Benedict XVI on Vatican II: Council of the Fathers v. Council of the Media

Today during his annual meeting with the clergy of the Diocese of Rome, of which Benedict is still the Bishop, the Holy Father spoke about the Second Vatican Council.  Not my translation, but my emphases and comments:

[T]here was the Council of the Fathers – the true Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council in and of itself, and the world perceived the Council through them, through the media. [Read The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber.] So the immediately efficiently Council that got thorough to the people, was that of the media, not that of the Fathers. And while the Council of the Fathers evolved within the faith, it was a Council of the faith that sought the intellect, that sought to understand and try to understand the signs of God at that moment, that tried to meet the challenge of God in this time to find the words for today and tomorrow. So while the whole council – as I said – moved within the faith, as fides quaerens intellectum, the Council of journalists did not, naturally, take place within the world of faith but within the categories of the media of today, that is outside of the faith, with different hermeneutics. It was a hermeneutic of politics.  [Like that of the National Schismatic Reporter and The Bitter Pill and others.]

The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church. [As most of the newsies for liberal outlets, and liberal nuns, do today.] It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world. There were those who sought a decentralization of the Church, power for the bishops and then, through the Word for the “people of God”, the power of the people, the laity. There was this triple issue: the power of the Pope, then transferred to the power of the bishops and then the power of all … popular sovereignty. Naturally they saw this as the part to be approved, to promulgate, to help.

This was the case for the liturgy: there was no interest in the liturgy as an act of faith, but as a something to be made understandable, similar to a community activity, something profane. [Why, O why, Holy Father, can’t you stay on a while longer and talk like this more often?] And we know that there was a trend, which was also historically based, that said: “Sacredness is a pagan thing, possibly even from the Old Testament. [Boooo!] In the New Testament the only important thing is that Christ died outside: that is, outside the gates, that is, in the secular world”. Sacredness ended up as profanity even in worship: worship is not worship but an act that brings people together, communal participation and thus participation as activity. [Classic Ratzinger.] And these translations, trivializing the idea of the Council, were virulent in the practice of implementing the liturgical reform, born in a vision of the Council outside of its own key vision of faith. And it was so, also in the matter of Scripture: Scripture is a book, historical, to treat historically and nothing else, and so on.

And we know that this Council of the media was accessible to all. So, dominant, more efficient, this Council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed, the liturgy was trivialized … and the true Council has struggled to materialize, to be realized: the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council. But the real strength of the Council was present and slowly it has emerged and is becoming the real power which is also true reform, true renewal of the Church. [Marshall Plan…]

It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost and the true Council is emerging with all its spiritual strength. And it is our task, in this Year of Faith, starting from this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realized and Church is really renewed. We hope that the Lord will help us.

I, retired with my prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious! Thank you.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Benedict XVI, Classic Posts, Liberals, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices, Vatican II, Year of Faith and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Supertradmum says:

    Fr. Z., will you make a comment on the Rhine Flows Into the Tiber, which I imagine most of us here on this blog have read?

    Could we not listen to this Pope until we die, he has SO much to teach us?

  2. boko fittleworth says:

    Yeah, our bishops have been promoting and fighting for beautiful, reverent liturgies since the Council, but that darn media…. Whatever gets you through the night, I guess.

  3. CRPodhaj says:

    If you read the whole article, it is a brief hermeneutic of the Second Vatican Council.

    And once again, in an impromptu talk, Benedict gives vocabulary to something many feel or know but don’t have words to express (the Council of the Fathers – the true Council – vs. the Council of the media or jounalists – the Virtual Council). Watch as that language becomes defined and standardized.

  4. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    What a whitewash! Very disappointing. As if the media forced at gunpoint Pope Paul VI, Bugnini and other bishops to roll out their innovations, and that same nasty media forced all those Cardinals and all those bishops and all those priests and all those religious and all those laity to accept – indeed embrace with hearty relish – those same innovations.

    Puhleeze! That everyone in that generation was raised in the same milieu can only mean that the new milieu is really very much a continuation of the so-called old. Maybe the problems, then, go back a little further than the media as whipping boy.

  5. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear Papa Benedetto, this should be read in all Catholic churches in the World and printed in all parish bulletins everywhere! It’s so heart breaking that so many of our own brothers and sisters do not understand what we really have and how deep and joyful our faith is. “The true council is emerging”, Herzlichen Dank, allerliebster Papst!

  6. anilwang says:

    To be fair, “The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church. [As most of the newsies for liberal outlets, and liberal nuns, do today.], it’s not only the liberal view.

    Conservative Protestants view church synods and parish councils this way too. Consider the power struggles between different currents in bitter church the Orthodox Presbyterian Church over the issue of premillennialism. Because there’s no final authority in Conservative Protestantism to mediate whether premillennialism is essential doctrine or if it is heresy, it turns into a battle of egos and power struggles until one or both sides gives up and concedes or one side gets fed and splits (which is how the Bible Presbyterian Church formed).

    If even Conservative Protestants see their own church synods and parish councils this way, what hope would secularist, liberals, and people of other religions have in understanding Catholicism is different?

  7. fvhale says:

    In Italian: “…c’era il Concilio dei Padri – il vero Concilio –, ma c’era anche il Concilio dei media. Era quasi un Concilio a sé, e il mondo ha percepito il Concilio tramite questi, tramite i media. Quindi il Concilio immediatamente efficiente arrivato al popolo, è stato quello dei media, non quello dei Padri.”

    This difference between the “true” Council, the one “of the Fathers” and presented in the documents, and the “Council of the Media,” which gave rise to the ever-elusive “Spirit of Vatican II,” is a real problem.

