This is not why I left Protestantism

With much controversy and conflict today among Catholics about Vatican II, the Word on Fire’s Vatican II Collection—with a foreword from Bishop Robert Barron, commentary by the postconciliar popes, and an excellent FAQ—is a timely and welcome volume.

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)

It was the late summer of 2010. I was a Protestant seminary student, but I had been studying (and disputing) various claims made by the Catholic Church, precipitated by the recent conversion of one of my best friends, himself also a Protestant seminarian. The topic that most frustrated my fervent attempts to preserve my confidence in the Reformation was not Catholic criticisms of sola scriptura or sola fide.

It was authority.

I had come to realize that debates over the sufficiency of Scripture alone or how man is saved obscured a more fundamental problem: how to determine who had the authority to even decide what constituted Scripture (or, more broadly, divine revelation), let alone the thorny, complicated debates over the interpretation of various biblical passages. On what grounds did I, a 26-year-old American Protestant seminarian, claim authority to adjudicate such questions?

And, more to the point, did any person or institution have a remotely defensible claim to such authority?

Jesus didn’t say that the powers of hell shall not prevail against my faith (Mt 16:18). Nor did he say that my interpretation of the Bible would be “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). No, that power had been reserved for the Church. And even if He hadn’t, who was I, among two billion Christians on earth, to claim I had a singular corner on what Christ taught?

The question, then, is who possesses that corner. Protestantism, I reasoned, disqualified itself, since religious authority (whatever Luther’s and Calvin’s intentions) ultimately resides in the conscience of the individual Christian. Eastern Orthodoxy, in its ethnic parochialism, seemed to lack the universal character required to secure the title. Catholicism, among all the options, seemed the only Christian institution that could even possibly possess such authority.

So I returned to the Catholicism of my youth. Perhaps some Protestants would say I abdicated my conscience, or my intellect, or both. But I think that I safeguarded and deepened them, because if I had tried to remain a Protestant while silently knowing its fundamental incoherency, I would have likely descended into cynicism and skepticism, similar to so many generations of Protestants before me. Yes, it’s true, when I entered the Church I still had reservations about a few things, such as some particulars regarding Marian devotion. But I trusted, in faith, that God had conferred the Church, not me, with authority to declare doctrine, whether on Mary or anything else.

I often think about that when confronted with arguments from Catholic brethren, many of whom are fellow travelers on the “traditionalist” side of Catholic faith and practice, when they get going about the Second Vatican Council. When I returned to the Church in 2010, I knew Vatican II had been earth-shattering, and often not in a good way, leveraged by many of its interpreters to defend all manner of liturgical abuses. I knew Vatican II, to a significant degree, had made the Catholic Church of my grandparents’ generation unrecognizable, and that the faith of many had been shaken, if not lost, in the ensuing distemper. And I knew that a few very reactionary Catholics had so resisted the Council that they provoked excommunication by Rome.

But I also knew a lot of prominent orthodox voices who defended the Council, arguing that its abuse and misinterpretation did not vitiate its authority, much as, analogically, Christians’ abuse of Scripture does not vitiate its authority. Indeed, it was an ecumenical council, after all (the twenty-first, to be precise). If, in my frustration with the many milquetoast manifestations of contemporary Catholic worship, I decided to antagonistically plant my flag in opposition to Vatican II, why stop there? I would, in effect, have returned to the same individualist paradigm I had inhabited as a Presbyterian.

And yet a good number of influential traditionalist Catholics are encouraging various forms of antagonism, opposition, or cynicism towards our last ecumenical council. Some of these traditionalists are well-intended; others, especially those with a penchant for ad hominems and promoting conspiracies and bizarre controversies, I’m less sympathetic to. Either way, I’m skeptical that the growing popularity of this anti-Vatican II sentiment is a positive development for lay Catholics.

Welcome, then, is Word on Fire’s Vatican II Collection (Volume I and Volume 2), which contains not only those documents from the Council, but a foreword from Bishop Robert Barron, commentary by the postconciliar popes, and even an excellent FAQ.

Barron understands this book arrives at an important moment, particularly in American Catholicism. “As I write these words,” he notes, “a fresh controversy has broken out, this time prompted by ‘traditionalists’ who claim that Vatican II has betrayed authentic Catholicism and produced disastrous consequences in the life of the Church.” Such traditionalists, explains Barron, have typically subscribed to a “hermeneutic of rupture” when it comes to Vatican II, viewing it not as a legitimate development of Catholic teaching, but a profound break with tradition.

Ironically, that’s also the position of progressive Catholics who believed Vatican II in its perceived “radicalism” justified the liturgical abuses and heretical teachings that have become common in the Catholic world since the Council’s closing address in 1965. Writes Barron: “With the book you are reading, I am nailing my colors to the mast. I and Word on Fire stand firmly with Vatican II and hence against the radical traditionalists. And we stand firmly with the Wojtyła-Ratzinger interpretation of the council, and hence against the progressives.”

Of course, you can already procure a copy of all the documents of Vatican II — I have one such edition. What makes this edition so valuable is its “commentary” function: interspersed throughout each document are extended citations from postconciliar popes — Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Francis — that help further clarify the meaning of the conciliar documents. Bishop Barron also periodically offers his own commentary on the documents, which, though not possessing the magisterial authority of, say, papal encyclicals, are still informative and excellent.

Thus, for example, in the middle of Gravissimum Educationis, the council’s document on Catholic education, the editors of the book include Pope St. Paul VI’s “Letter to Director-General of UNESCO” regarding the importance of promoting literacy around the world. In the middle of Unitatis Redintegratio, the council’s decree on ecumenism, we get an excerpt from Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint on the same topic. These alone make the compilation an excellent resource for anyone trying to understand both the council and how its most important interpreters — subsequent popes — have understood it and sought to apply its teachings for the universal church.

But my favorite part of the book is the FAQ section at the back, which strikes at the heart of the most contentious questions regarding the council, whether from the traditionalists or progressive side. For example, the section answers the question “Did Vatican II define any new dogmas or condemn any heresies?” (No.) It also includes answers to questions such as “Are Vatican II’s teachings infallible and binding or fallible and option?”; “Are Catholics free to ignore, disparage, or reject Vatican II”; and “Could parts of Vatican II’s doctrine be removed or reversed in the future?”

Given the many controversies regarding those questions, I’d wager that a careful study of this FAQ would resolve many of the ongoing debates over the council.

