Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pope John's Council, or, What I've Been Reading Lately (part 1)

I finished reading today part two of the late Michael Davies's "Liturgical Revolution" series, Pope John's Council. This is now unfortunately out of print, although volume one, Cranmer's Godly Order, has been recently republished by Roman Catholic Books. Perhaps if enough orders are placed for this one, they will also republish volumes two and three (Pope Paul's New Mass).

The edition of Pope John's Council upon which I stumbled in a library is the fifth printing dating from 1987, original copyright 1977; published by Angelus Press.

This book forces the reader to take a hard look (and it's not a pleasant sight) at the facts. Already in 1968 Pope Paul VI laments that the Church is engaged in self destruction (autodistruzione). On 29 June, 1972, he famously states that the smoke of Satan has entered the Church (how can one not be reminded here of Pope John XXIII's equally famous words about throwing open of the windows of the Church?). To deny that the Catholic Church after Vatican II entered immediately into a state of crisis rivaled only by the periods of the Arian and Protestant heresies is sheer blindness (whether deliberate and malicious or not, I leave to God to judge).

The Church before the Council, by contrast, was vibrant with vitality. Missionary activity was flourishing, as was apostolic activity on the part of the laity. Pope John XXIII himself, in his apostolic constitution Humanae salutis convoking the Council acknowledged the vitality of the Church as it then was: "...It has opposed decisively the materialistic ideologies which deny faith. Lastly, it has witnessed the rise and growth of the immense energies of the apostolate of prayer, of action in all fields. It has seen the emergence of a clergy constantly better equipped learning and virtue for its mission; and of a laity which has become ever more conscious of its responsibilities within the bosom of the Church, and, in a special way, of its duty of to collaborate with the Church hierarchy" (paragraph 5).

What, then, of the problems in the pre-Vatican II Church that are constantly cited as justification for the Council? Surely no one will repeat the tired old canards about how old women sat in the pews mumbling their rosaries and telling their beads during the Mass, and about how the priest used to offer Mass with his face to "the wall" instead of to "the people"! Is anyone seriously going to maintain that these pious old women, whoever they were, really should not have been meditating upon the mysteries of Christ's life and death as if this was inconsistent with the nature of the Mass? Will they seriously maintain that the "folks in the pew" now understand the mystery of the holy sacrifice better or enter into it more fully? The deceit inscribed at the heart of the old argument for Mass "facing the people" instead of "facing the wall" must be seen for the insult against the divine Masjesty that it truly is. The simple fact is that the priest faced God, not the wall; he faced God substantially present in the tabernacle and symbolically present in the east (where the Son of Justice rises to enlighten the earth). The turning of the priest toward the people, which should be called the turning of the priest away from God, has contributed immeasurably towards the anthropocentrism now prevelant in all but the rarest celebrations of the New Order of Mass.

If there was anything that really needed to be reformed in the Church prior to the Council it was precisely the exagerrated sense of obedience, uncritical acceptence of everything emanating from one's ecclesiastic superiors, which was not reformed, but exploited!

Well, this is long enough for one post, but I've only highlighted the first two chapters out of seventeen. Look for further installments soon; this is an important series of books, and this one in particular is mandatory reading for any traditional Catholic who wants to know what really happened at Vatican II to open the windows to the smoke of Satan.

7 comments:

Zach said...

Wonderful post! I hope that you don't mind me linking to it from my blog.

BONIFACE said...

Awesome post, Anselm. Obviously, though, this stuff was simmering beneath the surface before it popped up in V2. Already, Modernism had tried making inroads into the Church ever since the time of Vatican I. The turning point at Vatican II was that instead of opposing Modernism with all their strength (ala Pius IX + X), the VII popes embraced it, and thus Modernism became respectable and mainstream instead of underground and despicable.

In conclusion, I think we ought to admit that there were problems before Vatican II, but they were the exact opposite types of problems from the ones that are usually cited by progressives.

Anselm said...

Zach,
I don't mind, of course.

Boniface,
You're certainliy right. Modernism still existed, although it had to go underground so to speak because of the strong stand taken by the popes.

I did not mention this as a problem in the Church in need of reform, though, because it was for the most part limited to certain "intellectual" circles, and because it was already being properly handled for the most part. I don't think you could characterize the Church as a whole as "modernist" before Vatican II.

