Chiesa: Vatican II, continuity and/or rupture

I am scanning some things on the web from my phone, which makes this clunky, but do check out the latest on Chiesa. A provocative paragraph:

A third development of the discussion regards a thesis of Vatican II that is particularly contested by the traditionalists: that of religious freedom.

In effect, there is an unquestionable rupture between the statements in this regard from Vatican II and the previous condemnations of liberalism made by the popes of the nineteenth century.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on religious liberty these days, so this is quite interesting to me. Religious liberty is also going to be an issue for discussion during the US presidential election cycle, too.

It seems to me that the present administration is undermining freedom of religion, not just of public expression.

In any event, the piece on Chiesa has a good round up of what is being discussed and written about the Council, how it us being reconsidered. Rather exciting.

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  1. shane says:

    It’s good that discussion of the merits of the actual texts (not just the ‘spirit’) of the Second Vatican Council should not be regarded as in any way ‘off limits’. There is too much of a tendency IMHO among some conservatives to attribute the choas in the Church over the last 5 decades to a misintepretation of the Council. Many liberties were indeed taken but the loose formulation of the Council’s texts perhaps played a part in allowing such misrepresentation. (We also have to keep in mind that the bishops who actually implemented the Council were, with very few exceptions, present at the Council itself and voted overwhelmingly for its documents.) It’s important to assess how and why everything happened so we can avoid it ever occuring again. There should be no sacred cows.

  2. Shane: “We also have to keep in mind that the bishops who actually implemented the Council were, with very few exceptions, present at the Council itself and voted overwhelmingly for its documents.”

    Perhaps we should also keep in mind that the documents of the Council were not written by the bishops themselves, that most of them likely did not fully understand their implications, and certainly did not realize the liberties that some of the “experts” who actually wrote these documents intended to take with the ambiguities they afforded. For instance, it is common ground that few if any of the bishops who overwhelming approved Sacrosanctum Concilium envisioned that it would ever lead to an all vernacular Mass. Certainly, it is well understood that when these bishops returned to their dioceses, they were no longer the virtual autocrats they had been previously, and were not in control of the implementation of the council that in many or most dioceses proceeded largely in their passive view and ours. (I know of at least one bishop who was as shocked at what happened after the council as the rest of us.) With regard to the liturgy, in particular, in his Fontgombault proceedings article, Cardinal Ratzinger explained that following the council the bishops lost control of the liturgical implementation to a liturgical establishment apart from the hierarchy.

  3. Hmmm. “Rupture” is itself a loaded word, no? Who could be in favor of “rupture”? Differences, yes, even major differences, but rupture? I dunno. Anyway, could the shift in terms be what comes when combative language, penned in very combative times, is read by later peoples with a very different set of factors to deal with and very different presuppositions in mind? I know, I know, such considerations open up a whole new can of worms, but hey, who said critical thinking was easy? Just wondering. Best, edp.

  4. William of the Old says:

    Stepping it up a notch……………

  5. Inigo says:

    My observation is, that the Church has to promote religious liberty, if doesn’t want to be persecuted. If only one other religion is “bad” acording to the Church, than who is to stop any other group from saying the Catholic faith is bad and has to be persecuted. So in my opinion, the Catholic Church promotes religious freedom only not to get persecuted, and to make shure, that it’s faithful can practise their religion in peace.There is just one tiny little problem…Jesus didn’t bring this kind of peace, he brought the sword…for a Catholic faithful, religion means to die for Jesus, to give one’s life for the spreading of the faith. The martyrs are the seed of christianity…if a Catholic can’t die for the Church, or for Thruth to the benefit of thy neighbor, he can’t practise his religion. The Church grew in the greatest presecution. Since it’s members are don’t have the opportonity to sacrifice themselves, becouse some bishops/priests/theologians/lay people ara afraid of death…it slowly shrinks and fades away.

  6. danphunter1 says:

    The Church is mandated by Christ to speak the Truth and part of that Truth is that only the Catholic Church is True and all other religions are false and as such, other religions are in error and error has no rights.
    They may be tolerated, but false religions have no rights.

  7. David Homoney says:

    I think this part is key:

    “The book reviews the most controversial texts of Vatican Council II, to demonstrate that they can all be read and explained in the light of the tradition and the grand theology of the Church, including Saint Thomas.”

    Sure you can read the documents of Vatican II in this light, I certainly do. The problem with the documents of Vatican II is that they use vague and ambiguous language that allows the heterodox to read it their way as well. This was by design. So the “spirit of Vatican II” crowd is essentially right and so are the conservatives. This is a rupture of tradition and why anyone who loves the Church is hesitant about Vatican II.

