Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Was the true Council betrayed? Reply to 'Savoranola'

The real Savoranola
The real Savoranola would have given pretty short shrift to the individual who has taken on his name for the purpose of making anonymous swipes at orthodox Catholics in blog comms boxes (not to be confused with @frasavonarola), but I think it is worth making a response to the more substantive part of what he's put under yesterday's post, since (as he says), he speaks for many, though perhaps not quite as many as he imagines (and pretty few under 70):

'I think you should know that there are probably many many Catholics who have for a long time been dismayed by the way in which the great and inspiring vision of Vatican II for the renewal of the Church has been betrayed and undermined by members of the hierarchy (who is really being disloyal to the authority of the Church?) and are very grateful that there are people like Basil Loftus who still uphold that vision and are given a platform by the Catholic Times.' 

The great liberal myth of the Betrayal of the Council is that, when the Holy Ghost descended upon the Council Fathers, the 'Curia' (boo! hiss!) and the 'hierarchy' (boo! hiss!) clamped down and did not allow the wonderful things, which the Council demanded, to happen. The result being that the Council has never been fully implemented, and the fruits have not developed as they should. This is the kind of story you'll find on the little-visited websites of groups such as 'Catholics for a Changing Church'.

One difficulty they always have is quoting Council texts to support their case. When they try to do this, either it is a rather vague and general aspiration, or it is something they have taken out of context. For the fact is, looking at the texts, it is abundantly clear that the reforms which followed the Council went much further than had been intended by the Council Fathers: so, far from the process of Reform demanded by the Council being stifled by the wicked hierarchs after the Council had closed, it would be more accurate to say that it was hijacked by zealots who took the changes to extraordinary lengths. And then, of course, there was a lot of disobedience to the new rules, also in a liberal direction.
Cardinal Ottaviani: legendary
opponent of Conciliar liberalism

Let me give a few examples. The Council gave permission for a 'greater use of the vernacular' in the Mass (Sacrosanctum Concilium 63). The context makes it clear that it was the 'people's parts' which were under consideration, and this is reflected by the very earliest reforms, which allowed the use of the vernacular in the parts of the Mass where there is a dialogue between priest and people, and the readings. When the Dominican Cardinal Browne said, in the Council, that if the vernacular were allowed in part, it would take over, the other Council Fathers laughed at him. Yes, they laughed at the idea that the Canon of the Mass should be translated. They didn't make it explicit that it must not be, but it clearly wasn't what they intended to happen. If we want to know what the Council documents say, we look at them and read, in the same section (63) quoted above: 'Latin is to be retained'.

So what happened was that the people implementing the reform persuaded Pope Paul VI to permit a reform far, far more radical than that considered by the Council Fathers. Is this what 'Savoranola' means by the 'vision' of the Council being 'betrayed and undermined by members of the hierarchy'?

A very similar process took place with Communion under Both Kinds. The Council (SC55) said that it could be allowed in certain highly restricted cases:

The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism.

And so it is no surprise to see in 1970 a document (Sacramentale Communione) implementing this pointing out

'This faculty should not be granted on occasions when there are large numbers of communicants'.

It was persistent disobedience to this, particularly by the then bishops of the United States, which eventually forced the Vatican to give up trying to enforce this restriction. What happened in practice is a far more radical step that anything imagined by the Council Fathers.

An even more radical category of changes includes Altar Girls, Communion in the Hand, Extraordinary Ministers, and Mass 'facing the people': none of these were so much as mentioned in the Council texts. The liberal hotheads might imagine that these innovations were in the 'spirit of the Council'; it all gets rather vague at that point. But what they can't claim is that what the Council demanded was, wickedly, suppressed by dreadful conservatives like Cardinal Ottaviani. What the Council actually demanded, in black and white, in the texts, is something rather limited and mild, compared to what actually happened.

The internet is the great boon for us on the subject. Everyone can see the documents for themselves, they can link to them, they can put dubious quotes into context, they can dig out the more obscure things which the Vatican website prefers not to publish from other sources (such as EWTN). The difficulty of getting hold of the real documents made possible the wholescale misrepresentation of the Council by the liberals which dominated public consciousness for decades. I'm sorry, 'Savoranola': you can't do that any more.
The Mass of the Council: at the LMS AGM on Sunday, St George's Cathedral, Southwark
For more on many of these issues see the FIUV's short and well-documented Position Papers:


  1. Savonarola and others who lament the loss of the "great inspiring vision of Vatican II" it seems have never read the texts themselves. When they criticize Benedict XVI's attempts to call us back to the actual texts, what they are doing in reality is showing contempt for the Magisterium of the Church and exhibiting preference for their own preconceived modernist fantasies of what the Council was about.

    The age of the sandal-wearing, tie-dyed, pot-smoking, hippy, pseudo-magisterium is over, and it will disappear for good once those reactionary dinosaurs who still worship the 1960's succumb to the biological solution which awaits us all. Once they are gone, all the Church will have left is the texts and the Acta - just like we have now for Vatican I, Trent and all the others. A much clearer perspective of Vatican II will then be available - it will be shorn of its useless accretions.

    Then will begin the task of clarifying the ambiguities which resulted from attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable. As Cardinal Kasper pointed out, they permit of too diverse an interpretation to be of earthly use to the Church. I have always thought, however, that one interpretive key which should be observed is the fact that every one of the Council Fathers would have sworn the Oath Against Modernism. We should assume their good faith when contextualizing their words within the constant Tradition of the Church. If they were not in good faith, then their words count for nothing anyway.

  2. An absolutely excellent deconstruction of some post-conciliar myths, Dr Shaw. I have always thought that the so-called "Spirit of Vatican II" was the sort of spirit which should be buried at the nearest crossroads with a stake through its heart.

    Sorry you weren't able to join us on the Chartres Pilgrimage this year; although meteorologically awful, it was also spiritually wonderful!

  3. Anonymous9:54 pm

    Oh I thought Sav was being sarcastic. Do you think he was serious?

  4. I suspect I’ve said it before, if so, my apologies, but the answer is as has been advocated by Gherardini and Schneider.

    We must have at least a Syllabus of Errors condemning erroneous interpretation of the Vatican II documents, or better still or another Council, such as Trent, called after the failed 5th Lateran Council and the Protestant Reformation, to sort things out.

  5. Great article, I’ve always found it exasperating how liberals point to the Council when they wish to justify moral and liturgical innovations and yet there is nothing in the Vatican II documents for them.