Time to Let Go of Vatican 2

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Several months back Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman, OSB wrote a must read article over at his blog, Dominus mihi adjutor. For those not familiar with Fr. Hugh, a Benedictine monk and priest of Douai Abbey in Berkshire, U.K., he is no liturgical bomb thrower. His arguments are always well reasoned and thoughtful, which is why it’s worth revisiting.

“Vale Vatican II: Moving On” verbalizes what a growing number of the faithful are finally coming to grips with. In the words of Fr. Hugh: “it is time now to let go of the Council.” While I encourage everyone to read the full article, there are several points worth highlighting here.

Fr. Hugh begins by making the (obvious) acknowledgement that the world has changed greatly since the 1960’s. This would hardly matter if the Council  had sought to clarify doctrine and timeless truths, but it is relevant for a Council claiming to be pastoral in its scope and very purpose. As Father writes:

It described itself as a pastoral council, and it sought to repackage the teaching, life and worship of the Church to suit a world in flux. For this very reason the Council was necessarily going to have a best-before date. That date has been passed. The sad thing is that its milk turned sour very soon after packaging.

Fr. Hugh rightly notes that “Catholic vitality has plummeted” in the post-conciliar years, at least when measured by weekly Mass attendance and vocations. There is no need to restate the dire data here. If one still disputes this they cannot be taken seriously and should step away from the grown up table; these discussions aren’t for you.

Father continues with an assessment of the ecclesial landscape of the last five decades:

By any reasonable standard of judgment the application of the Council failed, miserably, to achieve the Council’s aims. This statistical revelation of decline is quite apart from the decline experienced by Catholics as they have seen dogmas, doctrines, morals and many other elements of Catholic life thrown into chaos in the wake of the Council.

Acknowledging that the Church is indeed growing in much of the developing world (think Africa and Asia), Fr. Hugh notes that its growth in the west is only occurring in certain places:

But here’s the rub: it is growing precisely where much of what was discarded by the post-conciliaristas is slowly and sensibly being reclaimed and integrated into the world of 2017 rather than the mid-1960s. What they are reclaiming is essential, timeless Catholicism rather than the tired mantras and shibboleths of the “Vatican II Church”. The young have discovered, and many of the older re-discovered, that there was a Church before Vatican II, and it was healthy, vital and beautiful.

Fr. Hugh then states his simple, clear, and polemic free conclusion: it’s time to move on from the Council and (instead) to reclaim what the Church always was:

Thus it makes no sense to be constantly referencing every contemporary initiative to Vatican II, for justification or acceptance-value. It is time to move from a post-conciliar Church to a post-post-conciliar Church; which is to say, it is time to reclaim the Church as She has always been in her essence and her stable form, which has been able to function viably and vitally in every age and circumstance since the time of Christ.

A growing number of the faithful have indeed moved on from post-conciliarism. Among many Catholics, particularly the young, the sentiment and conclusions of Fr. Hugh are being realized. Our point of reference and foundation is the Church’s history and tradition, not simply the most recent Council in the history of the Church.

Sadly, it would seem few bishops have connected the dots yet. May thoughtful articles by thoughtful men, such as Fr. Hugh Somerville-Knapman, help them to finally move on (and move forward) as the Church reclaims “essential, timeless Catholicism.” For the sake of the salvation of souls, pray that it happens soon. 

Posted on February 4, 2018, in liturgy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. I like many of the Vatican II changes. The pre-Vatican 2 rituals and outward ceremonies were beautiful, but there is more to Christianity than that.

    • The most insidious part was the loss of sound doctrine. When the Friday abstinence was relaxed it was said we were “more mature” now, whatever that meant. Sounded odd to me then. Me more mature than the martyrs? My children received First Confession two years after First Communion. The rosary was denigrated. Purgatory doubted. I could go on and on. I’m so glad that the traditional Mass priests are emphasizing also the traditional doctrines and the need to be prepared for death, which is what the Church should be doing. Jesus said “My Kingdom is not of this world,” and we’ve been trying too hard to be part of this world.

    • To the extent you are talking about post-Vatican II liturgical reforms, consider whether the most important question is what style of Mass you prefer, or what is the best form of worship we can offer to God. And at the end of the day, there is no more to Christianity than that.

      • For me, the most important part of Christianity is the peace and strength that I get from unconditionally trusting in Christ. This is what made Christianity real for me; and it is a 24-7 thing.

      • You’re right, and the question is not what do I like but what does God want.

  2. Fr. Hugh rightly notes that “Catholic vitality has plummeted” in the post-conciliar years, at least when measured by weekly Mass attendance and vocations. There is no need to restate the dire data here. If one still disputes this they cannot be taken seriously and should step away from the grown up table; these discussions aren’t for you.

    Those who assert this rather than those who dispute it are the ones who cannot be taken seriously. The above statement is only true if one thinks that white First World Catholics are the only ones that count.

    That is unfortunate because if the polemics of those more aggrieved by loss of their cultural dominance rather than spiritual concerns could be set aside, there is a basis here for serious discussion.

    The serious discussion might start with the address of Cardinal George at Loyola University in October of 1999 along with his fellow panelists. And young Catholics in our own society and well as Pope Francis himself provide ample examples of a “third way” Catholic movement that is not part of either positive nor negative reaction to the Council.

    Such a discussion would actually be interesting as well as helpful to the Church today. But it requires both sides to drop their tired and outdated polemics.

    • Kurt states that the idea that Catholic vitality has plummeted in the post-conciliar years “is only true if one thinks that white First World Catholics are the only ones that count”.