    The style and structure of Vatican II is also a rupture as in the past councils were only called to address doctrinal issues and heresy, which Vatican II did not. Thankfully nothing doctrinal came out of it.

  8. The “rupture” quotation given in the post needs to be understood in the light of Cardinal Cottier’s nuancing, which is as follows:

    “While instead “the practical reconciliation brought to completion by Vatican II took place through the pluralism of another liberal model, the Anglo-Saxon one, which radically relativizes the claims of the state to the point of making it not the monopolist of the common good, but a limited reality of public offices at the service of the community. The clash between two exclusive models was followed by encounter under the banner of pluralism.”

    In short, and I think correctly, the “liberalism” condemned by Pius IX and Pius X was the statist, anti-clerical “liberalism” of the continent. This is different in kind from the Anglo-Saxon form (at least at that time and still into the 1960s), so this is not a true rupture. Whether of course contemporary liberalism is more like the continental or Anglo-Saxon model is up for debate.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Father Wiltgen’s Rhine Flows into the Tiber is a must. There have been other critics as well. Part of the problem was the ideal of false ecumenism, which flourished after World War II, in the wake of religious persecution from the Nazis, and, of course, the Soviets. The Church leaders were reacting to years of orchestrated hatred against Christianity and the efforts for declaring religious freedom stemmed partly in an effort to shore up support for all Christian denominations behind the Iron Curtain and the tyranny of Mao in China. We forget that our brothers and sisters in Christ suffered as well as Catholic priests, nuns, and lay people.

    In addition, the ecumenical movement was powerful in the seminaries, and even in the Vatican, to the point that Pope John the XXIII had non-Catholic and even non-Christian advisers on the committees which were editing the texts. We can hardly understand this in today’s world, but Christians were more Christian and there seemed to be a need to reach out in a world increasingly secular, communist, Marxist, atheist, etc.

    Having said all this, mistakes were made, and we need to re-evaluate all of this in the light of 2011, when most of the Christian denominations have fallen away from the moral rigor of the Gospels into more heresy and laxity, and when discussions with non-Catholic groups, such as the Muslims (remember the Islamic groups walked out of talks last December in Rome), have broken down. In my mind, the dark has become darker and the light lighter than these “sides” were in 1963. I think if Vatican II happened today, we would see very different conclusions, documents, and interpretations. In this manner, despite the Truth in the documents, the nuances and lack of specificity in language would not exist and we would have a more “Catholic”, as in Traditional, tone to all the constitutions.

  10. albizzi says:

    …” I think if Vatican II happened today, we would see very different conclusions, documents, and interpretations”…

    We may imagine a new modernist pope who would, as a preamble, forbid any discussion about Islam nor issuing any condemnation of that religion. Even he would take some muslim observers or possibly some “advisers” in theological or liturgical commissions. Who knows?
    Didn’t Pope John in the same way intend to wheedle the soviets in inviting orthodox “observers” (in fact true communist spies) during the council and forbidding the bishops to address the issue of atheist communism?
    Weren’t some prot advisers helping in concocting the liturgical reform?

  11. Martial Artist says:

    @Father Augustine,

    When you speak of the Anglo-Saxon form of “liberalism” at the time of the Council and even into the 196os, I think of people who were predominantly interested in liberty. What I see in today’s “liberalism” is not liberal in that sense to any meaningful degree. It is, I think, rather an outgrowth of progressivism, which I would characterize as a worldview which sees modern man as having progressed in knowledge and understanding, and continuing to do so, beyond the “limited understanding of our poor benighted forebears.”

    My perception is that the worldview of the latter is much different, and potentially much more dangerous to the freedom and dignity of the human person than was the earlier “liberalism.” Am I misunderstanding what you have written?

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  12. Dear Mr. Töpfer,

    The language of the quotation in my post is that of Cardinal Cottier, not my own. It qualifies the suggestion that he supports a “rupture” between the old condemnation of “liberalism” and the new approbation of “liberalism” — he says these are two different liberalisms. Whether he is correct or not, and whether his definitions are “right” or not, was not my intent. I am only interesting in making clear that the Cardinal is not holding for a “rupture” theory.

    And, yes, I think that current “liberalism” is quite different from what the Cardinal called “Anglo-Saxon” liberalism. In its vicious anti-clericalism and irreligion it is more like the continental variety.

