Sunday, July 07, 2013

Still talking up that stupid council: two more saints not to be devoted to

The latest news in the church, besides Pope Benedict’s last/Pope Francis’ first encyclical, which I’ll take on faith as fine (the nature of the papal office means nothing can seriously go wrong with these), is, unsurprisingly, two more symbolic tributes to the council with which the church blighted itself last century (in America knocking it from its height under Cardinal Spellman to today’s malaise and shrinking institution): both John XXIII and John Paul II are to be canonized.

To which I react much as to the council itself. Strictly speaking, fine; practically, no, thanks.

Blessed John XXIII was a fine fellow, not at all what the liberals now make of him. Besides being warm and kind, he was a naturally traditionalist Italian. He kept the old Mass. He wanted to step up the use of Latin in seminaries. He told religious orders not to ordain homosexuals. Legend has it he was vociferously anti-women’s ordination too. A man of the ’50s. Hardly a Cathedral saint. His council wasn’t bad in theory: American freedom of religion is great (it made America a great home for Catholics, with prosperity unknown elsewhere), and why not do (part of) the Mass in the vernacular? (It’s Not About Latin™: I only happen to worship in it because that’s the only option right now for our Mass.) But the real John has been buried, thrown down the memory hole in favor of the myth of the Sixties.

I’ve long said my piece about Blessed, soon to be St John Paul the Overrated too. His reign was no picnic for us trads. Our worst enemies weren’t the dominant liberals, who didn’t take us seriously, but other conservative Catholics, the ones who went along with the changes in the name of loyalty to the Pope.

I give him credit for three things: the right people hated him, partial for the fall of Communism, and the conservative counter-revolution Benedict enacted got started under him, as far back as the 1990s (when Mother Angelica started wearing the full habit again and broadcast eastward-facing Masses).

The right people hated him. That shaven-headed Irish has-been Sinéad O’Connor ripping up his picture on ‘Saturday Night Live’: ‘Fight the real enemy!’ The Cathedral’s war on us. Spiritual war. But I attribute that to hostility to the nature of the papacy, being Catholic, in which the Pope can’t change what they want changed, not to the man, who for all his Polish conservatism was always an appeaser, from his being a bishop in Communist Poland (Cardinal Wyszyński fought) to Assisi to altar girls to making Roger Mahony an archbishop and cardinal to throwing the saintly Archbishop Lefebvre under the bus (I know what happened but he was reacting to something real).

Anyway, when you’re Catholic, you don’t have to be personally devoted to every saint.

There are people I admire whom I can’t imagine canonized: for example, Pius XII and Cardinal Spellman (religious, not spiritual; such help the church too).

The longer the church puts off admitting it goofed with the council and putting it on history’s dusty shelf (one more time: it didn’t define any doctrine), the longer its recent problems will last. Trying to appease the Cathedral doesn’t work.
Vatican II, which John XXIII opened a year before his 1963 death, opened the church to people of other faiths.
What does this mean? Journalists aren’t theologians and shouldn’t be allowed to publish without doing research. Sounds like mainstream culture’s party line then and now, of indifferentism (Masonic): the church has finally come on board! But it didn’t. It can’t. It said, correctly, that other churches, denominations, and religions have varying shares of the truth and that freedom of religion is good. There. Was that so hard to write? But it doesn’t fit the Cathedral line, the Narrative, so the WaPo doesn’t publish things like that.

Make Bishop Fellay a voting cardinal eligible to be Pope.

Keep the faith, kids.

Also: more on Western Rite Orthodoxy.


  1. The problem with American libertarianism is that many Europeans practise it more effectively than the Americans. The faith succeeded in America because of the flaws of libertarianism which in effect collapsed as a project during the Civil war anyway.

    What happened at Vatican II was that Americanised Germans (together with other allies and agents) implemented the American project with disastrous results. Blissfully ignorant that the Americans themselves had long since abandoned the initiative. The industrial scale slaughter from 1861 onwards is proof of this.

