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Boomers or bust? On Vatican II and generational arguments

Some clarifications on my thoughts about Boomers, Millennials, and the most recent ecumenical council.

Undated photo of St. Peter's Basilica during Second Vatican Council. (Lothar Wolleh/Wikipedia)

I recently penned a Crisis online article, titled “OK Boomer: It’s time to move on from Vatican II,” which (unbelievably to me) received responses from George Weigel and Dr. Larry Chapp.

I respect the work of both men very much, and I am beyond grateful for the replies.

But before more of my heroes destroy me on the internet, I feel it’s time to clarify a few things.

It seems Mr. Weigel and Dr. Chapp took my words as some sort of anti-boomer traditionalist manifesto. In fact, I do not self-identify as a traditionalist, and I adopted the intergenerational anger for the sake of satire. In a testament to their fine characters (and my poor writing) both Mr. Weigel and Dr. Chapp seemed to take me seriously in a way I never thought they would; actually, I never hoped they would read me. I wasn’t sure anyone would, and certainly not anyone whom I would want to read. Perhaps I was careless with my words; but such is the risk of jest. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “the internet is no place for jokes.”

Still, every satire has an underlying message, and mine is no exception. My intended point, however, was limited. Dr. Chapp was right when he said “a more contentless essay would be hard to imagine.” For the essay was saying less about theology than sociology; and a more contentless -ology would be hard to imagine, indeed.

My singular claim was that we, as members of the Church, are stuck in an endless spin-cycle over Vatican II—its meaning, interpretation, implementation, legacy, et cetera, et cetera.

And this is not productive—it’s counterproductive.

I didn’t mean that we should reject Vatican II, especially not its doctrines. Nor did I mean that those doctrines themselves are now irrelevant.

I certainly don’t mean that we all should just go back to the Latin Mass; or that no one should read Mr. Weigel’s excellent book, To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II.

What I did ask was that we treat Vatican II like we treat any other ecumenical council. Which is to say—to stop using it as the starting and ending point for any and all Catholic thought.

And here, I think, I am proved by the very fact of a response from such giants as Dr. Chapp and Mr. Weigel, self-identifying as baby-boomers in their replies. We can’t stop fighting the same old ecclesial battles, even as the old ecclesia is crumbling before us. Continued litigation over Vatican II is reheating chewed food.

If this is generational at all, the irony is rich. If many young people feel the way I do, it’s because they’ve already been convinced of what the Council means by the likes of Mr. Weigel and Dr. Chapp. We learned the authentic interpretation of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI because these men taught it well.

I’m sure both would respond that not everyone is convinced by them, nor by such fine popes. But I don’t believe anything more can be said to convince. Cycling through the same story again and again is not only tiring, but at this point unhelpful.

The encyclicals and catechisms are already there; and, as Mr. Weigel and Dr. Chapp have reminded us, we have only to read them.

(Editor’s note: A longer and more detailed response by Mr. Lucas, along with a reply by Dr. Chapp, can be read on the GaudiumEtSpes22 website.)

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About Adam Lucas 2 Articles
Adam Lucas has a Master's in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville (Dec '22). He writes from from Pittsburgh, where he lives with his wife and their newborn baby.


  1. I agree with Mr. Lucas that we need to get on with it.
    However, not everyone is familiar with the work of JPII and BXVI on the Council and generally. To say that those two giants got a bad rap from the secular media (which influence Catholics, believe it or not) is a gross understatement. In fact, the fawning attitude of the media to Pope Francis is what made me take a second look at what I now see was my own very jaundiced view of his immediate predecessors.

  2. Whatev.

    I’m happy the satirical Mr Lucas doesn’t *really* want to ignore Vatican II, even though he said he thought maybe it’s time to ignore it.

    Not really theologically on-the-ball to just “ignore” a major general council of the Church, especially one as full-bodied as the most recent one, even if, aggiornomento-style, it isn’t the Latest Thing and it’s a whole 60 years old.

    A whole 60 years old!