    But “the media” should not be understood merely as the NYTimes or NSR or Pill. Much of the “media” that made this mess was controlled by the bishops, including their interviews with journalists, and also their diocesan publications, many of which took wide excursions from sound Catholic doctrine in the years following the Council. Even publications of national episcopal conferences from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s show the prevalence of the “Spirit of Vatican II” with free and open discussions on celibacy, married clergy, birth control, etc.

    One has only to read the news from the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, including many Catholic publications, to see that many bishops, religious, theologians and lay-leaders were promoting and teaching, in all sorts of media, the “teachings” of a Council very different from the one found in the actual Council documents approved by the Fathers at the Council.

    Two examples from Rome in 1967: The Episcopal Synod of 1967 was no walk in the park for Ven. Pope Paul VI, and the World Congress of the Laity (with overwhelming rejection of the ideas that would come in Humanae Vitae). Well reported in media of all sorts.

  8. James Joseph says:

    Wow! That was great. If I didn’t know any better, I think it was a screed. Really great stuff.

    BTW. Didn’t realise ‘Rhine Flows into the Tiber’ was a healthy book to read… and I have likewise avoided it for several years. I was told it was un-Catholic or schimatic or something… so yeah. It’s now on my Amazon list. Bonus!

  9. acardnal says:

    The paragraph Fr. Z is commenting on above from the Pope’s speech today is only the last paragraph! As printed out, it is seven pages long. I am still studying it. I do hope that in these last days of his Pontificate, His Holiness continues to express his sentiments with this kind of candidness. . . especially regarding the deterioration of the liturgy to “something profane”.

    And again he criticizes the over emphasis of the historical-critical method of scripture study:
    “And it was so, also in the matter of Scripture: Scripture is a book, historical, to treat historically and nothing else, and so on.”

    Please, Holy Father, use these last two weeks to say more than once what the Church really needs to hear before the Conclave begins.

  10. Glen M says:

    Hopefully the next pontiff will make it his mission to correct the abuses and get the Vatican II documents properly interpreted. If he chooses “John XXIV” it could symbolize this intention quite well.

  11. pmullane says:

    If only we in the Church would read, engage with, digest and follow what our Holy Father has to say about the Second Vatican Council, rather than using it as cover for our own peccadillos, or endlessly griping about it, then the Church and The world would be so much better off. Forgive me Holy Father, I have wasted so much time and neglected the treasure of your wisdom.

    Thank you Lord Jesus for the gift of your servant Benedict

    Thank you Holy Father.

  12. anilwang says:

    Cheesesteak Expert says: “What a whitewash!”

    It’s not, but as you point out, it’s a bit more complicated. The Humanae Vitae rebellion, Winnepeg Statement, and Dutch Catechism and subsequent “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” response to the issue of contraception played a great deal in undermining the priesthood, but that too has roots in the media regularly publicising among other things such as “If the Church was wrong about contraception, how can’t you be sure that they’re not wrong about other things” or “Encyclicals and council documents are too difficult, let ‘theologians’ tell you want it really means” or “contraception and other doctrines are just policies which can change with the next Pope”.

    Michael Voris has a recent ChurchMilitantTV episode (Drum Beat) on precisely how the media has been able to brainwash average Catholics (which would ultimately include priests too).

    Those factors were at play in Vatican II and the Church at the time was so filled with optimism that it had its guard down and let, as Pope Paul VI notes “the smoke of Satan enter the Church”.

    BTW, you might want to read the original “Smoke from Satan” quote in context. It’s strikingly similar to some of the things Pope Benedict has said above:

  13. I said it once…and will say it again…imagine the privilege it would be to sit in Benedict’s presence and just absorb his words…savoring them, rolling them around in your mind through the eyes of faith…

    God bless this gentle servant for all he’s done.

  14. Traductora says:

    Remarkable observations! I guess he feels that he no longer has to maintain even the pretense of being PC in any area, so we might hear more things like this over the next few days. I hope so.

    While it’s true perhaps that the cause of all the evils of Vatican II was not the media, it was certainly the public interpretation, including by the Catholic press, of the Council that gave wings to some of the airier vibes of the “spirit of Vatican II.”

    One thing that he touches on is particularly important: the collapse of authority that occurred as a result. Individual bishops have always probably been difficult to control, since the days of the Twelve, but they took the popular conception of the “broadening” of authority and didn’t interpret it to mean that they individually had more authority and thus more responsibility, but that it all devolved onto the national bishops’ councils, which in turn handed it along to anybody who came along and laid claim to it (wacky nuns, dissident priests, goofy laypeople). Meanwhile, none of the real authorities ever accepted or exerted their authority in anything, because it might make people unhappy and make them look mean and then you know what the press would do to them…

    The crisis of authority was a feature of the 1960s everywhere, but it was particularly disastrous in the church. Suddenly moral authority became “judgmental” and once we got into “going with the flow” rather than being dogmatic and “undemocratic,” we all know what happened. The only place they exercised authority was in suppressing the Old Rite and old practices and conservative thought. Then there was nothing too harsh. And the media was cheering. I remember Cardinal McCarrick in LA and how that crisis was played by the media.

  15. acardnal says:

    Cardinal McCarrick in LA? He is the Emeritus Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

  16. acardnal says:

    Perhaps you were thinking of James Francis Cardinal McIntyre ? 1948-70

  17. chcrix says:

    And remember folks, Pius XII foresaw this and warned of it. That was his reason for NOT calling a Vatican council.

  18. wmeyer says:

    God bless this gentle servant for all he’s done.

    Amen, Bryan, amen.

