Thursday, January 10, 2013

What does Clifford Longley mean by a 'Vatican II man'?

Clifford Longley's Tablet obituary of Lord Rees-Mogg, who died on 29th December, aged 84, contains the classic, though eternally bizarre, identification of Pope Paul VI as a sort of antithesis to Vatican II, in this case by contrast with Cardinal Hume:

'He [Rees-Mogg] was a Vatican II man, who unsurprisingly brought The Times out against Humanae Vitae. He was quite prepared to disagree with Cardinal Hume, however, for instance over the publication of The Common Good statement in 1996. In an article in The Times, he warned against anything derived from Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum ...he was an inveterate free marketeer to the end.'

Longley's approach to Church affairs pictures Catholics as divided into pro- and anti-Vatican II football teams. Even so, you'd have thought that he'd noticed who the team captains were. How can opposition to Pope Paul VI be a defining characteristic of a 'Vatican II man'?

So, Pope John, what do you think of the Pill?
In case Longley has forgotten, this was the Pope who presided over most of the Council and promulgated every one of its documents: the earliest, Sacrosanctum Concilium, was promulgated 4th December 1963; Pope John XXIII had died on 3rd July.

But did Pope Paul, in a moment of schizophrenia, promulgate a Council document promoting free love and contraception, as well as Humanae Vitae? No. There isn't a syllable in the Council documents which can be taken as supporting opposition to Humanae Vitae, or the immemorial teaching of the Church which it reiterated. It would be very strange if it did, given Pope Paul's involvement in drafting the documents. Not that Pope John would have said anything different. It is amusing to imagine, in fact, how Good Pope John would have reacted to the suggestion that we could all use contraception.

But what's this in the next sentence? Although Lord Rees-Mogg was playing to type, as a 'Vatican II man', in disagreeing with Pope Paul, who actually ran the Council, it is surprising that he should have disagreed with Cardinal Hume. Er, but Cardinal Hume wasn't even at the Council: he was consecrated bishop in 1976, more than a decade after the Council closed.

Longley's nuanced view of post Vatican II Catholic debate
And why the disagreement? Because, as Rees-Mogg saw it, Cardinal Hume had taken his inspiration from Rerum novarum. So, Rerum novarum came out in 1891: is this the touchstone of Cardinal Hume's attachment to Vatican II? It's nice to think that Longley has belatedly discovered the hermeneutic of continuity, but that would equally go for Pius X's 1910 condemnation of Socialism, Notre charge Apostolique, with which I expect Lord Rees-Mogg would be more sympathetic. Neither document was contradicted by the Council.

Memo to The Tablet: could someone please supply Clifford Longley with a timeline of important events in the Catholic world? Here is your cutout-n-keep guide to those pesky dates. Perhaps he should sellotape it to his computer screen.

1891: Rerum novarum (condemnation of the oppression of workers under capitalism, and of the Socialist attack on private property), Leo XIII.
1910: Notre charge Apostolique (condemnation of Socialism), Pius X.
1930: Casti conubii (condemnation of contraception), Pius XI.
1955: Tina Beattie born.
1958: John XXIII becomes Pope.
1962: Vatican II opens.
1963: Pope John dies, Pope Paul succeeds him.
1964: Clifford Longley gets a job on the Portsmouth Evening News.
1965: Vatican II closes.
1968: Humanae vitae (another condemnation of contraception, including the newly invented Pill), Paul VI.
1970: The Beatles break up.
The Moon landing, 1969
1971: Paul VI grants permission for the Traditional Latin Mass to be said in England and Wales.
1976: Pope Paul appoints Abbot Hume of Ampleforth Archbishop of Westminster, and makes him a Cardinal.
1978: Pope Paul dies, succeeded by Pope John Paul II.
1984: Quattuor abhinc annos (world-wide permission for the Traditional Mass), John Paul II
1988: Ecclesia Dei adflicta (another permission for the Traditional Mass: bishops to be 'generous'), John Paul II.
2004: Catherine Pepinster becomes editor of The Tablet.
2005: John Paul II dies, is succeeded by Benedict XVI
2007: Summorum Pontificum (yet another permission for the Traditional Mass: it was 'never forbidden'), Benedict XVI.
2010: Universae Ecclesiae (permission for the Traditional Mass reiterated yet again), Benedict XVI.
2013: Fr Z eats breakfast.


  1. You did miss 1907 Lamentabili (condemnation of The Tablet)

  2. Also Pope John Paul 1 seems to have been forgotten (though I understand that he is less noteworthy than Beattie, Longley, Pepinster and ... hey where's Inwood?)

  3. Dr Joe,

    It's brilliant, just brilliant. I hope you laughed as much as me :).