Tough talk about the Second Vatican Council – not pretty

Sandro Magister has an intriguing piece today about the Second Vatican Council and the possibility of reconciliation of the SSPX.

It might upset some people.

I think that some parts make sense.

A few bits from the larger piece…

The Impossible “Road Map” of Peace with the Lefebvrists
A leading representative of the traditionalist camp lays down the conditions for healing the schism. There are four of them, but three appear impracticable. Fr. Divo Barsotti’s criticisms of Vatican Council II


Fr. Barsotti wrote:

“I am perplexed with regard to the Council: the plethora of documents, their length, often their language, these frightened me. They are documents that bear witness to a purely human assurance more than two a simple firmness of faith. But above all I am outraged by the behavior of the theologians.”

“The Council is the supreme exercise of the magisterium, and is justified only by a supreme necessity. Could not the fearful gravity of the present situation of the Church stem precisely from the foolishness of having wanted to provoke and tempt the Lord? Was there the desire, perhaps, to constrain God to speak when there was not this supreme necessity? Is that the way it is? In order to justify a Council that presumed to renew all things, it had to be affirmed that everything was going poorly, something that is done constantly, if not by the episcopate then by the theologians.”

“Nothing seems to me more grave, contrary to the holiness of God, than the presumption of clerics who believe, with a pride that is purely diabolical, that they can manipulate the truth, who presume to renew the Church and to save the world without renewing themselves. In all the history of the Church nothing is comparable to the latest Council, at which the Catholic episcopate believed that it could renew all things by obeying nothing other than its own pride, without the effort of holiness, in such open opposition to the law of the gospel that it requires us to believe how the humanity of Christ was the instrument of the omnipotence of the love that saves, in his death.”


How does Radaelli see the healing of this opposition? In his judgment, “it is not the model of Church obedient to dogma that must once again submit to the pope,” but “it is rather the model obedient to the pope that must once again submit to dogma.”

In other words:

“It is not Ecône [editor’s note: the community of the Lefebvrists] that must submit to Rome, but Rome to Heaven: every difficulty between Ecône and Rome will be resolved only after the return of the Church to the dogmatic language that is proper to it.”

In order for this goal to be reached, Radaelli presupposes two things:

– that Rome would guarantee to the Lefebvrists the right to celebrate the Mass and the sacraments exclusively according to the rite of St. Pius V;

– and that the obedience required for Vatican II would be brought back within the limits of its “false-pastoral” language, and therefore be subject to criticisms and reservations.

But before this culmination – Radaelli adds – two other requests would have to be granted:

– the first, advanced in December of 2011 by the bishop of Astana in Kazakistan, Athanasius Schneider, is the publication on the part of the pope of a sort of new “Syllabus,” which would strike with anathemas all of the “modern-day errors”;

– The second, already proposed by the theologian Brunero Gherardini to the supreme magisterium of the Church, is a “revision of the conciliar and magisterial documents of the last half century,” to be done “in the light of Tradition.”


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. catholicmidwest says:

    Interesting article. I went straight through and read the whole thing.
    Even more interesting how it manages to appear in a higher profile than this sort of thing usually does. How much is the tide shifting, Fr Z?

  2. fvhale says:

    Sandro Magister has written some pretty amazing columns, many with very astute criticisms of difficulties with V2. His column on how the monks in residence at San Gregorio Magno al Celio, the home of St. Gregory the Great, were some of the first to dump Gregorian Chant and write guitar masses early in V2, changed my life.

    I think it is important to note that these comments by Fr. Barsotti (1914-2006) are from his unpublished diaries (obviously written before his death in 2006), and provided by to Magister by Professor Enrico Maria Radaelli based on his book manuscript still in publication.

    Although there is some truth in these criticisms, and some definite ground for reflection and prayer, it is unfortunate that many things in this area of traditionalist criticism of V2 are obscured in a fog of “somebody said this privately, and it was written there by some other person who thought they really mean such and such.” Jean Guitton comes to mind as another example with is French book “Paul VI Secret.”

    I do love Barsotti’s line, “Above all I am outraged by the behavior of the theologians.” That could be a bumper sticker, and it goes along with the recent Gaillardetz article in NSR (of course, he sides with “the theologians”). No doubt the theologians with excess of academic zeal and, perhaps, a spiritual life that did not match it, had much too much influence. I personally think that perhaps Ven. Pope Paul VI gave the theologians too much post-conciliar freedom to develops unfortunate ways to implement V2.

    In regard to the deeper issue of “The two opposed languages, dogmatic and pastoral,” from which Radaelli sees the emergence and separation “almost of two Churches,” I think there are a couple of points to keep in mind:
    1) There really is only one Church, which is the one that often went too far in application of the “pastoral language”
    2) Gradually and smoothly in the pontificate of Bl. Pope John Paul II, and more clearly and boldly in the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, we are seeing a move toward recovery of “dogmatic language.” I would say that Paul VI tried this earlier, but the (my words) “evil spirit of the 1960’s and 1970’s” threw it back in his face (e.g., Humanae Vitae). I believe in hope and patience that, probably for the next 100 years, the Church will be digesting V2 and making adjustments, corrections, revisions, etc.
    3) You cannot go back and change history. V2 happened. We have to deal with it, and the mess of the 1970’s. Nobody can just wave their hands and make it disappear. We just have to pray and work with God to make the future better.

