The official line of the hierarchy requires all to tip their hats to the Second Vatican Council. One can scarcely become ordained without a fervent belief in the Council as “super dogma”. Certainly, there are no ecclesiastical promotions for anyone who dares to criticize the Council, or for anyone who even suggests that it may have been less than a perfectly inspired work of the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless, from Ecclesia Dei Afflicta in 1988 until the elevation of Pope Francis one year ago, if traditionalists politely tipped their hats to the Council and kept quiet about its salient flaws, they were more or less assured of a secure place in the Church, their “legitimate aspirations” respected by the pope himself and those bishops (admittedly few) who cultivated their loyalty to Rome.
Something has dramatically changed. The “Francis effect” has nullified this agreement. Catholics must still tip their hats to the Council, of course, but traditionalists no longer feel secure, nor do traditionalist sensibilities enjoy even the minimal outward respect of the pope. Even Summorum Pontificum seems to be a dead letter. Whereas Pope Benedict XVI largely succeeded in removing feelings of persecution and isolation among traditionalists, and also in toning down the polemics on all sides, the old wounds have been re-opened under Pope Francis. There is now a palpable sense of urgency in resolving the crisis once and for all; the widening liturgical and theological chasm seems unsustainable.
Furthermore, there are a growing number of Catholics who do not identify as traditionalists, and who do not normally attend the TLM, who are nevertheless weary of pretending that the Council has brought nothing but goodness and light to the Church. The evidence to the contrary is too overwhelming.
Why not speak frankly and openly about the Second Vatican Council? It’s long past time to lift the taboo. This much is readily apparent: the prevailing doctrinal chaos and confusion is not clarified by the Council; on the contrary, dissent takes inspiration from it and finds refuge in it. We should not be shy in exploring the reasons for this. Truly, I believe the silver lining of this grim pontificate will eventually be a season of open discussion – among the clergy and faithful of every rank – about the objective merits (or lack thereof) of the Second Vatican Council and the Pauline liturgy.
Rorate Caeli has another outstanding post this morning, written by a priest who necessarily remains anonymous, explaining one very reasonable approach to the problem of the Council: “How to Regard Vatican II”. Overall the article is written with respect, nuance, and the kind of delicacy this topic requires.
We have noted that the texts are ambiguous between a Catholic and a non-Catholic sense. We should add that the non-Catholic sense is the prima facie sense of the texts, and is the sense, moreover, that was intended by their authors. The texts are in fact the work of the Conciliar ‘periti ’, a number of whom had already been censured for heterodoxy prior to the Council; together they constitute a body of doctrines condemned by various of the previous Popes under the name of ‘Modernism’, a body of doctrines, furthermore, which was to cause untold damage to the Church in the years succeeding the Council …
The purpose of a Church Council is to declare the Faith in a way which can change over time only by increasing in depth and clarity. Vatican II did not do so, and thereby failed in its purpose.
For this reason we cannot claim that it enjoyed the positive assistance of the Holy Spirit but only a negative assistance, in preserving the declarations of the Council from formal heresy.