Is Vatican II “spent”? A reply to Michael Pakaluk: Part I

Too much is made of the Vatican II’s self-description as pastoral; it ignores the fact that the very “pastoral” aim of the Council, as stated by Pope John XXIII, was also doctrinal in character.

Grand procession of the Council Fathers at St. Peter's Basilica at the opening of the Second Session of Vatican II in October 1962 (Image: Peter Geymayer/Wikipedia)

Michael Pakaluk, in a recent essay at “The Catholic Thing”, makes the claim that Vatican II, though containing many important teachings, has done all that it can do and will do, and is therefore, “spent.” Pakaluk is an ardent supporter of Vatican II and has no theological axe to grind against it, but he argues that Vatican II, as a self-described “pastoral council”, missed its pastoral moment. Therefore, Pakaluk says that we need a Vatican III in order to double-down on what was good in last council in order, presumably, to kickstart those elements once again.

As evidence for his assertion that Vatican II is “spent” he cites four reasons.

The first has already been mentioned: the Council’s “moment” to effect change has come and gone. In other words, all attempts at pastoral reform have an in-built shelf-life of opportunity and that shelf-life has now expired for Vatican II.

This leads to his second assertion, which is that the key themes of the Council, although excellent in themselves, now need to be carried forward through new initiatives since Vatican II lacks the inner resources to address the needs of today and to implement the very things it had called for.

Third, we had the long teaching pontificate of St. Pope John Paul II—but his papacy did not bring about the conciliar renewal that was needed. And if John Paul II could not move the needle, can we expect anyone else to do so now?

Pakaluk then concludes with his fourth assertion, which is the need for a new council.

Pakaluk makes excellent points, and I take him to be a friendly interlocutor. Nevertheless, I think there are problems with all four of his assertions. In this essay I will reply to the first of his assertions concerning the pastoral nature of Vatican II and leave the rest for future columns.

I think it is problematic to frame Vatican II as a purely pastoral affair or to assert that such pastoral initiatives always have a “practical” goal in view—and if that goal is not met in a timely manner, we must simply admit that it has failed. It is problematic because there is an implied pitting of the pastoral against the doctrinal, which is a common mistake made by many today in discussing the Council.

Too much is made of the Vatican II’s self-description as pastoral; it ignores the fact that the very “pastoral” aim of the Council, as stated by Pope John XXIII, was the renewal of theology and the casting of the Church’s doctrinal teachings in a more “evangelical” and less scholastic register. Pope John, in calling the council, did not task it with updating this or that particular doctrine in the light of modern challenges. He called on the Council in a very generic and unspecified way to re-interrogate the entirety of the deposit of the faith and to re-propose that deposit in a new form, stripped of turgid, neo-scholastic language and in a manner more Christological and evangelical.

To my knowledge, such a project had never before been attempted by the Church and it does not take a great deal of perspicacity to see that the risks and potential rewards in such an endeavor are immense. Succeed and the Church might just yet reinvigorate the West’s lost Christian culture; fail and the entire ecclesial edifice might just collapse into a ragtag flotilla of lost refugees in uncharted waters.

What Pope John was proposing now seems to us, after all of these years, as “old news” and rather “boilerplate” as a piece of historical information. But in reality the Pope’s mandate was the equivalent of a high-stakes gambler going “all in” with a poker hand that was not a slam dunk.

Furthermore, Vatican II did contain dogmatic constitutions (Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum), and even though no new dogmas were proposed, many of the Church’s doctrinal teachings were indeed developed and modified in significant ways. (If this were not so, why did Archbishop Lefebvre eventually reject the council on specifically theological and doctrinal grounds?) And these doctrinal developments—religious freedom, the sources of Revelation, and the nature of salvation, to name a few—were precisely the central “pastoral” goal of the Council, which hoped that a renewal in theology would lead to a renewal of pastoral praxis. This may have been naïve, and even Pope Benedict XVI later implied that it was, but there can be no denying that the pastoral project of the Council contained doctrinal developments that cannot be viewed today as “spent”.

