Ambiguities in Vatican II

The Church is in a critical period, on the brink of a schism over the liturgy, morals, the way the Church relates to the secular world and other religions. Some Catholics blame Vatican II with sincerity. Here we respond to some of those questions and criticisms of the council.

Doctrinal correctness vs errors in pastoral strategy

Dr. Ralph Martin provided an amazing talk on Vatican II. He affirms that there are no doctrinal errors in the council, and that areas of ambiguity have been plugged by the popes since the council, including Cardinal Ratzinger's affirmation that Vatican II must be interpreted using a "hermenutic of continuity" with the constant tradition of the Church. He also makes it clear that there are areas where the pastoral strategy is lacking in some Vatican II documents. The full talk is here and it will start on his criticisms of some of the pastoral strategies of the council.

Was Vatican II was an unnecessary "pastoral" council?
Unlike the other 20 councils called to introduce a new dogma or to respond to a specific threat?

There was a very specific threat, to humanity. Fresh out of the Cuban missile crisis, the arms race was out of control and humanity hung in the balance. The Church had to share its message of love and peace with the outside world. The Holy Spirit knew about the upcoming persecution of Christians in the west, the tidal wave of the sexual revolution and other forces of darkness. Contraception was propped up by Hollywood propaganda. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis were tragic pawns in this war on the Church's values.

The walls to protect the Church before Vatican II were like a fortress against foot soldiers of the middle ages, but could not defend against attacking planes that fly over walls. The Church Militant needs new strategies when its enemies (inside and out) have mass communication. In the days of the apostles when God decided to take his message to the gentiles, Jewish Christians we're scandalized. Let us not repeat that mistake when God is on the move in the today's Church.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit has a pertinent dialog:

Tauriel: We cleared the forest as ordered, my Lord. But more spiders keep coming up from the south. They are spawning in the ruins of Dol Guldur, if we could kill them at their source…
Thranduil: That fortress lies beyond our borders. Keep our lands clear of those foul creatures, that is your task.
Tauriel: And when we drive them off, what then? Will they not spread to other lands?
Thranduil: Other lands are not my concern. The fortunes of the world will rise and fall, but here in this kingdom, we will endure...
Legolas: It is not our fight.
Tauriel: It is our fight. It will not end here. With every victory this evil will grow. If your father has his way, we will do nothing. We will hide within our walls, live our lives away from the light and let darkness descend. Are we are not part of this world? Tell me, when did we let evil become stronger than us?

Why didn't Vatican II address the evils of communism?

The Cuban Missile Crisis was during the opening month of the council. Humanity lay in the balance. The Vatican wanted to improve relations with the Orthodox Church which was in the belly of Communist Russia. They would not likely have attended if there was a unilateral condemnation of communism with no context. Careful diplomacy was necessary, much like Pious XII and the Nazis during World War II. Since the council, Orthodox relations have thawed and a unification is within site. Paul VI explicitly repudiated Communism in his 1964 encyclical Ecclesiam Suam. JPII hastened the downfall of communism. The Vatican explicitly refuted Marxism in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and condemned liberation theology.

Have popes after council been weak or bad?
Appointing heretical bishops and cardinals, practicing syncretism, etc.?

Cardinal Sarah said:

"...every pope is right for his time, Providence looks after us very well... The truth is that many people write not to give witness to the truth, but to place people against one another, to damage human relationships...The truth doesn't matter to them."

Even under St. Pius X, the disastrous residential schools with brutal beating and sexual abuse took place. 44% of accused abusers were ordained before or during the council, including McCarrick. Under Blessed Pope Pius IX and Pope Innocent XI we find the castration of the choir. Even Jesus appointed Judas treasurer. We have a separate article on popes since the council.