    Some people now talk about feeling as if the Church has returned to 1971. Some who are saying that, um, weren’t even around in 1971 or were just barely so. But ok. It kinda does seem like it when “Today’s Youth” start sounding like they think their Church is stuck in the past because the last Council was … 60 years ago.

    Still, whether or not to ignore Vatican II we can’t decide, because “no answer will be reached until the questions are asked in the correct modern context.”

    The trouble is, history is a thing of the past; there’s no future in it. How can we ever get the correct modern context when today so quickly becomes yesterday?

    Meanwhile, some of us *are* moving on–*with* Vatican II–and not *from* it. The Jesus way. The Spirit way. The Catholic way. Without amnesia.

    I hope Mr Lucas is onboard. I think he is. He seems to be serious here, not satirical.

    But, as I say, whatev.

    Some Boomers used to say about the Church of What’s Happening Now, “The Holy Spirit is doing things the Holy Ghost never did.”

    Some Millennials say, with an eye on 1955 rather than the ancient 1965, “Who needs the Holy Spirit? The Church did pretty well with Holy Ghost for two thousand years.”

    While they’re at it, they’d just as soon ghost Vatican II.

    But ghosts have a way of coming back to haunt. Just as history has a way of repeating itself. We’ll see what Gen Alpha has in store. It may decide larping 1975 (in jest, of course; with a satirical wink) is better than 1955.

    • I agree Mark. I find it ironic that the young folks today who are serious Catholics who are most vocal about “moving on” from Vatican II and that we should ignore it because it is now so “yesterday” are quite often the same young Catholics who are clamoring for the restoration of large elements of the pre-conciliar Church, which is even older! And I hope people who read Mr. Lucas here in CWR also take the time to read the exchange he and I had which is posted on my blog and which is linked at the bottom of this article. Adam posts an even longer clarification in that blog post (which I like) and I have an even longer response which lays out the reasons for why Vatican II is actually more relevant today than ever. I am just happy that CWR has decided to publish this exchange of views.

      • That’s CWR. Ever the catalyst of dialogue.

        Adam was having a bit of satirical fun at CRISIS. Looks like he got more notice than anticipated. Some of which was less fun or less than fun, evidently.

        Well, I think we older folks deserve a bit of satirical fun too.

        All in good fun, right?

        Larry, I appreciate your engagement of Adam.

        More broadly, here’s what I think about this matter. Not sure how much you agree but here we go:

        Re: whether someone thinks Vatican II should be ignored or forgotten, the fact remains that it’s not going to be. The present pontificate isn’t ignoring or forgetting it. Some pastors and theologians say Pope Francis doesn’t understand or rightly apply Vatican II. Whatever one thinks of that claim, it certainly means Vatican II isn’t going away or debates about it are going to end soon.

        As much, then, as this Millennial or that GenZ-er or this Boomer (for that matter), may talk about how we should forget or ignore Vatican II, or “move on” from debates about it, Vatican II is and will be, for some time, a major point of Church focus and disagreement. Thus, how it is interpreted and implemented (correctly or not) will continue to affect Catholics. The *vast* majority of Catholics.

        That being the case, unless someone has a time machine, the options for most ordinary Catholics are 1) to ignore Vatican II debates and to let others determine how Vatican II will be interpreted and applied; or 2) to make Vatican II one’s own and work to help make sure it is properly understood and implemented.

        Vatican II is no Para-Council (to use Conciliar peritus Henri de Lubac’s term of derision for its abuse), but neither is it just one more council, right alongside and no more pertinent to 2023 than the 5th Lateran Council. This is not least because Vatican II is the *most recent council*, is wide-ranging in scope, deals with issues still pressing on the Church’s life and mission, and has been the papacy’s point of departure for the last 60 years.

        So while some may want to “move on from” Vatican II, that’s not going to happen in the Real Church most Catholics live in. Instead, we can and should “move on with” Vatican II, as a *part*–not the whole but part–of Church’s life and mission. An important part.

        I know you agree with at least the last part, Larry. I hope Adam and his friends do too.