    1. Americanized Germans??????? . . . and all that follows. What a load of bushwa!

  2. Who is that insufferably arrogant puppy lbk or lek ... with his laughably ignorant assertions that there is NO evidence for pre-Schism papal jurisdictional primacy? Why does no one answer this pompous self-important little twerp? He makes sweeping assertions without producing one scintilla of evidence to support them...and then acts as if they are unassailable gospel truth, which we poor benighted deebs should accept on *his* superpapal authority alone? Who died and made *him* pope? Seriously!

    And what overweening arrogance (combined with stunning ignorance). If the case against Catholic claims were that easy to make and that much a slam dunk, the Catholic Church would have collapsed a long, long time ago. Does he really think we're that stupid? That we've never encountered his lame objections before? That we've never before produced the evidence he so smugly and ignorantly claims does not exist? Never ever before in the entire history of Catholic apologetics? Holy J.H. Newman, Batman! What a maroon!

    Someone needs to throw a few papal-maximalist eastern fathers at Mr. Know-it-All. He'll just try to explain them away as examples of eastern hyperbole or whatever. But you can't keep explaining away actual evidence without starting to look like a jackass. Just ask the Trayvon Martin prosecution witnesses.;)

    1. I wrote something of a response to that to YF privately; if he wishes to edit it and put it up here, he can do so.

    2. Here:

      The guy who wrote this – "If so, how do you explain the fact that when Cerularius was excommunicated, all of the Eastern bishops and Patriarchs remained in communion with Cerularius? If they thought that Rome was supreme or had jurisdiction over the East, why wouldn't they have wanted to stay in communion with Rome instead?" – doesn't seem to be aware that at the time of the 1054 fracas Patriarch Peter of Antioch wrote one (or more) letters blaming both Rome and Cerularius for the fight, and said that for him and his church they remained in communion with both Rome and C'ple. Jerusalem and Alexandria ignored the fight entirely. It was the dealings of the Crusaders that swung Ant. and Jeru. over to the side of C'ple, and even in those cases the blame was not all on one side. In Antioch the Crusaders kicked out the Ortho. patriarch, and he went to C'ple and had a line of successors there, one of whom returned to Antioch whenn the Byz. emperor forced the Latin rulers there to accept him as patriarch, then, later on, a successor of his was kicked out and replaced by a Latin, and the Byz. patriarchs returned only when ever it was in the 13th century that the Muslims took Antioch for good. In Jer. there had been no patriarch there for some decades, maybe even since this guy's time

      and so when the Crusaders took Jer. in 1099 the Greek and Latin clergy elected a Latin patriarch, and a succession of Latin patriarchs were accepted by all orthodox Christians there down to 1187 when the city fell to Saladin. However, all throughout this period there was a line of successive "Patriarchs of Jerusalem" living in C'ple, and when Saladin took Jer. the Byz. emperor persuaded him to kick out the Latin patriarch and install the Greek one in his place. Alexandria doesn't seem to have regarded itself as out of communion with Rome until around 1204.

      As to this, "Did the Church before the schism in 1054 accept the universal jurisdiction of Rome?", it is an anachronism (read Dix's *Jurisdiction in the Early Church). However, if one wanted to be anachronistic, how else should one characterize the dispute after the Council of Chalcedon concerning that council's Canon 28:

      Pope Leo rejected it out of hand, and after a long three-sided correspondence between Pope Leo, the eastern Emperor Marcian, and Patriarch Anatolius of C'ple, in which the latter two tried to persuade Leo that the canon did not infringe on the "pre-eminence" of Rome, and Pope Leo persisted in his rejection of the canon, the Emperor and the Patriarch both acquiesced in the Pope's rejection, the latter observing in his letter of acquiescence that "the whole force and confirmation of what was done there had been reserved to the authority of your beatitude." I would not myself term this "universal jurisdiction" because of the anachronism of the phrase, but it is tantamount to it. And what, then, of Canon 28? It was "repromulgated," on imperial authority alone by the Emperor Zeno around 482, as part of the lead-up to the emperor's "Henotikon," which in turn provoked the Acacian Schism (484-519) between Rome and Constantinople.

