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

I believe that it is not Vatican II that is “spent” but, rather, it is the Church herself that is suffering from a certain exhaustion of will and purpose.

Pope Paul VI presides over a meeting of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in 1963. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

Michael Pakaluk, in his February 2022 essay “Is Vatican II ‘Spent’?”, says that what we now need, precisely in order to advance the aims of Vatican II, is a Vatican III:

We need a new Council. If a couple makes a marriage retreat, and they come up with resolutions, and they find a year later that they kept almost none of them, despite propitious circumstances – the best thing they can do is make another retreat, in which they figure out why. We need another Council that diagnoses, indeed, but also anathematizes, brings to an end an implicit schism by drawing lines as to who belongs and who does not.

I disagree with this assertion, but it must be admitted up front that the idea is not absurd or unreasonable. After all, even the great Nicaea in 325 needed several more councils to hammer out the full theological implications of its dogmatic assertion that Jesus Christ is fully divine.

Likewise, since large numbers of Catholics have misunderstood the teachings of Vatican II or have openly dissented from those teachings—and still others have co-opted and hijacked the council for their own purposes—perhaps now is the time for a new council that will set the record straight. Indeed, Pakaluk asserts that any such council should have some serious disciplinary teeth and issue much needed anathemas in the direction of those who have either rejected or misappropriated Vatican II in order to advance their own agendas.

There is also the fact that even larger numbers of Catholics now view the conciliar project as “yesterday’s news” and have zero interest in whatever its “project” was. So perhaps a Vatican III could help reignite the conciliar agenda and put fire once again in Vatican II’s equations.

However, looking at this concretely and not abstractly, the notion that a new council could in some way be a “disciplinary” council that would issue anathemas strikes me as quite anachronistic. For better or for worse, the Church of anathemas, condemnations, and disciplinary rigor no longer exists and is not likely to return anytime soon. Such a Church might still exist in theory and in the abstract, but in reality even when the Church does exercise her magisterial oversight role and attempts to rein in some errant views or behaviors, she is usually just summarily ignored.

Does anyone remember Ex Corde Ecclesiae? Or the recent CDF document banning the blessing of same-sex “unions”, which was then followed by a bunch of German priests, with episcopal permission, blessing same-sex “unions”—like little kids who do exactly what you told them not to do, all the while looking you in the eye with an impish grin that says, “I am doing this to show you that you ain’t the boss of me!” And speaking of something that is “spent”, how about Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, Veritatis Splendor, or St. Pope John Paul II’s entire catechesis on the theology of the body?

The point being that arguments from “magisterial authority” carry little weight anymore since one of the key things being theologically contested is precisely the nature and extent of magisterial authority. I think this is lamentable, but it is the current state of theological and ecclesial affairs.

We can stamp our feet in indignation all we want, and lobby for the next pope to be a “syllabus of errors” kind of guy who will rule in a way that would make Torquemada blush. But it will only create more fissures, more debate, more animosity, more resentment, and more dissent. St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI both understood this well, which is why neither one adopted the path of whip-cracking disciplinary largesse; they understood that persuasion, not coercion, is the coin of the realm.

Yes, they clarified doctrine, both moral and dogmatic, and set certain limits that have not yet been transgressed (women priests, for example), and “disciplined” three or four noteworthy theologians with the equivalent of a wrist slap. Which by the way, made most of those theologians heroes back home, with some going on to receive prestigious theology awards from the professional guild for their supposed “courage.” For example, theologian Roger Haight, S.J., received the top prize in theology from the U.S. Catholic Press Association for his Jesus Symbol of God, and the Board of the Catholic Theological Society of America expressed “profound distress” because the controversial book received a warning from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the CDF, because it “contains serious doctrinal errors regarding certain fundamental truths of faith.”

It is therefore laughable that the reputation of both John Paul and Benedict as “hard line right wingers” with a punitive approach to dissent gained so much traction, as it is just so much bilge invented by Catholic Lefties who love to portray themselves as theological Davids fighting the wretched Vatican Goliath. The actual truth is closer to the observation made by Benedict in an interview that his “authority” did not extend beyond the doors to his apartment. The magisterium is in a bind these days because it knows that it must continue its ministry of ecclesial clarity, even as it also understands that its rulings will most likely be met with either an indifferent yawn or a defiant “No”.

I also think that calling for a Vatican III in order to clarify what Vatican II “really” taught is naïve, even very naïve. Given the current state of the Church, who seriously believes that another ecumenical council would be an unproblematic and irenic affair of like-minded prelates getting together to gently, but firmly, “set the record straight”? Ecumenical councils in the modern era are rare—and with good reasons too numerous to mention here. Vatican II itself probably would have required more of an ecclesial justification were it not for the fact that Vatican I was rudely interrupted and remained unfinished.