  3. Dennis Martin says:

    Lutherus redivivus. The parallels are striking. Luther, Calvin etc. all honestly and sincerely believed that they were the voice of reform for “papal church” that had gone astray and sat under the judgment of God.

    There have been doctrinal disputes in Church history that were deep and serious but did not result in schism. There have been doctrinal disputes in Church history that have been less deep or serious but did result in schism. One of the very arguments made in this piece is that no serious doctrinal disputes existed in 1962 such as to warrant the calling of a council. That is a point that could be debated in good faith by honest Catholics.

    But schisms occur precisely when honest and sincere Catholics elevate a prudential judgment of that sort (“a council-warranting crisis exts” / “a council-warranting crisis does not exist”) into church-dividing crises. Luther disputed, at the outset, legitimately. Cajetan engaged him in good faith in theological dispute at Augsburg in 1518, specifying three points on which he (Cajetan) believed Luther was abandoning the ancient tradition. Luther asked for and was granted a response to that assertion. Luther wrote it overnight. When Cajetan read it and replied that it had not persuaded him, Luther (this is the crucial move) replied, my response was faithfully biblical and you are unbiblical because you are not persuaded by my biblical arguments.

    From that point onward, increasingly it became “you are not biblical, we are.” Then “you are not biblical” became, “you have betrayed Christ and stand under heaven’s judgment” to “you are doing the work of the anti-Christ, for the sake of reform we must pass judgment on you, we are doing heaven’s work.”

    Lutherans in 1530 at the Diet of Augsburg insisted that they were the faithful, reforming Catholics to whom the pope refused to listen, would the Christian Emperor now at least recognize them as the legitimate voice Catholic voice.

    There’s no Christian emperor for the SSPX to appeal to today. But the pattern is chillingly similar:
    “we speak for God in assessing you (Rome’s) unfaithfulness and error, we see and proclaim that Rome must submit to God’s judgment because we know the Ancient Tradition well and find Rome since 1962 out of communion with that Tradition.”

    I understand that this is said with all sincerely and deep piety. Luther did the same. But in making that move, no matter how well-intentioned by knowledge of the Tradition, piety and devotion, therein lies a direct path to schism.

    To assert that Rome since 1962 on some issues in Vatican II documents has abandoned the Tradition, when asserted by honest and sincere and devout Reformers is perfectly legitimate. To assert it again and a few more times after failing to persuade the Vicar of Christ is understandable and tolerable in the name of honest dialogue.

    But at a certain point to persist in the claim after Peter’s successor whom the remonstrants themselves insist they honor and love as Peter’s successor refuses to be persuaded by the remonstrance, to persist at that point and in the language used here is exactly, and I do mean exactly, the same move as was made by schismatics in the past.

    To make the claims quoted here is to assert that I (Luther, I SSPX, I expert Church historian, I knowledgeable Catholic deeply immersed in the Faith and Tradition,

    I stand in judgment over the successor of Peter. That I do it out of love for the tradition and the faith and Jesus himself doesn’t change the objective reality of the move that is being made here. If persisted in it guarantees schism because it is already a schismatic attitude, however piously held.

  4. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    There’s another view of this debate, one which would call it “alleged” and the supposed divide between progs and traddies as a teensy squabble, a small zig-zag of tiny proportions which does nothing to alter the trajectory of a trend line.

    This view takes the position that both progs and traddies recognize, covet and embrace the power of the Papacy, and seek to cure any perceived ill in the Church by control of the Papacy. Therefore, the greatest lament of either prog or traddie is when a lever of the Papal machinery is not in the hand of one of their own.

    Neither questions the reason for the existence of the modern Papacy or its legitimacy, and both want to control it. It is in this regard that they both contribute to the same trend line. By this light, the hyper-centralizing liturgical and canonical innovations and attitudes of, say, a Sarto (patron saint of the traddies) or Pacelli enabled the reforms and mindset of a Roncali, Montini or Woytola so warmly embraced by the progs.

    All of it a tempest in teapot.

  5. kgurries says:

    I agree that it is a dangerous to take certain passages out of a personal diary (Fr. Bosetti) without benefit of the full context. In any case, Radaelli advances the argument that there is a fundamental opposition between “pastoral” and “dogmatic” language within the magisterium itself. Pope Paul VI, in his letter to Marcel Lefebvre (1976), stated firmly that one may not set one in opporition to the other.

    “Again, you cannot appeal to the distinction between what is dogmatic and what is pastoral, to accept certain texts of this Council and to refuse others. Indeed, not everything in the Council requires an assent of the same nature: only what is affirmed by the definitive acts as and object of faith requires an assent of faith. But the rest also forms part of the solemn Magisterium of the Church, to which each member of the faithful owes a confident acceptance and a sincere application.”

    I do agree that a new syllabus would be of great benefit to Church. But I have a feeling that some may be suprised and outraged to find that they are on the wrong side of an anathema.

  6. AnnAsher says:

    Aside from the bit wherein he demands of the Pope to issue anathema’s – because I don’t believe he can issue demands of the Pope – I agree with what you have posted here of his positions. Unless I am mistaken, Rome has already conceded that V2 can be openly questioned and debated regarding it’s application and implications aside from places wherein V2 restated previously defined dogma. I concur. Rome must submit to Heaven. The faith in America is a disaster zone.

  7. Dennis Martin says:

    Let me anticipate a possible response to what I wrote, in part in light of what fvhale wrote.