I sympathize with many traditional Catholics who are frustrated with the legacy of Vatican II, especially related to the changes to the liturgy. Though not a “Traditional Latin Mass” Catholic myself, I count as friends many who are obviously blessed by the Tridentine Rite, and have been disheartened by the current pontificate’s antagonism towards it. I’ve even written in support of those who adhere to the TLM. Nevertheless, that does not excuse the language many now employ when referring to Vatican II. Indeed, I fear many well-meaning, traditionalist Catholics are being led astray by some of these anti-council voices, their language and religious identity getting dangerously close, if not crossing, the line into dissent.

However much we take issue with various actions of this current papacy and its use of Vatican II to justify what might rightly be described as frustrating, and even foolhardy takes on the liturgy, we must resist the temptation to disparage legitimate ecumenical councils. Doing so, I’d warn, will only lead us back into the irresolvable, incoherent kinds of theological and philosophical quandaries I once endured as a Protestant. And that isn’t viable. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Word on Fire’s Vatican II Collection (Volume I and Volume 2)
Foreword by Bishop Robert Barron, with commentary by the postconcilear popes
Word on Fire Institute, 2021
Hardcover, 392 pages

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About Casey Chalk 44 Articles
Casey Chalk is a contributor for Crisis Magazine, The American Conservative, and New Oxford Review. He has degrees in history and teaching from the University of Virginia and a master's in theology from Christendom College.


  1. Unity within diversity is a noble pursuit. Are the words of God to be disputed? God is supreme and unchanging. We are created in His image, though marred by sin we bear His likeness as we are born again by the Holy Spirit!

    Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, bore our sins on the tree that we might have eternal life through belief in His Work on the cross. Not our work, rather His righteous work. Yes, who’s work surpasses that of the Lord Jesus?

    Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    Romans 10:9 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

    1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

    1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

    Colossians 3:11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

    Ephesians 4:3 Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    Ephesians 4:1-32 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, …

    Does anything supplant Holy Scripture? If it does, let it be presented so we may reconnoiter the proposition?

    Blessings of peace and understanding

      • Dear JMJ:

        If logic doesn’t come to the table, there is nothing like an ad hominem rejoinder! Specifics are the essence of a rebuttal, at least me thinks so?

        Yours in Christ,


        • Mr.Brian,
          The Church received, safeguarded and kept scripture alive by copying and handing it on in the dead and unified language which allowed no decomposition, erroneous connotation, or Darwinian type evolution. The Catholic Church is responsible for the scripture the Protestants perceive as solely above, beyond beside the point of the Church and the Jews to whom His Being was first revealed.

          If you like logic, why not get a grip on it, pal?

          Oh, I’ll beat you to the insult: I am a ridiculous, ad hominous idiot who believes supernatural nonsense. Feel free to add anything I’ve forgotten in my dotage. My grammar is sometimes confused. I write in haste and don’t proofread. I’m superstitious. Hostile. Hysterical. Add-on, etc.

          • Dear Meiron:

            Believers in Christ owe a debt of gratitude to the Church of Rome. It should not be understated!

            During the past decade, increasing censure has been levelled at senior church leadership. Some constrained, yet today, a cacophony of accusation and protest by the faithful. This is done to uphold the best interest of the church and I add voice to these legitimate concerns. All the same, some feel this is out of line and they may be correct! Please know that I bear no ill will towards you, instead respect comes your way. We may differ from time to time, albeit that is life!

            When the Catechism states Holy Scripture is the supreme authority for the church, why then do some people balk? If we have complaints but no touchstone, how can success be achieved?

            Blessings and peace and prayers,


            Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

            Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

            Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

            Hebrews 1:6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

    • Are you saying that Scripture is supreme and Church councils and their documents are ridiculous? I’m always confused by a list of Scripture quotes with no identification of the point that the writer/speaker is trying to make. Please, what is your point in relation to the article?

      • His point is, he is trying to convert people to his evangelical Protestant view of the scriptures. Odd and consistenyly inappropriate behavior considering this is a Catholic website.

        • Dear Athanasius:

          Please note that I encourage Catholics to stay in the Catholic Church and fight for the highest interest of the Church. You are not alone in your perspective, however it is necessary to remind ourselves that jesus Christ is the head of the church and every knee must bow.

          Be happy that amongst others, I want the Catholic Church strong, revitalized and what she was when the canon of the New Testament was codified, some two to three hundred years after our saviours death and

          Scripture is for our personal edification, to gain the peace that passes all understanding! We fight with the guidance and power of the Lord. That will make the church victorious.

          God bless you,


          Ephesians 3:10 So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

          Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

          John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

          John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

      • Dear Mrs Bridge:

        Thank you for writing and expressing your concern! Clarification is vital and yours truly does not always succeed in the attempt! :

        You wonder if I feel “Church councils and their documents are ridiculous”? Sometimes there is a point made in which a counterpoint is offered. The matter is up for debate, let the best argument prevail!

        You inquire, “Please, what is your point in relation to the article?” If we allow God’s word to become the penultimate, we disarm ourselves, becoming ineffective.

        Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

        1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

        Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

        Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

        Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

        God bless you,

        Brian Young

  2. Hello Casey, Welcome Home to the Catholic Church!
    The reason you should be glad you are Catholic, is because Catholics focus on God’s Great Commandment to love God. The Protestants have thrown out God’s Great Commandment to love, in exchange for ‘Faith Alone’. Jesus is going to judge our Eternal Salvation based on our Love For God and we Love God through obeying His Commandments.

    Possessing Faith in Jesus great enough to Move Mountains, Yet Jesus burns them in hell as ‘Evildoers’.

    Matthew 7:21 The True Disciple.
    Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. When that day comes, many will plead with me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ have we not prophesied in your name? have we not exorcized demons by its power? Did we not do many miracles in your name as well? Then I will declare to them solemnly, I never knew you. Out of my sight, you evildoers!

    1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Excellence of the gift of love.
    Now I will show you the way which surpasses all the others. If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

    John 14:15
    If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

    John 15:22
    If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates my Father. If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’

    John 5:27
    “The Father has given over to him power to pass judgment because he is Son of Man; no need for you to be surprised at this, for an hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear his voice and come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to live; the evildoers shall rise to be damned.”

    Deuteronomy 7:9
    “Understand, then, that the LORD, your God, is God indeed, the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant down to the thousandth generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments, but who repays with destruction the person who hates him; he does not dally with such a one, but makes him personally pay for it. You shall therefore carefully observe the commandments, the statutes and decrees which I enjoin on you today.

    1 John 5:3
    For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome,

    Catechism of the Catholic Church; Ten Commandments

    Catechism 2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; The Second Vatican Council confirms: “The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.”

