah to say Vatican II should be ditched. But I also would never be able with straight face to make the case the documents are 100% A-OK. It’s documents should not be shelved, any more than should the testimony of MLK. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems there, and the SSPX doesn’t have valid points. A great read by Nichols on this is https://www.amazon.com/Council-Question-Aidan-Nichols-P-ebook/dp/B00DBDZGVG

    • And of course, the conclusion that Aidan Nichols teaches in this book is that the arguments of the SSPX people are wrong. This is shown by an exchange that he has with a pro SSPX person.

      • Sampton909, The views of the SSPX are right, the Society is not the only traditionalist group, there are many groups. I believe it was Archbishop Vigano who bemoaned that there is disunity among traditionalists. I can point out a few facts, The Sedevatacantists. Those who go running after conspiracy theories. Constant attacks against St. John Paul ll, mainly that he did not perform the Consecration asked for by Our Lady validly, and that adding 5 new mysteries to the Holy Rosary was a terrible offense against God and Our Lady. All those arguments serve no purpose. Where all traditionalists are right and unified is that Holy Mother the Church, the Bride of Christ is as beautiful and resplendent as she has been consistently for 2000 years. St. John Paul ll strongly stated, “There is no new Church, this is the same Church as before, during, and after the Council”. This is where we Trads stand, the Church is alive and well, but it is obscured by those Modernist men in the Church who are in error, they’re the real schismatics and heretics afflicting Christs Church. And they have the audacity to say we Trads are the problem, Hypocrisy!!. So what is wrong with us Trads to continue in the presence of the Thrice Holy God to uphold the Church in all Her consistent teachings? Anyone whose claims that our calling by God is wrong, is in absolute error. We are all about God, and not man, God being the whole meaning of our existence. Where are we wrong in God’s site vs mans site?

    • Joe M, you are correct. The very fact that the documents need apologists for their continuity with tradition tells us that they suffer from an intrinsic ambiguity. Have they made the faithful surer as concerns the dogmatic parameters of orthodoxy? Have they clarified the moral teaching of the Church? Have the faithful become more sincere, more pious, more charitable? Have vocations increased, whether to the priesthood or religious life, or else to matrimony? On all counts, the answer is simply “No.”

      That is an objective datum, and the responsible thing for the Church to do is recognize it and do what needs to be done to correct the problem. Is it possible that the problem lies in the documents themselves? Yes. They may be protected by the Holy Spirit from objective heresy but there is no guarantee that they are helpful.

  7. In private Revelations we have Bl. Ann Catherine Emmerick who’s prophecies have the Church’s approval. She had many prophetic visions and all have come true. It is believed she saw Vatican ll. She says she saw a long procession of Bishops as if they were all the Bishops of the world. They were processing into a large Church. She saw that the majority of Bishops had ugly figures coming out of them and she was made to understand that these ugly figures were the thoughts and intentions of those Bishops. She also saw a smaller group of Bishops with beautiful figures coming forth from them. She understood these figures represented the holy and pleasing thoughts and intentions of of those Bishops.

    Sounds like Vatican ll to many.
    When the Council began all the Bishops of the world processed into St. Peters Basilica.

    • We aren’t obligated to believe in private prophecy, only biblical prophecy. The Church approved it for that particular person, but it is not binding on us. There is no point in wild speculation either. It serves no purpose other than to create drama.

      • Jennifer, You are correct that we are not obligated to believe in private revelation, but neither does the Church condemn that we take private revelation seriously. Here is another prophecy from Bl. Ann Catherine Emerick, I only present it as an example.

        Bl. Ann Catherine speaks of a vision, “There was a huge Church, men were tearing it down. At the same time other men were rebuilding it. At the end the Church was rebuilt and it was more magnificent than before”.

