Have Popes since Vatican II been weak or bad?

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. We have a separate article on Vatican II. Some Catholics accuse Popes since the council of being weak for accepting the council, then they provide a list of complaints that are sometimes unrelated. 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.

Paul VI, JPII and Benedict XVI were great popes even with various faults like every other pope in history. We have a separate article on Pope Francis. Pray for him. Below is a table with criticisms of popes (on the left) with our responses (on the right).

Criticism of Pope Response
Attended/organized interreligious events.

It would be heretical to assert that there is no truth outside the Church. Eastern religions have many good willed people seeking Truth who have not been authentically exposed to the Truth of Jesus. For how many futile years did the Spaniards try to evangelize the Aztecs before Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared. One of the factors in the 9 million conversions was the Aztec symbolism on the Tilma. Our Lady apparently had no trouble connecting the Truth of the Gospel to aspects of truth in the Aztec religion. We doubt she would use evil symbols on the Tilma. This is not syncretism. It's evangelization using symbols that the people understand.

This accusation is like the protestant accusation that the Popes of 1400's-1600's caused humanism for acknowledging aspects of truth found in ancient Greek philosophy.

St. Pius X was concerned with the "falsities" in other religions in Pascendi Dominici Gregis (14), he was not speaking about inter-religious dialog where commonality is an entry point to presenting the Gospel, which has at its biblical foundation, the Book of Acts, where St. Paul spoke to the Greeks of the statue to the "Unknown God" among all their false gods. (Acts 17:23)

JPII kissed a Koran

The kissing of the Koran was was no part of any religious service or prayer time. The Pope was making a diplomatic gesture of respect to Islam and the the people of Iraq during a visit to a country that has numerous Christian martyrs. It was not an act of faith. The Iraqi Catholic patriarch whose flock lives in the country under Islamic rule and who knows the situation of the Church in the Islamic world thought (a) that this in no way signaled the abandonment of the gospel by John Paul and (b) that Muslims understood it as the gesture of respect it was.

In this case, it was probably a diplomatic error. The gesture probably had greater negative effects than positive effects because of those around the world who were scandalized were not of aware of the context. Since Vatican II, cameras catch every strategic error popes make, and every breath of the pope is recorded for all the world to see, whereas popes prior to the council didn't have this kind of wordwide public exposure or scrutiny because they had their lives hidden away from cameras (which didn't exist until the late 1800's).

The Inaugural Allocution of John XXIII on October 11, 1962, which surely contributed to directing the Council in the anomalous direction which it then took. And these are:

“Now however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy more than that of severity. This demands that she comes to encounter the needs of today showing the validity of her teaching rather than renewing condemnations.”

“studied and espoused through the forms of investigation and the literary formulation of modern thought,” since “on the one hand there is the substance of the ancient doctrine of the depositum fidei, and on the other hand there is the formulation of its outer layer [rivestimento or coating]: and it is of this outer layer that one must – with patience if necessary – take great note, measuring everything in the forms and proportions of a magisterium with a prevailing pastoral character” (a concept re-proposed in GS 62 and in UR 6).

The enunciation of the unity of the human race as the true goal of the Church, with such unity even considered as a “necessary foundation” so that the “earthly city” may become ever more like the “celestial city” attribution of this improper purpose to the Church in LG 1 (see above, n. 5).

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.

The walls to protect the Church before Vatican II were like a fortress city which could defend against foot soldiers of the middle ages, but could not defend against attacking planes that fly over walls in the new millennium. The Church Militant needs new strategies when enemies of the Church (inside and out) have mass communication networks at their disposal. Yes its dangerous and scary to take a new strategy, without changing the truth of the Gospel.

St. Faustina was shown hell, but she was also shown God's mercy. There will be constant balance and tension between the two. Obviously, Pope Francis has gone too far on the "pastoral side". But the Church pre Vatican II was not prepared for the challenges of the 21st century, it was way too fundamentalist and incapable of credible dialogue with the outside world. Circling the wagons is not the approach.

Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI said the council must be read is in the light of tradition, interpreted with a "hermeneutics of continuity". They also issued many documents which clarified misreadings and abuses of Vatican II. We understand that Liberal theologians sometimes cite Vatican II and have had discussions with them on the Unam Sactum, Liberation Theology, Lumen Gentium, and relativism.

Popes since the council appointed abusers and heretics

44% of accused abusers in the US were ordained before or during the council, including McCarrick.

St. Pius X presided over the universal church during the period of of the most horrendous abuses of innocent children since its inception. He appointed bishops and Cardinals that approved of violent colonialism and residential schools. Not only was there sexual abuse, but incredible beatings of children who were forcefully removed from their homes. Northern Canada today is a mess, and the Church financially and morally bankrupt in the eyes of the public as a result, even more so than the 2002 Boston abuse outbreak revelations ... And this  even after evidence of the horrors of them was known or could have been obtained.  

Almost every heresy in history has emerged under a faithful pope. Popes can choose bad apples. Jesus appointed Judas treasurer.

JPII removed the devil's advocate role, resulting in the canonization of Marxist Oscar Romero. The canonization process still intensely scrutinizes candidates for sainthood. In our diocese of Ottawa, the investigation into the canonization of a priest began with an open communication to the public if there was ANYONE who had reasonable cause to oppose the canonization. Oscar Romero has become a lightning rod for left wing - right wing identity politics. Surely we can imagine an advocate for the poor who's not a Marxist or into liberation theology. (This is a separate issue from VII.)
Popes after council are weak because they did not repudiate the council They did not repudiate the council because it was a legitimate and important council. We have a separate article on Vatican II here.
Popes after council accepted "old earth" theory. We have a separate article on creationism. St. Pius X was concerned with the separation of science and faith, and with faith being subordinate to science in Pascendi Dominici Gregis (14), his discussion of "evolution" is with respect to Dogma.
Pope Paul VI weak-willed because he didn't cancel the council

St. Pope Paul VI refused to get into identity politics, he was not left or right, nor was he in the mushy middle. The council was legitimate and although it took longer than expected, it yielded significant results that gave the laity tools to take up their role in the Church, including holding priests, bishops and even the pope to account. The conservative Catholic blogsphere is a result of the empowerment of the laity at Vatican II. We have a separate article on Vatican II here.

St. Pope Paul VI was anything but weak willed. He stood up against the Vatican appointed Papal Birth Control Commission that was recommending the Church relax its position on contraception. His firm position made liberals furious (source). His response to the attempt to liberalize contraception was swift, strong and decisive. He protected the Church's traditional position against contraception, and he wrote Humanae Vitae, one of the most prophetic and counter cultural documents of our time. He also insisted that Gaudium et Spes reaffirm the infallibility of the Pope when he saw things going a little awry with the “experts”. His judgement and character are solid.

Pope Francis let Pachamama be worshiped in Vatican Gardens, has tried to take the Church to the left of the political spectrum, and has repeatedly insulted traditionally minded Catholics.

The Pachamama was a serious mistake by Francis and was Waaaay too accommodating. It is completely distinct from the Pope JPII's meeting of religions, because the Amazon synod was (1) for Catholics, not interreligious dialog (2) On Vatican property under the authority of the Catholic Church (3) Pachamama were brought into a Catholic Church and venerated. (5) Pope Francis blessed them, and defended his actions.

Pope Francis may go down in history as one of the bad popes, I don't think we should try to hold him up an example of Vatican II. There were about 12 bad popes pre Vatican II and we don't blame the councils before their reign for them. We have list of good and bad things he's done and an analogy of the gifted but alcoholic father.

Nothing has, or will, find its way into magisterial teachings of the Church either via a synod or otherwise, that is inconsistent with scripture or the Church's authoritative teaching on faith and morals. Even the famous footnote can be read in a magisterial light. We have a separarate article on how a faithful Catholic can respond to the turmoil in the Church under Pope Francis.

We must remember Cardial Sarah's words "...every pope is right for his time, Providence looks after us very well... " Something good will come from this, which is known to God.

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

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