I am certain that Pakaluk understands all of this since he knows the Council well. But his brief essay leaves open-ended and incomplete the question of just what kind of pastoral council Vatican II was. It was no mere attempt at tweaking the structure of religious orders, a reform of the seminaries, or a recasting of various ecclesial disciplines. If that were true then Pakaluk would be correct in saying the pastoral goals of the Council were “practical” in an immediate sense. But it is not true, and by conflating the “pastoral” with the “practical” he mischaracterizes, however inadvertently, the true nature of the council’s pastoral efforts, which were decidedly doctrinal and theological.

However, Pakaluk is correct, as I also have noted elsewhere, that this pastoral project of the Council has been, so far, a failure. But viewing Vatican II as a pastoral failure is not the same as viewing it as “spent.” With the use of one word—homoousios—the Council of Nicaea, in 325, set off a firestorm that took many more centuries to resolve. Arianism most certainly did not disappear immediately and one can only wonder what St. Athanasius thought of the post-Nicene turmoil. It took several more councils and many more debated heresies, over many centuries, for the issues involved to even be partially resolved. Christological controversies, in other words, did not go away (and are still with us today) and all of this despite Nicaea and the subsequent councils.

Was the Nicene conciliar project therefore “spent” by the time Maximus the Confessor was having his tongue cut out for defending it many centuries later? Likewise, Vatican II is a mere 67 years in our rearview mirror, which is hardly a blink in ecclesiastical time. Therefore, to call it “spent” simply because it has not yet born the fruits it desired, I am convinced, is premature.

Of course, Nicaea did require follow-up councils to help clarify its meaning. And so perhaps Pakaluk is correct that we need a Vatican III. And it is that topic I will turn to in my next essay.


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About Larry Chapp 34 Articles
Dr. Larry Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for twenty years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. Dr. Chapp received his doctorate from Fordham University in 1994 with a specialization in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. He can be visited online at "Gaudium et Spes 22".

60 Comments

  1. In the post-Christian world of today, would the likely outcome of a Vatican III be to validate all the wrong that has infiltrated the Church on the heels of a misconstrued Vatican II? Or, would the very unlikely benefit of a formal Vatican III be to stop in its tracks the parody-council of synodality?

    If so, success? Not likely, given the context and the leverage of well-placed termites in the Barque of Peter. Strategically naïve—extremely so—to offer a Vatican III platform. The subverted Vatican II, itself, was called precisely to complete the “suspended” Vatican I. Been there, done that…

    Collegiality between the papacy and the episcopacy, already replaced by synodal block parties as in Germany? Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, already minimized by airbrush fraternity? Liturgy, already amputated from its heritage? Apologetics, already featuring a bogus moral theology of exemptions severed from the Faith? Ressourcement, already truncating the Tradition into the last nine years? Aggiornamento, already erasing the difference between accompaniment and accommodation? Holiness, already the Eucharistic Church morphed into a communion meal and a handshake? Unity, already portending a federation of continental churches? Papal yellow, already smothered with lavender? To replace a “spent” council with a council rerun—is this to risk ratifying all of the above?

    The issue today might be less Pakaluk’s need for Vatican III than the fact that Chapp’s Arianism has resurfaced again.

    • The Second Vatican Council was a mistake. Pope John XXIII should have never convened it and Pope Paul VI should have never ratified it. Just look at the Roman Catholic Church today. By every standard, it is failing.

      My father was a convert to Roman Catholicism from Russian Orthodox Christianity in 1946 just before he married my mother, a cradle Catholic of Irish and English ancestry. It was the great Fulton Sheen who gave him instruction.

      However, by the late 1990s my father said he would have never converted if he had known in 1946 what would have become of “Mother Church” after Vatican II.

      The Lord Jesus: “You will know the health of the tree from the fruit it bears.” Sadly: the fruit of present-day Roman Catholicism is rotten.

  2. Am I the only one who is sick and tired of Vatican II (especially the “spirit” thereof)? And I still don’t really know what it said. Except I have now learned, very belatedly, that it didn’t say Latin was to be pitched, nor organs, priests were to turn their backs to God and Communion was to be given in the hand.
    Please, no VIII.