    3. Lol...thanks...John and Dr. Tighe. language was a little bit intemperate, wasn't it? Puppy, maroon...gee, tell us how you *really* feel, Diane. ;)

    4. Btw...masterful response, Dr. Tighe.

  3. "The longer the church puts off admitting it goofed with the council and putting it on history’s dusty shelf (one more time: it didn’t define any doctrine), the longer its recent problems will last."

    I know that this is a large question, but what exactly do you think is so horrible about Vatican II that it has to be repudiated?

    I don't mean what people think Vatican II said (which, like their opinions about John XXIII, are usually 180 degrees wrong), but the council document teachings themselves, by chapter and verse. I'll admit they all aren't the most eloquent, but where do their actual words lead astray?

    As an example: no council in history has said what Vatican II's Gaudium and Spes said about marriage. At the time it seemed commonplace; now it's the very definition of reaction and bigotry. Wasn't there something providential about such teaching being promulgated by a council on the very eve of the sexual revolution?

    I exempt, of course, much of the quesionable behavior that followed Vatican II, and that sought justification from Vatican II. You can't judge the council--just as you can't judge anything--by the abuse of it.

    It is to me one of those continuing marvels that progressives, who, if they read the council documents, would be horrified by them, constantly praise Vatican II, and that others seem to distrust the council because the progressives so love it.

    So, I know, a long question. Maybe you've gone into it earlier in your blog. I can't claim any real familiarily with it, so maybe a link or two would answer my question, if you care to answer it. But, again, I am not interested in what people say about Vatican II, or how it was abused, or appealed to thereafter, but the words themselves of the council documents, the actual teaching of Vatican II, the much-dissed "letter," not the "spirit." What was so bad?

    1. Ooooh...excellent question. I join you in asking it.

    2. At face value, 'the letter', few problems, and no heresy. I agree with one of its main points, which the SSPX argues with: religious liberty. Other than that, the only real problem is it plays this game: praise a traditional practice, then make it optional a few lines down, code for abolishing it.

      I admit the main problem is with 'the spirit'. It was exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. To give the real reactionaries such as Bishop Williamson credit, part of the problem was back in the '50s, when people naïvely believed in never-ending progress. (There was so much good happening: no more polio, the jet airliner, the space program, efforts for black civil rights, the American economy getting better and better.) The church in itself knows better but too many churchmen got caught up in the Zeitgeist. I don't think John XXIII lost it; he meant well. Lots of well-meaning Catholics like him had no idea the changes would go too far.

      All the good the council tried to do could have been done better (no damage to the church) with a few papal pronouncements: American religious liberty is good, and let's translate the services (not invent the Novus Ordo; just translate the old services and edit them very slightly).

      Now that the damage is done, rather than more symbols celebrating the council, the best symbolic things for the church to do would be to backtrack. Not repudiating anything good the council tried to do, such as vernacular services (next to nobody wants to go back to Latin, which is fine with me), but the press is too dumb to get that. Pope Benedict (like me, not really a reactionary) got started on the right track: fiddlebacks, eastward-facing Masses, and repeating that Catholicism's the true church. We need another Pope like him but younger to finish it, over about 20 years. The world would get the picture. In church politics, bring the SSPX on board and make Fellay a cardinal.

      Actually, besides the basics of the faith and the old Mass, the SSPX and I have little in common, but I acknowledge the tremendous good they do. I am in the official church as reformed by Benedict, and it's great. Not perfect of course, but great. I have no conscience problem with English Novus as he's left it. It's just that the old Mass is better.

      In 50 years American Catholicism will be much smaller but much more conservative. The liberals are dying out. Trads have kids and vocations.