But even then it took almost a century for it to happen, with pope after pope considering it but each then quietly dismissing the idea as inopportune at the time. Councils are always a delicate and dicey affair since they are usually called to adjudicate some divisive issues, both doctrinal and disciplinary, but must do so with a certain unanimity that the debates involved militate against. It takes a deft hand to pull off, which is why they are only called when circumstances are favorable for potential success. Who today thinks that such conditions now exist in the Church?

And if some think that Vatican II was hamstrung by the presence of so many competing “factions” in the Church, all of them jockeying for conciliar visibility and influence, just imagine what kind of a fractious cage match of warring adversaries a new council would be. Therefore, whence comes this optimism that the Church of today is more ably equipped to deal with ecclesial confusion than she was in 1962?

My own view is that it is not Vatican II that is “spent,” but rather, it is the Church herself that is suffering from a certain exhaustion of will and purpose.

Therefore, instead of a Vatican III what we need is closer to what Peter Seewald, in his biography of Pope Benedict XVI, calls a “Reconquista” of Vatican II. Yes, we have all grown weary of the endless debates over Vatican II, and it is therefore tempting to just say “to heck with it, let’s start again.” But there is no evading the necessity of the hard theological work of continuing the ressourcement theological project of the council. Authoritarian disciplinary measures have their role to play, and magisterial doctrinal clarifications are indeed welcome. But they will remain ineffective so long as the ressourcement project remains unfinished.

Pope Francis is trying, and I am not opposed to him as so many are, but his often ambiguous comments and his regular recourse to the path of motu proprio authority often generate more heat than light. What is needed therefore is not a Vatican III or even a John Paul III. What is needed is rather a frank admission of the irreducible pluralism in the Church today, for good and for ill, and a recognition that the centrifugal forces such pluralism generates are not resolvable through papal or conciliar diktats.

Such things can be helpful, but they will not be determinative. It can only be counteracted with a robust theological and spiritual renewal of the center. That was what the ressourcement project Vatican II sought, and it is a project that we need to double-down on and not abandon as a “spent” effort whose “failure” now requires top-down remediation in a vain effort to force ecclesial unity out of whole cloth.

• Related at CWR: “Is Vatican II “spent”? A reply to Michael Pakaluk: Part I” (March 30, 2022) by Larry Chapp


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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".

49 Comments

  1. Larry Chapp argues convincingly that extensive division within the hierarchy makes a Vat III Council seem preposterous [of course we have to further complicate and divide the undying Synodal journey]. He’s against a new council and doesn’t recommend reliance on a new John Paul II type papacy rather a return to [structuring?] ressourcement project, and strengthening a theological center [not a building rather a doctrinal median within Catholicism].
    The difficulty is we nonetheless require decisive, orthodox leadership if we are to achieve ressourcement. Chapp jettisons that [the papacy] as an option considering the papacy equivalent to Benedict XVI’s rather defeatist quip that his power extended to his office door. It seems, if I may say without malice, similarly throwing in the towel and relying on happenstance.
    There’s much in Chapp’s assessment that needs be taken seriously. Although, it requires that strong leader, likely a pontiff to reinstate and reaffirm the Chair of Peter, which Pope Francis has deftly weakened. Finally, there is no political model for a center within the Faith. There’s either faith in Christ’s revelation or there’s not.

  2. We read that: “even the great Nicaea in 325 needed several more councils to hammer out [to recognize conceptually] the full theological implications of its dogmatic assertion that Jesus Christ is fully divine.”

    Maybe, too, the optics of Nicaea (A.D. 325), require more of a second look, applicable to our post Vatican II situation? Yes, Nicaea and the followup councils were also the response to a crisis, but the real “response” — rather than being hammered out over the next century — was firstly and already based on the EARLIER writing of St. Athanasius who, as still a deacon and most probably in A.D. 318, had written the foundational “The Incarnation.”

    This writing pretended nothing original, but faithfully elaborated the traditional faith of the Church as he and the entire Church had been taught from the beginning.

    The answer today, then, is not a damage-control Vatican III (certainly doomed to continued manipulation, e.g., the German synodal way not gone, but gone viral) but, likewise, a robust rediscovery of what Providence has ALREADY provided in such as (a) the 1985 International Synod of Bishops (the 20-year clarifying pulse-check on the Council), and (b) especially the writings of the two previous popes (noted in the article, and especially the Magisterium’s Veritatis Splendor, nn. 95, 115) and even (c) the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992,1994, 1997) heralded as “a fruit of the Council.”

    Vatican III would be a regressive step backward oxymoronically (and moronically) exploited by the self-styled progressives. Indeed, tactically naive. Instead, we should build on what Providence has already supplied since the Council, following the resolve and example of functional literacy demonstrated at Nicaea.

    This rather than being rolled further down the slope by either a Vatican III or, under a different label, a very possibly subverted Synod on Synodality in 2023.