    I do not claim that a faithful Catholic becomes unfaithful if he asserts that there was no council-warranting crisis in 1960 or that Vatican II was not necessary according to standards for councils in the past. That’s a prudential judgment and honest, faithful Catholics may disagree about it.

    Nor am I saying that criticism of practices, including those approved by bishops and popes, in the 1960s, 1970s and to the present day renders one an unfaithful or schismatic-minded Catholic. Some of the criticisms of Vatican II cited by fvhale are of that sort–matters of practice rather than doctrine. I am not saying it’s schismatic to lambaste Paul VI or his successors for failing to rein in erroneous/obstinately heretical theologians. But that failure, whereever it took place is again, a matter of failure of discipline, failure of discretio (Gregory the Great’s pastoral rule). It is legitimate for faithful Catholics to assert failure of that sort by popes and bishops but always with the caveat that we are not in their shoes and do not have all their knowledge so any such criticism must be done out of humility. And such failures are failures of practice not doctrine.

    Now, some might come back with, “but to fail to punish false teaching is doctrinal failure.” No, it’s not. To teach false doctrine or to endorse the teaching of it by others is doctrinal failure. To decide when and how to discipline those under one’s pastoral charge is a matter of discretio, of discipline. Moreover, failures of practice of this sort took place at various levels–the pope does not have direct pastoral care of one billion Catholics.

    But my point in my original comment was different: while I or other faithful Catholics may sincerely believe that the pope or most bishops or a specific bishop have erred, whether in discipline or doctrine and while I may legitimately say so out of my baptismal priesthood, that assertion becomes schismatic at the point at which I persist in it even after I or my group have failed to convince Christ’s authorized apostolic rectores in the Church. I do not get to set myself up to declare, under Heaven that I know that Heaven’s is awaiting repentence and change of course from Rome. I get to say that a few times but persistence at some point becomes schismatic attitude.

    Otherwise fragmentation, Protestant fissiparity, will inevitably result. And just because I proclaim that I am invoking Heaven’s judgment on “Rome” out of love of and obedience to Christ and his Church, just because I proclaim that my only goal is the health and reform of the Church, doesn’t make that true. Luther honestly believed he had to do what he did for the Christ-desired true reform of the Church.

    I don’t get to make that call. Bishops and popes do and they answer to God, not to me or my group for the decisions they make (Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Rule, again).

    That these quotations were from private diaries perhaps is mitigating, but does not change my original point. The attitude expressed here, even privately, is, sadly, schismatic.

  8. fvhale says:

    Dear kgurries, Yes. We cannot set “pastoral” against “dogmatic.” They must go together.

    Sadly, I have met so many Catholics, including bishops, priests, religious and averge laity, who focus exclusively on “pastoral” and reject “dogmatic.” That is the problem. It also explains why their children (spiritual or physical) are ignorant, or disdainful, of their faith and the teaching of the Church.

    I had a most interesting conversation with an older priest friend a couple of weeks ago, and he told me he had recently joind the Assoc. of US Cath. Priests, the American analog of the Assoc. of Cath. Priests (Ireland) founded by Fr. Flannery, recently discussed on this blog. This priest put in opposition “sacristal” and “pastoral,” in regard to different generations of priest, lamenting that while the older ones (average age of AUSCP being about 70) are “pastoral,” the younger priests are more and more “sacristal.” Of course, he has difficulty imaging that a priest can be beautifully pastoral and also beautifully liturgically and dogmatically orthodox.

    We need more “both-and” thinking, and less “either-or” thinking.

  9. Gratias says:

    Dennis Martin is right in that this is a repetition of Lutheranism. Probably this is the reason Benedict XVI has been so patient with the SSPX.

    OTOH Vatican II was the Protestantization of Catholicism (“for Yours are the Power and the Glory”; communion with host and wine for all; the Lord’s Supper at Cranmer’s table). It has cost us dearly, but one of the successes of our great Pope Benedict XVI are the Anglican Ordinariates. The SSPX could have had a world-wide Ordinariate and Tradition would have exploded. There will not be a better Pope than this one to return to Rome; the SSPX missed a great opportunity.

  10. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Disclaimer: As a layman, I am not a member of the Society of St. Pius X, nor to I regularly attend Mass at their chapels.

    It seems to me that this whole mess could be cleared by the CDF answering one basic question: What is dogmatic, within the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which requires the assent of faith and the submission of will and intellect?

    Ok, I guess there is another question:
    If you translate from the language of the documents (which is alarmingly murky in spots) can the doctrinal elements which must be accepted be expressed in terms which do not depend on the Second Vatican Council? (That is to say, what clear definition of “religious freedom” is required, among other questions.)

  11. Potato2 says:

    You are very correct. It frustrates me to no end that I honestly believe that if there were no positioning, no media, no bureaucracy on both sides this would be cleared up in an hour of strait talk. Define what the SSPX have to accept in one clear language. Describe what they can differ on. Or have a different perception on.
    I honestly believe that if the Pope and Fellay sat down there would be reconciliation within the hour. IF the Pope said,” I am the Pope and you will obey!” But perhaps the Pope knows differently and is trying to navigate a stormier sea than we see on the outside.

  12. kgurries says:

    If there is any doubt on what is required for Catholics to believe — the simple thing to do is consult the Catechism. That’s what the magisterium of the Church puts forth clearly for the faithful. If it not explicitly covered in the Catechism — the odds are that its a topic open for theological discussion and debate.