  19. Tarcissian Tendency says:

    Let us all thank the Lord for Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI who has displayed time and again – this is just another example – that he has not fled for fear of the wolves, but rather has had the courage to fend off those who have assaulted the Church in recent times, and has sought always to teach and to quietly correct error. For this amazing, intelligent, loving and humble man, may God make us truly thankful. Peter’s next successor has big shoes to fill.

  20. Traductora says:

    @ acardnal Yes, I meant Cdl. McIntyre – and the nuns. The press was cheering them on and he was depicted as the most horrible creep in the universe. That’s because the press (or the media in general) speaks almost entirely to emotion, so in addition to the crisis of authority, we had with a media-manipulated Church that went from being the most rational institution in the world to one governed entirely by emotion or even sentiment. That, of course, is another thing BXVI has been trying to correct.

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Read this to my mom — she loved it! She had to live through a lot of this junk, and really enjoyed getting the skinny of why things went so wrong in the wake of the Council.

  22. NBW says:

    Bravo, Papa Benedicto XVI!

  23. fvhale says:

    “The National Catholic Welfare Conference…all 261 cardinals, archbishops, bishops and auxiliary bishops are to attend a conference at Catholic University Nov 14-18.
    The five day conference, the first such meeting of the bishops in years, will be to implement the sweeping changes in the church decreed by the four-year worldwide Vatican Council.
    The question of abolishing the traditional required abstinence from meat on Fridays is a major one…
    There will be reports on the use of English in the liturgy, on the ecumenical movement, and on seminary training. Various documents of the Vatican Council will be discussed.
    Of general interest to0 is the use of English in the mass, which is now in effect with local variations…
    The bishops can be expected to bring up some of the controversies now flaring within the church–such as discussion of priests organizing themselves into some type of unions to negotiate with their bishops.”
    (AP article by Jerry Baulch, viewed in Park City Daily News, Sunday Oct 20, 1966, p. 3)

    “A Roman Catholic layman, Donald J. Thorman, writing in Overview, an assessment of church trends published by the Thomas More Association, says that an ‘informal, unofficial church’ is developing alongside the official church.
    ‘The rapid proliferation of such underground church communities is such that the noninstitutional church is fast assuming the characteristics of a social movement within some segments of American Catholicism,’ he says.
    Thorman, publisher of the National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City, Mo., says frustration at delays in reforms implied by the Second Vatican Council has stimulated the ‘underground, noninstitutional church’ with its ‘own faithful, clergy, liturgy and morality.’
    He lists examples brought to his attention in which clergy and laity get together in private homes for ‘Eucharistic happenings’–Bible reading, discussion and communion.
    He said an increasing number of priests say ‘they have suddenly discovered something bigger than the institutional church–Christianity–and it has changed their lives.'”
    (AP article by George Cornell, viewed in Sarasota Journal, Friday Aug 18, 1967, p. 21)

    It really is fascinating to read newspaper accounts of Catholic life in the late 1960’s.

  24. CharlesG says:

    For those who say this is a whitewash, by Council of the Fathers, Pope Benedict obviously means the Council documents themselves as adopted by the Council Fathers, not necessarily the way they were implemented or the subsequent interpretation, whether by the media or even some in the Church. I think the Pope is right that we should all pay proper respect to the text of the Vatican II magisterial documents (and I’m looking at you, SSPX), adopted by a properly called ecumenical council and ratified by the Pope, and interpret them in accordance with an hermeneutic of reform in continuity, as Pope Benedict has taught. Criticizing the Council implementation does not justify denigration of the Vatican II documents and their magisterial status.

  25. MikeM says:

    Pope, won’t you stay, just a little bit longer? Pope, please, please, stay just a little bit more?

  26. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    anilwang and CharlesG, you are what those in rehab would call “enablers”. You facilitate the demise of the patient by not addressing where ultimate responsibility lies, making excuses to avoid objective analysis and logical cause and effect. To blame it all on the media – please, that’s a joke. Yet I’ve heard and read the Pope’s theme of “bad, nasty old media” from other high churchmen of that era, all of them actively and personally invested in the Council. They can’t say “We screwed up”, or worse, Catholics can’t say “the Pope(s) screwed up”. That’s the real issue. And so the patient continues going down, down, down.

    The continuity angle also means that everything was wonderful before Vatican II. The very people entrusted with guarding this incredible patrimony, who were marinated and educated in it, were the ones who threw it out the window. Michael Davies tried to explain the “how” in his books (Rhine flowing into the Tiber, etc), but he never could articulate the “why”.

  27. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr. Z. asks, “Why, O why, Holy Father, can’t you stay on a while longer and talk like this more often?”

    Will “I, retired with my prayer” really mean that he will largely, if not wholly, refrain from talking like this (i.e., writing like this), even though he has not ‘Pontifically’ stayed on a while longer?

    I hope it does not (despite all, even apparently knowledgeable, suggestions to the contrary)!

    Cheesecake Expert, some 414 years ago, the defender of the ‘English Reformation Elizabethan Settlement’ (so to call it), Richard Hooker, jotted, “Two things there are which trouble greatly these later times: one that the Church of Rome cannot, another that Geneva will not erre” – meaning, I take it, that the Calvinists (etc.) would not readily admit when they were mistaken, while ‘infallibility’ put certain teachings beyond ‘reconsideration’ – and some were willing to classify very many things under ‘infallible’. Hooker is good on “our love set on fire to maintain that which once we have done” – not only on the part of Calvinists – it is a perennial and deep human problem, but it is not clearly so wholly the problem here as you seem intent on maintaining.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    The big problem with V2 was naivety, present in just about every aspect of the council, from the way the documents were planned & written, to the way they expected the documents to be received & used. This talk does nothing to relieve any of those naivety issues. What did they expect the media to do? Did it never dawn on them that this might happen? Or was being at that council such a heady thing that they thought no one could possibly misunderstand what they saw or wrote? How naive is that?