        This causes me to think that, that vision is happening today. You have the Modernist tearing down the Church and then you have Traditionalists with great endeavor rebuilding it. The outcome is that Jesus Christ in his people, rebuild the Church after the disaster caused in the name of V2

  8. Bishop Schneider has reason to be troubled by some of the documents of Vatican II that deal with religious freedom, collegiality, the attitude towards non Christian religions and towards the world.
    They were not an organic continuum with previous tradition.
    He gives the example of Amoris Laetitia and the Abu Dhabi accord as troublesome offsprings.
    The bishop reflects the misgivings Fr Ratzinger had in 1967 about the confusion and uncertainty created so soon after the close of the Council.
    This is the same Fr Ratzinger who foresaw in 1969 a smaller purer Church result after much apostasy.
    Perhaps the sower of darnel was given some impetus by much of the ambiguous council documents.
    Cause and effect?

    • The precise QUESTION might be whether Amoris Laetitia and Abu Dhabi are “troublesome offspring” of the council, OR, instead, separate mutations?

      OR, yet again, as Thomas More said of the wishy-washy Duke of Norfolk’s royal ancestry: “…he’ll [our Maker] have to think that somewhere back along your pedigree–a bitch got over the wall!” (Bolt’s A Man for all Seasons). Might it be that the providential and prescient working of the Holy Spirit was, partly, that the council with its “todaying” (aggiornamento) came prior to the broad cultural catastrophe of 1968, rather than after?

      Within the Church (and channeling Thomas More), the sons-of-“bitches” failed to successfully adulterate the council itself, but later gang-raped its implementation–only then triggering the confusion and worse about which Cardinal Ratzinger spoke, beginning in 1967.

  9. There is much that is balanced and valuable in this article by Conar Dugan but, sadly, it begins with an unproven premise: that Vatican II *does* somehow fit in to the continuity of the Sacred Tradition of the Church. I don’t want to disparage or discard what is valuable in Dugan’s article but, sadly, it ignores the cogent objections, the real insights and the valid criticisms of Vatican II that Archbishop Vigano presents.

    There is a real and present problem *within many of the texts* of Vatican II and no amount of well-meaning or spin on the part of theologians from either before or after the Council will do anything to correct that.

    Traditionalists/conservatives can continue to point to this or that “good aspect” of Vatican II until Kingdom come.

    But with the *equivocations and distortions and theological timebombs* in the Council documents themselves, the horse has already bolted, and modernists will continue to promote heresy until Kingdom come, or until we get a true Pontiff who will either re-write Vatican II from scratch or else confine it to the dustbins of history, once and for all.

  10. Archbishop Lefebvre died excommunicated from the Church! He is not a person to follow if you wish to be truly Catholic. Why are you so desperate to defend him and his schismatic group? Give it a rest!

    • “Why are you so desperate to defend him and his schismatic group? Give it a rest!” Because the salvation of one’s immortal soul may very well depend on the stance one takes toward the novel and unfounded distortions of the Catholic faith which have become all but ubiquitous since Vatican II. Read the Archbishop Lefebvre’s appeal (Open Letter to Confused Catholics) in the light of what absolutely every ordinary Catholic, the clergy, and the Popes steadfastly maintained up until Vatican II. St. Joan of Arc likewise died under a wholly unjust sentence of excommunication. When the Vatican returns to its right mind, in God’s good time, after this its Modernist captivity, the Archbishop will have his due reward.

  11. I’d like to throw in a late recommendation on yet another worthy book that is still pertinent to some of the discussion here. It’s an old one, but James Hitchcock’s The Recovery of the Sacred was an early consideration of some of these liturgical issues that have been so divisive. I suspect that my own views on the Ordinary vs. Extraordinarily Form reflect the quiet thoughts of many thousands of Catholics. I don’t reject Vatican II and I don’t reject the Novus Ordo. But I am also grateful to Archbishop Lefebvre. I’m not sure that the Latin Mass would be so available without his sacrifices. I mainly attend the Ordinary Form, but about one Sunday a month I make the long drive to attend a Latin Mass. I am invariably touched by what I see and hear there. The music is beautiful. The liturgy itself is peaceful and reverent. There are long lines at the confessionals. Clearly there are many families there who take Humanae Vitae very seriously. I often find myself pondering the homily well into the week. Unfortunately, this isn’t generally what I experience at the Ordinary Form. But, my regular parish is my home community. I want to support it and stay involved there. I have experienced beauty in the Novus Ordo. It certainly is possible. The internet enables us to see some beautiful Ordinary Form liturgies. Chicago’s St. John Cantius is an excellent example. Maybe I’m hopelessly naive. While I do realize that there is obvious polarization on liturgical issues, I still pray that we can all continue to move toward “recovery of the sacred” in our liturgies.