    Catechism 2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.” The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law: The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    Catechism 2052 “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” To the young man who asked this question, Jesus answers first by invoking the necessity to recognize God as the “One there is who is good,” as the supreme Good and the source of all good. Then Jesus tells him: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” And he cites for his questioner the precepts that concern love of neighbor: “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.” Finally Jesus sums up these commandments positively: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Catechism 2083 Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.” God has loved us first. the love of the One God is recalled in the first of the “ten words.” the commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God.

  3. Persons who enter the Church usually have a better take on the reality of events and related conflicts Vat II usually top issue. They have to think seriously and decide correctly. For beginners Casey Chalk’s reasons for conversion are stellar. Marks of the true Church based on revelation rather than personal conscience, its outward character universal [Go out to all the world] not parochial. Primary first principles of what we believe and why.
    Honesty essential he admits displeasure with the contention realizing he wasn’t promised a rose garden when entering. We’re in for a fight, literally to the death if necessary to preserve faith, and self.
    Casey acknowledges ‘this current papacy’ putatively surmising it’s not the papacy itself at fault rather the occupant regarding the liturgical wars. Although from previous essays it’s apparent he’s aware of the more consequential doctrinal wars. That’s where the focus needs to be, the liturgical wars are secondary, since it’s our loyalty to Christ and precisely what he revealed that will win the day.

  4. I commend the author for not taking the statements of Vatican II dissidents at face value.

    As a few regular readers of these pages may recall, I am a believing Catholic who is a huge proponent of Vatican II.

    I read the conciliar documents as a young man, and they very likely saved my faith.

    At the time, I, a cradle Catholic, was looking around for a faith that would appeal to my intellect as well as my yearning. When I stumbled upon the Vatican documents, I was surprised to find that they presented the Church in a way that was very appealing to me. I found them to be deeply insightful and inspiring.

    In my experience since then, I find that most of those who agitate against the council have never read the documents. They assume that because certain liturgical changes took place in the wake of Vatican II, the council was responsible.

    What they miss is the fact that Vatican II took place in the sixties, when leftism and its hedonistic impulses were running rampant in the culture.

    What happened to the Church — the warehouse-like church interiors, the clown Masses, the liturgical chorus girls, the stalactite statuary and all the rest — is found nowhere in the Vatican II documents.

    The foundations of those stated devolutions were laid in the now-a-go-go, “If it feels good, do it” sixties, I would submit.

    And so I applaud Mr. Chalk for doing his homework and wading into the substance of what the council actually produced.

    And hopefully Bishop Barron’s volume will prompt the trad Vat detractors to reconsider their invalid assumptions and embrace the council as the momentous, Spirit-guided gift it truly was.

    • So, if in fact, “What happened to the church-the warehouse-like interiors…and all the rest, is found nowhere in the vatican II documents”, then why did the changes happen at all? More to the point, why did not the Bishops and Cardinals who knew better not try to stop it? Laying blame at the feet of the hedonism of the 60’s seems like an easy out for those who should have been held responsible to hold the line.If the result of Vatican II was the decamping of priests and nuns, how exactly is that a “spirit guided gift”?? The stripped down bland non-inspirational and ugly church interiors are another atrocity. My childhood church had a magnificent full wall painting of the Last Supper done in traditional style behind and above the altar, which must have been 20 feet wide. Beautiful.It was replaced by gold glitter paper. There is no other word for this but pointless and disgusting. No one EVER has been inspired to prayer by gold glitter paper. I will admit to not minding the bulk of the Mass in English, although I believe some Latin could have been retained for its beauty. Too much casualness crept in with Vatican II. It used to be a big deal on the rare occasion when the Eucharist was accidentally dropped on the floor. Now, just pick it up, no big deal. Really?? The lack of the sense of sacred permeates almost every aspect of worship now. No shock then that everybody goes to Communion but almost nobody to confession. The unspoken message…do your own thing, its all good, as long as nobody’s feelings are hurt. On judgement day we may all discover that is not the case.

      • LJ, I sympathize with you and agree that there were some horrendous lapses in the Church following Vatican II. And Church art — in all its forms — has suffered terribly in the intervening years.

        Where we disagree is when you say those lapses were *due* to Vatican II.

        I assure you, the council made no statement in support of glitter paper replacing murals or of Communion rails being removed or of priests and nuns forsaking their vocations.

        You say that bishops should have done a better job of protecting the Church from the supposed “spirit of Vatican II” in whose name so many abuses took place. And I don’t disagree with you.

        I even understand your rancor concerning the Church council that coincided with the decay you decry.

        But I urge you to read the documents.

        You may find that, far from being the reason for the problem, Vatican II is exactly what the Church needs to offset the pestilent effects of the silly “spirit of Vatican II” that took flight in the destructive, self-absorbed, addle-brained sixties.

      • You have hit upon the thing that has troubled me ever since Vatican II was used as an excuse to “update” the Church. It is lack of reverence, loss of the sense of the sacred. Rather than view things like receiving Communion when not in a state of grace from the perspective of its effect on the Real Presence and on the spiritual state of the recipient, we–bishops included–view it from the perspective of how someone might feel or how denying someone Communion might be perceived by others.
        Human beings are physical creatures, too, and what we see and do affects what we believe and are. A debased Mass, relatively devoid of beauty and elevation, hardly lends weekly or daily support to the difficult practice of the faith in difficult times. And it fails, I think, to promote reverence for what is really happening there, God coming among us in a very physical way and in that sense putting Himself at our mercy.

      • My friend…and friends. Archbishop Sheen, great saint that he was, explained it well: Whenever there is an outpouring of The Holy Spirit, there is also an outpouring of the evil spirit as well…”, to fight, confuse, mislead. Add to this overarching reality the entirety of all included destructions: the century given to the enemy; the plan of the Freemasons witnessed by Maximilian Kolbe; the promise of Our Lady and the (ever more thoroughly obvious) errors of Russia spread throughout the world, spawning Alinsky and all the others, the attack on the family, sexuality, womanhood, manhood, fatherhood…it was “the perfect storm,” as has been said. And, if the leaders of the Church had understood, held (interiorly), and professed the true Faith of the Church even, say, 25 “percent” on the inside in the decades before the Council, then I believe the Church could not have caved in as She did.

        And today, thus, we are “led” by spiritual “fathers” who don’t have the knowledge, Faith, and CERTAINLY no courage to stand against militant feminists and other anti-Christian persons in their own dioceses, seminaries, and yes, cancerous.

        You can’t blame God, or the Council, for the fall afterwards.

        JPII, Mother Theresa, Benedict XVI, Mother Angelica, and millions of others, are fruits of His Church AFTER the Council, saints great indeed, for days such as these…you are very much mistaken.

    • The Church confronting the modern world? The foundations of… devolutions [liturgical changes] were laid in the now-a-go-go, “If it feels good, do it” sixties, I would submit.