  29. Johnno says:

    Are we just going to pretend there were no problems behind the scenes of the council, and are we going to continue to pretend that there aren’t any issues with how some of the council documents are written?

    The media is full of idiots, but this entire council in itself was a bad move, and never fixed the problem it was called to solve. Some, in fact even Benedict XVI himself had said earlier that no one had any idea why the Council was called in the first place aside form some vague exercise of optimism on the part of John XXIII… The Church had 50 years to fix it. If we can reform the reform of the Mass, then we sure can reform the council of reform.

    Here’s hoping Benedict XVI could’ve stayed around to fix it. But rather I wager it’ll take a new younger Pope who has no personal feelings or attachments to the council or whatever it was ‘intended to be’ to get things done. Time for the Pope to issue some executive orders of his own rather and force thigns to get done. All this dialoguing is worthless. God is showing us an open example of why are enemies are progressing in the form of Barack Obama. Time for the sons of Light to be as cunning and determined as the sons of darkness.

  30. Stumbler but trying says:

    “But the real strength of the Council was present and slowly it has emerged and is becoming the real power which is also true reform, true renewal of the Church. [Marshall Plan…]
    It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost and the true Council is emerging with all its spiritual strength. And it is our task, in this Year of Faith, starting from this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realized and Church is really renewed. We hope that the Lord will help us.”

    50 years has been a long time but finally! Finally, as our Holy Father has said…”the Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost” Let’s keep praying folks, let’s keep offering up our rosaries, our holy hours, our fasting, so that the walls of said “Virtual Council” come crumbling down. Let us pray for those who will awaken from their long sojourn of disobedience and folly…let us steer the lost back into the Church with our prayers and with our hope in Christ Jesus’s triumph.

    The Holy Spirit will not be one to be defeated by the Virtual Council…never! I had my eyes opened once again, today, in reading that particular passage. Who, but our beloved Papa Benedicto to do it! Who, but a faithful son of the Church who was there! What a gift to have shared this with his brothers and with us…to begin to hope truly by this affirmation that the “true Council” is emerging with all its spiritual strength is truly joyful indeed.

    Thank you Lord Jesus! Thank you for consoling us once again through the words spoken by your faithful son, our beloved Papa Benedicto. Thank you for reminding me:
    “Behold I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the world.”

  31. Stumbler but trying says:

    Perdon! In my feeble attempts to multitask, I need to make some corrections to my post. Rather than refer to our Holy Father as a “faithful son” of our Lord Jesus Christ, I meant to say “faithful servant.”
    He remains a “faithful son” of the Church though. ^^
    Many thanks and God bless you Fr. Z. for another wonderful article to read and to ponder.

  32. Athelstan says:

    Hello Charles,

    For those who say this is a whitewash, by Council of the Fathers, Pope Benedict obviously means the Council documents themselves as adopted by the Council Fathers, not necessarily the way they were implemented or the subsequent interpretation, whether by the media or even some in the Church.

    Clearly that’s what he means.

    But I do think that many traditionalists understand that. And some are saying: “Yes, all this is true. That is what happened during and after the Council. But you can’t stop there! What of the texts themselves?”

    Now, obviously the SSPX line on the Council texts has been, at times, strong. Bishop Tissier de Mallerias: “I will say, one day the Church should erase this Council. She will not speak of it anymore. She must forget it.” Well, that’s quite unlikely. But I think there is a reasonable ground for a critical consideration of the texts themselves with lapsing into a pure rejection of the Council.

    To be sure: It’s never been understood that ecumenical councils are absolutely without error or at least difficulty on every point, especially when there is no dogmatic definition in play. Even the Holy Father, however skillfully he avoids criticizing the texts themselves in this speech, has done so himself in his days before he ascended to the throne of Peter – see for example his expressed concern (in his article for the Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II) that Gaudium et Spes’s discussion of human freedom falls into “downright Pelagian terminology.” Obviously, this is ground that must be trod carefully. But some traditionalists are a bit frustrated that this very blunt talk by the Holy Father carefully stays away from any suggestion, it seems, that this unscrupulous strategy by Church progressives to hijack the Council to their ends actually helped shape some textual passages in helpfully ambiguous ways. Or, where prescriptive, went even further, such as on liturgical reform.

    At some point, these passages must be grappled with, especially where the tensions with preconciliar teachings are so stark. This is not to say they cannot be reconciled; this is not to say that the answers will always be to the SSPX’s liking. But the Church has too often been reluctant to do this hard spadework up until now.

  33. fvhale says:

    I am just curious…
    Can someone who feels that there are definite problems with the Council documents give some examples, including both the document/paragraph/text and the Church teaching from an earlier age with which it conflicts, where “the tensions with preconciliar teachings are so stark”?
    I would love to know if this is a real problem, and not just a phantom.

  34. Therese says:

    “Why, O why, Holy Father, can’t you stay on a while longer and talk like this more often?”

    Ah, but they are paying attention now. ;-)

  35. Stumbler but trying says:

    I found these two articles interesting in light of what I read earlier here. Fr. Z, if you find them to be in the wrong section of your blog please place them where they might more appropriately read or delete or comment.
    Conrad Black:
    Father John Jay Hughes who was a student of then Professor Joseph Ratzinger:

  36. I would agree with fvhale. I’m certainly no expert, but I have read most of the documents and I’ve given some good consideration to the four Constitutions in particular, particularly the three of more weight and especially the two dogmatic ones.