    • You make some thoughtful points which are shared by many in the Church.

      For me, the “flip side” is that I have often thought that if the Latin Mass hadn’t been “kept alive” by Lefebvre, all those faithful devout Catholics with large families would still be in their local parishes. Donating their money. Infiltrating the parish councils, religious ed programs, and music groups. Volunteering in our communities on behalf of the parish. Hey, it worked for the liberals. In other words, they would have some influence. But they left. Conservatives like me are frustrated because we are now stuck to fight the progressive element. Our pastor is a younger guy, and very orthodox as most of the newer ones are. He says a beautiful Ordinary Form Mass, and fantastic homilies. He has bent over backwards trying to reach out to the families in our area that left (before he arrived) to go to the Latin Mass, forty-five minutes down the road, but they won’t come back. They say things like, “There are so many more graces at the Latin Mass,” and other such false claims. They simply aren’t interested. They have no desire to worship alongside far-left parishioners, or those who don’t appear as as devout. Meanwhile, the pervasive liberals complain constantly about how awful chant is, think we’re going “back in time,” and are a constant thorn in the pastor’s side.

      So, if we just had “Mass,” in whatever form, I think we could be more unified as Catholics. It’s difficult to connect with other like-minded parishioners, when they all leave.

      • Porter Girl, thank you for your very thoughtful comments. Your personal experiences added much to the insights contained in Mr. Dugan’s book review.

        It is frustrating that so many of the critics of Vatican II have apparently not even read the documents of the Council, which are utterly glorious.

        Please share your experiences as widely as you can. You have much to offer the good-hearted but often naive people who object to the evils they see taking place in the Church of Jesus Christ.

        Unfortunately, there is a lot of precedent for evil in His Church. Even Jesus’ batting average in picking apostles was less than 1.000.

        But we must never succumb to the temptation of thinking that we are holier than The One who founded our Church, or that His Church is beyond His power to redeem.

        • brineyman As a Trad I don’t think I am holier than Jesus Christ. I want to imitate Jesus Christ and be completely His through His Most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There are obstacles to this, it is called the Heresy of Modernism. Modernism is real and it reigns in Christs Church. It would greatly offend God for Trads to remain silent in this time of the attempt for the satanic takeover of the Church. Please read the letter of Archbishop Vigano of Sept, 14, 2020 on Lifesite. And then come to the present day of the reality in the Church. There are problems and we cannot just gleefully go on our way. God has given us obligations and we will one day have to answer to him. Lets deny our very selves and take up the Cross and follow Jesus Christ.. Destroy Modernism and ask God to have mercy on them.

  12. Modernism is not an obstacle for anyone desiring to imitate Jesus Christ. Focusing on the sins and errors of others unconstructively, or feeling personally responsible for them, is.

    It is not our job to save the Church. That is Christ’s job. Our job is to keep His commands, save our souls, and pray for others along the way. That is what real trads do. Fake trads pretend to love the Church, but in reality they hate it, and proudly distance themselves from it when they misunderstand or disagree with something they don’t like or can’t control.

    Fake trads:

    1. Constantly bad-mouth the hierarchy, and anyone attending the “novus ordo.” This is often accompanied by a continual, pervasive lack of charity that colors everything and becomes their worldview.

    2. Feel specially chosen to attend a Latin Mass, and pity those who are still “left behind” in the local parish who “don’t know any better.” They often feel subconsciously superior.

    3.Assume all Traditionalists are on an equal footing in the Church simply by their outward adherence to the Latin Mass, and their united cause to fight “Modernist Rome.” They feel persecuted by the lawful superiors in the Church.