  3. “What Pope John was proposing now seems to us, after all of these years, as “old news” and rather “boilerplate” as a piece of historical information. But in reality the Pope’s mandate was the equivalent of a high-stakes gambler going “all in” with a poker hand that was not a slam dunk.”

    And this metaphor of a feckless and reckless gambler is supposed to persuade the reader that this is how “doctrine” is developed and set forth in the Catholic Church? Only slightly less ridiculous than the claim that Vatican II is really, after 60 years, discovered to be a doctrinal Council, contrary to the explicit and repeated magisterial statements of John XXIII and Paul VI. The creeping Vatican II “doctrinal development” canard and its Vatican II companion “hyperpapal infallibilism” canard turn out, under consideration, to be pseudo-intellectually repackaged modernism, relativism, and indifferentism.

  4. Insightful… On the part of both writers… However, the elephant in the room is ignored: the hi-jacking of the intent of the Fathers.
    From the so-called reform of the liturgy to now the open lmnopqrst,sj mess all under the guise of the “spirit” of vat ii…
    Dominus flevit..

  5. Does anyone think that giving Bergoglio a council with which to further undermine Church doctrine, hector his opponents, and dishearten the faithful would be a good idea?

    My skin crawls.

  6. Vatican III? With the current group of bishops? No thanks.
    Maybe councils should only be doctrinal, and leave pastoral efforts to other approaches.

  7. So many commentators misinterpret Vatican II. It’s there in the texts of the documents, just about every one. The popes and bishops intended it to be the beginning of reform. Not the end.

  8. I am perhaps a naive simpleton, but growing up with Vatican II brought me none of the bitterness, anger and need for rebuttal I am reading in these comments. I remember with joy the day the Document on Scripture was promulgated allowing modern Scripture scholars to express such wonderful, scholarly insights. I did not find the liturgical reform an abandoning of true devotion to the host but the new positioning of priest and people an opportunity to delve more deeply into the Trinitarian riches of the Eucharist. The paschal mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is an expression of the dynamics of Trinitarian love experienced in time. The new liturgy is an invitation to that love. I am profoundly grateful to be child of Vatican II.
    I am deeply sorry that others cannot share that gratitude. I do not know how to help them but surely it is not by denying the Council as a work of the Holy Spirit.

    • Maybe if you make an effort to pay attention to those rightfully concerned about the crisis, you might notice many of the numerous prideful “scholars” that took advantage of the implicit VII invitations towards slopy thought leading to “insights” that only served the interests of anti-Catholic bigotry, not the least including denials of the divinity of Christ or the non-existence of God, which also led to such things as a prideful laity to abandon their “purely symbolic” understanding of the Eucharist, which encouraged them to leave the Church for good. And if you think this might be just a few, check again. Even among Mass-goers 75 percent deny the Real Presence. And the majority of Catholics support crushing the lives of the unborn. Yep, a real success story.

    • Teresita, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge the experience you describe, or ask you to part with it. But I suggest to you that, rather than “bitterness and anger,” the comments here at CWR often reflect the pain and anguish many of us felt when similar experiences of our own in the old rite were taken abruptly away and actually prohibited. It’s also the experience of the haughty contempt, the back-of-the hand dismissals and arrogant condescension which we often received in attempting to keep the faith of our Fathers in the onslaught of liturgical novelties, sacerdotal eccentricities and catechetical deviations which quickly became the norm. Untold millions simply walked away, while those of us who stayed were often treated as pariahs who were essentially told to just write our weekly checks and otherwise shut up. Looking back, I can’t see where any of this needed to happen. But the fact that it did goes a long way to explaining the tone of many of the comments here.

      • What you describe is similar to what Christ Himself experienced: “the haughty contempt, the back-of-the hand dismissals and arrogant condescension…”

        He followed the will of His Father. He did not follow the “…novelties, sacerdotal eccentricities and catechetical deviations which quickly became the norm” for the likes of immoral Herods, heretical bishops, relativist Pilates, and modernist reformers or revisionists.

        All that you describe is a way of the cross (toward sanctity) for those who today seek to do as He suggested–pick up and carry the cross which He has fashioned, prepared, and blessed for every one of us. He has opened wide the gates of a via dolorosa. It is a Passion for His Church, a beautiful blessing, made more wondrous and graced during this season of Lent. One day the Alleluias shall return, and there shall no longer be lamentation but among the lost.