    I can say with confidence that I don’t think there’s anything really in the Dogmatic or the Liturgical Constitutions (Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium, Sacrosanctum Concilium) properly interpreted and implemented which is in any way contrary to the earlier Roman Catholic teachings. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes may be freely understood to be nearly Pelagian if taken absolutely literally and certainly overly-optimistic of both man and the society made up of men, but this is understandable and not all that problematic, since the Church was commenting on the times and not teaching dogmatic truths. As a part of the Ordinary Magisterium, it should be read and respected, but hardly is it error-free at least in how it presents.

    The more minor documents, especially Nostra Aetate and Unitatis Redintegratio, contain problematic phrases that are in much the same state as Gaudium et Spes. Taken literally and enforced at face-value, they’re difficult to grapple with. However, being minor documents, they bear a lower grade of authority and thus are not as problematic as people may think.

    The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council exercised solely Ordinary Magisterium in teaching in the Council documents in contrast with Infallible Magisterium, such as Nicaea I used for instance, which is infallible on its face. All Ordinary Magisterium, even the Dogmatic Constitutions, may contain limited error without compromising our Catholic Faith in the authority of the Catholic Church and the protection of the Church by the Holy Spirit. However, the capacity to err is *limited*, which entails that the documents are on the whole trustworthy and the potential error is in phrasing and word choice and in some thoughts expressed among the many in a Document, which I would be perfectly comfortable stating is possible in the case about the Documents of Vatican II. Additionally, within the Ordinary Magisterium employed in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, there is a gradation of authority. The Dogmatic Constitutions are, quite simply, dogmatic and bear very high authority.

    Regarding both the greater and lesser Documents of the Council, I might add that it is the prerogative of another Ecumenical Council or the Apostolic See to weigh and sift the Documents and tweak them, correcting any limited error in phrasing, word choice, or thought. We are not the Magisterium of bloggers. The SSPX is not the Magisterium. The Bishop of Rome and the Bishop in communion with him are the Magisterium, and to them belongs the right and duty to sort through the Magisterium and refine it.

  37. Clinton R. says:

    The desertification of the Holy Faith in the last 50 years reveals how the modernist influence has greatly plagued the Church. The Second Vatican Council is still seen by some as the moment in time the Church changed her teachings. The liberals took advantage of the lack of anathemas in the conciliar documents and started the process of abandoning tradition and praxis and embracing novelties that were foreign to the Catholic religion. The Bugnini created New Mass only served to grease the wheels of modernism and outright apostasy. Those newspaper accounts of the Church in the 1960’s that fvhale posted sadly still ring true in too many places, such as the LA Religious Education Congress. Pope Benedict XVI put forth much effort to turn the Church back towards her rich traditions despite heavy resistance. I pray the next pontiff will restore Holy Mass in the ancient rite and also restore the old rite from everything from the blessing of holy water to exorcisms to the ordination of priests.

  38. Ambrose Jnr says:

    Interesting to see again and again how the Vat II documents themselves are ambiguous…typically the result of a compromise between factions with completely different perspectives…a very telling example is Pope Paul VI’s assertion that there are no new dogmatic teachings in the Council, and then having 4 documents called ‘dogmatic constitutions’…

    I agree with JonathanCatholic that the other documents have less authority…

    What is the basic hermeneutic of interpretation in God’s eyes? For documentation at the same level of authority, is it ‘lex posterior derogat priori’ or is it ‘lex clarior derogat tenebrior’…such a vital question would clarify the correct hermeneutic to be used to discern the Holy Spirit’s will…

  39. AmbroseJnr:

    There are actually only two dogmatic Constitutions :) When Pope Paul VI said that there were no new dogmatic teachings in the Council, what he meant was that there are no new infallible teachings. It’s slightly confusing, but dogmatic can be used in various ways, either to refer to infallible statements (“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible.”) or to the more important and authoritative parts of a Council employing only Ordinary Magisterum. Vatican II is tue latter.

  40. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Venerator Sti Lot – I think you are obfuscating the issue. One need only read the correspondence of Pope Paul VI regarding Msgr. Lefebvre and to the good Msgr. to know what the issue is all about – authority. Plain and simple. For Catholics, you HAVE to submit to the Pope. End of story.
    Except….which Pope? The one living now? The uncertainty of modern Catholicism is precisely this question. The Mass of Pius V was THE Mass for the ages, and according to Pius V, woe to anyone who would touch it…until another Pope did, Paul VI. And that Pope made it very clear to Msgr. Lefebvre that the Pope and the Pope alone was responsible for interpreting the Council and managing its directives.
    Which is why Benedict’s latest is such a whitewash.