      I agree that VCII led the Church to confront the modern world. That led to liturgy changes. VCII documents led you back to the faith of your cradle faith. Any or nothing else?

    • Would you mind giving a few of the things in the Council that particularly appealed to you?

      I read a number of the documents (not all), and found them, for the most part, to be reiterations of what I already knew, only far more verbose. I have some suspicions that the disparity in our experiences might be because I was already well catechized (pre-Vatican 2 books) before I started reading, and had a reasonably good intellectual basis, years before. Since it was a pastoral council, it could not be expected to clarify a particular doctrine, but simply to reiterate and provide some advice, and perhaps a policy change or two.

      I expect that most people who find nothing particularly impressive in Vatican 2 were similarly well-taught before reading the documents. It’s not just that it was followed by liturgical and cultural horrors, but also that it is rather boring if you already know our Faith well.

  5. I still contend that, notwithstanding what people state, Vatican Council II and its documents have little or nothing to do with the current rupture in the Church. Lest anyone disagree, I would invite him to stand outside Church when Sunday Mass is letting out and randomly ask any 10 exiting Catholics to name any three salient points of theology, ecclesiology, liturgy, sacramentology, and or theological anthropology that emerged from the Council and its documents. You’ll quickly get my point.

    No, the division in the Church is about Christ and his mission to redeem us from sin. Since the 1960’s, the Church’s tolerance for sin has expanded and continues to expand in teaching and practice. Therein lies the difference: the very mission of Christ has become practically irrelevant; there is no sin. Why, even the Pope has a difficult time naming sin except when it comes to things like climate change.

  6. Great article, truly.

    I am far, far, far from being a traditionalist, and am also a huge believer in Vatican II.

    However, Bishop Barron (while admittedly praised by many) while he claims to be with Wotyla and Ratzinger, conveniently leaves out that both were fighting the “hermeneutic of rupture,” the very phrase of which is from Ratzinger himself. Barron reverses Ratzinger’s meaning and application of the term.

    I’m not a liturgical fanatic, but as the Saints have done – Wotyla, Mother Angelica, Padre Pio, Bishop Sheen, etc etc etc – I, too and the groups Bishop Barron attacks, hold that the Mass and other parts of the Church’s liturgy are directly “of God,” and the minimalization, trivialization, de-mysticalization, worldlification, etc, of the Mass has been a huge part of the Church not being true to to the authentic teaching of the Council, of the popes, of God Himself.

    Again, to repeat, I’m not a traditionalist. All but a handful of bishops at the Council voted in favor of reform of the Mass and other parts of the Church’s liturgy (all but 6, I think). If that isn’t the Holy Spirit, I don’t know what is.

    But what we have today in 98% of the parishes is nowhere near what the Council said or wanted. Nowhere.

    A “Catholic” born in the 60’s is going to stand before Our Lord, unable to say anything more than, “I sang at church! I shook hands with lots of people! I waved and yelled hello to even more!”

    Our bishops – Barron included – are totally responsible for this situation that we have today.

    We need men, spiritual FATHERS, who are not politically correct in any way whatsoever. True apostles of Our Blessed Lord. Not experts with word games and permanent smiles…

  7. Let me propose a compromise that neither side will accept: Traditionalists should agree to lay off Vatican II. They should also acknowledge that, whatever their flaws, the post-conciliar popes up to Francis were different in kind, not merely degree, from what rules the Church today. That so many of the teachings and decisions of John Paul II and Benedict VI have been targeted by Francis makes it abundantly clear that he is not merely following in their footsteps.

    Orthodox Catholics who support Vatican II, for their part, need to defend teachings of the Council and the popes who followed it from the attacks of Francis specifically. Stop ignoring or explaining way his nearly daily assaults on the doctrine of the Church and cease with the fiction that this papacy represents anything other than a crisis of unprecedented scope and seriousness.

    • Please help! What are the ‘teachings of the Council’ that Orthodox Catholics should defend? VCII defined no creed, canon, or dogma. What teachings do we defend? Those which are explicitly stated? Well, we know what the hierarchy did to those.

      Many VCII documents beautifully and truly proclaim ‘pie-in-the-sky’ idealism. The problem has been document [mis]construal in many and various ways. The ‘spirit’ of the documents caused an ungodly afterglow, and the document’s letters were lost.

      As Deacon and others note, many faithful lost Christ in the aftermath. Brineyman returned to the Church. I left it for over a decade, until I reconsidered and returned because of JPII. In that I praise God for His having seen to singularly and gracefully bless and save me (which I did not deserve). The majority of my cohort strayed and have stayed away, teaching themselves and their children to observe and follow the VCII spirit which brought Catholicism up-to-date. They honor Francis’ words when he is flying high. The rest of us are left to eat dirt which He does and/or will transform to beatitude. Of that I am sure and am grateful to VCII which brought it all about. Thanks Be to God.

      • Meiron asked: “What are the ‘teachings of the Council’ that Orthodox Catholics should defend?”
        Answer: There are new 3 doctrines that many traditionalist Catholic theologians point as being clearly and explicitly found in the Vatican II Documents:
        #1: The New Vatican II Doctrine of Ecumenism
        #2: The New Vatican II Doctrine of Religious Liberty
        #3: The New Vatican II Doctrine of Episcopal Collegiality

  8. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to question the alleged validity of Vatican II.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ has said that “by their fruits shall you know them.” The Catholic Church was doing well in the U.S.A during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. Even for those who are skeptical of conspiracies, it is clear that the Church was much better off during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII than after Vatican II. Such a fact is in need of an explanation.

    One could find in Genoa Italy that pants on women weren’t acceptable around 1988. The Catholic leadership in Genoa almost certainly had something to do with that.

    Conspiracy is a crime/sin that MUST be INVESTIGATED and proven – not dismissed with ad hominems. There were those who had accepted Vatican II and were very high-placed who used phrases such as “the smoke of Satan” in referring to contemporary immoral changes.

    Certainly charges of heresy must be taken very seriously by any who claims to be Catholic. A reasonable suspicion of secret formal heretics give grounds to indicate that such a person who claims to be Catholic, isn’t one.

    Heresy is easy enough to reasonably suspect if a person looks at writings. A very useful book in this respect is “No Crisis in the Church?”

  9. I agree with the first paragraph of Deacon Peitler, but I would go further. I think 99 of 100 would say that Vatican II meant that the Mass was in English and the priest faced the people (not exactly what the decree on the liturgy actually said). Unlike previous councils which defined doctrines to be held for all time, Vatican II was a pastoral council. The bishops, generally were born about the turn of the century, had lived through two world wars, a depression, the start of the Cold War, and the beginning of the sexual revolution. What they had to say would reflect what they lived through and observed.