  3. Lucas writes: “Continued litigation over Vatican II is reheating chewed food.”But that’s just the point; it’s NOT “chewed food.”

    Instead, functionally illiterate operatives at high places within the Church are still trying to remove it from the table. They speak with forked tongue. Rather than alleged “litigation,” the call is to keep it in place—as a way forward, not “backward.”

    The “ressourcement” fact of Jesus Christ (Dei Verbi) is the main course for the Church to BE what it is (Lumen Gentium); something more than mostly “walking together” to the tune of pied piper “facilitators” (a half-baked aggiornamento from a few dull notes in Gaudium et Spes) and those “expert” word-merchant harmonizers for whatever the synodalism cat drags in.

    In celebration of the fixed-meaning of Latin: “Illegitimi non carborundum!”

    • What is this? A carnival booth hawking tickets to cirque de soliel?

      -First, Crisis publishes Lucas’ original article.
      -Next, CWR publishes Chapp attack. Editor entitles or adds byline or subtitle, inciting internecine generational slap.
      -Again next, CWR prints Lucas’ comeback which attempts peacemaking. Synchronously Chapp tries making nice at Gaudium site.
      -Brumley brews and serves a new NeoCIIsat. Not nice.

      Boomers should know better.

      Crumbbed clears

        • Very Good. Some of all ages have given up junk food and addictive Internet chatter….but yes, you are correct about food and fun. I brushed the winter dust off my ‘juvenile’ spring-time ASICS a few days back.

      • Sorry, Gilberta. Pressed for time, I’m careless in my posting. My comment was in reply to Mr. Brumley’s first comment, not to you nor to his second comment. I agree that all this squabbling is much ado about everything nebulous in VCII.

        Whether or not our bishops speak up, whether or not theology has benefitted, whether or not pew-sitters ‘get’ or care about any jot of it, the EFFECT of the Council has been mass confusion, varying interpretation, misuse and abuse and downright LIES as justified by its documents. Of course there is division portending schism and worsening apostasy in upper levels of the hierarchy.

        I expect engaged Catholics will agree to continue to disagree ad infinitum under this torn, thunderously flapping, and barely sheltering big top for fear of something worse. Oy vey.

  4. Something rarely seen these days: a sincere apology in writing, and this from a young man.

    Well done Mr. Lucas. Well done.

  5. Uh huh. This is one of those “I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but [you don’t get to criticize me for saying it]” situations. Yeah, we do. You said it. It wasn’t a joke. Joking about bigotry isn’t funny when that bigotry is fully active and in force. Hint: “boomers” are individuals, to start with. Another Hint: Trad tyrants aren’t bothering to actually read anything about Vatican II because they firmly believe every myth they’ve made up about it and studying the reality would just muck that up. So many logs in so many eyes.

    • “Trad tyrants”… Another chimera invented every day. You should send this to Pope Pachamama for addition to his Little Book of Insults.

  6. In political terms, I believe that the discussion of Mr. Lucas, Mr. Weigel and Dr. Chapp would be termed “within the beltway issues,” as in practice they have no real effect on the typical Catholic in the pew.

    Also, I find interesting Dr. Chapp’s listing of Bishops’ collegiality (in his referenced article) as one of the two doctrinal developments of Vatican II. Really? In view of recent orders by the Vatican to Bishops, even down to and including what can be included in parish bulletins, it would seem that their authority depends on the whims of the current pope. Given the weakness of our Bishops in the areas of teaching and governing, that would not be such a bad thing under the previous two popes, but not so good now.

    • Crusader I agree with you that there is a deep contradiction in the current papacy which loves to position itself as the champion of Vatican II when in point of fact Pope Francis does not govern with collegiality in view and rules by motu proprio diktats. What is needed therefore is for bishops to push back against this papal overreach. A few are but not nearly enough.