  41. CharlesG says:

    Dear Cheesesteak,

    So if one is loyal to the Magisterium — all of it, all the ecumenical councils and popes, and reconciling all the data of that Magisterium without picking and choosing like your SSPX friends do, one is an enabler? I resent that remark. Also, I don’t think you read what I wrote, since I didn’t say that the Pope was only blaming the media, but specifically mentioned that since the Pope was talking about the documents of the Council itself as opposed to the wrongful interpretation promoted by the media, he left open the possibility that he was indirectly criticizing those in Church who subsequently implemented the Council wrongly. In fact the Pope is on record criticizing the way the liturgical reform was implemented. Frankly, I completely disagree with your view that the appropriate response to what Pope Benedict is saying is that one should bitch and moan and criticize Popes (e.g., accusing the Pope of “whitewashing”) and the Council in an extremist way the way the SSPX and certain other insufferable traditionalists do. I find the impolite condemnations of anything and everything Vatican II and post by SSPX and their ilk completely unhelpful in moving the Church to a better and more traditional place. As Catholics we have a deposit of faith and a magisterial office composed of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him, and we owe all of this respect. Vatican II is not all bad and could and should be interpreted in continuity with the whole magisterium of the Church, not simply dismissed as all error and evil. What other choice does one have if one wants to be faithful to the Church and the Magisterium? To say the Magisterium ceased to function in Pius XII’s day? To accuse an ecumenical council of error as Fellay does? To accuse Pope Benedict of being “modernist”? What possible good does any of that do? Measured and respectful arguments about interpretation based on tradition are fine and that is what is called for. Even to the extent Council teaching is ordinary magisterium and not ordinary and universal magisterium or dogmatic definitions, we owe it religious submission of will and intellect. Heaven help us from those who can do nothing but whinge and moan about a good man like Pope Benedict who is orthodox and has the best interests of the Church at heart.

  42. Lynne says:

    fvhale, if you could get your hands on the book, Iota Unum, which covers the Council or any of Michael Davies’ books which primarily cover the N.O. Mass, you would find your answers…

  43. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    CharlesG – you ask, “What other choice does one have if one wants to be faithful to the Church and the Magisterium?” Exactly. There is not other choice. One must submit. But to whom, only the reigning Pope? That was pretty much Pope Paul VI’s directive to Arch. Lefebrve. And it was also the directive of Pius XII, and Pius X, and Pius IX, and Pius V, going back a long way. That’s the real hermeneutic of continuity. And Pope Paul VI was right, that is modern Catholicism. What other yardstick is left? Please tell me. It is certainly not the liturgy. I don’t see how it’s anything but the reigning Pope for Roman Catholics, and the Pope of the 60’s and 70’s rolled out Vatican II, and the Pope of the 80’s and 90’s doubled down on it. And now Pope of the 00’s, as he’s leaving the stage, says, “Oh, it was the media.” Puhleeze.

  44. fvhale says:

    Dear Lynne,

    Iota Unum does not answer my question, as far as I can tell. However, it does complain much about “change” and seems to condemn anything “new.” I can understand people do not like change, especially big, messy, changes they do not want. That is understandable.

    But it does not answer my question posted above. Where are the specific texts, with proper citation, in the documents of Vatican II where “the tensions with preconciliar teachings are so stark”? And which teachings? I have several reference texts for dogma (such as multiple editions of DS in different languages, including from the days when it was all Latin and Greek), etc. Which points of the Church’s tradition of teaching faith and morals are starkly “in tension” with which points of the documents of Vatican II?

  45. BillG says:

    It pains me to essentially agree with Cheesecake expert. “Whitewash” is, perhaps, not the term I would have chosen. Another colloquial term – “passing the buck” – might be more appropriate. Did the media draft the Council documents? Did the media debate the documents in Latin? Did the media vote on the Council documents? Was the Committee on the Liturgy chosen to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium appointed by the media? In his 1985 Ratzinger Report, the author said of the documents of VC2 – “If thus rediscovered in their truth, those great texts will make it possible for us to understand just what happened and to react with a new vigor.” “Great texts” ?? If we look only at Sacrosanctum Concilium, which resulted in so much damage to the Mass, we find a very ambiguous text, drafted by a crafty Bugnini (not the media), a text which a Council Father could read in any way he wished. Two familiar quotes will suffice to refute the notion of this as a “great text”.

    Article 36. (a “norm”)
    The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the vernacular, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or in other parts of the liturgy, may frequently be of great advantage to the people, a wider use may be made of it, especially in readings, directives and in some prayers and chants.
    Article 54. (a “decree”)
    A suitable place may be allotted to the vernacular in Masses which are celebrated with the people, especially in the readings and “the common prayer,” and also, as local conditions may warrant, in those parts which pertain to the people, according to the rules laid down in Article 36 of this Constitution. Nevertheless care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

    A Council Father could vote for this text thinking that only the readings would be in the vernacular. “Due respect for particular law” and “as local conditions may warrant” turned into whatever the national bishops councils approved. “According to the rules laid down in Article 36….” implies the plural. What rules? Rules are not rules when they use terms like “due respect”, “may frequently”, “wider use”, “some prayers and chants”. As the man in effective charge of implementing the document he drafted, Bugnini knew exactly how to manipulate this text into whatever he wanted. And Paul VI personally appointed Bugnini (after he had been relieved of his duties by B. John XXIII before the Council) and then approved his result. The media had very little to do with it.

    No, for me, the Pope’s Virtual Council is a bit of legerdemain akin to two “forms” of the same rite. I say this with sadness as one who rejoiced as soon as he heard “Josephum” when the election of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was first announced. In the almost eight years of his pontificate, we have Summorum Pontificum (Deo gratias!) and the Pope’s example of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue to a kneeling recipient. These do little to rectify the damage done by the document I have referenced. At best, they obliquely address the “reform of the reform” necessitated by the Church’s implementation (not the media’s) of a not so “great text”.

  46. PA mom says:

    What is so ambiguous about ” the use f the Latin language… Is to be preserved in the Latin rites”?
    I do not see how you honestly apply that by removing ALL Latin from the Mass.

    “care must be taken that the faithful can say or sing together in Latin.. Parts of the Mass…”. Speaking only of my own experience, no care was taken to teach me Latin for ANY part of the Mass at any point in my life to date outside of Fr Z’s blog. This seems to me very clearly in opposition to the quotes that you have posted.

    The point I think the strongest in his comments is the assurance that the road to right interpretation is not closed and that greater and continued effort can correct the course. The time to point and blame is behind us.