  3. Well, the “spirit of Vatican II” is spent, IMO, and thank God too. Spare us a VIII, pls. One such upheavel is enough for a lifetime.

  4. I genuinely don’t understand the non-negotiable proposition in some Catholic circles that Vatican II must be defended, seemingly at all costs. The Church has had 21 ecumenical councils in her history. Some were successful — Nicaea, Ephesus, Trent (‘natch) — some were not — the Fourth Council of Constantinople, the Council of Florence. Vatican II is pretty clearly in the latter camp. Virtually every barometer of ecclesial health plummeted in its immediate aftermath — Mass attendance, vocations, Catholic school attendance, sacramental observance.

    Let it go.

    • I never claimed that Vatican II must be defended at all costs. It has its flaws, as I have noted elsewhere, and is not immune from criticism. And even if there had never been a Vatican II, the ressourcement theological project would still be in need of completion. That project began long before the Council and continued on after. And in my opinion, all of the post-conciliar meltdowns that you rightly mention happened precisely because the Council’s ressourcement moorings were summarily ignored in favor of a progressivist agenda that was championed by the Catholic theological guild. The Council sought to overcome the false binaries of an ahistorical, rationalistic, deductivism (Neo-scholasticism) and the radical subjectivism and historicism of the modernists. And it sought to overcome this false opposition between “eternal truths” and “historicism” by grounding both truth and history in the Hypostatic Union of natures in Christ. Thus, the Council sought a ressourcement re-centering of theology in a christological anthropology that did justice to both ends of the binary even while transcending them in a higher christological synthesis. This was also clearly the project of John Paul and Benedict. And my claim is that only that project can help us get out of this theological mess we are in. My main focus therefore is not on Vatican II as such, but on the theological project it sought to advance, but failed to do so.

      • What POSSIBLY could the theologians have been thinking to conclude that an ecumenical council was an appropriate forum in which to hammer out an existential Thomism agreeable to all?? Seriously. Did they seriously think that bringing their ‘relation’ with a hated Thomism or their ‘relation’ with beloved modernist others would bring peace to the lay sheep, the hierarchical shepherd, or the neo-Thomist among them? The results tell a tale, and the end has been never-ending and horrible.

        • Considering the tsunami of 1968 (the understated “grief and anguish” theme of the unsuspecting Gaudium et Spes), and everything else since that has deformed the cultural, religious, moral and political landscape, perhaps this CWR discussion can wade into some new ideas on how still to engage the world (aggiornamento), rather than not, but without betraying the truth (ressourcement).

          This reader awaits the “further columns” hinted by Larry Chapp, and the rich harvest of comments that will follow thereto.

          Surely Chapp will offer more than a manipulable form of synodality. For example, what does a polyhedron Church look like if it still has a center? And are Weigel’s prescription for the next papacy on the right track (“The Next Pope,” Ignatius, 2020; not to be confused with Pentin’s monumental “The Next Pope,” Sophia, 2020, with profiles of 19 papabili).

  5. “I also think that calling for a Vatican III in order to clarify what Vatican II ‘really’ taught is naïve, even very naïve.”

    Well, so much for the claim that the Magisterium means much. Or may so much for the claim Trads have been wrong about Vatican II. Either way, calling the idea of a helpful, clarifying Church council ‘naive’ seems to implode the entire idea that conciliar authority means mucht. I know Chapp will take exception, but really, what is being communicated dated here? Popes and councils are hostage to theological pluralism and really can’t be expected to weigh in or do much? God is hostage to lousy Church politics? And we are supposed to “trust the Church”? It all seems wildly problematic.

    I just noticed the Mormons, when remodeling their DC Temple, removed a mural that depicted Jesus judging people as wicked or condemned. I guess they figured in a pluralistic age, trying to push such messaging was naive or wishful thinking. No use in hurling anathemas. I don’t know. Maybe it is worth defining and repeating truth even if you looser your audience. At a certain point, the affirmation of truth matters for the sake of truth. People matter and truth matters. They are bound together. If the Church think s defining dogma is dodgy or treacherous, I sort of wonder if it hasn’t lost its weigh. The pope’s authority does not end it his office doors, even if that means he has no followers. He is supposed to himself be a follower — not of the zeitgeist but of Jesus. I know Chapp agrees, but I think his application undermines that fact.