  13. jlmorrell says:

    Perhaps I’m not very clear on the differences between continental and anglo-saxon liberalism, but I don’ t quite buy, at this time, the distinction they are trying to make. It seems to me, for example, that the american model (i.e. anglo saxon liberalism) of religious liberty was very much condemned by the preconcliar popes.

    It has contributed greatly, just as these wise popes predicted, to the indifferentism we see in many formerly Catholic nations. Furthermore, a quick reading of Pius IX’s Syllabus reveals a number of other liberal errors that are put forth by the American model.

    Fr. Z,
    I’ve read your blog for a number of years now and can’t recall you ever addressing this religious liberty head-on. I get the impression that, for you, this falls into that category of difficult issues that good Catholics can disagree on. I would be very interested to get your thoughts.

    John M.

  14. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley

    Blessed John Paul the Great called on Catholics to adhere sincerely to conciliar directives when he exhorted them in Mexico City to keepto the letter and the spirit of Vatican II: “Take in your hands the documents of the Council. Study them with loving attention, in a spirit of prayer, to discover what the Spirit wished to say about the Church.” (Homily in Mexico Cathedral, 26 January 1979).

  15. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley

    Benedict XVIs Assessment of 2005 comments on the Vatican II
    Address to Members of the Roman Curia
    VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2006 ( Here is Benedict XVI’s address, delivered on Dec. 22, to cardinals, archbishops, bishops and members of the Roman Curia in the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings.
    Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia
    Offering Them His Christmas Greetings
    Thursday, 22 December 2005

    However, wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the Council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing.

    In the great dispute about man which marks the modern epoch, the Council had to focus in particular on the theme of anthropology. It had to question the relationship between the Church and her faith on the one hand, and man and the contemporary world on the other (cf. ibid.). The question becomes even clearer if, instead of the generic term “contemporary world,” we opt for another that is more precise: The Council had to determine in a new way the relationship between the Church and the modern era.

    It might be said that three circles of questions had formed which then, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, were expecting an answer. First of all, the relationship between faith and modern science had to be redefined. Furthermore, this did not only concern the natural sciences but also historical science for, in a certain school, the historical-critical method claimed to have the last word on the interpretation of the Bible and, demanding total exclusivity for its interpretation of Sacred Scripture, was opposed to important points in the interpretation elaborated by the faith of the Church.

    Secondly, it was necessary to give a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern state that would make room impartially for citizens of various religions and ideologies, merely assuming responsibility for an orderly and tolerant coexistence among them and for the freedom to practice their own religion.

    Thirdly, linked more generally to this was the problem of religious tolerance — a question that required a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions. In particular, before the recent crimes of the Nazi regime and, in general, with a retrospective look at a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel.

    The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.

    The Church, both before and after the Council, was and is the same Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, journeying on through time; she continues “her pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God,” proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” No. 8).

    Those who expected that with this fundamental “yes” to the modern era all tensions would be dispelled and that the “openness toward the world” accordingly achieved would transform everything into pure harmony, had underestimated the inner tensions as well as the contradictions inherent in the modern epoch.

    They had underestimated the perilous frailty of human nature which has been a threat to human progress in all the periods of history and in every historical constellation. These dangers, with the new possibilities and new power of man over matter and over himself, did not disappear but instead acquired new dimensions: a look at the history of the present day shows this clearly.

    In our time too, the Church remains a “sign that will be opposed” (Luke 2:34) — not without reason did Pope John Paul II, then still a cardinal, give this title to the theme for the Spiritual Exercises he preached in 1976 to Pope Paul VI and the Roman Curia. The Council could not have intended to abolish the Gospel’s opposition to human dangers and errors.

    On the contrary, it was certainly the Council’s intention to overcome erroneous or superfluous contradictions in order to present to our world the requirement of the Gospel in its full greatness and purity.

    The steps the Council took toward the modern era which had rather vaguely been presented as “openness to the world,” belong in short to the perennial problem of the relationship between faith and reason that is re-emerging in ever new forms. The situation that the Council had to face can certainly be compared to events of previous epochs.

    In his First Letter, St. Peter urged Christians always to be ready to give an answer (“apologia”) to anyone who asked them for the logos, the reason for their faith (cf. 3:15).

    This meant that biblical faith had to be discussed and come into contact with Greek culture and learn to recognize through interpretation the separating line but also the convergence and the affinity between them in the one reason, given by God.

