Prophetic words from 1966 about the post-Conciliar state of the Church

Put aside everything else and go to First Things.

They have reprinted a piece written for The Tablet in May 1966… 1966… by Christopher Derrick, a student of CS Lewis and WWII RAF pilot.

He writes … in 1966… of how the fathers of a Vatican III would look back at Vatican II.  Amazing insights.

Here are some snips…


Brows will be furrowed, analyses undertaken, theses written. It may become a cliché to speak of our generation as having enacted a further chapter to Knox’s Enthusiasm. The ghost of Abbot Joachim was walking again, and we were restless for a new Pentecost in the fullest sense, impatient with the mixed and imperfect character of the Son’s dispensation; and with these things came the inevitable antinomian tendency, leading good men to propose obscenities in the name of love. More generally, we showed a remarkable lack of interest in balance, in trimming the boat. The ark had certainly been listing to starboard [the right] for a few centuries, a situation that called for some balancing action, tempered and cautious; but when this fact was officially admitted we smelt a trend, an intoxicating prospect of change, and we all crowded across to port [the left] in high excitement. The ark tilted the other way, and more sharply; many of us climbed and swung on the port railings, each trying to be further out than his neighbour; some gazed longingly overboard, in love with visionary calentures, [fevered delusions] privately suspecting that we could now walk upon water and needed this shabby old tub no more.

This imbalance, this fretful one-sidedness, will be capable of endless illustration. Theologically, we shall seem to have gone absurdly far in a Pelagian direction; and all the more so if our descendants have been driven the other way by the grief and pressure of events, and have come to remember that this religion of the Resurrection starts with the Cross, has evil and suffering and death as its raw material, its prime subject-matter. In other and particular matters, great and small, we shall be remembered as a generation that saw only one side of things. We loved “becoming” and hated “being”: We cherished the idea of an emergent and evolutionary Christianity, and looked in some apathy upon the faith once delivered to the saints. We stressed the priesthood of all believers and played down the particularity of order; we indulged a passion of ecumenicism, and hushed up the painful fact that schism and heresy are still sins. We wanted the Church’s outward seeming to reflect the poverty of Christ, never his majesty. We stressed the spiritual and symbolic, at the expense of gross incarnational fact: Hence, we played down the material element in morality, the ex opere operato aspect of the sacraments, the biological purpose of sex, the concrete burden of the historic Church. We asserted freedom, at the expense of responsibility; we asserted the corporate aspect of worship so overwhelmingly as to suggest that the individual had somehow ceased to carry his own conscience, that prayer and (especially) fasting had become back numbers. We cheerfully asserted the goodness of the world, seldom its taint, its spoiling, its death wish: We were always ready to judge the Church by the world’s standard, reluctant to do the opposite.


Please do read the whole thing.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Cri de Coeur, Hard-Identity Catholicism, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. jaykay says:

    How beautifully written and how prescient. “Calentures”! I really would have needed to look-up that one! And originally in the Pill, of all places. Our God is a God of surprises… not least in providing this powerful ammo for handy use ;)

  2. OCDFriar says:


    They can’t say that they weren’t warned.

  3. Gilbert Fritz says:

    I’m going to be reading Sources of Renewal : the Implementation of the Second Vatican Council by St. John Paul II. It should be interesting to get his take.

    He wrote it while still a bishop in Poland and started hundreds of study groups there to begin the implementation.

    Perhaps this is why Poland is one of the few strongly Catholic countries left?

  4. jaykay says:

    I really meant to say before: I might slightly quibble with this: “The ark had certainly been listing to starboard [the right – Fr. Z] for a few centuries, a situation that called for some balancing action, tempered and cautious;”

    Well, the Ark had been under pretty much unrelenting attack for the previous two centuries, at the least, and a lot of it murderous in the extreme, so its justified correctional (eternal) teaching was hardly “the Right” (albeit abuses certainly happened in unwise identification with certain regimes – in SOME places). It’s not really helpful to bring political terms into play – but then, this was the 60s, after all.

    Unfortunately, as he points out, or prophesies, temperance and caution were hardly the identifying features of the New Springtime in too many places.

  5. St. Irenaeus says:

    “to propose obscenities in the name of love” — just one of many, many great lines that name exactly what’s been going on. Really, this is one where you must Read The Whole thing(TM).

    [Certain Jesuits should read the whole thing.]

  6. Imrahil says:

    Oh, and “starboard” (right) is Old English for “steering board”, while what is in English called “port” (left) is in (Low) German and (I think) Dutch litterally called “back-board”. Just saying.

  7. sibnao says:

    I read this article on the First Things website before seeing it posted here, and what struck me was how wonderfully it was written. In fact, I’d not read the little introduction and so got entirely into the middle (with the confusing references to Pope Paul’s recent remarks…) before realizing that here was a writer un-influenced by the internet, blogs, CNN, or social media. The tone, not to mention the clarity of thought, was so refreshing.

    ‘We loved “becoming” and hated “being” ‘ This is exactly, exactly right.

  8. majuscule says:

    I am speechless. Are we certain he didn’t time travel? Or was this actually written recently?

    Of course, if this was a “forgery” and written recently and not soon after Vatican II it would not have contained this line: …as though the following of Christ crucified had been restyled into an exciting gay adventure for getaway people.

    There is so much more to say, but other will do a better job.

  9. RichR says:

    This encapsulates my disdain for the language in modern forms of Catholic worship. I am speechless at how the inevitable result of liturgical and theological imminentism was so apparent in 1966.

  10. Pingback: THVRSDAY CATHOLICA EDITION – Big Pulpit

  11. Mike says:

    “To Hell with your Teilhardian gibberish,” said no one in authority to the novelty maniacs in 1966. And here we are. And we can’t even say we weren’t warned.

  12. JabbaPapa says:

    Not sure where to put this, but some words of “wisdom” from Eccles :

    The public image of Santa Claus is of a perpetually cheerful man, and his recent exhortation Amo Risi Laetitiam (“I like the joy of laughter”) contains many cheerful passages such as “Ho ho ho, ho ho ho” (ARL 1) and “I know if you’ve been bad or good, but if you’ve been bad don’t worry, you’ll still get Christmas presents” (ARL 351, Footnote). However, a new book The Dictator Santa suggests that behind his public image there lies a bad-tempered old curmudgeon who torments his reindeer and shouts at his elves.

  13. TonyO says:

    Are we certain he didn’t time travel? Or was this actually written recently?

    Well, Christopher Derrick died in his 80’s, 10 years ago. And yes, this does sound just like Christopher Derrick. I first ran across his style in “Escape From Skepticism”

    with his famous line “pigs is pigs”, and highlighting Thomas Aquinas College in deep contrast.

    It’s a great article. Hard to pick out the best feature, but this certainly strikes close to the heart:

    the decisive factor may seem to be our unbalanced attention to God’s immanence, our lack of concern for his transcendence. In psychological terms, it will be easy enough to trace back to this habit of mind a certain poverty in our basic religious sense—a lack of pietas, a shrivelled sense of creaturely awe before the numinous. Given that situation, it will seem natural (though infinitely sad) that we should maul the holy liturgy so rudely, that our new churches should be built smart and heartless, that we should chatter so brightly and forget silence,

    This, mind you, was BEFORE Abp Bugnini had even been appointed to the commission on the destruction of the liturgy. Prescient, that Derrick.

  14. JabbaPapa says:

    TonyO —prescient perhaps, but many people still don’t realise that the wrecking work actually started in the 1920s …

  15. JabbaPapa says:

    Thank you father for your exceptionally well-conceived blog post here !

Comments are closed.