    We are now in 2023, and are living in totally new situations – legal abortion in the states, same sex “marriage’, gay pride parades, Transgenderism, Cardinals in Europe calling for a change in Catholic sex and homosexual teachings, etc.

    I accept that Vatican II was valid. I believe the question was, and is, was it useful. Lateran V was valid, but when it ended Martin Luther posted his 95 theses, and the protestant reformation started.

    I have done internet searches asking, “list today measurable items that have gotten better in the Church since Vatican II. Nothing comes up. CARA, an organization that lists changed statistics in the Church, all seem to be negative since Vatican II. Mass attendance is way down, Baptisms are down, Marriages are down, Confessions are down, belief in the Real Presence is down, etc. I understand that does not mean cause and effect. But the question is, was it useful?

    If anyone can list MEASURABLE improvements, not generalities, I would be interested.

    • Correlation does not equal causation, true enough. But correlation is often the beginning of asking whether there is causation. We don’t ask about something if we don’t notice it.

  10. Mr. Chalk article is a good assessment of the Second Vatican Council. I would humbly submit that the real crisis came around the issue of authority. The wrecking of Churches in the USA was the result of a document from the US Bishop’s conference in 1972 which was only advisory, but was interpreted by Bishops and Liturgists as De FIDEI. The principle of collegiality was taken by some Bishops to believe that they are their own pope in their diocese and can do as they please. This means that the Bishops who supported artificial contraception and liturgical anarchy and changing sexual morality thought they could do so with impunity because the Pope was not going to act against their personal “aggiornamento” The implementation of the documents was secondary. The wielding of personal power either by Bishops or those to whom the bishops delegated their power was primary.

  11. 1. For 50 plus years now, the middle-of-the-road, moderate, faithful-to-Vatican II conservatives have been trying to stop the ongoing demolition of the Church, but have failed.
    2. The facts of this ongoing demolition and ongoing failure are reported daily here on the Catholic World Report website.
    3. Is it really reasonable to assume that 50 more years of this approach will end the demotion and begin the rebuilding?
    4. So, isn’t it understandable that some Catholics, who love God, love Sacred Tradition, love their families, and love their neighbors, are trying a different approach?
    5. I mean, didn’t the faithful-to-Vatican II conservatives have their chance (50 years!) to stop the demolition and start the rebuilding?

  12. 1. I am writing this comment to suggest that perhaps we should not be so quick to dismiss entirely the “traditionalists.” Traditionalist Catholic theologians don’t have to be right about everything to be of value. I thought that was Pope Benedict XVI’s approach, when he declared that SSPX priests were bona fide priests of the Catholic Church, and he mandated that the traditional Latin Mass could be conducted by any priest without any bishop’s authorization. I don’t think we should be influenced by the fact that Pope Benedict XVI was succeeded by a pope who wants to eradicate all traces of traditionalist thought and practice from the Church.
    2. Consider this traditionalist insight: This article by Casey Chalk mentions the following about Bishop Barron’s Vatican II document book collection, “In the middle of Unitatis Redintegratio, the council’s decree on ecumenism, we get an excerpt from Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint on the same topic.”
    3. A traditionalist would ask: Guess what Church document isn’t excerpted or mentioned in Bishop Barron’s book?
    4. Answer: Mortalium Animos, the papal encyclical promulgated in 1928 by Pope Pius XI that expressly and explicitly condemned the doctrine of Ecumenism that is approved, promoted, and required in Vatican II’s Unitatis Redintegratio, and also in John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint.
    5. But you may ask: Can that really be so? Could a doctrine (a doctrine, not just a practice) that was condemned in 1928 in a papal encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI really be approved in a 1964 decree of an ecumenical council that was approved and issued by Pope VI? Surely the 1928 encyclical must have been condemning something different from what the 1964 decree was approving—right?
    6. Well, read these documents for yourself and see.
    7. And I also suggest that you ask yourself this:
    8. If the 1964 decree of the Council, and the 1995 encyclical of John Paul II, were both just teaching the traditional doctrine of the Church on the doctrine of Ecumenism, why on earth didn’t either of those documents mention or cite the 1928 encyclical Mortalium Animos? Why don’t either of those later documents boast about how they are simply reiterating the doctrine that was taught back in 1928 by Pope Pius XI? But despite the fact that the 1928 encyclical Mortalium Animos is on exactly the same subject as the two later documents, and despite the fact that Mortalium Animos was a famous and well-known document right up to Vatican II, those two latter documents make no mention of Mortalium Animos. Now, isn’t that curious? Doesn’t that indicate something? Isn’t that a “telltale sign”? In the game of poker, the word “tell” has a particular meaning, as follows: “A tell is a small detectable change in a player’s behavior that gives information about the kind of hand they have.”
    9. Everything I wrote in this comment I learned from the traditionalists. If you just read the conservatives, you’ll probably never even learn that Mortalium Animos even exists and still has authority in the Church.

  13. Casey, I have friends who were questioning my affiliation to the catholic church also based on the question of authority. I answered them this way: friends, the answer is not one grounded in authority, it’s not about authority, it’s about humility. That left them a bit bewildered; but, eventually they came to understand. With regard to the church 60 years this side of the counsel, i have this observation. I fear that Modernists have taken hold of the power structures in the church for any discussion about the Heresy of Modernism is suspiciously missing.

  14. Given the answer to: “Did Vatican II define any new dogmas or condemn any heresies?” was “(No.)”, and that it defined itself as a pastoral Council, responding to the needs of its time (not the needs of ours), why does anyone expect it to still be relevant 60 years later? It’s not like we’re still talking about the Council of Constance and how to apply its teachings. You rarely hear talk of Vatican 1, and it DID define a dogma.

    I am a traditional Catholic, and I would be perfectly content to acknowledge it as a valid Council and then spend no further time and energy deciphering it.

    I propose dropping it from public awareness, and focusing on things like receiving the Sacraments, mental prayer, repentance, forgiveness, fighting our faults, and studying Church dogmas and moral teachings.

    • 1. Good comment. I hope they are reading that in the Vatican and in all the seminaries.
      2. But, alas, “pastoral” designation of the Vatican II Council was, I think, a ruse to slip new doctrines past the theological censors and conservative bishops.
      3. Now they defend these new “pastoral” ideas as if they are the holiest of all the sacred unalterable dogmas, which, for the Progressive faction, is exactly what they are.)
      4. What are the new doctrines that are actually found in the Vatican II Council’s official documents, and that were unknown or explicitly rejected in the pre-Vatican II Church? Traditional Catholic theologians have written books that go into detail on this subject. I must say that I have found some of these books to be very convincing.