    4. Ignore the documents of Vatican II as though they don’t actually matter, or claim the Council was “merely pastoral,” as if that means it didn’t count. Blame the Council for failures in the Church.

    5. Think that valid sacraments are all that is necessary to be Catholic, and this somehow legitimizes separating from the Church or rejecting the Council.

    Real Trads:

    1. Know that Christ leads His Church in a visible way, will always remain with it, and that the visibly recognized Pope is the Vicar of Christ who cannot err when teaching on faith or morals. “Novus ordo” attendees are not looked down upon nor discounted, but respected in charity and often considered Traditional when they hold the truths of the faith.

    2. Often attend the Ordinary Form of the Mass, and support their local parishes and pastors. They know attending it will not cause them to lose their faith. They know liturgical abuses can and do occur at Extraordinary Form Masses also.

    3. Realize the only way to “unite the clans” is when the clans take self-responsibility to unite themselves to Rome visibly. Sedevacantists and schismatic-minded groups are forever at loggerheads with each other and with real trads because they lack visible unity to the Roman Pontiff. Real trads are in open communion with Rome and aren’t afraid of losing their power or being taken over by modernists. They’re not afraid to obey their lawful superiors. They know there is only one Rome, not two.

    4. Accept Vatican II without skepticism, and inform themselves of the truth when they have questions by seeking the answers from reliable sources who have authority, not wayward bishops or Jimmy Swaggart-type podcasters, who invariably take documents out of context and lack authority.

    5. Know that not all valid sacraments are licit. They don’t receive illicit ones unless in a true emergency, not a manufactured necessity due to one’s refusal to be associated with the hierarchy or other members of the Church. They know that one religion is not just as good as another.

    Fake trads are modernists. Real trads are Catholics.

    • Porter Girl, Good try at attempting to knocking down traditional Catholicism. You present a perfect example of how modernists work in deception.. Yes the Traditionalists movement has some flaws, but this new evangelization is only a small beginning. God tells us not to despise small beginnings. Traditional Catholicism is growing and its growing fast. The modernist Church has nothing to offer us as they have dethroned Christ. What the Modernists say has no effect whatsoever on us being better servants of the Creator, its all empty gongs and clanging cymbals. Modernists have only bad fruits, as Mother Angelica would say, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know this”. With Archbishop Vigano, Bishop Schneider, Cardinal Burke, the Archbishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, the Archbishop Emeritus of Guadalajara Mexico etc… etc… etc… We will be guided by those holy men, on Gods plan for the traditionalist to bring an end to all the horror of the Past and present 60 year leadership of the Church. 60 years after the Council, and those who become aware of traditional Catholicism make a great return to the True God. This is phenomenal. Modernism FAILED!!! God Bless His Traditional movement and may the Immaculate Heart of Mary through Traditionalists bring Her Triumph.

  13. I didn’t knock Traditional Catholicism, just fake trads. There’s a major difference. Traditional Catholicism is not a separate religion. Fake trads try to make it one. They’re essentially Protestants. They are comprised of the SSPX, SSPV, and others who sympathize with them and their erroneous arguments. They falsely claim that the visible “mainstream” Catholic Church has strayed off the path and it’s their God-given duty to steer it back on course. Christ would not have allowed this. He never said we would have to search for his Church after awhile, or need to “become aware” of traditional Catholicism. It’s always been there. This esotericism is the mark of a false prophet. We don’t need special knowledge. The faith is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

    Real trads are the Fraternity of St. Peter and other groups in union with the Holy Father. They don’t claim to be separate nor better than other Catholics. And yes, they are growing, because they have validity and actual leverage since they are gathered around Peter. These are the trads to be supported.

    You exhibit the same double-think that is rife within SSPX circles. You claim that modernism is an obstacle to the imitation of Christ. Then you claim that modernists have no say in how one will better serve the Creator. You claim there is a modernist church, but then claim modernism has failed (if modernism has failed, why be a trad at all?). Besides, our goal as Catholics is to attain heaven, to save our souls, not save the Church. And certainly not spend our entire existence fighting modernism on behalf of some all-encompassing “movement.” It just reeks of Protestantism.