    When, in the 13th century through the Jewish and Arab philosophers, Aristotelian thought came into contact with medieval Christianity formed in the Platonic tradition and faith and reason risked entering an irreconcilable contradiction, it was above all St. Thomas Aquinas who mediated the new encounter between faith and Aristotelian philosophy, thereby setting faith in a positive relationship with the form of reason prevalent in his time. There is no doubt that the wearing dispute between modern reason and the Christian faith, which had begun negatively with the Galileo case, went through many phases, but with the Second Vatican Council the time came when broad new thinking was required.

    Its content was certainly only roughly traced in the conciliar texts, but this determined its essential direction, so that the dialogue between reason and faith, particularly important today, found its bearings on the basis of the Second Vatican Council.

    This dialogue must now be developed with great open-mindedness but also with that clear discernment that the world rightly expects of us in this very moment. Thus, today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican Council: If we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.

  16. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley

    27 February 2000
    Holy Father John Paul II addresses conference studying the implementation of the Second Vatican Council

    The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has been a gift of the Spirit to his Church. For this reason it remains a fundamental event not only for understanding the Church’s history at this end of the century, but first and foremost for exploring the abiding presence of the risen Christ beside his Bride in the course of world events. Through the Council Assembly, which saw Bishops come to the See of Peter from all over the world, it was possible to note how the patrimony of 2,000 years of faith has been preserved in its original authenticity.

    The Council was an act of love: “A great, threefold act of love”—as Pope Paul VI said in his opening address at the Council’s fourth session—an act of love “for God, for the Church, for humanity” (Insegnamenti, vol. III [1965], p. 475). The effectiveness of that act has not been exhausted at all: it continues to work through the rich dynamic of its teachings.

    The “little seed” which John XXIII planted “with anxious mind and hand” (Apostolic Constitution Humanae salutis, 25 December 1961) in the Basilica of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls; on 25 January 1959, when he announced his intention to convoke the 21st Ecumenical Council in the Church’s history, has grown and become a tree which now spreads its majestic and mighty branches in the Vineyard of the Lord. It has already produced many fruits in its 35 years of life, and it will produce many more in the years to come. A new season is dawning before our eyes: it is time for deep reflection on the Council’s teaching, time to harvest all that the Council Fathers sowed and the generation of recent years has tended and awaited.

    The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was truly a prophetic message for the Church’s life; it will continue to be so for many years in the third millennium which has just begun. The Church, rich in the eternal truths entrusted to her, will still speak to the world, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the one true Saviour of the world: yesterday, today and for ever!

  17. BaedaBenedictus says:

    “The “little seed” which John XXIII planted. . .has grown and become a tree which now spreads its majestic and mighty branches in the Vineyard of the Lord. It has already produced many fruits in its 35 years of life, and it will produce many more in the years to come. A new season is dawning before our eyes . . . .”

    Ugh, Blessed John Paul needed better writers.

    As the only practicing Catholic left among 2 parents, 4 siblings, 16 aunts and uncles and 36 cousins, I think I have the right to say:

    What a heaping load of crap.

  18. albizzi says:

    Remember pope John in 1962: The new pentecost, the new “springtime” of the Church.
    In my opinion, these writers are living on another planet, millions years-light from here.

  19. mvhcpa says:

    BeadaBenedictus and albizzi,

    I really think you are engaging in “post hoc” thinking when you are convicting Vatican II for your paticular issues as well as all the problems with Catholicism today. I honestly think that the horrid developments we see today in the Curch would probably still be coming to pass; Vatican II’s ambiguity just gave the pernicuous folks cover while invoking the “spirit” of Vatican II. Of course, the “wonderful wonderfulness” you both cite above is of dubious nature, as well.

    As I have said in other posts, I think that the “modern era” with with the Church must engage is an unusual confluence of circumstances that became unique in the experience of the Church: The Church is no longer the world power-broker that it was, yet it is also not in danger (save the grace of the Holy Spirit) from being stamped out and wiped off the planet (like it was in Roman times, or nearly was in America at the time of “No Irish need apply”).

    In such a world, the Church clings to the same Truth, which never changes, while at the same time the Church absolutely MUST fit it’s message delivery system to the new circumstances. This it must do in every age, including the current challenging times.

    Michael Val
    (who thinks too many people–not necessarily BeadaBenedictus nor albizzi–cling to or bash Vatican II without really understanding it)

  20. albizzi says:

    VATII is hard to understand becs it is ambiguous.
    Is ambiguousness the mark of the Holy Spirit or that of the men?

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