Vatican II: Five views sixty years on

There is a way forward that is both diagnostic and prescriptive, and it offers a true opportunity at a rapprochement between schools of thought that should be natural allies against the common enemy of a corrosively acidic progressivism rather than enemies.

pope john xxiii leads the opening session of the second vatican council in st. peter's basilica at the vatican oct. 11
Pope John XXIII leads the opening session of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 11, 1962. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Everybody I know seems to be writing something on Vatican II these days and I began feeling a bit left out of the fun. So, I thought I would jump into the mosh pit of pundits to offer my take.

The many recent commentaries, if I’m allowed the chutzpah to summarize them, fall into five basic categories.

First, there is the view that Vatican II was a wonderful Council in full continuity with the tradition. But it was implemented poorly and hijacked by progressives, who made liberal use of the mass media to spread the view that the Council was about liberalizing the Church in a culturally accommodationist direction. This is the approach taken by a great many “conservative” theologians whose primary aim, it seems to me, is to establish that the Council was not in any way a rupture with the past and that the vast ecclesial ruptures that ensued were solely the product of extra-conciliar forces that could not have been anticipated. This view, however, is marred by the fact it is too convenient and tidy. It is a revisionist and romanticized reading of a conciliar event that was far more contentious than such a narrative of deep and smooth continuity implies.

Second, there is the traditionalist view, growing in popularity, that the Council, though not in explicit doctrinal error, was nevertheless riddled with ambiguities. These ambiguities were caused by the need for compromise between the warring conciliar factions which allowed enough loopholes to exist for the aforementioned progressive takeover of the post-conciliar interpretive spin to succeed. Furthermore, since the Council was by its own self-definition meant to be a pastoral Council, the disaster that followed can only mean that the conciliar project was, by definition, a failure. Therefore, the Council is best ignored until such time a future pope can correct those ambiguities and/or simply exercise a kind of line-item veto power to eliminate the troublesome bits entirely. This approach, like the first, has the benefit of a clean simplicity. But the idea that we can suppress an entire ecumenical council just because it generated controversy and confusion in its wake flies in the face of how councils have historically played out.

Third, and somewhat related to the second view, there are those who point out that the Council is now simply out of date insofar as the culture it sought to engage and evangelize no longer exists. This seems to be the view of Eric Sammons at Crisis magazine, who argues that it is now time to “retire” the Council as an enterprise for an era whose moment has passed. This view tends to ignore the particular theological achievements of the Council and fixates instead on the Council’s general pastoral aims, which it deems to be outmoded. This is a clever act of legerdemain, despite the partial truthfulness of its central claim, since it reductively associates the Council with purely pragmatic and proximate concerns, allowing the restorationist wing of the Church to summarily dismiss the Council without for all that appearing to be hostile to it.

Fourth, there is the view that in allowing the ressourcement theologians (e.g. Joseph Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac, et. al.) to set the agenda and to scuttle the already prepared schemata, the Council imprudently marginalized the standard Thomistic ecclesial theology up to that point. This destroyed the Church’s theological unity and inner coherence, and replaced it with nothing more than a loose aggregate of various scholars whose overall body of work did not provide the Church with the tools it needed for a proper post-conciliar implementation of the Council’s main pastoral aims. In other words, the Council privileged innovative and speculative theologies over the development of a standard theology, resulting in the loss of a common theological frame of reference.

This approach, articulated brilliantly in 2007 by Rusty Reno at First Things, acknowledges the great value and contribution of the ressourcement school of theologians. But it views their theology as a kind of one-off “heroic generation” kind of thing that cannot be reduplicated now because those theologians only made sense within the context of the standard Thomistic theology that they so bitterly rejected. Their theology was bold, exploratory, and breathtaking in its synthetic alacrity with all manner of ideas, but all of it emerged out of the thought world and vocabulary of the standard theology – a theology we no longer possess. Therefore, as Reno notes, the great paradox is that modern students of theology can no longer appreciate the contributions of the heroic generation because they have no frame of reference for the debates that those theologians were engaged in. Ressourcement killed the neo-scholastic dragon, but in so doing laid waste to the only possible context for understanding its own constructions. And the Council, insofar as it eschewed neo-scholasticism in favor of ressourcement thinkers, likewise scuttled its own project.

