Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Benedict XVI and Vatican Council II

"Thy will be done."

Shortly before Benedict XVI resigned as Pope of the Holy Catholic Church he addressed the priests of Rome -- his priests, since he was the Bishop of Rome. To everyone's surprise he gave an impromptu talk on Vatican II.

I have come to think of this as a final and public confession of Benedict as Pope. And who better to confess to than a room full of priests.

Vatican Council II has hung like a cloud over his papacy and even over his whole life as a priest. His priestly life seems to begin and end with the Council. And his time in the Chair of Peter is bookmarked by speeches regarding the Council.

In this speech he confesses that the Council produced some very bad fruit, but he draws a distinction between two councils. The good council and the bad council; or the true council and the false council.

This allows him to continue to praise the council while criticizing its bad fruit. But historically and in reality there was only one council. So this is a problem.

Ratzinger was part of the Rhine Alliance which according to my current understanding dominated the council. And in fact that is what the Pope tells his priests in his address. And the first and foremost objective of the Rhine Alliance was to "reform" the liturgy. In other words to institute the Novus Ordo Mass.

How interesting then that as Pope he became so closely associated with reviving the Traditional Latin Mass.

The problem with reform is that it is like opening Pandora's box. How can you stop the reform once it begins? Is it possible to institute a reform and then exactly control the extent and nature of that reform?

I made a similar criticism of the sexual liberation movement of the 60s. Perhaps there was a moment of perfect equilibrium between sexual freedom and traditional morality regarding sexuality. But once the sexual revolution had begun it did not stop at that point of equilibrium, but continued in a radical direction.

I'm convinced that this is no accident. There are huge societal forces that must be manipulated in order to create such changes. Remember that people and societies are naturally resistant to change. And so in order to continue to change society requires a constant force that will overcome this natural inertia and friction.

And these same societal forces worked to push the reforms of the Catholic Church's liturgy further and further from those that Ratzinger had imagined at the time of the opening of the 2nd Vatican Council.

So perhaps his speech was a warning to his young priests to be wary of change.

Our last two popes both participated actively in the council and tried to steer the interpretation of the  council afterwards. What will be the relationship of the next pope to the council?

This will be one of the key questions that the next pope will need to answer early on in his papacy. And he will need to continually re-address this issue throughout his papacy, just as Benedict had to.


  1. A cloud has hung over the Catholic Church since 1965 and that cloud is now bringing storms that will eventually bring a tornado as the Blessed Mother predicted at Fatima.Unless we elect a cardinal who adheres to the true liturgy and allows the mass to be celebrated as a sacrifice not a community gathering we will certainly need divine intervention to survive.

  2. Hello and thank you for your comment. I just posted a new article titled "hermeneutics" which also discusses aspects of Vatican II.

    The Church is going through an extraordinary time. The resignation of Pope Benedict comes in the aftermath of the "Vatileaks" scandal. One can't help but wonder if there is some relationship between the two.

    Fatima seems to be always on my mind these days. I wonder what will happen in 2017. Will Sister Lucia be beatified? Will the new pope visit Fatima early in his pontificate?

    Even if we get the type of Pope that you describe, it will still require the strong cooperation of all the bishops of the world to make effective changes to the way that the Mass is celebrated. We saw under Benedict the amount of opposition to changing a few words in the English language Mass, so you can just imagine how great a task this will be.

    There is also the question of a hurried canonization of Pope John Paul II which I think would be a huge mistake. The Church needs time to view his papacy in a historical perspective -- especially given all of the changes which JPII introduced to the Church and to the papacy. Time will tell whether these were passing "novelties" or whether they are the beginnings of new fruitful branches for the Church.

    As for Vatican II, the new pope will have an opportunity to revisit it and in fact this will be thrust upon him. You already have those within the Church and outside the Church who are demanding further "reforms" such as "women priests". I pray and trust in the Holy Spirit that these reformers/destroyers will be thwarted.

    As I said before, pray for a new pope who is not "cool". Or as St. Paul says:

    "Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ."

    In other words you can't be "cool" and popular and still be a servant of Christ. And the pope as successor to St. Peter is called to be the humblest servant of Christ.