    There is only one Catholic Church, one Rome, and one Pope. That’s not opinion, it’s a basic fact. The current reality. To deny this is to place oneself outside the Catholic Church.

    • Porter Girl, Again, good try. Modernism certainly exists and so does Traditionalism. The Modernist now have control of the Church. Our great prelates are now saying as did St. Athanasius, “They have the buildings but we have the faith” Many do not know what is happening. When they discover traditional Catholicism they are awakened to the true Church. They are the new springtime hoped for by St. John XXll! His hopes were that Catholics practice their faith, that is what His Vatican ll was all about. That was the springtime in the Church, that was opening up the windows of the Church to let in the fresh air of heaven. Traditionalist are reawakening to the spiritual treasures of the Church, in all her beauty and splendor. The Modernists cannot and will not change the Church and her sacred teachings. We can make all types of arguments and wayward comments. But the fact is the Holy Ghost is giving us back our Church, we are willing to give our lives for her. Keep hammering against the Traditionalist movement you cannot stifle the Holy Ghost in the Church. This is a new beginning that will cannot be quashed by man.

    • You knock only fake trads as you say. Your interpretation of real trads is excellent and is a goal for everyone to strive for. The problem with your fake trads is that many run after conspiracy theories when this is all about the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith. Your fake trads envelope themselves with false views that has nothing to do with the mission of Traditionalism, examples; That the Consecration asked for by our Lady, according to some Trads was invalid. Even though Sister Lucia confirmed the Consecration was accepted by heaven. They claim that it was the false Sister Lucia who said this, because they claim Sister Lucia was kidnapped in 1960 and an impostor put in her place. This has nothing to do with the traditional Catholic faith. But at the same time the so called fake trads do in fact hold to the Truth as taught by Holy Mother the Church.

      That the mainstream Catholics are off course in the service of almighty God, is the truth, it is a fact and we can clearly see it, St. John XXlll, St. John Paul ll and Pope Benedict attest to this. For us Trads in trying to steer them to the real course pointed out by Christ through His Church, is one of our main objectives. Its called evangelization. Christ promised He would be with us always and persecution as well. When it comes to His instruments, we Trads are judged with the fiercest rigid legalism by those who reject legalism. Ironic isn’t it? The special knowledge you speak of is there, but the Modernists have stifled the Holy Ghost in attempting to create their own Church. Most Catholics have been denied the fullness of truth, the Dogma of the Faith etc… The Modernists took it all away from us. It is in Trad circles that we find the Church is alive and well. That’s what I mean when I make the claim that the Modernist takeover of the Church has caused such diabolical damage.

      Learn to distinguish between your fake trads and your real Trads. Both have the essentials, which is the practice of our True Catholic Faith. The real Jesus Christ and not the Namby Pamby one created by Modernism. Lets be bold and learn out Faith, practice it and await heaven to call us Home.

      I spoke to a Priest of the Fraternity of St. Peter, you will be surprised that they continue to this day to follow Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, their founder! They don’t make this widely know, or the ravaging rigid legalistic Modernists will come to give them an unjust and rigid trial. You would be surprised that the SSPX and the Fraternity are in full union for the same cause. Who is Our Lord Jesus Christ!

      You are correct in saying there is”Only one Catholic Church” The modernist heretics since the Council are trying to destroy the Church in order to enthrone their false religion. There is but one Pope and his name is Benedictus Decime Sexti. To deny what I have stated is to place oneself out of Christs Church and enter the new false religion of Modernism. That is not opinion, but heaven and hell Truth.

      • Andrew Angelo, the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) was not founded by Lefebvre. It was founded by Pope St. John Paul II. Their original members included those who left the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) who wanted to be reunited with Rome after the schism created by the illicit episcopal consecrations by Lefebvre in 1988 (“Ecclesia Dei” is the Vatican document detailing this). Those two groups profess the Catholic faith, but only one is recognized as being in union with Pope Francis, and that is the FSSP.