This brings us to the final approach, which builds on the view espoused by Reno and others and now seeks to recover elements of that old Thomistic synthesis and to thereby recover as well the full contextual significance of the ressourcement thinkers. Well aware that the Council was indeed a ressourcement affair, this approach understands that the Council itself therefore needs to be historically contextualized as the fruit of a set of theological debates that began in the nineteenth century and picked up full steam in the twentieth century. And that those debates were often acrimonious, leading the neo-scholastics to demonize the ressourcement thinkers as dangerous modernist saboteurs obsessed with subjectivity and historicity, and the ressourcement thinkers to return the favor by counter-punching the neo-scholastic “bullies” with accusations of intellectual stupor and superficiality.

And things were made even more heated owing to the often censorious and oppressive role played by the Holy Office as it moved against ressourcement thinkers such as de Lubac whose own Jesuit order silenced him. This was not an atmosphere of irenic and collegial debate and this historical acrimony spilled over into the Council itself, with the ressourcement school emerging as victors and the neo-scholastics, sadly, in full retreat.

Therefore, this view correctly seeks to interpret the Council, despite its self-definition as a pastoral Council, as primarily a theological event dominated by the debates between the Thomistic old guard and the young ressourcement Turks. The theologian Matthew Levering is a brilliant expositor of this approach and he interprets the Council positively as a profound theological event that deepened the interconnectivity between ecclesiology and Christology – a deepening that had across-the-board implications for a large number of theological issues. Therefore, Levering has an astute appreciation for the innovative genius of the ressourcement theologians as well as a deep awareness of the Council’s true legacy as a theological event of great and enduring significance. We have barely scratched the surface of those implications and therefore the Council’s enduring legacy is, ironically, the unfinished nature of the theological renewal it generated. But that renewal was short-circuited by the wholesale rejection of the pre-conciliar standard theology which gave it its context. As Reno notes, even great ressourcement theologians like Balthasar and de Lubac, after the post-conciliar mayhem took root, began to lament in highly polemical terms the loss of a standard ecclesial culture as the progressive innovators took advantage of the loss of the old Thomistic synthesis.

To his credit, Levering, along with careful and historically conscious scholars like Matthew Minerd, are attempting a rejuvenation of that renewal via a retrieval of the lost treasures of pre-conciliar Thomism and the fusing together of those treasures with the ressourcement theologians. Their project is a bold one since they are attempting to restructure the entire debate surrounding the Council within the totality of its theological/historical context and to thereby point us beyond a mere hermeneutics of the Council and toward a genuine retrieval of its project by actually developing that project further. Therefore, it is both diagnostic and prescriptive, and it offers a true opportunity at a rapprochement between schools of thought that should be natural allies against the common enemy of a corrosively acidic progressivism rather than enemies.

The legitimacy of this approach’s insights can be readily seen when we look at how Thomistic many of the ressourcement thinkers actually were. De Lubac was a great retriever of the Fathers to be sure, but it was often done with an eye toward a more fulsome understanding of Aquinas and his theology of nature and grace in particular. And much of de Lubac’s career was spent in debates over Thomas’s views on that topic. Balthasar quoted Aquinas more than any other author and structured his trilogy around the classical scholastic formulation of the transcendental properties of Being (One, True, Good, Beautiful). He also held that the greatest breakthrough in the history of philosophy was Aquinas’s metaphysical insight about the real distinction between essence and existence. Rahner was deeply indebted to scholastic categories even as he moved beyond them in his Catholic Kantianism, for better or for worse. Lonergan, a neglected genius, was deeply informed by Thomistic categories of thought. I could go on, but you get the point.