    • “The paschal mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is an expression of the dynamics of Trinitarian love experienced in time. The new liturgy is an invitation to that love. I am profoundly grateful to be child of Vatican II.”

      Beautifully stated, Teresita. And so true.
      Unlike you, Teresita, for about three decades, Mass for me was only in Latin with the priest’s back to the worshippers. For quite some time I was an altar server. I learnt the prayers like a parrot, as did a lot of my friends. Some altar servers took this as an opportunity to show off in front of their elders.
      For many worshippers the mass, which is a commemoration of our Lord’s death and victory, was merely a time for watching the priest and the servers. For others, it was a time to pray to Mary or to their favorite saints, or to daydream.
      So, the primary aim of liturgical renewal was to ensure full, conscious and active participation. “For this reason, the Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christs faithful, when present at the mystery of faith should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers, they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing with devotion and full collaboration.” https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-mass-of-vatican-ii.html

      • Mal, how do you know what was in the minds of the other people at Mass with you back in the day? Unless you’re a mind reader you’re rather casually deriding quite a few of them, aren’t you? I’m familiar with the article by Father Fessio to which you provide a link, and I’m not sure I see how it supports your point. For me, he’s describing the liturgical reform as many of us wish it had been. And with regard to the old pre-VII rite, heres an article you may find interesting, or even surprising:

        https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/636/faith-focus/my-second-first-mass

    • The proof is in the pudding, Teresita.

      In 1962 (before Vatican II), 90% of Roman Catholics attended Sunday Mass and believed in transubstantiation. Plus the seminaries and convents were full.

      By 2020, in many locations, less than 10% of Roman Catholics attend Sunday Mass and 70% no longer believe in transubstantiation. Furthermore, the Church now has empty seminaries, empty convents, and parishes, parochial schools, and Catholic hospitals are being closed on a near weekly basis.

      I do believe that you are very naive.

  9. As already said, the hijacking elephant in the room seems muchly ignored. Another council affirming what was good and suppressing what bad grew out of Vatican II is sorely needed.

    And with all the problems in the Western Church, saddest of all are the assorted more orthodox writers debating one another, and likewise assorted mast heads. Don’t you folk have more important things to worry over? Things like shallow or non-existent spiritual lives among nominal “believers”? If folk had an intimate knowledge of God, do you think they would be arguing over the meaning of the Commandments, the Sacraments, doctrine, councils?

    • No Council eliminates all the bad. And as we saw with the Arians, they didn’t vanish after Nicaea.

      Some of the bad that came after the Council originated with resistance to Vatican II. On one or two issues, chiefly evangelization and mission, the Council failed to elevate to a proper importance. Ad Gentes, or a more robust form of it, needed to be a constitution, not merely a decree.

      This is why Vatican wasn’t and shouldn’t be a final word. We need to keep the notion of reform well at the forefront to deal with issues as they arise. No need to fear change and reform; it is an essential part of the spiritual lives of the saints. We can do a lot worse by ignoring the need for renewal.

  10. The author of this essay denigrates scholasticism twice in an early paragraph, stating it was the aim of the fathers to do away with it in favor of a more “evangelical” approach. I’d like to see a citation in the conciliar documents that backs such an assertion. Otherwise all we have here is another reading of the “spirit of Vatican II.”

      • If I’m not mistaken, Aquinas is the most referenced/quote Father/Doctor in all of the Vatican II documents. (Perhaps it is Augustine. But I think it’s close.)

        • Which unfortunately cannot change the fact that, immediately following the Council, St. Thomas simply vanished from seminary and Catholic college curricula, where he is still largely unknown. Yet another example of the Council saying THIS, and the post-conciliar reformers doing THAT.

          • Right. Until Thomas regains his rightful place in the intelligence of the Church, future councils will be rudderless.

  11. There’s no question that some bishops and periti at the Council *did* favor that project – it’s amply documented. But you are right, Rich: this agenda never made it formally into the document texts.