        Because you claim the current pope is Benedict XVI, this places you in line with the sedevacantists. The current Pope is Francis. He is visibly recognized and was validly elected. The Church is indefectible and cannot fall into heresy. To say that Benedict is still the pope is to stop the Church at a point in time, because he resigned and is not in charge anymore, so in essence that would mean the “seat is vacant.” We will have to agree to disagree on this, and apparently many other issues.

        I truly pray you will study a Catholic catechism and read it on its most basic level, as a stand-alone work, without the automatic reflex response in your head of what any group would want you to think, but rather what you’d think, using your own God-given faith and reason. I’m telling you this, not to insult you nor your faith, but because I found myself in a similar situation many years ago. I was tired of the false, circular arguments put forth by Lefebvre and all his followers. Folks like Vigano, Marshall, et. al. are putting forth the same arguments Lefebvre had, just re-packaged. They place doubt in a person’s head and sow discord among the faithful. Pray to God with an open heart, and ask him to show you where the true Church is. Don’t automatically assume it’s wherever a Latin Mass is said. Not all Latin Masses are “okay” just by virtue of them being Latin Masses.

        This thread has strayed off topic somewhat from the original article discussing the book. My apologies to readers.

        • Porter Girl, I accept to agree to disagree. For over 40 years I have payed close attention to the developments in the Church. What seems to be definitive today may not be definitive tomorrow, I don’t speak of Doctrine but on history. I believe I am in a position to speak on these developments. As for my being a sedevacantist is ludicrous. I am among those accused of Papolatry. The Papacy has been my guiding light for over 40 years. Pope Benedict XVl letter of resignation contains over 40 grammatical Latin errors, this from a Pope who is an expert in Latin. In the resignation Pope Benedict gave up the Ministerium but not the Munus, which is to say he gave up the active governance of the Church but not the Papacy. He is still Pope by all means of the act of resignation itself.The title he kept for himself is, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl, he is to be addressed as Your Holiness. He wears the White Cassock, still today signs his letters with the initials PP. Only a Pope can sign that way. etc… This is a debate between the experts and not us. By what I have read I have made up my own mind, no one had to do it for me. Francis on the other hand had the St. Gallen Mafia campaigning for him. This calls into mind Canon Law that states that any Cardinal who campaigns for another Cardinal for the Papacy is excommunicated Latae Sententiae, which shows, that group of Cardinals had no right to be present at the Conclave as they were no longer Catholics. Francis knew they were campaigning for him and he gave his full approval. Where does that leave him at the entrance of the Conclave. Excommunicated? You decide according to Canon Law? This has nothing to do with this thread so lets leave it for another thread.

        • Porter Girl, St. John Paul ll created the Commission “Ecclesia Dei” and placed Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos as its head. It is related that Cardinal Hoyos was asked if it was correct to call the SSPX schismatic. Hoyos is said to have answered quickly, “No! They are not is schism, they have never left the Church. They are only in an irregular situation which will quickly be corrected.”. But then came the Modernist heretics.

          A point I would like to make is that the agreement signed by St. John Paul ll, Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, stated in fact, “The SSPX remains as it is”. That is where the core fact is, the Society was not doing wrong, they were doing everything that was and is right. Everything was signed and planned but then came the Modernists.

          The Code of Canon Law cites that without a mandate from the Pope, the Consecrations calls for excommunication. It adds a clause that “a Bishop to Consecrate another Bishop can be done without a mandate from the Pope “In cases of necessity”. This was the clause used correctly by Lefebvre because the Church was at stake and the Modernists were working overtime to destroy Her. History now shows Lefebvre was right. And God has continued to Bless the Society.

          These few things I point out is only to show that the Society never left the Church. Lefebvre and the Society have maintained full communion with the Church and never separated from Her. In the Society as in all places the members can err, but they are faithfully practicing the true Church. And not the false religion of Modernism

          Francis granted that the Sacraments of the Society are valid. Francis called on His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay to open up a Seminary right in the City of Rome. Francis has stated that the Society is in no way schismatic. The persecution of the Society comes from the evil one.