Finally, I think it is important to emphasize the deeply theological nature of the Council as its chief legacy since the tired trope has emerged, and now seems to dominate the conversation, that the Council was purely pastoral and did not really advance any new theological construal of standard dogmas. But there were indeed dogmatic constitutions in the conciliar documents and those constitutions did introduce important developments in the theology of divine revelation and ecclesiology in particular. There were also important non-dogmatic theological developments of doctrine with regard to religious freedom, salvation for those outside of the Church, liturgy, ecumenism, and the status of non-Christian religions. Furthermore, the Council fathers put forward these theological developments precisely in order to act as a catalytic source for pastoral renewal. Therefore, the efforts of theologians such as Levering and Minerd have tremendous pastoral implications.

The pastoral aim of the Council has failed in the short term, which has given ammunition and a respectable cover to those who seek to marginalize the Council precisely because they do not agree with its theological developments. But many of the greatest councils in the Church’s history have had to endure a similar tsunami of negative reaction and great controversies, some of which lasted for a century or more. Just ask St. Athanasius if he thought the post-Nicene atmosphere was irenic and open to dialogue. But just as the theology developed by Nicaea eventually won the day owing to the efforts of Athanasius and others, so too today will the legacy of the theological developments of Vatican II eventually take root. And if they do, it will be because of the efforts of theologians like Levering and Minerd. May their tribe increase.

The importance of this retrieval cannot be overstated. Ross Douthat wrote recently in the New York Times that, like it or not, we are “trapped” by Vatican II. You cannot undo it or its influence, but there is also no consensus on what it means and it seems largely dead in the water. And so there it sits on our porch, like a giant sofa too large to get in your front door but which was purchased with a no return policy. Douthat is, I think, onto something important. Namely, that right now we are stuck in neutral and unable to move forward in a positive direction or backward in a restorationist retreat.

But we cannot remain in this state forever. The Council is here to stay, and rightly so, and therefore we better set about the business of its proper theological retrieval with or without Rome’s help.

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About Larry Chapp 47 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".


  1. Much to digest here! Larry Chapp does not disappoint…Readily conceding that the disposal-culture/cancel-culture cannot undo the reality of Vatican II, we might then ask:

    (1) Is any 21st-century doctrinal “development” still accountable to the widely-spaced 5th-century Vincent of Lerins and the 19th-century Cardinal Newman (“The Development of Christian Doctrine”) and, more basically, to the non-demonstrable first principle of non-contradiction; and,

    (2) Is the indigestible problem that we find a “sofa” on our porch, rather than say an altar—given the irreducible difference between the nature of creatures, and the mystery of a transcendent Creator who, by His own nature, is self-disclosing and infinitely self-donating?

    The resolution to our conundrums is certainly not a likely-manipulated synodal plebiscite with the syncretic outcome assigned to the Holy Spirit. (This is analogous to how the “dictated” Qur’an became “uncreated” and henceforth unassailable, in turbulent mid-9th-century Baghdad.)

    Still at the center of all human history is he alarming event of the singular Incarnation (Hebrews 13:8), always prior to any absence of thought, surely, or even Chapp’s five (or more) overlapping or competing schools of thought….

  2. There is in my mind only two relevant questions that must be answered by all the theologians who make Vatican Council II their lifework and this is, indeed, a pastoral question: How specifically does the Council go about addressing the proclamation of Christ to the current culture and, once that question has been satisfactorily addressed, how has the Council fared in that regard?

    As long as these questions remain unanswered the Council is merely an Oxford debate with a cross affixed to it among sparring theologians that has no relevance at all to Joe Pewsitter.

    • Good questions, Deacon Ed.
      If more than a handful of theologians and/or bishops would honestly ask the same, and if more than one or two would honestly answer, Joe could rejoice in a community which believes in Christ and His Church more than in self-idolized views of same.