    • I am not claiming that the magisterium of the Church does not matter or does not mean much. I clearly state that the magisterium must continue its ministry of clarification and teaching. So please do not miss my point here. All I am saying is that if Vatican II has essentially been ignored, and if all of the wonderful teaching of John Paul and Benedict have been largely ignored, and if documents like Humanae Vitae and Ex Corde are summarily ignored, then why should we expect a Vatican III to suddenly become this normative, unifying force that everyone would pay attention to and rally around in a like-minded way? The fact is we face a crisis today that is far deeper than mere theological disagreements or the break down of Church practice and catechesis. We face a crisis of authority as such and therefore simply calling for more and more authority to solve the problem of dissent from authority is not going to cut it. Yes, yes, yes, the magisterium must continue to teach and to admonish, but it will fall on deaf ears unless there is a theological revolution in the Church that recognizes the need and the legitimacy of authority. Finally, we must distinguish between true authority, which is rooted in truth and moral integrity, and mere “power” which is fundamentally coercive. As Hannah Arendt noted long ago, when true authority must resort to the means of raw coercive power, it thereby ceases to be an authority. And gone are the days when the Church can wield this kind of coercive power and expect people to just fall in line. More often than not the opposite happens, with wayward theologians who are censured becoming heroes and celebrities. I am not saying that such theologians should not be censured. But I am saying that we cannot expect such measures to move the ecclesial needle very much. In short, we are in a pickle.

  6. “It can only be counteracted with a robust theological and spiritual renewal of the center.”

    Amen to that. The center these days seems like the edge of a knife with wide, deep gutters on both left and right.

    • Please. Stop with the nonsensical political spectrum premise. The “center” in religion is half-truth given that the debate is between two extreme premises of whether truth comes from God as an absolute or is a fungible cultural contrivance. Obviously only one premise, the first, the truth about truth, is true.

      • I think you misunderstand my argument. Or perhaps I was not clear enough. Either way, I am most definitely not discussing the issues involved here in political categories. I am discussing the theological project of Vatican II as a ressourcement project devoted to overcoming two false binaries in Catholic theology. You correctly identify one of those binaries – – the progressivist historicism of the modernists. And you also correctly point out that the issue at hand is the “truth” and that we are dealing with God’s truth and not human constructions. However, the other false binary is related to this reality. Namely, that God’s truth can be known to us in some completely ahistorical manner having nothing to do with our embodied reality as human beings sojourning in time. This was the mistake of the Neo-scholastics who wanted to use purely rationalistic deductive methods, beginning with the timeless truths of Revelation, in order to reach theological conclusions. There is a certain truth to this method of course, but it ignores the historical dimension of truth and the entire realm of subjectivity. Ratzinger has noted this often. Therefore, the Council sought to make theology more christological since it is only in Christ that the false binaries of “time vs. eternity” is overcome in his Hypostatic Union. THAT is the center of which I speak: Christ. Not some “golden mean” between two political extremes. To be concentric to Christ is to be eccentric to the world. The “center” therefore, being Christ, is a truly radical center insofar is takes us to the very root of the church’s reality.

  7. Thanks for this excellent presentation, Larry. I believe that most Catholics, especially the millions outside the western world, have accepted Vatican 2. No matter how many Councils we man have, each will generate a group of naysayers and another of group of spoilers or exploiters.
    We seem to have lost the belief that the Holy Spirit is somehow guiding the Church.

    • Modernist promotors of VII, as “naysayer” Joseph Ratzinger and other “naysayers” have long noted, sabotaged the earlier pre-conciliar documents to intentionally draft language more in line with their agenda of ridding the Church of its unique divinely endowed witness, which their arrogance characterized as triumphalism, legalism, clericalism, and Jansenism, especially the last as the entire thrust of progressive moral theology in the post VII era has been to convince the world that what used to be thought of as intrinsic evils do not really exist. The only absolute evil to modernist pop-psychology thought, is feeling bad about yourself. There are no real lessons to be learned from tolerating moral nihilism. If Hitler had access to more cream puffs and was not so Victorian towards sex, WWII might never have happened. Who knew? A prelude to sloppy moral thought in the tragic years to come was hinted at in the implicit denials of original sin embedded in the secular utopian language of Gaudium Et Spes, again duly noted by “naysayer” Joseph Ratzinger, and hundreds upon hundreds of other scholars. There were other ambiguous ideas intentionally planted in documents that allowed future sophistries to trigger theological damage. The real “naysayers” are those who refuse to say there was nothing wrong in the substance and intent of Vatican II. When God’s own Church allows for moral ambiguity to be presented to the whole world, the world listens, and the world reacts. More babies go through the meat grinder when the entire moral edifice of the Church, for more than half a century, flounders in perpetual cowardice.

  8. In general, I agree with Chapp. History has to run its course here. Cultural developments are far-outpacing the Church’s ability to deal with it all. A time will come when the world will demand clarity. That time is not now. Although I am a fierce critic of Bergoglio and the vast number of bishops in the west, it must admitted that it is beyond anyone’s ability to bring coherence that matters … and that is not just about writing something and issuing anathemas … it is about a substantial coherence of the faithful. We have to wait, even beyond our lifetimes, for this to work itself it out. In the meantime we remain faithful to the teachings of Christ as they have been handed on to us over many generations from the beginning. When the world longs for clarity, I hope the faithful remnant will be ready to provide it and will not have destroyed itself in anger and resentment.