          Its strange that the Society questions a few things about the Council and Zap! They’re schismatics. The Modernists have betrayed everything in the V2 Documents, in the name of the “Spirit of Vatican ll” and we are to be obey without reserve. Something is wrong, that is a fact. Either it is Vatican ll or the Modernist heretics or both. Lets let the experts guide us.

          • I do agree with you on some of these points. But officially, the SSPX is in an “irregular” situation. I don’t see the benefit of remaining loyal to them, when it is possible to attend a Latin Mass that is fully united to Rome. This unity is similar to pregnancy; you either are or you aren’t, there are no degrees. And that was the whole point of Ecclesia Dei, to provide an alternative for Latin Mass goers without being irregular. There was no emergency for Lefebvre, because Rome was willing to provide a bishop and he didn’t like their decision. He wanted to be the decision maker. And I think they have had a sectarian mindset ever since, and have no desire to be reunited. The best chance was with Benedict a few years back and Fellay couldn’t accept it.
            Again, because they want to call the shots, because they think they have the authority.

            For me, I saw a lot of internal issues, and ultimately chose to leave. Unsuspecting layfolk are “sucked in” to their rebellious thinking via sermons and their literature. They are proud of their status, and try to use it as some kind of bargaining chip to get Rome to come to its senses. And so much of their inner workings resemble those of mind-control groups. Not because of their beliefs, but by their structure. It is very cult-like, and after leaving I was able to better discern this in retrospect. I am female, obviously by my username, and the cultic mentality was quite evident to me in observance of their tactics, especially towards children and the retreats given to men. And unfortunately, this is all done behind the truths of the faith, and the Latin Mass is their tool.

            That is why I caution anyone who wants to go there. In an emergency once or twice it may be fine, if you know these things going in to it ahead of time, but if you are unaware, and low-catechized, and emotionally demoralized by the world, the homilies and “peer pressure” from all present can easily lure one into a spiritual trap that breaking free from is tough. Very tough. Nineteen years worth for me. Too many inconsistencies, changing positions, and holes in their arguments vs. the catechism. As anyone can see, I have no love lost for this group.


          • Porter Girl, The Ecclesia Dei commission was in a negotiating position. The SSPX was ready to sign the agreement. They were on their way to Rome. But at the final moment the SSPX suddenly was required to sign a Document that they not question the Council and were to accept all the novelties that came after the Council. Modernists did this as a last resort to prevent the SSPX from signing the agreement. The ones who committed this offense against God was both Cardinal Levada a man known to hate tradition, he absolutely forbade any Tridentine Masses in his Archdiocese of San Francisco, and Cardinal Muller who fought battles with the SSPX. Cardinal Muller before being appointed to the CDF had publicly said that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary could legitimately be questioned. Also that one can be open to the idea that Jesus never rose from the dead. He may have been saved from death by the Apostles. The SSPX told Muller that the Office he headed would had in previous times had him investigated for heresy. How could Pope Benedict XVl appoint 2 sworn enemies of the Society to negotiate their fixing the irregularity? That’s like letting the wolves care for the sheep. St. John Paul ll and Pope Benedict were very much pleased with how the Society worked as they had Apostolic Visitors go to them. I ask, what is the irregular situation if there is one? Archbishop Vigano recently stated that how is it that the Church before the Council and the Dogmatic teachings of the Church be allowed to be questioned, but one cannot question anything about Vatican ll? He made a very good point. Internal tensions within the Society are normal for a small beginning authored by God. Tell me, what is the”Irregular situation” with the SSPX??

            Blessings through the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

          • Porter Girls, I also wanted to address what you said about Lefebvre wanting to call all the shots. It wasn’t that way at all. He said to Rome that he would sign an agreement but that He must be allowed to spread and live the Gospel according to the Church, without interference from the Modernist heretics. All he wanted was the Greater Glory and Honor of God and to remain faithful to the Liturgy according to the Papal Bulla “Quo Primum” of St. Pius V. Now, if this is what you mean by “calling all the shots”, then I agree with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

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