      • Yes, we need to get back to the fundamental purpose of the Church which is to proclaim Christ to a world steeped in sin. Look around. If Vatican II has not instructed us in how to proclaim Christ to a fallen world and over the past 60 years has not produced demonstrable evidence for being successful in this mission, then Vatican II was just a bunch of bishops and their coterie of theologians flapping their jaws.

  3. Initial response – I have just skimmed this article so far, first line of each paragraph. “[c]orrosively acidic progressivism”. I love it. I don’t understand restorationism as Pope Francis’ backwardism.

  4. Academic in the best sense, thoroughly systematic, although as in Hegelian process first thesis, then antithesis, finally thesis. Chapp asks and answers all the questions leaving the completely overwhelmed student with little left except to offer meek variations of the same conclusions.
    Personally, I like simplicity, and find the no return sofa analogy excellent and challenging. Indeed, we must find a way to fit it through the door. Or do we? Can we keep it under the awning on the porch and just be about our business inside the house occasionally taking a respite outdoors in pleasant chatter while enjoying the old but new sofa?
    My theme is let’s be free to take the best the sofa offers [all five Chapp responses]. After all, the Council except for two dogmatic constitutions was a more theoretical pastoral approach to the modern world. If the Council were not called by John XXIII the apparent building of high water, dissenters, modernists would have crashed through the dam. The Council enabled the Church to suffer the flood but contain it. A distasteful but required medicine.
    Better to keep much of that [the pastoral] on the porch for reference than blocking the doorway [all the wonderful antidotes to modernism presumably rendered ineffective nonetheless remain available at will]. Finally, the main premise for success is that everlasting Ratzingerian hermeneutic of continuity. We must move forward. In the right direction.

  5. For those, like me, who are not familiar with VC2 key theological documents request CWR provide a series of articles that lay out in simple ie bullet form the essential of each document. Also how about identifying those who pushed for changing the Mass, communion in hands and destroying communion rails. Also those trying to reduce the important of praying the rosary and those in the forefront of pushing for the protestant sizing of the Church.

    Frankly IMHO no matter how anyone can cut it, the after math of VC2 is a disaster. To say well other Councils like Nicea went through the same process is nonsense. Unless I missed something there is no St Anathasius around defending VC2.

    • Grand Rapids Mike, I salute you for wishing to go through the documents of Vatican II. But I would urge you not to settle for bullet points.

      I read the documents as a very young man, and they made a huge impression on me. I would say they solidified my faith.

      The aspirations they embody rang so true to me at that time. I had been raised on the Baltimore Catechism — the “because-I-said-so” catechism, I called it — and had never heard a positive, coherent, rational account of the Judeo-Christian faith.

      When I found it in those documents, I was profoundly touched. Greatly inspired. That was a half century ago; but even now I am able to bask in the great beauty and sheer rightness that I found there.

      The nature of God, of man, of the church, of the world — it’s all laid out for the world to see and consider.

      I cannot see how summaries or bullet points could do the documents justice.

      For the record, I share your dismay at many of the post-Vat diminutions of Church practice. But pretty much every other institution in society has diminished over that same period of time — education, journalism, marriage, city life, social discourse — and we don’t blame Vatican II for any of that.

      Myself, I blame the universal social corrosive — leftism — for all of it, including the Church’s decline.

      But that’s a comment for another CWR piece. Suffice to say, I urge you to get a copy of the documents and start reading. I suspect you might be surprised at what you find.

      • Glad to learn that you had such an uplifting, positive experience, brineyman. I’d only note that the Baltimore Catechism, what ever its deficiencies, was intended to educate children who actually learn very well by rote recitation. The documents of VII, on the other hand, can be pretty heavy going, even for adults, most of whom will never read them, unfortunately.

        • I grant you that, Glenn.

          I had time on my hands back then, I guess. There were only so many Moody Blues albums to listen to.