  13. fvhale says:

    Kgurries, yes again! The CCC is a nice introduction to dogma. And it has so many gems like:
    1125 “…no sacramental rite maybe modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or community…” and 1577 “…only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.”

    Sadly, the CCC is broadly unpopular, if you can even find it, in my part of the world. Most people that I have asked about it (both priests and lay folk), regard it as an unwelcome imposition from Rome upon their own “pastoral sensibilities,” and it is welcomed about as much as Humanae Vitae was welcomed. Now, this may be changing a bit, especially among the younger generation that shows some humble desire to know their faith and walk more closely with their God.

  14. Denis says:

    A very reasonable set of proposals for a New(er) Evangelization.

  15. HighMass says:


    How well we all remember when Gregorian Chant was dumped and replace by the replusive music that followed…..and of course the guitars that followed…..
    Can any one tell us why the church needed VII???

    I do think the documents that came from the council are beautiful….Paul VI’s greatest accomplishment is Humane Vitae, the biggest flop of course is Bugini’s N.O…..

    Lets just say the council never happened, ok so what would we be a church in heresy now??? According to the liberals the church wasn’t born or come alive until the council happened…..

    And since I am on my soapbox why did our liturgy have to change??? THe eastern churches has not changed in Centuries……..why do we have to keep re-inventing the wheel??? I love the TLM but we have none in our area……..

    THe old Baltimore Cat.was great, but of course we had to replace it with all the junk that followed the council

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Dennis Martin,
    That assertion becomes schismatic at the point at which I persist in it even after I or my group have failed to convince Christ’s authorized apostolic rectores in the Church

    If “failed to convince” means that they have dogmatized the view someone advised them against, then I agree.

  17. People who think that councils go without a glitch are living in fantasy land. There’s generally been a lot of confusion following a council.

  18. maryh says:

    @Dennis Martin I agree completely with what you said regarding SSPX and Luther. Once they refuse to submit to the legitimate authority of the pope, they’re schismatic (in attitude?).

    This isn’t directly about what Fr. Barsotti wrote, so it may be a bit OT, but I must admit to a certain resentment of the SSPX. Why did those shepherds with the courage to speak up abandon the Church when she needed them? Just imagine, if we had had an SSPX presence in communion with the Pope, of any size to begin with, right from the beginning? There would have been no scandal connected with the TLM. There would have been the seed of an organic renewal from the very beginning.

    It’s not the fault of Vatican II that the average layperson (like me) doesn’t see a whole lot of difference between Father Flannery being unable, with his well-formed conscience, to submit to the direction of the Vatican, and SSPX using almost the same words to say the same thing.

    end of rant

  19. One thing I’d like to add to the discussion is a point missed too often by Roman Catholics in my opinion: The Second Vatican Council is literally saturated with influence from the Eastern Catholic Churches, especially the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church. If you read though the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, for instance, it is veritably bursting with Eastern Catholic perspective that was affirmed and validated as legitimate and in harmony with the historically Latin Magisterium. Such things as allowing at least some of the Sacred Liturgy of the Latin Church to he celebrated in the vernacular, Eucharistic Ecclesiology and the consequences that has for recognition of other particular Apostolic Churches by the Eucharist present within them, the role of the faithful in the development of dogma, the clarification of the role of Bishops vis a vis the Bishop of Rome, the expressed appreciation and restoration of Eastern Liturgical praxis and Eastern spirituality in the Eastern Churches, the recognition and appreciation of Patriarchs as Father and Head of particular Apodtolic Churches, all of these and a multitude of other examples can be found in the documents of Vatican II. Why do you suppose the doiments lack Thomistic clarity and familiar Latin linguistic constructs such as the formulations in Trent and Vatican I? Partly that is due to the effort of the Magisterium in Vatican II to speak in Eastern or at least Eastern-friendly terminology, which is awkward and difficult to do since the last Eastern expression of the Magisterium occurred almost 1200 years prior to Vatican II. In my opinion, the influence of ecumenical attitudes toward Protestantism and clarifications in that regard that people often find distasteful of problematic (religious freedom) and toward other ecumenical dialogue with other religions (principles of ecumenism) pale in comparison to the overall Eastern-focus of the Council.

    I mention this for the essential reason that if we’re going to truly understand the Magisterium’s mind and will expressed in the Second Vatican Council, I think it’s imperative on us all to realize how big of an influence the Eastern Catholic Churches were on everything from the very language style used to the perspective on the Catholic Faith, to the promotion on Eastern spirituality. This is overlooked and misunderstood far too often among Roman Catholics, and once it is understood, more effective estimation of what is in harmony with Tradition within the Council (BROADER Tradition rooted in the East and West in the first millennium and the last half millennium which has seen the return of many Eastern Churches to Catholic communion with Rome) and what is truly problematic and severely needs clarification.

  20. Denis says:

    Difficult to read and contemplate, but sadly true:

    “Nothing seems to me more grave, contrary to the holiness of God, than the presumption of clerics who believe, with a pride that is purely diabolical, that they can manipulate the truth, who presume to renew the Church and to save the world without renewing themselves.”

    ” In all the history of the Church nothing is comparable to the latest Council, at which the Catholic episcopate believed that it could renew all things by obeying nothing other than its own pride.”

    Yes and Yes, alas.