Some who instigated the council were liberal modernismist revisionists

Yes, but although bad actors came to the council (like every other council), the output of the council is orthodox and consistent with the Tradition of the Church. Let us take the analogy of art. A master chef, classic composer, famous perfumer, deep poet, or gifted author chooses disparate ingredients. The tension is part of the masterpiece. One difference between Michelangelo and a Hallmark card maker, is the master's judicious use of some ugly images and colors to create overall beauty. Perfumers are masters at using a pungent smelly fungus as an ingredient to create a beautiful perfume. In classic music composition, it is not what an individual dissonant chord sounds like in isolation that is important, it is how it resolves and how it is used that distinguishes a masterpeice from noise.

Similarly, the greatest master(s) of all, God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit guide the Church when new documents are created under the authority of the Pope. There are sometimes very bitter players involved, but when we stand back and look at the overall output, it is of God, and therefore good and right. We have a detailed article on Pius X and modernism.

Did Vatican II ruin the liturgy and pave the way for a Freemason, Bugnini, to re-create it?

The Sacrosanctum Concilium laid out broad strokes for reform of the Mass. The actual creation of the Novus Ordo was long after the council. There is no mention in Sacrosanctum Concilium of Eucharist in the hand, receiving standing up, priest facing the congregation, shaking hands after the Consecration, altar girls, or the type of music to be used. We have a separate discussion on the Mass, and whether Bugnini was a Freemason.

Did John XXIII set the tone with opening speach
on “medicine of mercy", "outer layer of Church", "unity with human race"

There is the type of tradition that contributes to the doctrine of the Church, and the type of tradition regarding how the faith is presented to the world. The first is unchangeable. The latter needs to adapt with the realities of the world.

There is a huge difference between adapting the timeless Truth of the gospel to the modern world and adopting the doctrines of modernism that St. X lays out in PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS. We have a separate article on Modernism in the Catholic Church.

Did Vat II leave public sex education to the prudent and private appraisal of parents and teachers?

God invented sex and the devil claimed it partly because of the Church's inability to talk sensibly about it. We welcome John Paul II's Theology of the Body and Paul VI's "Humanae Vitae". Better for Catholic Education with parents and Bishop's involvement, than leave it to secular authorities who have an agenda. Declaration On Christian Education (GE1) took back education.

Was the decree Unitatis Redintegratio On Ecumenism 3.4 too soft on Evangelicals?

Pope John XXIII opened the council with "I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in." If we want to influence someone we have to start with what we have in common. Saint Paul did this with the Greek philosophers (Acts 17:23). Evangelicals often have the Grace of the Holy Spirit moving in their communities and have much better Bible literacy in the pews than Catholics, even though there is much misunderstood theology. Bishop Fulton Sheen said "Evangelicals have the fire, Catholics have the Truth." We can learn from one another.

Were ambiguities compromises with liberal progressives?
Which gave wiggle room to manipulate the future Church?

Catholic lay people needed more Bible reading, more of the Holy Spirit, a deeper relationship with Jesus, encouragement to evangelize and defend the faith, natural and joyful sex within marriage, and the ability to hold bad bishops and priests accountable. We need to trust the council process otherwise its open season on every other council. We don't think that the Holy Spirit stayed home when 4000 bishops showed up. Popes since the council have closed many of those openings.

Was the liberal bubble that followed the council caused by, or was enabled by, the council?

Here's an analogy from the computer world. In 1994, Windows 3.1 was amazing but could not scale any further. Windows 95 fixed that but was disorienting and needed ongoing code patches because hackers exploited its open architecture. Vatican II was an open architecture to adapt to mass communication and globally competing religions but "hackers" often exploit its vulnerabilities. What can we do?

  • Read the entire VII passage. Unhappy Catholics on both the left and the right pull quotes out of context, the way many protestants read the Bible when trying to justify an anti-Catholic interpretation.
  • Vatican II provided broad strokes for a reform. Papal letters, encyclicals, synods, etc. (linked below), clarify details and clear up misinterpretation. (virus patches)

Charges of Modernism in specific Vatican II documents:

Critics of the council have tried to map individual sentences or parts of the documents to this heresy but in context the documents do not represent, or yield, to the heresy. These are detailed in the articles below.

Partial list of Vatican documents clarifying misunderstandings and abuses of Vatican II

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