      • OK, as I was raised on the Baltimore Catechism by the good Sisters of Charity and my believing parents, what in that Catechism is negative, incoherent or irrational in its content?
        Please be specific as to question # or chapter/verse, etc. Jesuit-speak BS not allowed.

  6. The fact remains that after 60 years, to the typical weekly mass going catholic Vatican II means that the priest now faces the people during mass, and that the mass is in English. That’s it.
    As to the argument that 60 years after Nicaea, Arianism was still rampant, unlike the 4th contrary, we are in an era of instant mass communication, and the Church has a much larger presence in the world.
    Any article addressing the merits of Vatican II which does not list those measurable statistics in the last 60 years on the decline of every measurable category of our faith, i.e. marriages, baptisms, etc., (see recent CARA statistics 1970 to 2019) is very incomplete.
    With all the articles recently on the 60th anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II I decided to re-read Gaudium et Spes. I am finding it a real chore.

  7. “Lonergan, a neglected genius, was deeply informed by Thomistic categories of thought. I could go on, but you get the point.”

    One does get the point that Lonergan’s genius is a ‘victor’ while neo-Scholasticism is in ‘retreat.’ To the victor belongs the spoils. Lonergan’s criticism was “of this reborn Scholastic movement, insofar as it let itself be imprisoned by a classical conception of culture that recognizes, de jure, only one universal and permanent culture. Under this conception, the recovery of medieval thought, and of St. Thomas in particular, was unable to bring to fruition the valid elements in our cultural past within the modern context of the science of nature, the human sciences, philosophy, and historical consciousness.” (Sala, )

    One could argue that Lonergan weighed empiricism, human nature, culture, and history more heavily than Thomas or Aristotle did. The effect is a lessening of God’s infinite and eternal mystery. Did Lonergan hope or presume that an updated science, history, and culture could ‘progress and purify’ Thomas’ conception of theology? Did Lonergan presume that mankind would benefit from a newly progressed and purified conception of The One Infinite and Eternal Mystery?

    Dr. Fauci astutely observed that “Science evolves.” Projects and movements such as 1619, CRT, BLM, etc., may re-write history and re-equilibrate culture. If theology, the Church, and God Himself are subject to reform and revision, the spiritually evolved and thoroughly modern man surely may recall the Pope, theologians and all bishops, thereby enacting the division Christ said He would bring.

    • Neither God nor the Church He founded are subject to revision. Hence this article praises while glossing over VII “theological insights” which were nothing more than an attempt to make God going back to Abraham or Adam and the Church He founded in AD 30-33 subject to the whims of the culture. That seems to me be the true point of Longeran and de Lubac and Rahner

    • Good question. It shouldn’t actually. True erudition is neat, clean, concise, and to the point. Verbosity is an element of pride, not erudition.

  8. First off, I better say I have yet to read this article in its entirety.
    I’m seconding the above comments of Deacon Peitler, Grand Rapids Mike and Crusader. I agree that Joe and Jane Pewsitter don’t give two hoots about VII. They know that VII gave us the priest turning to the people, the Mass in English (in our case) and Communion in the hand. That’s about it. Only the blindest are unaware that baptisms, sacramental marriages and church funerals are in freefall. What the?
    Some are beginning to be aware that there is some controversy going on about the Traditional Latin Mass. Ironically, Pope Francis’ strident and irrational moves trying to suppress said Mass have led some (I include myself) to ask what in the blazes is going on here. Then I learn that the Mass we have now is not just the Mass of the Ages in English. I think we need to recover what was lost and then move forward. Lord, help us.

  9. Well, I completely agree with the diagnosis made by Reno in #4, and agree thst something along the lines of #5 is what must be done going forward.

    Part of recognizing the mistakes (regardless of the range of the various intentions) by the “Church leadership” is to recognize that our “Church leadership” did did make big mistakes and caused serious damage, and those mistakes mistakes ought to be criticized snd rejected snd the damage should be repaired.