So, instead of reforming things that needed to be shaped up, they allowed something that had been to a certain extent bottled up, to become, as you said, mainstream and respectable.

Something Davies points out in a later chapter is the fact that Vatican II as an event was actually a chance for all the liberal theologians (periti) to get to know each other over the course of three years, and coordinate their efforts, all the while living in incredible comfort at Vatican expense!

Anonymous said...

I think you and all your traditional friends need to get over the fact that the Novus Ordo Mass is never going away. You can hope it is all you want, but it is not.

If you find spiritual fulfillment in the Tridentine Mass, then by all means celebrate it! I have no problem with that, but if you are suggesting that the Novus Ordo Mass is deficient, that is where I have a problem. You have absolutely no authority to make that judgment, and neither did Michael Davies. Only the Magisterium has that authority, and until you can become humble enough to accept the Christ-given authority of the the Magisterium, especially in the context of an ecumenical council, you are always going to be up in arms. You need to be much more humble.

If you seriously think that the problems the Church has encountered are as simple as being products of Vatican II's reforms, I think you need to consider how ridiculously simplistic that assertion is. Vatican II came at the beginning of the 1960s, which was the beginning of one of the most turbulent decades. I think you may be ignoring more than a few other cultural factors.

I do not say any of this to degrade your own experiences as a Catholic. If you find fulfillment in the pre-Vatican II Mass, then I suggest you attend that Mass. It is a perfectly valid celebration. I will continue to participate in the ordinary Mass, however. I think you need to be more open minded, more docile, and less judgmental of those things you are uncomfortable with.

AquinaSavio said...

Great post, Anselm. I would really like to read those books. Too bad they're out of print.

BONIFACE said...

I think you and all your traditional friends need to get over the fact that the Novus Ordo Mass is never going away. You can hope it is all you want, but it is not.

You simply cannot say that it will "never" go away. People thought things like Investiture, Multiple Benefices and other things that had been part of the Church for hundreds of years would never go away, but eventually they did. It is realistic to believe that the NO could one day vanish.

If you find spiritual fulfillment in the Tridentine Mass, then by all means celebrate it! I have no problem with that, but if you are suggesting that the Novus Ordo Mass is deficient, that is where I have a problem. You have absolutely no authority to make that judgment, and neither did Michael Davies.

The NO is not deficient in the sense that it is invalid, but it certainly is deficient in the sense that it is dummed down with weak theology and is not as consonant with Catholic Tradition. This is not a matter of interpretation, but is the simple truth, which even supporters of the NO admit.

Only the Magisterium has that authority, and until you can become humble enough to accept the Christ-given authority of the the Magisterium, especially in the context of an ecumenical council, you are always going to be up in arms. You need to be much more humble.

Nobody is against the Magisterium. In fact, we are supporting the Magisterium, which we understand not to be just the one that happens to be existing now, but the totality of all the papal & conciliar teachings throughout history. What is arrogant is thinking that one Magisterium can suddenly cast off 2,000 years of tradition at a whim.

If you seriously think that the problems the Church has encountered are as simple as being products of Vatican II's reforms, I think you need to consider how ridiculously simplistic that assertion is. Vatican II came at the beginning of the 1960s, which was the beginning of one of the most turbulent decades. I think you may be ignoring more than a few other cultural factors.

I think you're right; the 60's had a lot to do with it. So, why would we want to take our norms from the mindset of the most decadent decade?

I do not say any of this to degrade your own experiences as a Catholic. If you find fulfillment in the pre-Vatican II Mass, then I suggest you attend that Mass. It is a perfectly valid celebration. I will continue to participate in the ordinary Mass, however. I think you need to be more open minded, more docile, and less judgmental of those things you are uncomfortable with.

It is not about my "experience," or what I prefer, but about objective reality. The Old Mass is objectively better for the life of the Church, for every Catholic. Period.

Tawser said...

Anonymous,

Do you know how to reconcile the church's consistent pre-conciliar condemnation of ecumenism with the dramatic turnaround at Vat II? Do you know how to reconcile Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors with the Decree on Religious Liberty? Do you believe that the church's intellectual credibility and the consistency of its teaching means nothing? It is all well and good to say that "I stand with the Magisterium," but unless you believe that the Holy See is able to repeal the logics of logic, then problems like the ones addressed in this blog have to faced. And faced with a little less smugness and condescension too.