  21. sbvarenne says:

    If you want to read a fictional drama that takes this problem as the center of its conflict, get a copy of Brian Moore’s CATHOLICS. There is also an excellent film for which Moore wrote the screenplay. It is titled either CATHOLICS or CONFLICT or THE VISITOR. Written in 1972, the story is set in a future after “Vatican IV.” The Irish monks on Muck Island still say the Latin Mass and hear private confessions. A papal delegate is dispatched to the island to confer with the abbot, a man who has his own private conflict, and the goal is to modernize the monks. Does anyone out there know this novel and might you react to it? I found it fascinating. As if Hans Kung, the LCWR and Fishwrap had taken over instead of B16.

  22. Jenice says:

    I was struck by the opposition between “pastoral” and “dogmatic”. Obviously there should be none; teaching the truth is the most pastoral act ever. But, sadly, in my experience, “pastoral” is often used to justify disobedience or error, as when the pastor states that he will start the Easter Vigil well before dark, because in his “pastoral” judgement, waiting to start it when the Church specifies is just too late for the children. Or when the pastor decides that the choir can’t sing the Easter sequence in Latin because that will offend those “Catholics” who only show up on Christmas and Easter. Or when the priests decide not to preach the truth about contraception because that will bother some parishioners. It seems to only be trotted out as an excuse to do the wrong thing, avoid the hard topics, further the conformity of the Church to the world.

  23. bernadette says:

    I read Brian Moore’s “Catholics” and saw both the original film as well as the re-make. If I remember correctly, toward the end the papal delegate stated that Rome has decreed that transubstantiation is no longer a dogma of the Church and the monks must cease and desist from believing it. I remember the sad face of the old monk as he took this to heart and was obviously struggling with obedience.
    If the parish I belonged to in the 1980’s was any indication, I think that that Hans Kung, LCWR, and the fishwrap were exactly the trajectory we were on. I remember the grim faces of our pastor and the DRE as they cautioned the parents of the first Communion class that we were not to bring our daughters in white dresses and veils and that they were to receive communion in the hand only because “we have a new understanding of the Eucharist now.” Just thinking about those awful times makes me shudder.

  24. Athelstan says:

    Having read – and been astounded by – the Magister column this morning, I was curious to see what the reaction would be here at WDTPRS. Fr. Z refrains from comment, but responses in the combox suggest two observations to me: First, that most folks here, however traditionally minded, are (rightly) frustrated and disappointed with the apparent obstinacy of the SSPX; and second, there is a real reluctance to extend criticism of the generally disastrous post-conciliar reforms to the Council itself.

    And yet there seems to be a reluctance on the part of many to come to grips with what is so remarkable about Professor Radaeli’s book and Fr. Barsotti’s deeply skeptical private opinions revealed within – and Sandro Magister’s reportage of the same. It is precisely the Council itself that is targeted. And the targeters are no longer just those based out of Écône (or Winona, or Fr. Cekada’s rectory). For those of us not in the SSPX, that is, those of us for whom there is not the same instinct to use the Council as a dartboard (or firing range target), this causes some real discomfort, and rightly so. We’ve seen too many progressive dissenters travel down the same road, albeit using a different GPS.

    But we are reaching the point now where mainstream, orthodox voices are willing to express concerns about the Council’s texts, and not merely their implementation. For those of us who are tradition-minded but unwilling to venture into Schismato Land, we have to ask: Is there a valid way to examine the Council itself in a critical way? How do we reconcile some of these apparent . . . the SSPX would say “ruptures,” but I might be content to say “apparent incongruities” . . . between some notable Conciliar statements with pre-conciliar teachings? We’re not ready to say that the thing cannot be done; we’re concerned that, in many instances, Rome has declined to do so. Is it possible to question whether some expressions in the texts are, perhaps, not necessarily *wrong* but at least infelicitous? Or even, in some instances, misguided? One thinks here for example of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which really is just a roadmap for liturgical reform. We all know how badly it gets (selectively) ignored by progressive liturgists (esp. where chant or Latin is concerned). But is there a way for the rest of us who are, say, skeptical of the call for an expanded lectionary, or concerned that its identification of “useless repetitions” may have identified elements of the Mass that are not so useless after all, to say: “laudable motive, Council Fathers, but misguided solution?”

    And that’s the lower hanging fruit, of course. Beyond that looms the thorny perennials of ecumenism, collegiality, and religious liberty, where the Council moved beyond prescriptive to the doctrinal. The recent doctrinal discussions between Rome and Écône seem to have been a dialogue of the deaf. The SSPX’s apparent unwillingness to even consider the possibility that these declarations *can* be in some way reconciled, and that no one in “NewChurch” can possibly be right, even Ecclesia Dei traditionalists, creates much of that deafness. But it’s also seems to be true that the Vatican has not been willing or able to articulate , clearly and definitively, whether these statements can be reconciled, or even revised. I do think that is what Bishop Schneider’s call for a new Syllabus, alluded to by Magister, is all about.

    At some point, there will have to be a reckoning with these aspects of the Council, and not just its (mis)implementation, regardless of what becomes of the SSPX. Perhaps it really *does* require the passing of the Council generation for that to happen, to have the necessary perspective and detachment. Councils are (we must recall) not always perfect on every point, and Vatican II did attempt some unprecedented things. The answer *will* have to come from Rome, in the end, not from Écône or from us armchair theologians. But I do think that Prof. Raedelli is right, if I understand what he is about, to start asking the questions, respectfully, that need to be answered when Rome is ready.