    Part of the mistakes, which I believe go beyond mete errors in judgment, is the pretentiousness and hubris of the Church leadership.

    For instance, in just this past week or do, we have been treated to accounts of V2 on current Catholic websites which featured references to John XXIII’s opening address, where he publicly asserts to the Church that he called for V2 after gushing about having a sudden inspiration for the council in 1959, and other accounts informing readers that Pope Pius XII had been planning to have such a council for years.

    This leads ordinary Catholic observers to the logical conclusion that there is an ingrained and rather habit of Church leadership simply behaving and communicating in what can charitably be called “manipulation,” which is, to say the least, rather unbecoming, snd dies not accrue to the credibility of such leadership.

    And the justifiable skepticism engendered by such manipulation is only magnified by observing the rotten fruit hanging from the tree of the post-V2 wreck-ovation, where we have now been forced to watch the same “Church leadership” moving from merely saying they would no longer condemn errors (i.e., heresy) to not merely allowing errors to spread like wildfire, but making sure that heresy is rewarded by making people who publicly promote heresy or coverup sexual abuse into Bishops and Cardinals (Cardinals Kasper being of the former, for publishing his heresy of denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and our newest Cardinal McElroy, who covered up for Satanic-cult priest in California who raped a vulnerable young Catholic woman).

    This all goes to the problem of the hubris of the Church apologists and Church leadership, and the core problem pointed out by Kale Zeldon, that these apologists snd leadership think that they can remain personally bulletproof and unaccountable by deluding themselves with pablum that “the Church is indefectible,” therefore they themselves are indefectible.

    Well, other than the head of the Church, who as Professor Farrow has reminded us is Jesus, and not “the Pope,” our Church leadership is not indefectible, and corporately, they have little or no credibility.

    Jesus has no shelf life, but a lot of the “Church leadership” are drawing flies.

    Time for Jesus to increase, and false shepherds to decrease, and fast…

  10. I am not, obviously, at the level of intelligence of the theologians that you mentioned. However, as I understand the criticism of the council by the SSPX, the problems lay in ecumenism, religious liberty, and conciliarity. These truths have manifested in the Catholic Church losing it’s status as the one, true church. Losing it’s status as the only true religion and becoming just one of many… And manifesting most recently as synodality. Also, the council did not address, specifically, what to do with the liturgy but look at the disaster of that. Pardon me, SSPX. I am in no way qualified to speak for you.

    • “Also, the council did not address, specifically, what to do with the liturgy but look at the disaster of that.”

      The very first major text of the Council was about the liturgy. It emphasized the primacy of Latin and importance of Gregorian chant, and did not advocate at all for versus populum. So there’s that.

      • That text did say those things you mentioned, but it also mentioned increasing use of the vernacular, inculturation, taking into account the capacity of the laity to receive things, being open to new developments etc. It’s months since I read document so I may have some terminology wrong, but it seems to me that the fathers didn’t want to leave any possibilities out. The most definite proposal they made was to set up a panel of experts, and that seems to have occurred.

  11. Still haven’t read the article in full and beginning to think I may never get around to it.
    Too busy reading Fr. Raymond de Souza, both learned and admirably succinct, on Ad Orientum as Back to the Liturgical Future. I seem to remember that was a rather urgent plea from Cdl. Sarah some time ago. Then I see there is an article, also in the Register, from two English bishops, Mark Davies and Philip Egan, two who are definitely worth listening to.

  12. At one point, I had decided not to read anything by this author again. Then, I persuaded myself to give him another try. So far, I’ve read the first line of each paragraph of this article. I’ve decided that’s plenty. I’m very far from a stupid reader. When an author leaves me this frustrated, I’m fairly confident in my belief that it’s not me that’s the problem.