      • The “pastoral” designation of the Council also makes any truly new doctrine entirely null and void. An act of Ordinary Magisterium must accord with past teaching, or it isn’t Magisterial at all. That is my answer to points 1, 2, and 4.

        I do understand that the Progressive folks will need to be redirected with immense quantities of patience and persistence (and prayer). I propose asking them 2 questions: Where is that in the Council documents? (since much of what they say was invented and then passed by ‘telephone’) and: Where is that in Church teaching *before* the Council?

        • This is the hermeneutic of continuity that Pope Benedict XVI talked about. Although I might not mention that to the Progressives right away, they seem a tad allergic.

    • AMEN. Why do we waste our valuable God-given time on things of little value?
      The circus clowns and fools ‘in charge’ can continue their ambiguous and self-serving, interpretations of VCII until the cows cross the Tiber and go home. The circus tent will grow bigger to accommodate them together with the wild ‘boors’ which recently took up residence there.

  15. 1. Casey Chalk, in this article, recommended a new annotated collection of the documents issued by Vatican II Council, as published by Bishop Robert Barron.
    2. The subtitle on these volumes is: “With Commentary from the Postconciliar Popes”
    3. That makes me wonder: Why commentary only from POSTconciliar popes?
    4. Why no quotations from PREconciliar popes?
    5. Imagine if a Catholic in the year 1611 was trying to convince Protestants of the rightness and goodness of the texts of the Council of Trent (which ended about 50 years earlier, in 1563). And suppose that Catholic published an annotated edition of the texts of the Council of Trent in order to convince this Protestant of the rightness and goodness of the texts of the Council of Trent. Would that Catholic only include annotations from popes who who were in office in the 50 years AFTER the Council of Trent ended? Would that be convincing to the Protestant? Hardly, since the popes who immmediately followed the Council of Trent are likely to have been at the Council of Trent as bishops or theological advisers, and would in any case have to be committed to the texts of the Council of Trent in order to hold office as pope in the post-Trent period.
    6. On the contrary, wouldn’t a Protestant in the year 1611 be more interested in, and potentially more convinced by and converted by, annotations from PRE-Couuncil of Trent popes, saints, theologians, Doctors of the Church, Church Fathers, and Holy Scripture?
    7. So, why doesn’t Bishop Barron, in his annotated edition of the Vatican II documents, include annotations from Pope Pius XII, Pope Pius XI, Saint Pope Pius X, Pope Pius IX, Pope Gregory XVI, and so on? If Vatican II only taught sound traditional doctrines, as conservative Catholics generally assert, wouldn’t quotations from pre-Vatican II popes overcome the allegation by traditionalists that the Vatican II documents contain doctrines that are antagonistic to or expressly condemned by Sacred Tradition?
    8. Yet, Bishop Barron’s annotated collection of the documents of the Vatican II Council seems to take the typical Progressive approach of acting as though the Pre-Vatican II magisterium has been erased by Vatican II, which Vatican II serving as re-founding of the Church, a new start, a new church, a new liturgy, a new mission, new spirit, new everything.

    • Dear Gus:

      Thought provoking, thank you. Encouragement to look to Christ is perhaps hinted at in your comments!

      Can we go wrong in keeping with the words of our Saviour? Christ sorts out confusion that tends to attach itself too easily to mankind!



    • “Why commentary only from POSTconciliar popes?” Great point.

      As long as Vatican II is seen as something very new, and something that needs to be pushed along as a pet project of recent popes, it will not be absorbed into the heart of the faithful. The gospel remains the same. The fixation with new expressions, new modes, etc., is both helpful and hurtful. I think a true saying is this: If you have to go to great lengths to prove something relevant, just how relevant is it?

      I love Vatican II for its affirmations on Scripture, and its overture to Protestantism

      I also hold Bishop Barron a bit suspect, since despite all his good – some terrific — material, he hews to a Balthasarian quasi-universalism. Which sounds a but like our current Holy Father.

      But this is all a helpful discussion. I hope at some point someone publishes all the original schema of Vatican II, those that were rejected, along with commentary. The more information out there, the better.

      • “Why commentary only from POSTconciliar popes?”

        Because it’s difficult for pre-conciliar popes to comment on Vatican II? Just a guess.

        • They can comment on the same things that Vatican 2 discussed. And in fact did so. It’s not like the Council added new subjects to the world that didn’t exist before to be discussed.

          Given the hermeneutic of continuity that goes with dealing in objective truth, you would expect to find at least inklings of the Council’s teachings in the Early Church Fathers, to say nothing of the Medieval theologians, and the Saints of the last 2 millennia.

          • 1. Amanda, well said.
            2. What you described is a fundamental aspect of the methodoly of Catholic theology (as traditionally practiced), and an essential component of the “hermeneutic of continuity.”
            3. The very nature of Bishop Barron’s volumes of the Vatican II texts, since they contain only commentary from the post-Vatican II papal magisterium, and completely ignore the very substantial and important pre-Vatican II papal magisterium, makes me think that someone could be justified in wondering if Bishop Barron’s volumes are a manifestation of the theology of rupture that is prevalent among the Progressives in the Church.

          • “… you would expect to find at least inklings of the Council’s teachings in the Early Church Fathers…”

            “Lumen Gentium,” to take one of the four major document of the Council, is deeply steeped in patristics and Scripture. (One can readily see the influence of ressourcement/patristic scholars such as Danielou and de Lubac in the texts.) The 304 endnotes are all from Scripture, for example, and the 175 supplementary notes are mostly references to/from the works of early Church Fathers, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, etc., along with many many popes from the past 200 years (Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI, Pius XII, etc).

            I’ve actually had more traditional/ist Catholics tell me that LG confused them and that they didn’t really “get” the language. That is curious, to say the least, as the primary language of LG is that of Scripture, but through the prism of 2000 years of Tradition. For what it’s worth.

          • Carl, I wasn’t referring to the Vatican 2 documents themselves, I’m aware that those make references to a lot of Fathers and Saints. My point was regarding Bishop Barron’s book.

            I think I skipped Lumen Gentium. But I’m not actually surprised that the document on ecclesiology is confusing. The doctrine on that has yet to be nailed down regarding the levels of authority the Magisterium has, and how that plays out in practice. I mean, obviously when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, that’s infallible, or confirms a doctrinal teaching required for salvation taught by a Church Council, and also obviously, no cleric of any rank has the authority to command anyone to do evil. While doctrine has narrowed it down a bit more than that, there’s still a lot of gray in between, and Vatican 2’s general response to gray was to stand on both sides of the issue, sometimes this and sometimes that (being neither dogmatic nor disciplinary). If Vatican 2 had clarified any of these issues, it would be a dogmatic Council. If you expect truth and guidance, rather than discussion, discussion can be quite confusing. Rather like how lemonade tastes awful when you expect iced tea.

