Several months back Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman, OSB wrote a must read article over at his blog, One Foot in the Cloister. 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.