  25. VexillaRegis says:

    Oh, I think I read brian Moore’s book in my early teens. (I read everything I could lay my hands on.) What I remember is that I was so sad for all of us catholics – my gut feeling said this was simply very wrong. Thirty years later, I must admit I’m surprized that the wind turned, and happy.

  26. Hm. Call me crazy, but I think all of these ‘conditions’, or whatever you would like to call them, would be universally quite good for the Church.

    “- that Rome would guarantee to the Lefebvrists the right to celebrate the Mass and the sacraments exclusively according to the rite of St. Pius V;”

    This is essentially guaranteed already. Perhaps strengthen Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae even further to put minds at ease. I see no reason that this should be an obstacle.

    “- and that the obedience required for Vatican II would be brought back within the limits of its “false-pastoral” language, and therefore be subject to criticisms and reservations.”

    The language in this confuses me a little, but if I am interpreting it correctly it simply means “interpret Vatican II pastorally, as was intended, and allow for criticism in proportion to its actual level of authority, rather than the fashionable modernist superdogma interpretation”.

    -” publication on the part of the pope of a sort of new “Syllabus,” which would strike with anathemas all of the “modern-day errors”;”

    Obviously this would be a lot of work for the Holy Father, and practically speaking it may take many years to put something together, but I see no reason in the world that a strengthening of timeless Church teaching could be unacceptable to any faithful Catholic.

    – “revision of the conciliar and magisterial documents of the last half century,” to be done “in the light of Tradition.”

    This one could be a real game-changer for faithful Catholicism. If we are already accepting that faithful criticism of portions of the documents of Vatican II is permissible, then it seems reasonable to me that we can push that a bit further and say that not only can we discuss and criticize, we could also revise and correct. Why not? If I remember correctly, Pope Benedict has himself indicated in the past that some parts of certain documents were not really up to par.

  27. Johnsum says:

    IMHO, recent public statements by AB Muller and the letter to the SSPX by AB DiNoia have been un-helpful if the goal is furthering the reconciliation of Econe with Rome. The unhelpful nature of public airing of outstanding conflicts applies equally to Econe as well.

    What should be done?

    At this point, Rome must conclude that the SSPX is fully Catholic, no worse if no better than most religious societies deemed to be in good standing within the Church (Jesuits?). Rome should conclude that the time for the unconditional regularization of the Society has arrived. Once inside they can be part of the solution but outside they will always remain an awkward partner for those, including the Pope, desiring to put an end to the negative results of an imperfectly managed council.

    The alternative is heading toward a second reformation. This time a Catholic church more Catholic than the Pope.

  28. Joseph says:

    Re Dennis Martin,
    to compare the heretic Luther with the Pius X Society is patently unfair. On the one hand you have a man chucking parts of the Catholic faith overboard and on the other a group carefully align themselves to all the church has taught previously. And then you arrive as a conclusion, well if can’t convince the Holy father and the bishops of the merit of your criticism, you turn into a schismatic. That is papalism of the worst kind. I strongly recomend to listen to talks of a certain Fr.Hesse on Gloria TV at

  29. Ambrose Jnr says:

    What possibly reason could the Pope have for postponing work on the syllabus of VII errors? He’s the most outstanding pope theologian for ages, and his CDF Prefect is also intellectually astonishing…men chosen for their intellectual acumen by the Holy Spirit?

    Why do they refuse to get serious about this year of faith by starting work on the syllabus?

  30. Jason Keener says:

    Unfortunately, I think that many involved with the SSPX and other like-minded traditionalists have been in a position against Rome for so long that they simply cannot see any logic to another side of an argument at this point. For example, many of the questionable issues raised in the article on things like religious liberty, ecclesiology, revelation, and collegiality have already been satisfactorily explained by various papal documents written by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, the CDF, and good theologians like Father Brian Harrison. Has the SSPX read, studied, and prayed over these documents, and have they opened their minds to the reality that these newer post-conciliar emphases in doctrine might actually be right? Also, the Church already has a definitive list of its teachings. Pope John Paul II promulgated the New Catechism in 1994 and said it was a “sure norm” for the teaching of the Faith. It would seem that if a Catholic, SSPX or not, disagrees with what is taught in the Catechism, they have very likely fallen into heresy.

    I’ve read many articles, books, etc., by hardcore traditionalists, and sadly, many of their theological arguments manifest a flaw here or there that renders, what seems to be a sensible argument at first, invalid. For example, just on the religious liberty issue alone, many of the hardcore traditionalists do not seem to understand how many of the aspects of religious liberty as taught by the previous Popes were prudential applications of doctrinal teachings meant for a specific time and situation. If today, for example, Pope Benedict were to insist that civil government leaders in Italy and Spain restrict the public activities of Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, it would probably cause immense civil unrest and make the Church look silly to many in civil society. No one would be brought closer to Jesus Christ. One also wonders how the SSPX can continue to knock Pope Benedict XVI when he prays basic common prayers with people like Dr. Rowan Williams in public . After all, Catholics have been communicating in sacred things with Protestants for a long time when a good reason is present. A perfect example is the case when pre-conciliar Popes and post-conciliar Popes have allowed/allow a Protestant and a Catholic to share in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. If a Protestant and a Catholic can share a sacrament together, why can the Pope not for the good reason of Christian unity pray some basic common Christian prayers with a Protestant leader? Sometimes you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. And, sometimes you have to cook the truth in charity until it tastes sweet, as St. Francis de Sales taught.