      He ignores the parts of the article referencing areas outside the West, e.g.
      “Acknowledging that the Church is indeed growing in much of the developing world (think Africa and Asia)”, and also ignores the evidence for decay even in huge portions of the developing world.

      For example, the Church in Latin America grew in terms of raw numbers after Vatican II due to rapid population growth but has been hemorrhaging faithful as a % of population self-identifying as Catholic for decades now – to say nothing of Mass attendance, vocations, and belief. 1910 = 94%, 1950 = 94%, 1970 = 92%, 1995 = 80%, 2014 = 69%, 2017 = 59% and falling.

      That’s a 33 point drop in Catholics in a region of ~650M souls – or over 200 million souls.

      It is in this context that the injunction applies: “If one still disputes this they cannot be taken seriously and should step away from the grown up table; these discussions aren’t for you.”

      • Yes, Thorfinn bravo!

        In South America, it is not uncommon for Church attendance to be below 5% whichever country you care to sample.

        I lived in Ecuador for 7 years and the Church in South America was decimated by at least 45 years of liberation theology. Before Vatican II, the church attendance in South America had been north of 80% in any single country one cared to sample.

        The facts are inconvenient to anyone who does not like the preconceived notion that they are holding on to in order to get the answer they prefer.

        I’m really a pragmatist at heart. No one is helped by sticking one’s head in the sand or ignoring the glaring elephant in the room.

        The only way anyone gets healthy or corrects a problem is by admitting the problem and then working towards a solution. It does get tiring trying to point out facts for those who can’t be bothered by the numbers. I once had a pastor claim that 25% of his registered parishioners were coming to Mass each Sunday. Never mind that that number would have exceeded the capacity of the Church times the number of Sunday Masses! Then too, he wasn’t even interested in including all of the baptized Catholics living in his parish boundaries who were not practicing their faith.

        These discussions are somewhat hopeless when discussed with those who don’t want to know what they don’t know.

      • In Latin America we have a third situation, distinct from the post-VC2 evangelization in Africa and Asia. To say before Vatican II, the church attendance in South America had been north of 80% in any single country one cared to sample is laughable on its face. Take the population in 1950 and divide by the number of churches and you see how nuts this is.

        Whatever the faults of Liberation Theology, the pre-counciliar church in Latin America was an institution of the elite. The lower classes rarely saw a priest and the (native) priests (all from the elite and professional classes) were rarely interested in pastoral work with the poor. The worse case was Cuba which is why I am not surprised it went Communist.

  3. Only the willfully blind can deny Fr. Hugh’s assertions here. None — not one — of the goals of Vatican II has ever been attained; it is a rank failure regardless of how one measures its designs. What we have left from this bad idea is inane and dreary music unworthy even of the stage in Nashville, insipid sermons and vapid liturgies, empty confessionals, seriously declining numbers in the pews, the decimation of Catholic schools, widespread ignorance of even the most fundamental teachings of the Church, appallingly few vocations, and scandals that make the times of the Borgia Pope look like nirvana. The much-vaunted (by ‘progressives’ at least) “fruits of Vatican II? Sure there are fruits. Problem is they are all rotten. All of them, no exceptions.

  4. It’s not just Vatican II but society changed in the late 60s, we who remember the 50s see it so very clearly . I’m more convinced it was because we did not make the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart. Society as well as the Church have lost their way and the results are devastating.

  5. Salve Brian! Thank you for your kindness in taking the time to read and share my meagre contribution to reviving the Church.
    Blessings.

    • Thank you Dom Hugh! As I said in my post, your article brings a reasoned and charitable voice to this very important, and very delicate, matter. It was an honor to direct thoughtful Catholics to it.

  6. Ferdinand Gajewski

    A page on FB “Rev. Fr. Paul Wickens in memoriam” chronicles the demise of the Archdiocese of Newark under the aegis of +Peter Gerety and +Theodore McCarrick of unhappy memory.

  7. Vatican II provided some fruit if you follow that the Encyclicals of Saint John Paul the Great state how to implement the pastoral initiatives of the Council. Especially with his Encyclical, Christifidelis Laici which explains how the laity should work alongside the Pastors to spring up new Apostolates, which they have done in great numbers. This blog is an outgrowth of JPII’s pastoral insight of how to implement the Council. The Catechism and Code of Canon Law further implemented the Council. So, now, we have those resources. The documents are less necessary now that all the Apostolates have sprung up to show how it is “only through the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man takes on light (GeS, 22).” Oh, I guess we do need some of the great quotes from the documents to help us explain the work of these Apostolates!

  8. Now, I’ve been told that none of the documents of V2 called for any of the things that happened post V2 (turning altars, removing communion rails, et al). I’ve not read them, so assuming this is the case, isn’t it the tumultuous late 60s and the bishops of the time the real cause of the so-called spirit of V2? After all, we grow up in the society in which we live. We will be formed by secular society at least as much but probably more than by the Church unless our parents are assiduous in our proper formation in the Church.

    Just like now, in today’s society, you have the “normalization” of sodomy, and in the Church, you have clergymen who advocate for same-sex marriage or at least for the blessing of same-sex unions.

    Fortunately, we who did not receive a good formation in the faith when we were young can take advantage of podcasts, Catholic radio, and books to learn about the faith. Personally, since I’ve done this over the last about 12 years, I’ve discovered the beauty and infinite profundity of the faith and want everybody to know it. Unfortunately, sharing the faith is like sharing your awesome study abroad experiences. People will listen to a few stories and then want you to shut up. With the faith, people will listen for a little while and then want you to shut up.

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