20 May 2007

Examining Vatican II

Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum

Because my theological concentration tends toward Dogmatic Theology, I have read the majority of the documents for all the councils of the Church, including little known Councils like the council of Constance or the council of Vienne. In the history of all these councils, even the ones that failed, there were never instances of chaos and confusion emanating from the Holy See itself. The whole process by which an ecumenical council closes, universally the decrees of that council are ignored, distorted and changed, and a new liturgy is created by a team of liturgists and forcefully imposed on the whole Church is utterly novel in the whole history of councils and ecumenical councils.

Now against this some will say wait a minute, the Council of Trent asked for a reform of the liturgy in order to combat protestantism, and Pope St. Pius V composed a new liturgy. There are still a lot of people who think this. The truth however is that no such thing occurred. The Council of Trent asked for uniformity in the liturgy, because what the Protestants did in many cases was to retain certain usages of the Church's liturgy then in use, for example proper parts of the Mass in Latin. This led to an overall confusion, especially with an uneducated populace, and provided for the gradual indoctrination with errors. So it became necessary to formalize and codify the liturgy so it was universal, and could be recognized easily as Catholic, vs. not Catholic. This was not a novel step because through the combination of Charlemagne in the 9th century and the Franciscans in the 13th century, the Roman Liturgy was spread all around Europe. Any local variation was a saint's collect, or some local custom that occurred in place "x", like the French custom of lighting an extra candle at the consecration which survives to the present in some places. When the bull of St. Pius V "Quo Primum" was promulgated, the liturgy being issued was virtually the same as that in use in the local parishes everywhere. In cases where it wasn't, a special exception was made within the bull itself for liturgies over 200 years old. These were the Dominican rite, the Carmelite Rite, the Ambrosian liturgy, the Mozarabic liturgy, the Sarum liturgy, and several others. In practice, many churches in France defied this bull and continued using their local liturgies well into the 19th century. Of course, there was no body of politically active neo-conservatives to say they were in schism, and the "gallicanized rites" were in use when Dom Gueranger wrote his Liturgical Year, with the aim in view of championing the Roman Liturgy in France.

This is all a very stark difference from what occurred in 1965. Whatever difficulties occurred after the Council of Trent were nothing compared to the chaos after Vatican II, and furthermore what liberals say nowadays, namely that there is 40-50 years of chaos after every ecumenical council is absurd. Certainly after some councils, like Chalcedon or Constantinople II, but even that was nothing compared to what happened in 1965.

What did happen in 1965 then? What caused the chaos that has resulted in the disintegration of every fabric of ecclesial life familiar to the previous 1800 years of Catholics? There are some who maintain that Vatican II's documents themselves contain the errors that led to this process. They will say that the council contains heresies, and that it must simply be forgotten to move on. Then of course we know well the position of the Sedevacantists who will claim that Vatican II was a false council, presided over by an anti-Pope.

Could it not also be, that there is a third way, (much like in Economics) which ascribes to neither of these positions? If such a way can be found, it is generally referred to as "reconciling the Council with Tradition". The fact that we need to speak of such a thing is evidence enough of the problems present in Vatican II.

Now those who are in the "neo-conservative" category, those George Wiegle, Karl Keating type conservatives who lament the problems in the Church but dare not say there was anything wrong with Vatican II, will often say "the problem was not with the council, the council documents are beautiful, but it was in the interpretation." This begs the question, if there were so many false interpretations of Vatican II in such a widespread manner, could it not be that the problem is with the documents themselves and that they are not beautiful but horrible? I would say almost certainly. Yet on the other hand, I would maintain in unity with the above mentioned that Vatican II at the same time does not contain heresy.

How can I assert this? It seems to me that an Ecumenical Council under the authority of the Pope, the documents of which are promulgated under his authority can not contain error. They might contain bad ideas, and failed ones most certainly, as Ecumenical Councils have in the past. Then what is the problem? Most certainly the problem is that the council documents, written in hideous Latin, are not clear, concise, and are intentionally ambiguous. They were written to be ambiguous by certain Council Periti so that afterward they could go back and re-interpret what they said in order to make it heterodox.

Therefore the solution to the Post-Conciliar crisis is not a "reform of the reform", because such a solution goes back to the very source of the problem. The solution can not be to just forget the Council or ignore it, because it would constitute a perennial blot on the Church's authority. Vatican II is both an event and a challenge that can not be ignored. The only way in which we can approach Vatican II is to do so as the late John Paul II put it (though he certainly never did anything toward this end) "Vatican II must be reconciled with Tradition."

Therefore in this series I will be examining and approaching Vatican II with the goal of reconciling it with Tradition, to demonstrate the viability of this approach and to propose a possible formula for accomplishing this end. However, I also do so aware that as a layman, I can not constitute this reconciliation, only contribute toward it. It is the Magisterium of the Church alone which can reconcile Vatican II with tradition, and we need to pray earnestly for it. The liturgy is only one area of the crisis (though the most visible) and if we say give us that Motu Proprio, but ignore the other items of the Post-Conciliar crisis, we are not contributing to a viable solution, but only attacking one facet of the problem.

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