  31. maryh says:

    @Irenaeus G. Saintonge: those things mostly make sense to me, too, although I’m not sure of either the doctrinal or prudential aspects of them. The main problem to me is if the SSPX insists on all four of those points being agreed to, or even implemented, before they return to full communion with the Church (if that is what they are doing).

    @Johnsum: I think you’ve got this in the wrong direction. It is they that owe obedience to the Pope, not the Pope who is obligated to regularize them unconditionally.

    It’s not a question of whether they’re better or worse than others who disobey the Pope. It’s a question of the correct prudential way to handle them.

    A Father Flannery or an LCWR leader will not admit that they are disagreeing with or disobeying the Pope in any meaningful way in the first place. The type of scandal that people like them cause has led to an exponential decrease in vocations to the religious life, people not knowing what the Church actually teaches, and people leaving the Church because they don’t think there’s anything there they can’t just as easily get somewhere else. They believe and teach heresy, but their danger to the Church is not schism.

    SSPX directly refuses obedience to the Pope, and threatens schism. Whether that is their intention or not.

    It makes sense that different dangers are handled differently. The cases of Father Flannery and the LCWR will probably be solved by the biological solution, if nothing else. The problem of the SSPX could become a schism that could last for a long time.

    @Joseph Luther didn’t start by “chucking parts of the Catholic faith overboard.” IIRC, most of that happened after he refused to obey. And that’s exactly what the SSPX is in danger of. And in fact, if they don’t knock this off, that’s exactly where our history says they’re headed.

    @Ambrose Jnr “What possibly reason could the Pope have for postponing work on the syllabus of VII errors?” Maybe he is working on it. But maybe it would show a lack of prudence to announce anything like that prematurely. It might be interpreted as saying “Yup, VII was a mistake and we’re working on it”, which could lead a lot of people to wonder what infallibility means anyway, and lead unscrupulous people to come up with and promote their own “corrections” before the Pope has promulgated his.

  32. albizzi says:

    “In all the history of the Church nothing is comparable to the latest Council, at which the Catholic episcopate believed that it could renew all things by obeying nothing other than its own pride”….
    Wow !
    In other words, wouldn’t the RCC have called that useless (if I correctly read between the lines) council, probably She would be currently in a much better shape.
    VATII, an infallible coucil that issued nothing infallible but many much confusing things.

  33. Denis says:

    Luther and Calvin would have applauded much of what happened to the Roman Rite after VII, and today’s Lutherans and Calvinists have much less in common with the SSPX than they do with the average Novus Ordo parish in the US, Europe, or much of the world. The Catholic reformers crafting and implementing the VII documents were very similar to the Protestant Reformers. Each of these groups was convinced “that it could renew all things by obeying nothing other than its own pride,” to use the words of Fr. Barsotti, and a diabolical pride at that. It’s hard to see the destruction that followed VII as anything but a manifestation of diabolical pride.

  34. Jason Keener says:


    I would agree that perhaps the Fathers of the Council were overly optimistic and could have done a much better job in several regards; however, I think it is a huge stretch of the mind to say the Council Fathers were full of “diabolical pride.” Hardcore traditionalists are prone to making such extreme statements. Another favorite of the traditionalists, of course, is to call the current Pope and Curia “New Rome,” while the SSPX maintains the traditions of “Old Rome.” The SSPX position is more like “diabolical pride” than anything the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did.

    Also, we are kidding ourselves if we believe that nothing before the Council was in need of reform. For example, the pre-conciliar liturgical calendar probably needed some pruning. The faithful were not taking their proper role in praying, singing, and understanding the Sacred Liturgy. Many of the faithful believed that only priests and religious were called to the heights of holiness, etc., etc. While a fair amount of the Council was implemented hastily and improperly, such as the radical liturgical reforms, not everything in the Council was a loss. The writings of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Dulles, and others explain the beautiful theological vision of the Council and the Council’s Communio theology. How can anyone read the works of Ratzinger and his commentary on the Council not be inspired to follow Christ and give Him everything? While extremely important, a set of Thomistic propositions written in a theological manual cannot explain the full richness and breadth of the Catholic Faith, which is essentially about a personal relationship between a living person and the Living God Who has intervened in human history.

  35. Cosmos says:

    As a traditional-mnded Catholic that is very wary of the SPPX, I will say that the one thing that I have always found very disturbing is that their detractors, and even the “hermeneutic of continuity” is not an appeal to reason, but to faith/law/authority. The claim is not that the teaching that came out of VII are clearly in line with Tradition; rather, it is that there must, as a matter of faith, be a way to interpret the language of VII in line with the Faith,no matter how awkward , strained, or dubious the interpretation. In other words, let’s say the Council fathers responsible for drafting the key documents had purposefully drafted them in a way so as to open the door for heterodox interpretations. Let’s also say that those heterodox interpretations are actually a more natural fit for the language we read. “No matter,” say the defenders of the Council, “we just need to apply a hermeneutic of continuity, bring it back in line with the Tradition, and all will be well.”

    To me, that argument is useful in terms of maintaining our faith in the authority of the Church. It does not, however, deal with the fact that the Church was, in fact, turned upside down with the help of key churchman during, after, and through VII.