    What we are left with is an inferred project. The fact that the preparatory schema closely employed scholastic language but were mostly jettisoned for fresh texts that often used other modes of discourse was taken as a definitive statement. In the end, however, it turned out not to be definitive even for the Concilium acolytes: they could be made to say anything they wanted. The rapid and wholescale replacement of Aquinas with Rahner as the primary formative texts in seminaries was taken as proof of it.

    • For many, the liturgy, which is our response to God’s infinite love for us and our unique relationship in, with, and through Jesus, became more meaningful and beautiful as the teachings, death and victory of Jesus was now a true memorial that our Lord wanted us to commemorate over and over again.

    • “The Eucharistic Church morphed into a communion meal and a handshake.”

      That’s a kinder and gentler way of saying the Roman Catholic Church is de facto – if not YET de jure – Protestant.

  12. I am not a fan of Vatican II, although I was only a child when it happened. Too much “innovation” meant rock bands, dancers and clowns at church, which destroys the reverence and prayerful focus which should be present at Mass. I do not mind MOST of the Mass being in English but fail to see why some Latin elements cannot be restored. At this time of year my church sings the “Lamb of God” in Latin during Mass. It is beautiful.I also do not mind the priest facing the congregation but could go either way on that. However, my net feeling about church and another council is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I find it disturbing when long used and beloved prayers are tampered with to no substantial end. I hear many places are planning”revisions” of the translation of the “Our Father”!! Really?? Is that even necessary?? Change for the sake of change? When those things happen the only thing many can conclude is that these prayers, actions, Mass itself, behavior standards,etc, were never so important or solid to begin with. The changes only serve to UNDERMINE belief, not shore it up or make it more accessible. Obviously, the proof is in our empty churches. Its a huge mistake to mess around with this stuff. I think if another council was called, all we would hear about is women priests, transgender concerns and gay marriage. Just like we have seen in Germany, which is a scandal. No thanks. Leave well enough alone.

    • “The changes only serve to UNDERMINE belief, not shore it up or make it more accessible….[T]he proof is in our empty churches.” Indeed. Perhaps if the periti and those they served had understood Aquinas BETTER, the fundamental importance of habit, for example, they would not have been so quick to tinker with the habits of the faithful.

      • “Perhaps if the periti and those they served had understood Aquinas BETTER…”

        Perhaps, they were well aware of Aquinas, but wanted to use Vatican II as the vehicle for their ultimate goal: The destruction of Roman Catholicism.

        Sadly, Bella Dodd’s predictions are coming true.

  13. How dead is Vatican II? Even where I teach – at a major “conservative” Catholic university where some theologians devoted their careers to praising the great “springtime” ushered in by the Council – nobody even talks about it any more. On campus, the 50th anniversary of the Council was passed over in total silence! The only people who still talk about it are those churchmen permanently frozen in the theology and the liturgy of the 1970s, the gray-haired dissenting modernists like Cupich and company.

    • Unfortunately, many of our friends who write and post here at CWR and elsewhere still insist that VII was nothing less than the GREATEST THING EVER.

      • At best, the Council did nothing to stop the Revolution that, by some strange coincidence, swept through the Church and society at the same time. If Popes as formidable as John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both of whom were ardent supporters of 2VC, could not make it work in thirty-four years, then the likely conclusion to draw is that it failed.

        • On the other hand, if she (Vatican II) wasn’t as perfect as we might have hoped, calling her a failure after what came later seems a bit like blaming a rape victim for what happened on the way home from a birthday party.

  14. Possessed of the innocence of faith and trust, almost all of the children in the world believed and their belief brought them great joy and contentment. But not everyone appreciated the treasures of joy and contentment in others. Some. like the Gringe and his helpers, indeed resented joy and contentment and told the children that all they believed was not true, that much of it was simply made up, a charade, a ruse to encourage them to be good children. And although the Gringe did not show them the evidence for his dissatisfaction with belief, the children believed him and lost their belief in Father Christmas, the bringer of all good things, and never embraced him or participated in the rituals surrounding his coming ever again. They had grown up, no longer naive and no longer seduced by the promises of a fairy tale world.
    Once, almost all the chilldren of the Catholic Church believed and their belief brought them great hope and contentment. And then the Reformer, Vatican II, came and told them that much of what they believed was untrue – simply made up. Much of the ritual surrounding their belief meant nothing and needed to be abandoned in the real world. Like the fable of Father Christmas it was deceptive hocus pocus. Even though he failed to provide them with evidence for his claims, the children of the Church believed the Reformer and what he had told them and lost belief in their heavenly Father, the bringer of all good things, and never embraced him or participated in his rituals ever again.