  47. Bill Foley says:

    Charles G.,

    You are exactly right. You might want to go to the web site MARY VICTRIX and click on Second Vatican Council for some wonderful posts; here you will get the full text of the Holy Father’s address to the Roman clergy re Vatican II. There is also a video of Pope Benedict leaving St. Peter’s after the Ash Wednesday Mass.

    Those who do not want to accept Vatican II should also go to this site and debate with Father Angelo–if they have the courage to do so.

  48. OrthodoxChick says:

    Bill G.,

    These two paragraphs from the above article stood out to me:

    “Referring to the reform of the liturgy, the Pope recalled that “after the First World War, a liturgical movement had grown in Western Central Europe,” as “the rediscovery of the richness and depth of the liturgy,” which hitherto was almost locked within the priest’s Roman Missal, while the people prayed with their prayer books “that were made according to the heart of the people”, so that “the task was to translate the high content, the language of the classical liturgy, into more moving words, that were closer to the heart of the people. But they were almost two parallel liturgies: the priest with the altar servers, who celebrated the Mass according to the Missal and the lay people who prayed the Mass with their prayer books”. ” Now – he continued – “The beauty, the depth, the Missal’s wealth of human and spiritual history ” was rediscovered as well as the need more than one representative of the people, a small altar boy, to respond “Et cum spiritu your” etc. , to allow for “a real dialogue between priest and people,” so that the liturgy of the altar and the liturgy of the people really were “one single liturgy, one active participation”: “and so it was that the liturgy was rediscovered, renewed.””

    “The Council also pondered the principals of the intelligibility of the Liturgy – instead of being locked up in an unknown language, which was no longer spoken – and active participation. “Unfortunately – he said – these principles were also poorly understood.” In fact, intelligibility does not mean “banalizing” because the great texts of the liturgy – even in the spoken languages ?? – are not easily intelligible, “they require an ongoing formation of the Christian, so that he may grow and enter deeper into the depths of the mystery, and thus comprehend”. And also concerning the Word of God – he asked – who can honestly say they understand the texts of Scripture, simply because they are in their own language? “Only a permanent formation of the heart and mind can actually create intelligibility and participation which is more than one external activity, which is an entering of the person, of his or her being into communion with the Church and thus in fellowship with Christ.””

    To me, this confirms the naivete that the Holy Father acknowledges and it seems that some of the more liberal fathers on the Council recognized that and took advantage of it. Perhaps that accounts for the vagueness that you point out. But I do not feel that recognizing the role the media played is a “whitewash”, nor a “passing the buck”. One need only look at our nation today for an equivalent example. The mainstream media is very adept at limiting access to points of view contrary to their own, while promoting views and people who support their progressive agenda. I have no problem accepting that the same was true of the mainstream media in Europe, as well as the U.S. during the culturally modernist, turbulent 1960’s. The difference is that back then, it was much more difficult for the average Joe in the pew to find alternate media sources and commentary outside of the mainstream media.

    I think that Pope Benedict did a very nice job yesterday of pointing out in his own words that there was a perfect storm of progressives, both within and outside of the Church, ready and waiting to take advantage of any opening, and the enthusiasm and naivete of the traditional council fathers unfortunately presented just such an opening. I took the Holy Father to mean that he sees this now in hindsight, but that the tradtional council fathers were perhaps a bit oblivious to the extent of the pervasiveness of it at the time. Yet, the Holy Spirit permitted it for reasons we can only speculate about. Perhaps we had to lose our traditional Mass in order to learn to appreciate what had been entrusted to us by centuries of Catholic faithful who went before us. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, no?

  49. MikeM says:

    What, then, should the Church do? The Church needs to be able to speak, and it needs to be able to do so within the context of being Catholic. The years before and certainly those after Vatican II have shown that anything the Church says will be ripped out of its Catholic context by the media, and by destructive forces within the Church seeking to advance an agenda, and shown through a political prism, imposing a “left vs. right” dichotomy and putting everything into a zero-sum positioning game with an eye towards a secular notion of “empowerment.” Pope Benedict hasn’t been naive about that fact, but it hasn’t changed the fact that his writings and speeches are portrayed by the media in that way.

    It seems to me like Pope Benedict is calling us to the healthiest way of dealing with this… being aware of it, but trusting that, in the long run, the Holy Spirit will guide us for the best.

    I wasn’t alive at the time to know, but it seems that the Holy Father’s assertion that the Church saw itself facing steady leaks and failing to adequately equip itself for a changing world is accurate. Was that assessment wrong? If not, should the Church have continued on its course, anyway? Looking around the Church today, it seems that legitimate good fruits of Vatican II are visible, and are growing.

    Was Vatican II mishandled in some ways? Of course. But, the cultural shifts of the 70s weren’t going to leave the Church unharmed. It seems that we could be in worse shape than we are in today, and that while the Church faces ever increasing pressures from the increasingly secular world, there is also growing vitality at the Church’s core.

    Had the Council Fathers not had such naivete, it might have been better, but how much? And it seems equally naive to think that there would have been away around having the world view the Church through a worldly lens.

  50. catholicmidwest says:

    Don’t get me wrong, MikeM,
    I’m no arch-trad pining for the council to totally go away. I think that certain parts of the council, such as Dei Verbum, were excellent and necessary. I simply think that, even though the Church has more than enough experience and knowledge to understand how human beings operate, there is a certain tendency to put on rosy glasses when it comes to managing things or being as explicit about things as is necessary when dealing with human beings. I mean, honestly, some of the documents of V2 nearly beg to be mangled, the way they were written. People, inside & outside the clergy, took the general tone as permission, and ran with it, purely and simply. This has set the tone for the last 50 years. It’s not like the documents were just spiffy and someone, like our favorite scapegoat the media, ravaged them. It’s more like we did a sloppy and naive job, threw the documents out into the arena, and then invited anyone and everyone who could get their hands on a pencil to have at it at our expense. Why are we surprised it turned out the way it did?