  9. I presumed that Vatican Council III has already convened in the “semi-secret” and exclusive meeting of a handful of bishops and Cardinals, along with another exclusive handful of Catholic laity having affiliation with NCR, the Jesuits and a few of their Land O Lakes universities. I think this exclusive group met, not under the auspices of the Holy Spirit, but under the auspices of the Spirit of Uncle Ted McCarrick.

  10. “Likewise, since large numbers of Catholics have misunderstood the teachings of Vatican II or have openly dissented from those teachings”

    Does one dissent from the “teaching” that 2+2=5?

    Vatican II taught heresy (e.g. inclusivism), so it must be ignored and repudiated as erroneous.

    The truth has always been extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Any subtleties aren’t important in this matter because the Church is concerned primarily with the objective exterior forum (i.e. outside of the conscience).

    The Catholic Church can’t error in an ecumenical council. If any institution that calls itself “The Catholic Church” did, then it wouldn’t be the Catholic Church because the Church is infallible (http://www.baltimore-catechism.com/lesson12.htm). There is only one logical conclusion.

  11. Vatican II was an ecumenical council and as such did little by way of “Dogmatic” declarations! It wasn’t suppose to ! But that the Mass was “ hijacked” and altars turned around and different languages other than Latin were used are arguments that are absurd! 60 years later don’t you think someone would have noticed like 4 Popes ago! If 60 years later we are not happy with the outcome, let’s have another Council not to cancel Vatican II nor to probe into its documents but to have a totally new Council if be “ dogmatic” in nature! 60 years later, we have a new group of individuals as Hierarchy and a new group of Laity! Let’s not look to the “ Gettysburg Address” of Vatican II , let’s do something now ourselves as the “ present” ,” Historical “ and “ Breathing” Church and Family of God of the 21 st Century!

  12. I challenge anyone here to randomly select 10 Mass-going Catholics exiting Church on a Sunday and ask them to name just one salient teaching from any of the Vatican II documents. Then, watch as their eyes glaze over.

    • I think that is unfair. A random selection of Mass goers might not even be able to name a single salient teaching from the catechism or Pope Francis either. I once gave a lecture at a parish and in the Q & A after the talk a woman raised her hand and said “You keep talking about the Gospel of John. Why don’t you talk about the other six Gospels?” Or ask a random Catholic to explain the real presence or the trinity or the nature of Christ. The fact that a lot of Catholics don’t know much about Vatican II is not an argument against Vatican II. It is rather a statement of how most average people just don’t concern themselves with such things in our culture.

      • All I can say is that’s a remarkable defense of the teachings of Vatican II. Just keep lowering the bar so no one discerns just how debased the standard has gotten.

    • You have pointed out the complete, “on-ground” irrelevance of Vatican II. The Church today is, broadly speaking, divided between those who still believe the articles of Faith and have neither any need nor any interest in Vatican II, and those who believe nothing specifically Catholic, and who equally have neither any use nor interest in Vatican II.

    • Deacon, when I began studies for the priesthood during the turmoil I studied the documents, particularly Lumen Gentium, one of only two [the other Verbum Dei] dogmatic constitutions of the Church. At the time there was theological and moral mayhem, views, purported binding teachings that were devastating Christian practice. Non of it found in the documents.
      Gold was found when I read Lumen Gentium. A clear, definitive document, binding by nature that sweeps away ambiguous statements on Catholic doctrine – including the purported binding character allegedly announced by Secy of State Cardinal Parolin in the inclusion of the exchange of letters between Argentine hierarchy and Pope Francis into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. For example, the claim that Francis’ oblique response to the Argentines that, “It [Amoris Laetitia] cannot be interpreted otherwise” has zero viability as authentic papal teaching never mind binding.
      Examine the clarity and definiteness in the following: Religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.
      Bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. But when either the Roman Pontiff or the Body of Bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with Revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with, that is, the Revelation which as written or orally handed down is transmitted in its entirety through the legitimate succession of bishops and especially in care of the Roman Pontiff himself, and which under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church. The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, in view of their office and the importance of the matter, by fitting means diligently strive to inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents; but a new public revelation they do not accept as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith” (Lumen Gentium 25).
      If Laity are absent of this knowledge it’s not the fault of the documents, rather it’s their unwillingness to purchase a copy and read, or the absence of any effort of clergy to teach them either from the pulpit or in the classroom.

      • Father, believe me when I say that I find absolutely no problem with anything contained in the Vatican II documents. My problem is with the assumption that these teachings have penetrated the collective psyche of Catholics since 1965; they have not at all. Rather, I doubt if more than a handful of practicing Catholics know anything at all that is substantially contained in the documents. The same holds true of papal pronouncements – my guess is that <1% of Catholics who attend weekly Mass could tell you one substantive thing about Amoris laetitiae.