    • “And then the Reformer, Vatican II, came and told them that much of what they believed was untrue – simply made up.”

      Not finding this in the texts of the Council. Citations, perhaps?

      • But Carl, isn’t that exactly the point: Whatever the Council texts SAID, what mattered was what the people who grabbed the ball and ran with it DID. The reform of the liturgy affords the clearest example of this process – what followed the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium bears almost no resemblance to the document’s actual content and prescriptions for tweaking the liturgy. And that, I submit is a pattern that applies to much of the rest of the Council’s enactments as well.

      • Yeah, it’s not in the texts. But it is in the liturgical renewal, where the new lex orandi completely demolished the old lex credendi. I was only thirteen when it all went down, but even I could figure out the basic contradiction: “If any of this is true, why does everybody act this way at Mass, especially Father?” Sixty years later, this is still the common experience of the majority of Catholics, which is why their beliefs are now indistinguishable from those of any Protestant. Is Vatican II to blame for this? Well, the same men who oversaw the Council implemented the liturgical destruction, which would seem to make the whole enterprise at least somewhat suspect.

  15. Dr Chapp makes a valid, significant point. This morning’s breviary reading Vat II The Church in the Modern World addresses the Church in its relation to it, as not limited to witness of its faith, rather with the proactive prospective of beneficently changing the world.
    Antagonism has existed between that premise and Gospel admonition to despise the world and its attractions, that the world is on the path to evil destruction. Vat II speaks to a more modest, if not full conversion, a contribution to humanness. That is not only valid, it must be considered as integral to Christianity, the Mystical Body situated in the world. Integral as well to this premise is the turning from ad orientem to versus populum, toward Christ, and the Mystical Body rather than the Father – even if that initially became universal under questionable conditions.
    “His [Pakaluk] brief essay leaves open-ended and incomplete the question of just what kind of pastoral council Vatican II was” (Chapp). It was, he demonstrates [by textual quotation] theologically focused on evangelism.
    Pakaluk, and Chapp, suggest it is not that Vat II has failed the Church, rather the Church, its living members have failed Vat II. Both are correct. In today’s world when Ghana and Nigeria, India are sending missionaries to the US, now a missionary territory requiring re evangelization very little prior to Vat II would have been prepared for what lay ahead [probably if Chapp and Pakaluk got together they would provide a substantial blueprint].
    Hesitant to acknowledge the need for a Vat III, what with the never ending Synod and endless discussion, the Church requires decisive hierarchal action, to wit, a pontiff to fit the bill.

    • I’d say that the process you describe here Father worked precisely in reverse: Many Church reformers, citing the inspiration of VII, embraced the world and sought to reshape the Church in its image.

      • Many may have tried to reshape the Church in their image but their efforts have failed. Sadly, many in the West, resisted the Vatican II (and even the Popes) because they believed it was distorting their image of the Church that was culturally stuck in the past.

        • Not sure I take your meaning here, Mal. A number of major theologians entitled to a hearing – including a certain Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger – criticized the Council document Gaudium et Spes as too uncritically embracing of the “modern world” – however one defines that mischievous term – and too ready to toss the Church’s patrimony in favor of something they didn’t really take the measure of. Meanwhile, many “resisted” or had major doubts about VII simply because they believed – quite accurately in my view – that it was seriously wrongheaded and naive in many of its assumptions and prescriptions. Those people don’t deserve to be cast into the Outer Darkness as you often seem ready to do to them.

