My photo
A lover of the liberal arts, especially antiquity in its diverse forms, I am nonetheless wholly devoted to, utterly transformed by divine revelation. I seek to know the thought of the past, articulate my deepest longings aroused by the wise, and understand the uneasy relationship between reason and revelation; all for the sake of proper action and contemplation, both now and in the future.


On the Second Vatican Council I

I have decided to try and exorcize a particular demon. I have been plagued, haunted, and tormented by a persisting thought: is the Church, after the Council, a different Church than that which preceded it? Have doctrines changed? Do the new teachings of the Church contradict earlier ones? 

This is a serious question for any Catholic, particularly as the mass apostasy continues: if the polls be accurate, 70% of those 'identifying as Catholics' no longer believe in the Real Presence. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass admits of grave liturgical abuses, and ignorance is widespread; to say nothing of the prevalent sexual nihilism. No one can help me answer these questions, at least not yet. I must deal with them, in their beginnings at least, on my own. 

And there is much to do. I first need to absorb the Opening Address by Pope John XXIII on the aims and purpose of the Council. Then I need to read, and read carefully, the sixteen documents thereof; next, to meet the objection of those (I'm looking at you, SSPX) who claim it contradicts, in numerous important subjects, previously-taught traditions; finally, discuss the revisions to the liturgy and the rites (and where I disagree with the SSPX harshly, borderline uncharitably in their contention that Vatican II explicitly contradicts older tradition, I am in almost full agreement with what they write on the beauty of the old rites and the impoverishment of the new). 

To begin, here is a portion of the Opening Address:

We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations Not, certainly, that there is a lack of fallacious teaching, opinions, and dangerous concepts to be guarded against and dissipated. But these are so obviously in contrast with the right norm of honesty, and have produced such lethal fruits that by now it would seem that men of themselves are inclined to condemn them, particularly those ways of life which despise God and His law or place excessive confidence in technical progress and a well-being based exclusively on the comforts of life. They are ever more deeply convinced of the paramount dignity of the human person and of his perfection as well as of the duties which that implies. Even more important, experience has taught men that violence inflicted on others, the might of arms, and political domination, are of no help at all in finding a happy solution to the grave problems which afflict them. 

This seems radically imprudent. After Roe v. Wade and fifty-five million murdered children later, it does not seem at all the case that to "men of themselves," "violence inflicted upon others" is of no help in solving apparent troubles. And the abundance of fallacious teaching, opinion, and dangerous doctrine, far from being recognized as such by the world, is by it wholeheartedly embraced; and that fountain of truth, Holy Mother Church, is instead hated and reviled. I am not exactly comfortable calling the Holy Father (now raised to the Altar of Saints, in fact) naive, but I do not know how else to say it. The world hates the Church, for She proclaims the truth, the light which men hate because their deeds are evil. This I have seen in my own life, in private conversation, and in my experience of the world, especially public opinion. The world and the Church are irreconcilable enemies, and have always been so, if we take Christ's Gospel speeches (especially in John) seriously. 

I could write pages upon this quotation, because in deliniating the ways of life men "of themselves" are inclined to condemn, His Holiness has almost perfectly described the animus of the modern world. Act with consent, and live as you please; our new religion is Science (Comte would be proud), our confidence is in its technical progress, and our well-being is based exclusively on the comforts of life (thus the reviling of the Church, which apparently wastes money on gold monstrances instead of giving it to the poor, and our hatred of the rich; in reality an ill-disguised grasping, clawing, greed and envy). Was it really so different in 1965? I find such a supposition baffling, but then if things were not so different, this sentiment seems fluffy nothings, and I have little more hopeful prospects for the documents themselves, if they, as this opening address appears to do, so radically miss the modern soul and fail to criticize it properly.

This is not a happy way to begin my study of the Council.