    • Mr. Chapp apparently does well at the Catholic Worker concept of living, working and providing (a la St. Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day) for the local poor from the fruits of a farm. He has retired from a professional life of teaching and writing (except for his blog, articles at CWR, perhaps elsewhere). You are no midwit and are able to dot the lines of implication. If subtle is not your suit, in future, I’ll don a skirt.

  13. Whatever the meaning and impact of VII – we’re still seeking to discern its “meaning” 60 years later!? – what do we do in the present day, as in RIGHT NOW, about the drastic decline in Mass attendance, priestly and religious vocations, conversions to the faith and all of the other barometers of institutional vitality that continue to decline steeply? If there is something in the Council’s pronouncements and prescriptions that appears to be useful in stemming that tide, let’s by all means put it to good use. But VII cannot continue to be the ultimate and exclusive source, inspiration and wellspring of wisdom that it continues to be for the current Pope and many of the clergy. Whatever the cause of the catastrophe that followed the Council, we can at least acknowledge that the much heralded New Springtime did not occur and shows no sign of occurring now.

    I ask again, therefore: What do we do NOW about the mess that we’re in?

    • We’re to pretend that there’s no mess at all. The musical accompaniment to this lyric is “Whistle a happy tune.” Stick around, your typical Catholic Church will soon have this as their “Gathering Song.”

      • No doubt, although one has to think that the time isn’t far off when no one will gather. The Pope, meanwhile, will likely continue with his fixation to eliminate the old rite of Mass, the followers of which he seems determined to drive back into the catacombs. Interesting times, they are, in which to be a Catholic, eh?

  14. The author contends implicitly that is an absurdity to think we just ignore the council and turn back. Pardon my naivete but have there been councils in the past which were declared failed and simply left to rot? Such councils ceasing to be cited for any purpose in future Church or by theologians? Only Church historians make vague mention of such councils and not favorably.

    When the Levering and Minerd–and not so sure I agree with you regarding his intent as he has fled to the eastern rite and seems quite unconcerned and disconnected with the affairs of the Western Church to the point that he seemed on Matt Fradd’s show to imply that he pays no attention to goings on in the Church at large (i.e. the Roman Rite)–fail then who are we on to as the new face of salvaging VII?

    I know people who have bought a “lemon” (a poorly made vehicle, normally from a generally reputable manufacturer) and there are two paths: recognize it, get rid of it and buy a new vehicle or keep dumping in money like a fool until you realize you could have purchased a Bentley for the amount you spent on an automobile that even for all that money still will not function. awhile there is no perfect or even good temporal analogy for the Church, I ask, which course are we on?

  15. Last comment (I think). I have to defend the Baltimore Catechism. I was raised on the Baltimore Catechism and still have a copy, which I occasionally consult. And I still remember the answer to “Why did God make you?” I challenge you to put that questions to the graduates of post-VII catechesis. BTW, I have read not so long ago that the Baltimore Catechism was the distillation of the theology of Thomas Aquinas. Methinks we could do worse for sources.

    • Gilberta, I’m afraid I was the one casting aspersions on the Baltimore Catechism.

      My problem with it wasn’t that it wad inaccurate or untruthful. It’s that it was incomplete.

      It didn’t explain anything. There was no effort to tie the doctrines to the Bible, to Jesus’ life or His teachings, to the Early Church Fathers, to anything.

      The teachings were simply there, were apparently always there, and couldn’t ever *not* be there. Like inscrutable stone megaliths, immovable, unquestionable, unassailable edifices of truthiness.

      Which was the exact wrong approach for me as a kid who always questioned, never took things at face value.

      And so I always found the BaltCat eminently unsatisfying.

      Infuriating, even, when I was required to memorize it.

      One word resonated throughout my being whenever I was presented with the BaltCat pronunciamentos:


      • Briney,
        I too didn’t like memorizing the BaltCat, particularly the thorny third book in prep for the Bishop asking me for answers as a young Confirmand. Decades later, I remember Answers.