          • A good word, “naive”…

            In his favorable but balanced biography of Benedict XVI, Peter Seewald writes: “Ratzinger’s strengths clearly came to the fore at the Vatican Council. However, his weaknesses cannot be overlooked [….] Second, there was a naivety [!] about a situation that not only represented an interesting theological approach, as Ratzinger long believed, but also strove to change the system. He definitely underrated the power of a developing mass-media society. Never before had a Council been so exposed to a dynamic whereby external forces sought to influence what happened [….].

            “‘The true legacy of the Council lies in its texts,’ Ratzinger would never tire of saying. ‘If they are construed carefully and clearly, then extremism in either direction is avoided. Then a way really opens up which still has a lot of future before it.’ He still called upon it as a legacy in a speech at his last appearance as pope three days before he resigned: ‘It is always worth going back to the Council itself, to its depth and its vital ideas'” (Benedict XVI: A Life, volume 1, Bloomsbury Continuum, 2020).

            The gamble (only a gamble?) today is whether synodality, in its current form and infiltrated by such as Marx, Batzing, Grech and Hollerich, might still rise above a rerun of naivety now with no earlier excuses, or outgrow that adolescent and long-calculated “extremism” ever willing to accommodate and even bless “external forces.”

    • “Integral as well to this premise is the turning from ad orientem to versus populum, toward Christ, and the Mystical Body rather than the Father – even if that initially became universal under questionable conditions.”

      Rather than the Father? What, then, are we to make (?) of the elevated host and Christ’s and our turning to the Father in the culminating doxology of the Mass: “Through Him [Christ], with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

      (Not to argue for either ad orientem or versus populum, but simply to notice that in both forms the final orientation is exactly the same–“up”.)

  16. Carl. True! The Vat II documents do not contain any justification for the widespread changes that came to Catholicism in the wake of Council. The changes were the illegitimate children of various vested interests “interpreting the true spirit of Vat II”. We do not need a Vat III, but would do well to follow the Vat 11 documents as written rather than the misinterpretations implemented by those who didn’t get what they wanted from the Council. Rather than “opening the doors and windows to let in the light”, the exact opposite occurred. Priests, religious and the majority of the faithful believers rushed out the open windows and doors in company with the components of the sacred liturgy, a number of fictitious saints (most notably St Christopher who apparently never existed) precepts such as abstinence from meat on Fridays, a prayer life for the laity and abandonment of Catholic education in erstwhile Catholic schools and universities. Vatican II WAS A CATASTROPHE WHICH PRODUCED NOTHING MORE THAN CONFUSION AND CONTROVERSY.Time to get over it and re-embrace the Church founded by Christ, unspoiled by the demands of self-interested reformers. And may God save us from Vatican III – that would toll the death knell of Catholicism.

    • “(most notably St. Christopher who apparently never existed)”…

      Not so fast on this minor detail–which is to say that there might well be a “real” St. Christopher, to be distinguished from the venerated “virtual” figure, much as the real Vatican II was rescued, more or less, from the “virtual” council marketed to the media by Hans Kung and peddled even to this day by apostates masquerading as successors of the apostles…

      The case has been made by David Woods, professor of ancient classics at University College Cork, that St. Christopher was really St. Menas, an early Christian martyr. “Christopher” was a member of a tribe in Egypt, what is now western Libya, was captured by the Romans in 301/302, pressed into service as a soldier, converted in 308 and then was executed for his beliefs. The body was collected and sent possibly to Antioch (through the intercession of an Egyptian Christian bishop who is believed to have been traveling in Syria) where, because his name was unknown, he came to be known as a “Bearer of Christ,” or Christopher, an honorific title for virtuous Christian men.

      Meanwhile, by the fourth century, a cult had sprung up in western Egypt (now part of Libya) about a martyr named Menas, also an executed soldier, whose remains were returned to his native soil. “The cult of St. Christopher and that of St. Minas developed independently of one another in separate regions but with the same historical person at their core” (David Woods, cited in James Ricci, Los Angeles Times article: “Always popular, St. Christopher now getting historical roots, too,” August 16, 2004).

      Ricci also comments that the Church never really de-sanctified Christopher (and others). Rather, the post-Vatican II universal calendar was tidied up to “make the overloaded calendar leaner and more relevant to the farflung peoples in the modern church.”