  51. Lynne says:

    fvhale, I’m not aware of anything so concise. It would be wonderful to have something so unemotional to go to. If I find something, I will post it here.

  52. Cathy says:

    With all of the blame game on Vatican II, we do well to consider and ponder the words of the Holy Father regarding the press and it’s influence in shaping opinions. We do well also to consider the impact of the Land O’ Lakes statement in 1967, where, at the collegiate level, Catholic Universities declared autonomy, freedom from the scrutiny of the Catholic Church declaring this a “necessity” for academic freedom, and, thus declaring a right to benefit from, and accept grants- money from, wealthy contributors who were not only major stockholders in US publications, but who had a direct interest in shaping Catholic education and Catholic opinion in the US regarding Catholic belief. Fast forward to today, how much has both the liturgy and education changed? I grew up in the Novus Ordo Liturgy, the pastor would welcome the people with the pronouncement, “Jesus Christ, is Lord!”, with a voice that shook the rafters, then silence. We had altar boys only, and bells, Holy Communion on the tongue with patens held under our chins. Radical changes in the Novus Ordo Mass occurred in the Diocese where I live years after the Second Vatican Council. I don’t mean to go on and on, but in hindsight, it seems that the evolution of many understandings at the most basic levels, led to the evolution of many beliefs in opposition to the truth, and a pick and choose understanding of faith as well as a pick and choose understanding of the liturgy underscored by the fickle fashions of faith and fun and freedom and coming upon the culture via the floodgates of the media.

  53. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, well Cathy, in the 60s the Church basically threw the order out to experiment, and once you do that you can’t take it back. Those who had that “bright idea” ought to have had enough common sense and experience to know that. This reflects a scary level of incompetence. :/

  54. fvhale says:

    From the July 23, 1967 “Statement on the Nature of the Contemporary Catholic University” (a.k.a. Land O’Lakes Statement), n. 9, my emphasis (bold):

    The students will be able to participate in and contribute to a variety of liturgical functions, at best, creatively contemporary and experimental. They will find the meaning of the sacraments for themselves by joining theoretical understanding to the lived experience of them. Thus the students will find and indeed create extraordinary opportunities for a full, meaningful liturgical and sacramental life.

    Thus will arise within the Catholic university a self-developing and self-deepening society of students and faculty in which the consequences of Christian truth are taken seriously in person-to-person relationships, where the importance of religious commitment is accepted and constantly witnessed to, and where the students can learn by personal experience to consecrate their talent and learning to worthy social purposes.

    It is all about self and experimentation.

    Statement online:

    45 years later, I notice today that the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown is closing at the end of June, as the Jesuits reorganize their eastern provinces and regroup, due to lack of Jesuits. One of their fellows is Fr. Reese, SJ, popular at NSR.

    The fruit of all that self-centered experimentation of the late 1960’s and 1970’s seems to be…not much but a lot of debris and dust blowing around in a hot, dry wind.

  55. maryh says:

    This guy says that it is the liberals who are “pre-Vatican II” and that we’re finally moving into the “post-Vatican II” phase.
    Simply put: Vatican II sent lay people to take the Gospel to the great wide mission field outside church walls. But Catholics had a hard time adjusting to this change in paradigm, and when the Council called for more lay involvement, they applied the pre-Vatican II paradigm and assumed it meant more lay involvement inside the church walls.

  56. Arele says:

    This was so intriguing, I read the entire transcript.

    Fr. Z has posted the last portion, which really does sum it up well.

    There is one other part that stood out to me:
    The Council also pondered the principals of the intelligibility of the Liturgy – instead of being locked up in an unknown language, which was no longer spoken – and active participation. “Unfortunately – he said – these principles were also poorly understood.” In fact, intelligibility does not mean “banalizing” because the great texts of the liturgy – even in the spoken languages ?? – are not easily intelligible, “they require an ongoing formation of the Christian, so that he may grow and enter deeper into the depths of the mystery, and thus comprehend”. And also concerning the Word of God – he asked – who can honestly say they understand the texts of Scripture, simply because they are in their own language? “Only a permanent formation of the heart and mind can actually create intelligibility and participation which is more than one external activity, which is an entering of the person, of his or her being into communion with the Church and thus in fellowship with Christ.”,_as_i_saw_it_%5Bfull/en1-665030

    I sure wish he would stay a bit longer. I could listen to this all day long!

  57. catholicmidwest says:


    That’s correct. Catholics did not know how to do what they were asked to do because there was no modeling, no personal motive for most of them, and it made little sense to most of them, so they punted: Meaning that they did what came into their heads and what seemed like a good idea at the time–using the structures they knew. They were told to “just do it,” so they did. Sort of.

    There is an old saying that says that teachers teach as they were taught, and it’s on target. In case after case, it happens exactly that way. Many laypeople still operate on a pre-Vatican II level because it’s still all they know because it’s how they were taught and it’s all they’ve ever seen, only they express it differently to get around all the no-no’s that they’ve been taught to avoid. So you have laity who strive to be clerical because they’ve been told they have to “actively participate” in the Mass (and their paradigm says clergy actively participate in Mass and laity don’t). This has been passed on to people who didn’t even see the turmoil at Vatican II, again because it’s what they see, and honestly it makes very little sense to many young people. It’s paradoxical as all get out to watch.

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