      But this sad reality is why your first comment, with all due respect, is a bit rash I think. Because what is going on in Rome right now — in the name of Vatican II! — is having a direct impact on average Catholics in the pews. Therefore, it is incumbent upon those of us who have a certain public platform in the Church to continue to defend a proper understanding of the Council, rooted in its actual texts and in the interpretation given to it by Popes JPII and Benedict. Because if we don’t the void will be filled by the likes of Cardinal Mcelroy and Austin Ivereigh. This is not “inside the beltway” politics but a real and important debate with a lot at stake.

      • Dr. Chapp, thank you for your comments.
        I agree with you that “what is going on in Rome right now – in the name of Vatican II” is not good. But, to repeat myself in previous comments, to 99 out of a 100 Mass going Catholics Vatican II means the Mass is in English and the priest faces the people. They go to Mass on Sunday, listen to the homily, receive the Eucharist, hopefully pray during the week, and try to lead a moral life. After 60 years, the particulars of the Vatican II documents have no real bearing on their religious life. It has been not years, but decades, since I have even heard a parish priest refer to Vatican II documents.

        • I believe VII does have an influence in the lives of ordinary Catholics. How many believe that there is no real difference between a paracting Catholic or Protestant, they like us, pray to Jesus so it’s all good. Even non chritan religions have elements of truth so as long as they are good people they will be saved. The dogma Outside the church there is no salvation has been quietly dumped due to VII reinterpretation of ecumenism. The fruits of which are Assisi and the Abrahamic House.

  7. when i keep hearing from the church to accept vatican ii i have to ask: which one?

    I read this some time ago and thought it were apropos. Forget for the moment of the debate whether sspx is in or out of the church i thought this was a fairly good response: “In the case of the SSPX where the Vatican admin demands the SSPX submits to “Vatican 2”, to which the SSPX admin responds “Since we affirm all teaching prior to Vatican 2, to what exactly in Vatican 2 documents are we to specifically submit that is different than what we were taught before?”

    To which the Vatican responds “You must submit to Vatican 2″…

  8. Lucas can say what he wants now but his original “Ok boomer” essay already said what it said quite clearly with Lucas basically repeating it here. And Chapp answered the points very well whether Lucas has them as satire or as serious objection. All proving that good can come out of the continuation of discussion. Individuals posting comments to Chapp’s essay made their own good contributions and knowledge is still being added to everyone else’s advantage. Why you would want to credit yourself with satirizing the Council and those who handle it responsibly?

    Many got it wrong and many continue to get it wrong. At the coomission of the Apostles Jesus sent them to make disciples among the nations. It does not say “missionary disciples”. Berrigan’s “absurd convictions, modest truths”, is NOT the Council and never will be. Nothing in the Council suggests that the Church is going to have to exaggerate herself in order to be holy or to witness. It would be the furthest thing from the truth. The Council up-ends nothing from faith and defends the Church from an invigorated reactionism within and without. The Council is the eminent proto-instruction and guide. It applies today as much as ever.

  9. Compared to the verbosity and ambiguity of the soundbites of Pope Francis and Fr. James Martin, Vatican II sounds rather old-fashioned. And the maligned-as-liberal RSV of the Bible in 1970 still capitalized pronouns.

    I am perfectly happy to hear talks about Vatican II from the likes of George Weigel. But when it is involved by Massimo Faggiolo, it does not seem in sync with tradition. The documents have never been the real problem. At the parish level, it is all about the hearts and minds of the teachers. I have heard Scott Hahn speak on Dei Verbum and it fired my heart like a Billy Graham sermon. I have also read Raymond E. Brown on Dei Verbum, and it challenged my faith as much as the deconstructionist content of my freshman college New Testament course.

  10. Well, I’m a boomer and I agree with the original article. The post VII era seems to me to have been an unmitigated disaster for the Church. The columns defending it read very much like a corporate management bureaucrat trying to explain that we just don’t understand or appreciate their pet project that has never worked. Theologians and clerics can keep having eternal “inside baseball” discussions about VII but the rotten fruits of these years are pretty obvious to us regular folks in the pews.

