Some thoughts about Vatican II from Fr Z

Posted on 19 August 2020 on Fr.Zs blog:

Since I responded elsewhere to a question about Bp. Barron’s recent videos and his view of traditional Catholics, and since every answer he gives seems to circles around Vatican II, it occurred to me that some of you might benefit from a good book.

Here is an essential book which explains what happened during the Second Vatican Council.

The Rhine Flows into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II by Ralph Wiltgern – It was republished under a new title for the 50th anniversary of the Council.


In regard to the Second Vatican Council….

I maintain that in the Church’s long history there have been really important pontificates and not so important, really important councils and not so important.  I am of the mind that Vatican II, when lined up with other Councils, does not rank anywhere close to being among the most important.   It seems like a big deal to us because it was within living memory.  Also, because councils tend to create a period of disruption, and we are in that period, Vatican II seems to us to be more important than it will eventually be seen to be.

“But Father!  But Father!”, some of you libs and pseudointellects are mewling as you clutch your pearls, “This is pure traddy fantasy fueled by years of bitter disappointment at not getting your way.  Since 1963 a new springtime of vital renewal has been blowing through us – we are church, after all – and the fresh air is driving out the stale old incense and trappings of religion you cling to.  You ignore the unquestionable fruits of the Council like… like…. ummmm….  It was greater than the Council of Jerusalem, though it didn’t go nearly far enough and … and… crush all opposition.  You… youuuuuuu…. racist climate-change denying homophobic haters!  YOU HATE VATICAN II!”

I esteem Vatican II enough not to lie about it.

We still to have a sober consideration of the long-term fruits of the Second Vatican Council.  Half a century out, results have varied and they are not entirely in the positive column, to put it mildly.

One might say that Vatican II was hijacked and badly implemented.  Thus, it would be unfair to say that the Council caused the massive wounds that were inflicted after the Council.  Okay.  Let’s grant that that is the case.

If that is the case, the fact that the Council was “hijackable” is itself a problem.

That would point to problems internal to the documents and not just to the force of the world’s current zeitgeist.

While we have to admit that just about anything can be twisted if enough force is exerted on it, it seems to be that the point of conciliar – or papal – documents is to bring greater clarity, to dispel ambiguity.

One way out of this nasty cul de sac is to put Vatican II into perspective.

Vatican II was not the Be All & End All of Ecumenical Councils.

Vatican II must be respected for what it was, but not blown into what it wasn’t… and what it wasn’t intended to be.

Let’s not lose perspective.  Compared to Calcedon or to Trent, Vatican II just isn’t that important.  We can and should read its documents respectfully and thoughtfully, but without losing our minds in either a hermeneutic of idolatry or of total suspicion.

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4 Responses to Some thoughts about Vatican II from Fr Z

  1. mmvc says:

    It’s worth reading the reader comments over at Fr Z’s. Here is a particularly poignant personal response which will resonate with many traditional Catholics:

    Thank you Fr. Z. You say “Vatican II seems to us to be more important than it will eventually be seen to be.”
    My personal experience of Vatican II is that it was the fundamental cause of the loss of faith of my family of 6 siblings and later my own 4 children. The ambivalence of its documents was the key which opened the door to the wrecking shed where all the destructive leftist and Marxist tools were kept. And boy, did those breathless priests, monks and nuns rush in there to help themselves. The onslaught devastated my father, who was unable to defend his own profound pre-conciliar faith and who was effectively shocked into silence while everything he knew and wanted us to have was torn away, as the flood of the ‘new’ engulfed my family through enthusiastic priests and compromising schools. I am the only survivor, and I too was badly damaged for decades by poor catechesis, followed by being surrounded by ignorant work colleagues with similar history.
    As a result my siblings are to a man pro-abortion, pro-same-sex marriage, non-church-goers, virtual sun-worshippers, and militantly libertarian in the worst sense of the word. As are my children, because I too was unable to pass on what I wanted for them, as I was opposed at their schools and struggling with my own ignorance during their formative years. All this is as a result of a Catholic Education under brothers and nuns who basically betrayed my father’s trust in them for his children.
    No, I beg to differ. I see Vatican II as being very important indeed; it wrecked my both families completely. Both generations now barely tolerate my presence because I practise my faith, and they never allow me to contribute on any topic, rolling their eyes at anything I might say, as they despise me for it. The next generation is not baptised, so, that’s the end of it in my family.

    My judgement of Vatican II: a devastating, massive fail. From the moment Cd Leinart stepped up to the microphone it became a fake Council. I’m with Abp Vigano: it should be abolished; it was not even dogmatic anyway, so why do we treat it as such? As for it’s so-called fruits, we already possessed them in abundance anyway. It added nothing of any value, in my view, but rather smashed through the whole beautiful Old Church like a wrecking ball, destroying everything, for me.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. johnhenrycn says:

    MMVC: I’m sad to hear of your family’s loss of faith in anything but the zeitgeist. Take heart that your prayers for them are heard and will be answered. My family are all Proddies or agnostics or spiritualists, so I empathize with your experience and share your regrets for what has happened.
    Please keep praying for your loved ones as I do for mine despite it all being an uphill struggle.


  3. mmvc says:

    Dear JH,
    Apologies if I didn’t make it clear enough, but that desperately sad comment was from a reader at Fr Z’s blog. Having said that, the V2/’spirit of V2′ ‘wrecking ball’ inflicted plenty of damage on my family too. Thankfully my convert husband and two of my three sons are faithful practicing Catholics but sadly my firstborn and all too many members of my wider family have fallen by the wayside. My dear parents (RIP) were heartbroken about the blows that defaced their beloved Church over five decades. But as you say, we must keep praying and never give up trusting in God’s infinite mercy.
    You and yours are in my prayers too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. johnhenrycn says:

    Apologies for my misreading, MMVC. I must say I was a bit surprised when I read it yesterday. Cor! This doesn’t sound like it could actually be her family, I said to myself.

    I do sometimes think that I was fortunate – in a way – not to be raised Catholic and to be received into the Church as a confessing adult after years of study and deliberation. On the other hand, I think my desire to convert would have died if I’d delayed until after Pope Francis began his reign.

    Liked by 2 people

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