        • At the same time, perhaps 70% of Catholics who attend Mass regularly don’t believe in the Real Presence. A few have expressed to me the opinion that the liturgy was reformed so drastically following VII precisely because we don’t hold to that belief anymore. We definitely have some work to do, including the realization that VII cannot continue to be the measure of all things, the North Star against which all Church policies must be calculated.

        • It you can find nothing problematic doctrinally in the substance of the documents, how about grotesque ridiculous silliness. At the very beginning of Dignitatis Humanae we find: “A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man.”

          Preposterous nonsense. The exact opposite is indisputably true in the mind and soul of anyone with a shred of moral concern and human decency. To promote such adolescent nonsense as this opening statement in DH has the effect of endorsing the actual concrete cultural vanities of the times, its blind faith in inevitable progress, its implicit denial of original sin, and its murderous consequences.

          Additionally, It’s a good thing less than one percent of Catholics can’t identify anything about A.L. It’s blatantly heretical arguments for moral relativism is not a positive influence in the lives of the damaged and abandoned families it justifies.

          • There’s that ubiquitous and elusive, anonymous abstraction again, the one to whom the Council’s efforts were directed and by whom the were guided: “contemporary man.”

          • When my blood pressure is up, I’ll sometimes create an awkward construction. The second sentence of my second paragraph should read: An understanding of the reality of the human condition is indisputably the exact opposite in the sober minds and souls of everyone with a shred of moral concern and human decency.
            Additionally, the first word of my above comment was a typo that should have read “If”

    • Deacon, could you, or 10 Vatican 2 dissenters picked at random, name any doctrinal error emerging from the documents you name?

  13. I have been blessed by reading the documents of Vatican II and think some of them are inspired. I have used them a number of times to emphasize the importance of reading Scripture and to defend the sanctity of life. But I never encounter anyone, progressive or conservative, who talks about VII. I was having a conversation with a very progressive woman in her 80s a few years ago. When I started to quote from a VII document, she snapped, “I don’t care what Vatican II says!” I agree with Dr. Chapp that the riches of VII can still be mined to help the Church to live out the mandate of the Gospel, but I just don’t think that people are aware of it anymore.

    • Unfortunately, there is also a great deal of embarrassing naivete, to say nothing of outright optimistic folly in VII’s documents, by no means confined to Gaudium et Spes. It’s those aspects of the documents that seem to have been the most influential, alas.

  14. In response to Part I of “Is Vatican II spent” (March 30, 2022), yours truly introduced the seemingly tangential notion that what we see today is like a rerun of Arianism. My verbiage highlighted elements of the German synodal way.

    I have since happened across a revealing parallel…

    The Emperor Constantine tried to deflect the need for a Church council (Nicaea, A.D. 325) by first writing to the disputing parties (Bishop Peter of Alexandria, and the priest Arius) in A.D. 324. He appealed to mere semantics, and today reminds us a whole lot of the straight-faced Bishop Batzing (bats sing?) and his protest that Germaniacs remains squarely (but not straight!) within the Church:

    CONSTANTINE: “In considering the origin of your [our] division, I find that its cause is trivial and certainly does not merit throwing souls into confusion in this way…. On certain questions it is as futile to ask as to reply. How many people are there who are capable of understanding and possessing an opinion on such difficult matters as these….Basically you [we] think alike; you [we] can easily return to the same communion. Remain united! Return to your [our] charity! For, in short, the matter between you [us] does not concern an essential matter of faith; in the cult of God no one desires to introduce a new dogma” (Daniel-Rops, The Church of the Apostles and Martyrs, vol. II, 1962).

    So, instead of a Vatican III–which would likely anoint Germania (inclusive!)–why not just move things along even amidst letters of “fraternal correction” (nothing more than synodal input!), continue to infiltrate the 2023 Synod on Synodality, and then let Cardinal Marx on the C-7 and Synod relator-general Archbishop Hollerich invent more semantics (the “continuing journey”!)–beginning with their calculated and preemptive media interviews already on the record!

    Another drop of cyanide in the punchbowl, anyone?

  15. Father, believe me when I say that I find absolutely no problem with anything contained in the Vatican II documents. My problem is with the assumption that these teachings have penetrated the collective psyche of Catholics since 1965; they have not at all. Rather, I doubt if more than a handful of practicing Catholics know anything at all that is substantially contained in the documents. The same holds true of papal pronouncements – my guess is that <1% of Catholics who attend weekly Mass could tell you one substantive thing about Amoris laetitiae.