        If you studied the BaltCat, I’m guessing your parents and parish priest required you to attend Sunday Mass, weekly Catechism class and/or Catholic school. I suspect the Church would have pointed to those as methods for adding flesh to catechism bones.

        Providential luck gave me some excellent catechism teachers who talked in ways more variable than rote. My father, being Protestant, was no help, but my mother compensated and taught us much at the dinner table and elsewhere.

        Were your catechism classes or sermons at Mass somehow lacking? How, then, do you explain your seemingly strong interest in and knowledge of the faith today?

        • meiron, thank you for your question.

          You’re right. If anything, the BaltCat drove me away from the truth.

          What drew me to it, besides the innumerable Rosaries of my grandmother and the prayers and suffering of my parents, were the documents of Vatican II. They absolutely galvanized me intellectually.

          Plus, there was the gentle, loving spirit of my second grade teacher, Sr. Carletta. The fascinating historical information conveyed by my fifth grade teacher, Sr. Loisanne.

          And there was always the nearly universal hunger for meaning, truth and beauty.

          I have been blessed beyond anything and everything I could ever possibly merit.

          And the blessings continue, thanks to all of you, my brethren and fellow commenteers.

  16. I respectfully disgree that we are trapped by Vatican II, or are necessarily stuck with it forever. Study history. Just as the Vatican II earthquake could not be imagined or expected before the Vatican II Council, so a Vatican II-suppressing earthquake is not now expected or imagined, but still could happen. A worldwide economic, political, or environment catastrophe could cause a pope to revert to the tradition before “the Council,” with nearly all Catholics accepting the change. Watch and see.

  17. I applaud Dr. Larry Chapp for respectfully and calmly describing 5 views on the Vatican II Council. I applaud Catholic World Report for publishing this article. We need calm, fair, and respectful descriptions and commmentary like this!

  18. I predict that someday some Catholic theologian will write this sentence: “The undevelopment of doctrine is itself a legitimate form of the development of doctrine.”

  19. Here are a few things that were inconceivable before the Vatican II Council:
    –Catholic popes and bishops participating in interfaith prayer services.
    –Catholic priests publically discouraging Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, persons practicing Judaism from converting to the Catholic Church.
    –Altar girls
    –Removal of the altar rail separating the domain of the priest from the domain of the laity.
    Why am I listing such things here?
    Just to say that one day Catholics could wake up and…
    –All Catholics are again forbidden from participating in interfaith prayer services.
    –All Catholics are again forbidden from teaching or practicing the Ecumenism that leads to the discouragement of conversions, and to mass confusion about the role of the Church in salvation, and to mass confusion about the identity and boundaries of the true Church.
    –Altar rails are installed in all Catholic churches.
    –Altar girls are banned everywhere in the Catholic Church.
    All I’m saying is that the unexpected, the unimagined CAN happened. How do I know? Because the unexpected and the unimagined HAVE happened before! The Vatican II Council was a surprise to many. There are certainly more surprises to come! Right?

  20. Brineyman and Meiron – I blame/credit my parents for my faith. My father was the more philosophical one, my mother the more down-to-earth type, not a bad combination, it turns out. Mrs. Lennon saw me through five years of the BaltCat in my Catholic one-room school in Ontario. I do think there is a case for establishing “just the facts” as a basis for knowledge. Granted, without above-mentioned parents, the “facts” would most likely have fallen on rocky ground.

  21. As this issue continues to stagnate more and more people drift away from the church for various reasons. Eventually there won’t be any point for change.

  22. If Vatican II is the problem somebody explain to me why the Eastern Orthodox are in similar decline as we? They haven’t had an “Eccumenical Council” for 1000 years and they haven’t changed their liturgy in 1000 years yet they are in similar decline?

    Stop blaming Vatican II it is not the problem. Also yer just undermining the authority of the Catholic Church. The SSPX is clueless.

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  1. Vatican II: Five views sixty years on | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers
  2. Vatican II: Five views sixty years on – Catholic World Report – The Old Roman

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