    • I am also a boomer, and I will NEVER return to the Vatican II church. I fled the guitars, the tambourines, the “everybody-is-a-minister” liturgies, and the incessant jabbering about the 300,000 word Council. No thanks. It is fascinating that in the 30 years that I attended Byzantine Divine Liturgy (to escape the typical Novus Ordo options) I never once heard any reference to Vatican II in any homily. Not. One. Single. Time. For the rest of the Catholic world, the Gospels and the lives of the saints appear to be guide enough for Christian life. But in the Novus Ordo church, one can get easily the impression that Christianity is only about 60 years old.

    • To NeoCarlist:
      “The columns defending it read very much like a corporate management bureaucrat trying to explain that we just don’t understand or appreciate their pet project that has never worked.”

      Very well said.

  11. I got the real point the original article was making (not sure if that’s because I’m a Millennial).

    “We, as members of the Church, are stuck in an endless spin-cycle over Vatican II—its meaning, interpretation, implementation, legacy, et cetera, et cetera.
    And this is not productive—it’s counterproductive.
    …Stop using [the Second Vatican Council] as the starting and ending point for any and all Catholic thought.”


    Nothing screams “self-referential”, in the sense that Pope Francis warns about, more than a discussion that is about the Council *instead of* being about the real issues that the Council was about.

    I’m not happy with blaming the Church’s problems on Vatican II, but I’m equally nauseated with forcibly centering everything on Vatican II (“Score one for Vatican II”? Really?)
    Both camps, of blame and defense, ring hollow, desperate, but above all unnecessary.

  12. Truly, Vatican II was grossly hijacked by the prevailing culture of being mod, the summer of love and feeling groovy. One either follows God with His Truth, Who has created us in His image out of true love, or one interprets
    God with respect to what one wants. With our free will and the fallen world, without loving God, as He has commanded, brings peril. The link between love and life gets severed. Existence gets threatened, and all Hell breaks loose. Untempered and unthoughtful liberalism is unsustainable. Generations to come will need to learn this. Actually, it’s pretty cliché. Unhealthy concentration of self leads to existential dissipation.

  13. Say what you want about Vatican. But we can all agree it’s implementation was a disaster.

    The counsel fathers wanted Latin and Gregorian chant to be preserved and just look at what is present today. We have a pope who uses his concept of Vatican II to destroy the very Latin mass the counsel fathers desired to preserve.

    When we consider turning the altars around, Eucharistic ministers, communion in the hand and female altar servers the next generation will have a huge task to right this sinking ship.

  14. In 1988 Ratzinger addressed the Chilean Bishops; the content was mainly VCII and Lefebvre. He says the Council was ‘merely pastoral.’ I’d adjudicate the quote as support for Mr. Lucas’ position. In fact Ratzinger’s point is exactly Mr. Lucas’.

    “The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.”

    (The address is online.)

  15. Meiron – apology accepted (not sure what your offense was).
    Mr. Brimley – I found your answer to my plea to get to the point rather insulting. I’m a big fan of clarity and succinctness. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think I should have to read a comment three times to get it.

  16. Meanwhile, we Gen Xers are not surprised we were forgotten again. I mean, we are the JPII generation. So, forgotten again. Typical.
    We’ll just continue to wait for the nuclear button to be pressed and then get on with our lives.

  17. Mr. Brumley – sorry. I think my tablet “corrected” my spelling.
    Fr. Dan G. – Sorry but I forget who Gen. X is supposed to be. And BTW, I am so tired of this broad-stroke stereotyping of whole swathes of human merely beings.

  18. “What I did ask was that we treat Vatican II like we treat any other ecumenical council. Which is to say—to stop using it as the starting and ending point for any and all Catholic thought.”

    One’s attitude toward the alleged ecumenical council Vatican II is a litmus test and a line in the sand. It seems that those who are orthodox almost always rely on sources before the same.

    AFAIK there is a perceived clear dichotomy, in the minds of many, between the “new” and the “old” Church. But truth doesn’t change. As such, one mustn’t follow the “American heresy” that “new” is true and “old” isn’t. SOUND (i.e logical) reason and continuity with Tradition and doctrine are essential.

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