    • From experience Deacon Peitler I agree with your take. Laity, in the main, simply don’t read. They watch the news and listen to opinions. I can’t count the number of times I’ve recommended purchasing or downloading the Catholic Catechism, or reading Vatican documentation of Vat II on line and very few comply. There’s a form of deep seated intellectual laziness that probably dates back to the Reformation the Index and and the discouraging of research. Whereas Protestants actually do more reading.
      The Church never addressed this problem effectively. Mother Angelica and EWTN have made a substantial dent, as have Catholic websites not ironically most of which the best instituted by converts from Protestantism. The participants who post here are exceptional within the community of believers [I’ve recommended faithful Catholic friends even some converts to follow CWR, TCT and they say it’s over their heads]. My impression of this reality has been a vital need for adjustment of our message to meet the comprehension level of the listener/reader. As I initially trained myself to do in Africa [once people raise their level of comprehension they advance remarkably – the native intelligence is there]. So here [neither am I nearly as well read as some I began higher studies later in life] I try my best to write in a form that’s simpler and more accessible to the audience, not simply the usual commentators here rather the vast worldwide ‘audience’ who follow CWR TCT but rarely post comments.

  16. Almost always enjoy what Father Morello has to say. But, I take some exception to the statement that “Laity, in the main, simply don’t read.” Not that it is not true – it is. Most of the homilies that I hear do not reflect that the clergy read much, or watch much in the way of news. It is certainly not reflected in their homilies. As I have said before, variations of, “God loves you – have a nice day” is common.

    • My most memorable rendition of “God loves you–have a nice day” was a bit more erudite, coming from an Excellency: “The Catholic Church is in communion with both Judaism and Islam.”

    • Agreed Crusader. The onus is on we clergy who are morally compelled to be pedagogic from the pulpit on the faith and moral issues that are causing great harm among the laity.

  17. This inane blotto led my nose to snort: “The magisterium is in a bind these days because it knows that it must continue its ministry of ecclesial clarity,…”

  18. A Vat3 would be just as vacuous as VAT2. No need to keep yapping about any one of them either. YAWN. Let them lie in the great dustbin of history. Wait! It WAS VAT2 that did away with history, wasn’t it? Six Gospels, no rules, feel free to do what you will until it feels good.

    Pre Vat2 the kids learned from the Baltimore catechism and learned at least that God made them and why. Post Vat2, the few children (born) who later showed up for faith formation learned psychobabble lingo. Now the kids debate masks or whether they should be alone with a priest.

    Don’t get me started on ‘the people’s work’ at Sunday’s NO. What a sick, sorry and farcical lot that’s turned out to be. God is its only saving grace. So help us God.

  19. Dr. Chapp you seem to take it for granted that the Church will not be disciplinarian in the near future. Why? You cite the disregard of Church teaching from the CDF and Ex Corde, etc. as evidence, yet none of your examples had an explicit enforcement mechanism. Perhaps if the Church were willing to do something wild like actually enforce her teachings amongst members of the clergy we would be in a different place. Regardless, I find it perplexing that you seem to have acquiesced to the fact that the Church can’t or won’t return to the days of anathemas. You yourself point out the fallacy that JPII and Benedict XVI were disciplinarians. I think the Church desperately needs a Pope who is willing to charitably exact justice and the course of Church history suggests that it’s entirely plausible, likely even, that we will again have such a Pope in the future. Why do you toss this possibility off?

    • From history, one disciplinary approach that would NOT work—that would be counterproductive—would be to impose an “interdict” on a geographic region (say, Germany). An interdict is an exclusion from participation in such things as the sacraments or funeral services.

      HISTORIANS point to the interdict imposed on Germanic territory the century or so prior to the Reformation (something to do with the emperor). When Luther then happened onto the stage, the orphaned population was ripe for doctrinal dissent, since they had already learned that, in a worldly sense, they could live without the sacraments (whatever those are).

      Then there’s the modern problem of the deified MEDIA, and the sure certainty that disciplinary actions would create martyrs for corruption. The landscape has changed in recent times—tripwires everywhere.

      The prudent requirement, then, is to use discipline and other opportunities in a way that sidesteps the Law of Unintended Consequences. ESPECIALLY, to act sooner rather than later. Bats-sing should have been summoned to Rome two years ago; Marx’s fortuitous resignation should have been accepted; and the equally gay-signaling Hollerich should never have been selected relator-general for the Synod on Synodality. The minimal skillset is very prudent maneuvering. That, and of course, having the right words on Judgment Day.

      NOW, Bats-sing, Marx, and Hollerich have predictably moved ahead to stage direct media attacks against even the moral law its affirmations in the Catechism, while also coopting the synodal process to their cause.

      The “field hospital” Church has failed to save the Church, by not amputating the Gang-grene.

    • Speaking of history, discipline and authoritarianism (as Larry Chapp does), is it not astonishing, if true, that German theology professors were exempt from taking the Oath against Modernism? (Pope Paul VI rescinded The Oath in 1967.) Cardinal Brandmuller, a historian, a Church historian, reported it to be true.