    3. Very thoughtful response. I would agree with virtually all of it.

    4. Anonymous8:04 pm

      Just to be clear, the Society's opposition to religious liberty is largely misunderstood, and part of that is the SSPX's fault. Their argument is that the Catholic Church had, up until Vatican II, and certainly in Pius IX's Syllabus, condemned the proposition that a person could, in principle, have the right to spread religious error by, for instance, practicing a false religion publicly. It had nothing to do with liberty of conscience or, as some critics mischaracterize it, an assertion that Catholics could, by right, use the power of the state to compel conversion to the Catholic Faith. Moreover, the Society maintains the Church's pre-Vatican II position that the Church should, by right, enjoy special privileges from the state, that the Church is the sole supreme teacher on faith and morals, and that the state should listen to the Church on these matters. This is all a matter of principle; the Church knew, and Pius IX knew, that the days were fast fading when any concrete state actually recognized the rights of the Church.

      Today, many in the SSPX, including Bishop Fellay, acknowledge that the world is radically secular, but they do not believe that reality overturns the previous teaching of what should, by right, be the norm. Even Leo XIII recognized that America's concept of religious liberty had given breathing room for the Catholic Church to grow in the U.S., but he stopped short of calling this an "ideal" or the "right situation."

      What Archbishop Lefebvre feared is exactly what happened: Changing the teaching on religious liberty would lead to false ecumenism, indifferentism, a rapid expansion of secularism, and the privatization of the Catholic Faith. Catholicism would lost its voice by losing its confidence in itself. That's really, at the end of the day, the dark practical consequences of Vatican II's about-face on the matter. A handful of states (e.g., Columbia, some of the Swiss cantons) were instructed by the Vatican after the Council to remove/soften language in their constitutions that identified the primacy of the Catholic religion, a move which really appalled Lefebvre and other traditionalists. The cultural effect of such shifts has been the retreat of Catholicism from the public sphere.

  4. "At face value, 'the letter', few problems, and no heresy."

    I suppose that is part of my point. It bothers me, this sort of casual contemptuousness toward an ecumenical council, calling it "stupid," when it constituted, in fact, the most solemn set of pronouncements of pope in council with the bishops of the world in our lifetime. This dismissiveness is very characteristic of our politics; I hate to see it in relation to the Church, however one may individually judge the appropriateness of the teaching.

    "All the good the council tried to do could have been done better"

    That is possibly so, but I'm not sure I'm convinced of it. There was much good going on in the 60's and 70's, and much craziness. The craziness in the Church was blamed on Vatican II, whether or not it was directly attributable to it. And I'm not sure how exactly it can be shown to have been directly tied to it. Arguably things might have been considerably worse had not Vatican II (1) expressly ratified Vatican I (under fire by Fr. Kung and others), (2) confirmed the hierarchical nature of the Church, (3) reaffirmed marriage to be a relationship intrinsicly related to procreation, and (4) declared abortion an "abominable crime."

    What was most revolutionary in Vatican II was the new orientation and acceptance of the work of John Courtney Murray in detacing the Church from governments and accepting the notion of separation from the State, in the American manner. I think that this was all to the good. It was a great change, but not one in doctrine, but in policy toward secular governments, and few would welcome a return to "error has no rights."

    Almost equally revolutionary was the change in attitude toward the Jewish people. That was not wholly new (think of Pius' "We are spiritual Semites"), but it was an important re-thinking and re-orientation that I think was a very positive change, and not at all to the prejudice of established Catholic dogma.

    The great offense to so many seems to me to have been the change in the mass. But that was plainly beyond the expressed intention of the council (if not the implicit intent of many council fathers). I have never seen any of the changes as having introduced heresy, as many have claimed. There are, of course, some serious aesthetic objections to the new mass, and I have felt them and much sympathy for them. But I can't help but feel, however much that I, personally, would prefer, and get more out of, a more traditional mass, that most Catholics might prefer the mass that I find a little vulgar. That may be my good taste, or my snobbery. And I am grateful that Benedict seemed wise enough to realize that both can exist in the Church, however little his own predilections have made it over to my particular neck of the woods.

    Again, I don't mean to argue, but I am always curious, when some sort of disdain is expressed for the council, what the origin is. And I often find that it's not the council itself.

    1. All excellent points. I was going to mention Nostra Aetate re the Jews. You beat me to it. The Decree on Ecumenism was also critical methinks.