  36. RJHighland says:

    I am sorry but the comparison of the current status of the SSPX and that of Martin Luther’s rupture with the Church is not even on the same theological universe. I would say the post Vatican II Church has more in common with the likes of Luther and Cranmer than the traditional Catholic Church. I would wager that if Bp. Cranmer of England were to walked in to an average NO mass would cheer in that all his attempts to rid Catholic practice and teaching from the Church was a complete success. While any Saint walking into the same mass would not recognize it as a Catholic Church. Even a recently canonized Saint like Padre Pio would have a heart attack if he saw what was going on in the average Catholic Church. I will leave our Lord and history to judge the Popes of Vatican II era (John XXIII-Benedict XVI) but I see a lot of commonality between them and the Popes during the Renaissance. Something that should stand out in the article is this statement “It is not Ecône [editor’s note: the community of the Lefebvrists] that must submit to Rome, but Rome to Heaven: every difficulty between Ecône and Rome will be resolved only after the return of the Church to the dogmatic language that is proper to it.” Would our Lord expect our blind obedience to Pope Liberius or Bishop Arius? Our Lord does expect our obedience to the accurate interpretation and practice of the faith and morals taught to the Apostles by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ though. Which are still the teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them practiced. All these Popes in the Vatican II era are being quickly beatified yet I believe Pius XII and Abp. Lefebvre will be the ones that will eventually be canonized, similar to Athanasius. I hope everyone has a chance to see the new movie on Abp. Lefebvre’s life then you be the judge of if this man’s heart was in schism with the Church or an obedience to authentic Catholic teaching.

  37. Athelstan says:

    Hello Jason,

    After all, Catholics have been communicating in sacred things with Protestants for a long time when a good reason is present. A perfect example is the case when pre-conciliar Popes and post-conciliar Popes have allowed/allow a Protestant and a Catholic to share in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. If a Protestant and a Catholic can share a sacrament together, why can the Pope not for the good reason of Christian unity pray some basic common Christian prayers with a Protestant leader?

    There’s a difficulty in your example here, and that is that a mixed marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic is not, in fact, a sacrament. A Protestant in no case recognizes marriage as a sacrament in the first place. And the Catholic Church, while it might recognize such a marriage as “valid,” is not recognizing it as sacramental – not even if the priest also officiates. Only once the Protestant spouse is baptized or confirmed as a Catholic could it be sacramental. And as even Paul VI confirmed in 1970, the Church still discourages mixed marriages.

    While ecumenical efforts continue, it is nonetheless true that there are limits to what can be communicated between Catholics and Protestants. And when a Catholic prelate (even a pope) publicly prays with a Protestant leader, there *is* a danger of scandal and encouragement of indifferentism – it is well known that Pope Benedict was concerned that the first gathering at Assisi under John Paul II in 1986 lent itself too much to such dangers.

  38. VexillaRegis says:


    if the Protestant party is baptized using the Trinitarian formula et c, his or her marriage to a Catholic in the Catholic church will in fact be sacramental. Whether or not the Protestants think such a marriage is sacramental doesn’t affect the sacramentality in our view.

    Baptizing a validly baptized Protestant again is forbidden! Unum baptisma, you know :-)

  39. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Athelstan,

    in addition to what dear @VexillaRegis correctly said, even marriages among two Protestants are a sacrament. Despite the fact they have no idea it is.

    Which causes the Rota Romana a not irrelevant amount of trouble when they have converted, etc. (Did they marry upon silent conditions, or did they not, etc. etc.?)

  40. VexillaRegis says:


    “even marriages among two Protestants are a sacrament. Despite they have no idea it is.” This is a great thing – when I tell married Protestant friends (without impediments), that we consider them “living in a sacrament”, they always are very happy and proud, blushing with joy. :-) The Truth touches their hearts!

  41. Athelstan says:

    Hello Imrahil, Vexilla,

    I apologize for not making myself clearer – yes, it is true that if the Protestant is baptized with the proper Trinitarian formula, the marriage can be considered a sacrament. Had I put a comma after “baptized,” it would have helped.

    I still think that it is inappropriate to speak of a Protestant and a Catholic “sharing a sacrament together,” however, when one of the parties refuses to recognize the sacrament, or indeed, in some cases, any sacraments at all. The sacrament *does* exist regardless of that belief; but it’s fair to ask whether “sharing” is a fair word to use, since it implies an agreement that simply does not exist.

    Well, I expect we all have bigger things to think about today. I will just add that there are grounds for concern that some post-conciliar ecumenical efforts have been problematic, and one does not have to be SSPX to be concerned about them – even the Holy Father, before he was Pope, expressed such concerns.

  42. VexillaRegis says:


    thanks for your kind reply. Your thoughts on sharing a sacrament are interesting, but we have to let God work here! As long as the two validly baptized parties promise eachother what the Church demands, their union is a sacrament, whether they label it as such or not – , the objective truth of the nature of the sacraments is sometimes hidden from us :-).

    I appologize if I’m not perhaps conpletely clear, but, as you said, we have bigger things to think about today, and I’m no theologian, but a – sacramenatally – married organist.

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  44. Bob Rowland says:

    Before the Second Vatican Council all Catholics believed in the Real Presence. Now only about 25 percent of Catholics still believe. I know without doubt that is not the renewal Pope John XXIII had in mind. I still believe in the Magisterium, but I consider the betrayal of the council by not disciplining deserters and I suspect allowing non-consecrated hands to defile the Eucharist and sacred vessels the greatest tragedy in my 85 years.

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