          • “But I’m not actually surprised that the document on ecclesiology is confusing.”

            But…it’s not confusing at all. Rather, this particular Catholic seemed completely uncomfortable with the language of Scripture, while apparently being much more at home with a manualist approach. Now, I actually really like scholastic theology (St. Thomas Aquinas is my patron saint) and have no bone to pick with it. But Catholics really should be comfortable with theological language rooted directly in Scripture and using biblical images, motifs, etc.

            I’ve used LG as the text for several ecclesiology and soteriology courses I’ve taught over the years, and the students love it.

          • There are a lot of things that Catholics ought to be familiar with in an ideal world, and some aren’t. A lot more things that Catholic Cardinals ought to be familiar with, and some aren’t. A traditionalist (or a million of them) confused by LG is not in my top 10 list of ecclesiastical problems. Or my top 100. Especially as Scripture frequently is confusing. Scripture even says it is. If you don’t notice any difficulties, you’re probably a misinterpretation machine.

            If you’re right about the manualist approach, then yeah, switching to Scripture and Church Fathers is quite confusing, because the language is more poetic and less defined. Scripture might use the word “judge” 3 different ways, where a scholastic will tend to strictly define it and then only use it in the defined way. If you primarily read Scripture, the changing definitions might go unnoticed, or might not be confusing, where a person used to a strict definition will try to apply it to all uses and quickly get confused, or come up with very wrong interpretations. I’ve run into a lot of people, from engineers to Protestants, who cannot easily track the changes in usage of the same word without explicitly calling their attention to the different usages, even outside of theology. Vatican 2 docs don’t tend to define their terms or distinguish between the definition used in one sentence, and the one used three sentences (or fifty) before. Making a scholastic-style glossary might be an interesting exercise.

        • 1. Mr. Olson, I respect you, and I can appreciate a sarcastic jab made with good humor.
          2. But you and I both know that the Holy Spirit of God is timeless and is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8).
          3. So, yes, what the pre-Vatican papal magisterium said on subjects addressed by Vatican II texts is forever very relevant to any reading of the Vatican II texts.
          4. That’s a basic and fundamental point of the methodololy of Catholic theology.
          5. Mr. Olson, don’t you agree that the Holy Spirit of God, as present in the magisterium of the Church, is eternal, timeless, and all-knowing?
          6. Dear Sir, don’t you agree that there simply CANNOT be a Post-Vatican II Catholicism and Pre-Vatican II Catholicsm, there can only be the eternal Catholicism?

          • Sigh. If you were familiar at all with any of my writing (and there are hundreds of pieces to choose from), you’d know your questions about my knowledge and beliefs are silly. Even insulting.

            The papal commentary in these two volumes is specifically about various Vatican II documents. It’s that simple. This isn’t a conspiracy.

            But, see, I don’t view Vatican II as the beginning of the Church; I’m not a progressive. I’m an orthodox Catholic who reads and understands Vatican II in the light of Scripture, Tradition, previous Councils, etc. And certainly John Paul II and Benedict did the same (I’m not so convinced about Francis in that regard, at times).

            Feel free to criticize the books in question, but I don’t think that having a collection of Vatican II documents with commentary by recent popes is an outlandish, heretical, or misleading project.

  16. The Essential Conundrum:
    1. In this article theologian Casey Chalk wisely writes: “If, in my frustration with the many milquetoast manifestations of contemporary Catholic worship, I decided to antagonistically plant my flag in opposition to Vatican II, why stop there? I would, in effect, have returned to the same individualist paradigm I had inhabited as a Presbyterian.”
    2. This is indeed a poignant, excruciating, and difficult issue.
    3. I think that some of the more thoughtful, erudite, serious, and sober of the traditionalist Catholic theologians and writers have taken this issue seriously, and they may have arrived at positions that attain a sort of “best of all possible worlds” (to borrow Spinoza’s phrase) position that is a healthy and holy balance of obedience to Church authorities and obedience to eternal Truth.
    4. No human being in the Church, no matter what office he holds, has a lawful right or power to demand that any Catholic be disloyal or disobedient to the eternal Truth.
    5. Mr. Chalks in this article writes of the “fundamental incoherency” of Protestantism.
    6. Traditional Catholic theologians are people who’ve read so deeply in the pre-Vatican II magisterium (particularly the 150 years or so prior to Vatican II) that they believe that they likewise can’t help but see the “fundamental incoherency” in doctrine was forced into the life of the Catholic Church by the texts of Vatican II.
    7. And so, to stop the demotion and deterioration of Catholic life that has been going on for the last 50 years, these thinkers believe that corrections need to be made to the errant doctrines and practices that have permeated the Church due to certain statements found in a few of the documents of Vatican II that give authority and approval to these errant doctrines and practices.

  17. Believe me when I say I do not intend my remarks “to be needlessly combative or inflammatory.” I pray earnestly each day for the RCC to be faithful to its ancient paths.
    I, too, left Protestantism – and am now Eastern Orthodox. Permit me to ask: 1) Why parochialism was enough to quickly turn you away from any consideration of Orthodoxy? and 2) Why you then embraced a Roman Catholic Church that for at least 60 years has been inexorably drifting towards a modernist, semi-Protestant worldview?
    For instance, what is taught at most Catholic colleges and universities has become virtually indistinguishable from viewpoints at their secular counterparts. And many modern Roman Catholic theologians are modern/post-modern in how they read scripture (and thus, occasionally, in historic Christian doctrines).
    More pointedly, there can really be no denying that priestly sexual activities and abuse have been systemic, rampant, hierarchical problems for at least many decades. I am no Donatist, but I truly struggle to understand how what parochialism exists in the Orthodox world could be a greater barrier to one seeking a home within the historic Christian Faith.
    I know first-hand how terribly difficult it is to be a Protestant attempting to live a life of faith and obedience to Christ and his larger church. I can only believe it is not much easier these days for many Roman Catholics to attend Mass with full confidence in their Church.

    • Given that 1/12 of the original group of bishops was patently awful, I don’t think our confidence was ever supposed to be directed primarily toward the clergy. They are quite powerful tools in God’s hands, and equally destructive should they remove themselves.

      The confidence is directed toward God, who promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church… so when you find the Church, you stay there, no matter how badly the battle seems to be going at the time, or how many turncoats, traitors, and fleeing officers there are.

      • Amanda, I appreciate your reply – and I get it. Respectfully, though, I guess my honest response would have to be that I’m convinced I have “found the Church” – in Orthodoxy.

