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.