      “The philosophy of German idealism [Kant and Hegel et al.]—which is fixed on human consciousness—and its connection with evolutionary thought had led to the result that one regarded religion as a product of the depth of the human soul which develops from one stage to the next higher one in the course of evolution and that religion therefore is subject to change. From today’s perspective, one might consider some of the actions on the part of “Rome” in those years to have been rigid, but one cannot put in doubt the danger of these ideas—which one since then summarizes with the name “Modernism”—which were indeed undermining the foundations of the Faith.

      That Pius X here pulled the emergency brake in this situation by demanding from theology teachers [and others] that they make the Oath Against Modernism [1910], one should not demean or ridicule it as an expression of “Roman alarmism.” It can, instead, astonish us that, of all people, the German theology professors were excluded from fulfilling this demand. They feared for their freedom in teaching and research, whose loss would have exposed them to some disdain in the academic world.”

      https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/dubia-cardinal-warns-church-in-germany-against-synodal-path-that-leads-to-final-decline

      • You would think with all their faith in man’s Hegelian evolution they would have some interest in trying to prove this thesis such as how contemporary man lives with fewer self-deceptions about the evil he does. They would only be too happy to show how moral theology of the past was full of sophistry, unlike today. They would want to show how exactly when we kill off millions of unborn babies, modern man is merely making a reasonable judgment for the greatest good for the greatest number and how it is impossible for it to debase us in any way in the process. The peoples of the past were too backward to understand our superior thought. Similarly, when a man abandons his family to run away with his mistress, we now know, via Amoris Laetitia, that he is merely giving consolation to a “new and improved” family relationship. If we keep evolving, we’ll be better than God someday, although lots of Jesuits probably believe that’s already been done to death.

  20. It seems to me that the irreducible pluralism of the Church in recent times is an artificial crisis caused in large part by the very poor episcopal appointments of post-Conciliar popes. Weakland, Bernadine, Mahony, and countless others throughout the world fomented and protected the dissent and heresy (i.e. “pluralism”) that Mr. Chapp claims handcuffed Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. These men advanced up the hierarchical chain because of decisions made by the Popes whom Mr. Chapp attempts to exonerate. There is much to admire about JP II and BXVI, although the latter’s abdication perhaps negates any good he did earlier. They do, however, bear some responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in today.

  21. Such an enterprise at this point in history would be entirely ludicrous, given we shoulder an episcopate which is not recognizable as faithful to the perennial Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. A pontificate or two or three down the road perhaps might open a window of opportunity for a legitimate council. By no means should it at that time be convened in Rome. Where else I do not know, but having a Vatican III is simply an obnoxious idea which would contribute to providing Vatican II some degree of legitimacy. Its tragic legacy is a stench rife across the globe. The statistics speak for themselves. The ignorance of the faith is grossly evident from the pinnacles of the theological academy, houses of formation, seminaries, parishes, let alone the Vatican itself.
    Long past time to be attempting to salvage the Titanic of Vatican II. Ecclesial self-deceit desperately need be abandoned. What is presently required is life on the knees, not the seat of the pants.

  22. Chapp argues against “…the next pope to be a ‘syllabus of errors” kind of guy who will rule in a way that would make Torquemada blush. But it will only create more fissures, more debate, more animosity, more resentment, and more dissent. St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI both understood this well, which is why neither one adopted the path of whip-cracking disciplinary largesse; they understood that persuasion, not coercion, is the coin of the realm.”

    Consider that persuasion has led only to confusion. Rather, coercion is fast becoming the secular authoritarian method of ‘persuasion’ in the democracies of the world. Consider Joe Biden on abortion, the economy, immigration, and many other issues.

    Oxford’s Ressourcement (ed. Flynn and Murray) has a chapter by John Saward on “L’Eglise a ravi son coeur” (on Journet):

    In the late 1960s, Journet and Maritain, on the one hand, and de Lubac and Balthasar, on the other, came to the conclusion that the SVC was the occasion, without being the cause, of one of the most devastating intellectual and spiritual crises in the history of the church. Maritain said that the disease of neo-Modernism made the Modernism of the turn of the century look like ‘hay-fever.’ In a review of Balthasar’s response to the crisis, Journet quotes a lecture delivered by deLubac in 1967 in which he says that the ‘signs are on the increase of a spiritual crisis of a kind that has only rarely shaken the Church.’ Journet shows himself to be in fundamental agreement with Balthasar’s own diagnosis of the post-conciliar sickness (‘the loss of continuity with Christianity as it has been understood up to now’) and of the remedy required (the rediscovery of martyrdom as the definitive Christian attitude towards the world). On martyrdom he says, very much in the spirit of Balthasar himself,”God is not content with a cordial Thank You. He wants to recognize His Son in Christians.’ (p. 129)

    I conclude: Either the Church takes her turn at fraternally charitable correction in the form of persuasive coercion, or the world will do it. Some things a nature abhors. Amen.

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  1. Is Vatican II “spent”? A reply to Michael Pakaluk: Part II – Via Nova Media

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