          • Also fairly stated :o) I would note, however, that Judas was never a bishop or an apostle. He was a disciple, who took his own life pre-resurrection and was never a part of the Church or Body of Christ.

          • I thought the ordination of the apostles took place before Jesus’ death, as he had already sent them in His name, given them the power to forgive sins (Matthew 18), and commanded them to “do this in remembrance of Me”.

            They were certainly bishops before Pentecost, but it does seem a bit open to interpretation as to when it occurred before then. It’s just that no sending of the Spirit or commissioning after Jesus’ resurrection recorded in Scripture seems substantially different in kind from what was given before.

  18. No doubt the Second Vatican Council was «valid», the serious iconoclasm of the post conciliar decades is another matter. The image illustrating this article speaks eloquently of a Church confident.
    Liturgy cannot be «secondary». The Holy Catholic Church at prayer and the manner in which it is effected is not a matter of personal preference or taste. The Liturgy is a window to the ageless heart of the Church.
    The Liturgy developed «organically», it had/has very deep roots. The modern showcase of confected offerings where the Holy One, the Incarnate Divinity, the essential Catholicism, struggling for a presence among the social greetings, chatter, clerical witticism, diversity issues, regimented inclusivity and other secular distractions is shallow. It is showcase subject to passing trend.
    The ancient does not need an update. Intelligent maintenance is enough.
    One grows weary of the repeated «whitewashing» to hide the state of the patched up modern edifice.

  19. An Analogy:
    1. To this day we hear Marxists claiming that Marxism is true and good, but that Marxism was simply misapplied in the cases of the USSR, Mao’s China, N. Korea, Cuba, and so on. And so, they say, we must continue to push forward with Marxism as the solution to the world’s ills.
    2. Now, forgive me, but to my ears, that sounds an awful lot like the assertion of some Catholics that the pastoral texts of Vatican II pastoral council are true and good, but were simply pastorally misapplied over the last 50 years by the very bishops who voted for those pastoral texts at the pastoral council.
    3. Doesn’t the Holy Spirit call us to the virtue of prudence, which might also be called common sense?
    4. It’s true that correlation does not always mean causation, but sometimes correlation most certainly is a strong sign of causation–right?

    • 1. It is certainly possible to misapply a good idea, and to correctly apply a bad idea, and to misapply a bad idea. Marxism was both a bad idea, and misapplied. True communism would utterly destroy a people, rather than “merely” killing tens of millions and making the rest miserable. Communist countries have invariably fallen back on strictly curtailed capitalism whenever the leaders decide they don’t want to starve too. But that doesn’t tell us which of the three applies to Vatican 2.

      2. The pastoral texts were misapplied, and the bishops who voted for those texts, at least in the case of the Novus Ordo, have been documented as objecting to the result. That said, plenty of bishops and priests at the time of the Council, and before, were progressives. Add in Curial demands for secrecy on matters that might embarrass the Church, well, I doubt there was much of a culture of raising objections to an ecumenical Church Council publicly.

      3. The virtue of prudence actually isn’t common sense. Rather, it is the virtue that teaches us the practical things to do to get into heaven. Common sense refers to the more profane side of life.

      4. Correlation is certainly correlated with causation. Similarly, the fallacy of “after this, therefore because of it”, is a fallacy, but everything that is caused by something, comes after that thing.

      That said, the more variables you have in play, the more work you have to do to eliminate or understand the extent of influence of the other variables. It seems clear to me that, given the progressives clergy already in the ranks pre-Vatican 2, that a great deal of harm would have been done even without Vatican 2. Whether you assert that the Council texts have some problems in themselves, or that they were merely misapplied by some Council Fathers as the other Fathers were pigeonholed and silenced, requires that such clergy exist and be able to wield a good deal of power, prior to the Council.

  20. On the presupposed imagery that eternity is “timeless,” somewhere in his writings Ratzinger/emeritus Pope Benedict clarified, instead, that eternity is not separately “timeless,” but rather enjoys “dominion” over time. Dominion? What’s the distinction?

    Might it be that inside our heads we moderns falsely imagine too much of a dichotomy between time and eternity? Rather than something less Cartesian and more, shall we say, creative? It’s almost as if the singular event of the Incarnation is here to demonstrate once and for all, so to speak, the intimacy of an infinitely expansive God who is above, with and within his finite creation…The confounding humility of God?

    Why, before you know it, we might be thinking sacramentally again, or even thinking of the Church itself as a sacrament—not channeling but literally indwelled by the Holy Spirit? And which, say, most recently in the Second Vatican Council took a coherent (and yet with human fingerprints) shot at both BEING what it is while also ENGAGING the world (ressourcement and aggiornamento)? And, with the Magisterium as a living and breathing and yet timely dimension of the well-grounded Mystical Body of Christ?

    Something to think about, less polemically and more contemplatively—for Protestants, but equally for poorly informed/formed Catholics including earlier termites of the Council. And, now pseudo-Catholics imposters who in Germany especially are recklessly rocking the boat and wreckfully disrupting the universal Barque of Peter.

  21. My comment is a digression from all the prior discussion but actually kind of apropos given that Liturgy is at the heart of debate: I’m pretty sure the first photo is not just of any “meeting” being presided over by Pope Paul VI. It is actually an Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy being celebrated in front of Pope Paul VI; note the Byzantine style “portable iconostasis” of the Theotokos at left and Christ at the right of the photo’s lower right corner (in the scheme of the larger iconostasis layout, these two icons traditionally flank the entrance to the altar in Eastern Catholic churches, and it is typical that we set up at least these two when we are celebrating in a Western Rite space). Also note the Eastern style vestments being worn by all those standing on the floor in the middle and around what is most likely an altar in the very center (and those are definitely bishops wearing miters)! — Fr. David Meinzen, a priest of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago

  22. The author is encouraged to defend the Council against the traditionalists because of the authority principle but seems reluctant to defend Pope Francis similarly based on the same principle. Does he (or anyone else similarly positioned) have a way to maintain this without being concerned about the same kind of incoherence which motivated his return from his Protestant wanderings?

  23. These books… Having now read through them, I have lots of impressions.

    One is that they are gorgeous. Word on Fire has set a new standard of excellence in publishing beautiful books.

    I loved the essays by Matthew Levering. I found Barron’s a bit less successful. Reading his apologia, and then reading Ottaviani’s “Intervention,” I felt like O had the stronger hand. That said, I recommend this debate:

    And I also wish Barron had included Paul VI’s Credo…

    Vatican II is under-appreciated, so WOF’s books are helpful. But Trads are also onto something: there’s no way conciliar docs as prolix as VII can be considered infallible.

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