    2. Hi Rick.

      First, I want to note that as a never-Catholic Orthodox Christian I really don't have much of a dog in this fight. That said, I found this problematic (and I think our Young Fogey would agree with me): "The great offense to so many seems to me to have been the change in the mass.... I have never seen any of the changes as having introduced heresy, as many have claimed." VII allowed many abuses to creep into the Mass, and the fact that there are many Protestant hymns that have found their way into the various hymnals does indeed introduce heresy. Even the sappy sentimental folksy "Contemporary" (where "contemporary" apparently means the music my parents listened to in the '70s) is, while not theologically sound enough to even rise to the level of heresy, at the very least extremely watered down milk: lex orandi, lex credendi- sappy, sentimental, theologically weak hymns during Mass produce a sappy, sentimental, theologically weak faith.

    3. How do Protestant hymns necessarily introduce heresy? Trinitarian Protestants share at least 80% of our beliefs, as ex-fundy-turned-Catholic David Currie points out. A grand old Protestant hymn like "Holy Holy Holy" -- goodness, how does it convey heresy in any way, shape, or form?

      Many Anglican hymns are 19th-century (Anglican) translations of our own ancient Latin hymns! I guess I don't see the problem.

      Some Protestant hymns are dreck, sure. And some are heretical. But many are among the great monuments of Christian hymnody.

      (I say this as a Catholic who happens to be gaga over shape-note [Sacred Harp], a quintessentially American Protestant form of hymnody that sounds eerie and chantlike and in fact has its roots in ancient chant. I'm also gaga over the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal. So, sue me. ;))


      P.S. By the you ever sing Christmas carols? Many of the most familiar and best beloved were written by Protestants. "Away in a Manger," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Joy to the World," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night"...all are of Protestant provenance. Yet guaranteed not to give you cooties. I promise! ;)

    4. Nostra Aetate is probably the worst document of the Council.

      That said, I do not believe that Vatican II endorsed the work of Fr. John Courtney Murray or that it in any way accepted the separation of Church and State. As Dignitatis Humanae states, "it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."

    5. Nostra Aetate is probably the worst document of the Council.

      I think there are a few Jewish Catholics who might disagree with you. ;)

    6. Without Vatican II, Paul VI and Bugnini would not have dared to throw out the ancient liturgy and tyrannically force their new creation on the entire Latin Church.

      That's the problem with the Council---its authority was invoked by churchmen and their allies to eviscerate the Church's traditional culture and expressions of faith. It should have come along in the 1950s or not at all, or it should have been convened to anathematize Modernism. Coming as it did in the Sixties, with no specific purpose other than to "open the windows", it became a convenient Trojan horse through which both witting and unwitting enemies of the Church succeeded in bringing about the catastrophe. No Council, and the revolutionaries would not have been able to impose their program from the top down.

      So whatever lovely things are said among the thousands and thousands and thousands of words in those documents, the Council as an event was a horrific blunder.

    7. "Without Vatican II, Paul VI and Bugnini would not have dared to throw out the ancient liturgy and tyrannically force their new creation on the entire Latin Church."

      If Paul VI was a "tyrant" and a "revolutionary," he could have made these changes with or without a council. See Vatican I and existing canon law. And, in fact, had there been widespread opposition to the changes I really doubt that they would not have happened. (Nor would I share the view that the Mass of Paul VI "threw out the ancient liturgy.")

      "So whatever lovely things are said among the thousands and thousands and thousands of words in those documents, the Council as an event was a horrific blunder."

      Those "lovely things" are the constitutions, decrees and declarations of the pope in unity with the bishops of the world. They constitute, themselves, the most solemn teaching of the Church. Vatican II was no simple "event;" it was an ecumenical council. Of course there was fall-out, some foreseen, some unforeseen. But I am surprised that so many are so confident that they can state exactly what would have happened had the council not occurred. I certainly can't, but I do believe that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church. Happily that frees me from the necessity of worrying too much about horrific blunders.

    8. Amen, Rick Allen.


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