      A “real” saint versus a “virtual” and legendary saint? Likewise, a “real” council versus a “virtual” and legendary council! Yes, a “catastrophe” of “confusion and controversy” when popular misconceptions—whether Medieval or Modernist—replace the truth with fiction.

      • Thanks, Peter, I’m replying here since there is no arrow at your response to my comment above regarding the naivete of VII. It’s interesting to look back at the coverage by the secular media at the beginning of the Council. They were not, needless to say, evenhanded in their descriptions of its proceedings and created a titanic struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness: blind reactionaries such as Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani or Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, bigoted villains opposed to the wonderful things being proposed by joyful “progressives” such as Suenens, Frings, Alfrink, etc. The latter, of course, were quick to realize what a powerful weapon the sympathetic secular media could be, and they seized the microphones accordingly. No surprise that the opposition often didn’t get a hearing thereafter.

  17. The rainbowed balloon of Vatican II was lifted by gas. It is now draped over high voltage power lines. Those who don’t recognize this reality continue to be intoxicated by the pretty colors oblivious to the death toll. Touch it and you get a dose of reality.

    • Reality is precisely what the fans of Vatican 2 are determined to avoid. All over the modern world, the Church is rapidly bleeding out. A few more years of this and it will be as dead as a doornail. But the V2 cheerleaders keep on cheering, believing that if they just cheer hard enough the problems will go away. Pitiful.

      • I have heard similar statements from homosexual activists who want to the Church to go their way. But the gates of hell will not prevail. The Church – Apostolic and Catholic – will live on.

  18. Well, the “spirit of Vatican II” is spent, except for the ’70s hangers-on who still think they’re on the cutting edge, and good riddance too.

  19. The problem doesn’t lie with the Council and it’s documents per se. The problem lies with the “Spirit of Vatican II” that pushes a lot of heterodox causes never actually supported or called for by the Council Fathers, and promoted by aging hippies who seem to make up a disproportionate number of priests and bishops.

  20. I was (and still am) a canonically ordained Priest when Vatican II ended. There was never a call for “aggiornamento” (Roncalli is said to have exclaimed “Stop the Council” on his death bed.) There was never a call to end the sacred Tridentine liturgy. Incremental changes in Canon Law (such as eliminating the impediment of illegitimacy to the Priesthood) which many had called for could have been implemented simply by a stroke of the pen (as Woytyla did with illegitmacy when he issued the new Canon Law in the 1980s. There were many lonely men in the Priesthood in the era surrounding the Vatican 2 events and they thought having more “contact” with the world would occur when the lives of Priests were “freed” up to mingle with the laity not as their “other Christs” but as their “friends, buddies.” No more nights alone with the Breviary, but interaction with parishoners would now give them a better sense of identity. The same holds true of Cardinals who loathed the superior tones of the papacy. It is said Tisserant and Pacelli hated each other. Tisserant expelled Mother Pascalina, Pius’ aid of many years, from the Vatican the day after Pacelli was buried.

    No, there was no call for changes to the Church which would supposedly make her more “human,” more “accessible” to the laity.

    Curia power brokers (such as Suenens) pushed and pushed to overturn tradition not because of a need for “fresh air,” but to rein in a papacy that had, to their eyes, robbed them of their power. No longer did they look upon Christ Crucified as their model, but used the excuse of “increased lay involvement” to advance their agenda of a Church which needed to rethink the Genesis story and perhaps what natural law meant in the Catholic sacrament of Matrimony.

    Now the Roman Catholic Church ha an individual who, as Pope, tells us Christ recited the “Our Father” incorrectly and that Jews need not be converted to Christ as their Redeemer.

    Here it is, 60 years after my sacramental Ordination, and if I had been told the Church would become in 60 years what it is now I would never have entered Orders. Each Priest has to save his own soul, not just the souls of the faithful. The current claimant to the papacy has seen to increase that difficulty and in so doing his own salvation is at a risk that all began with Vatican II.

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  1. Is Vatican II “spent”? A reply to Michael Pakaluk: Part I – Via Nova Media
  2. Response to Michael Pakaluk’s “Is Vatican II Spent?” - JP2 Catholic Radio

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