Monday, September 17, 2012


The Mass after Vatican II and the Mass before Vatican II one with Pope Beneidict and the other with Pope John XXIII, is this what Vatican II desired in looks?

I suspect at the time the documents of Vatican II were written, the way the Church was in the USA compared to Church in Europe or other parts of the world was very different. I suspect that the USA, as today, even then had a higher rate of religious practice than some other countries. So to get the high percentage of Catholics at that time to be more active in the Mass and more active as Catholics in their parishes and in their everyday lives was certainly well advised.

In terms of Christian unity, a major emphasis of Vatican II, certainly fostering it has been a blessing and much development has occurred in unexpected ways, especially for those of us who as Catholics are minorities in our cities and towns and thus even apart from institutional concerns, have to be ecumenical at home, work and play if we are going to be a part of our towns and cities.

About 90% of our marriages are ecumenical in Macon and all of the Diocese of Savannah. Up until the early 1950′s Catholics who married Protestants in my parish, many still alive and in the parish today, had to marry in the rectory, they weren’t allowed a church wedding. That was liberalized in the 1950′s when mixed marriages were allowed in the church but the ceremony had to take place outside the altar railing. Could you imagine going back to that today and Catholics acquiescing?

Could anyone have imagined during the Council, that the reformed liturgy and in the vernacular would open the way to an “Anglican Use” (and subsequently the Ordinariate) liturgy,which I would see as positive in terms of authentic Christian unity under the full communion of the Catholic Church, i.e. the pope, bishops in union with him and the Church's Magisterium?

On the negative side, could Council Fathers in the USA imagined that the up to 90% attendance of Catholics at the “non-participative” Latin Mass of that period, would lead to only 20% of Catholic participating in the “active-participative” vernacular, simplified Mass today? If they had a crystal ball back then, what would they have written differently?

Or more to the point, since my contention is that the problems of today aren't related to the Council documents which are quite conservative in nature and reflect decades of theological thought leading up to the Council, but rather the problem is the hermeneutic of rupture with the Church's past and ill-advised post-Vatican II documents that have created so many of the problems that still affect us today.

Studying the documents of Vatican II today, and especially the document on the liturgy, is quite important. But the critique, and strong critiques, that are needed shouldn't be directed toward the Council itself, but the post-Vatican II documents that implemented the council. I suspect we need to read those too and perhaps blast those documents out of the water where necessary rather than blaming Vatican II on all the bastardized ways subsequent documents implemented Vatican II's noble vision!


Andy Milam said...

I don't think that they would have done much of anything differently. What Vatican Council II "promulgated" and what happened are two separate events, with regard to the liturgy. There is no connection between Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Novus Ordo.

With regard to so-called "ecumenism;" I think that they got exactly what they wanted, which is a change in theology. The view of catechesis, ecumenism, and evangelization has been so compromised that in order to teach it properly today, one has to spend too much time unpacking the true understanding of Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and Paganism in the world.

As for Religious Liberty, I think that they got exactly what they wanted with that too. I think they wanted to change the tambor of how Catholics viewed Protestants and how we "tolerate" them. They wanted us to not tolerate them any longer, but to accept them as valid Churches. I think that most bishops of Vatican Council II would be upset with the term "ecclesial communion."

With regard to the Magisterium of Vatican Council II, I think that most of the bishops would be mortified to think that their work is being critiqued in such an objective way. By and large the whole point of Vatican Council II was to introduce Subjectivism into the Church as a valid basis for theology and philosophy.

So, save for the Mass itself, I don't think they would have done much differently. I think that by and large they have accomplished what they set out to do. I think that most of the bishops would be disappointed that we have Benedict XVI. I think they would see him more as a Pius XI type and not a John XXIII type.

In essence, the answer is that they would not have allowed the Mass to be as radically disassembled as it was, but other than that...nothing.

Henry Edwards said...

As more studies of Vatican II are assimilated, I expect a growing realization of its difference from previous ecumenical councils. Which were much smaller, and were based on open discussion and deliberation--even if sometimes with much contention--among all the bishops present, so that their final results were approved with awareness and understanding by the majority of bishops who were present.

Perhaps Vatican II was unique in that its final results were shaped primarily by behind the scenes maneuvering, exploiting complicated (and shifting) rules of order--rather like our own Congress in recent years--rather than debate and consideration within the Council itself. In particular, the agenda for the two thousand bishops present was controlled by a small core of largely northern European bishops and their cadre of activist experts who staffed the commissions that actually drafted the documents that presented on the floor for the bishops final approval.

Perhaps we cannot now discern retrospectively the "intent" of the majority of Vatican II bishops regarding the various issues that have since emerged in the implementation of the Council. But it is easier discern the intent with which some of the conciliar documents were written and with which the "placet" votes of a majority of the bishops were maneuvered, without their full implications being revealed and understood by those bishops as they voted.

For instance, as a result of the recently published memoirs of the secretary of the council's commission on the liturgy and the detailed minutes of its 50+ meetings in which Sacrosanctum Concilium was drafted, it seems clear the intent of the members of this commission was to draft a document that could be approved by a consensus of the predominately traditional Council Fathers under their expectation that nothing radical would result, but which after the council could provide the foundation for the liturgical revolution that actually followed.

So I believe that there is every connection between SC and the Novus Ordo, that SC was by its framers intended precisely to make adoption of the NO--possible (if not inevitable), in the process sidetracking the more conservative goals of the half-century liturgical movement that preceded Vatican II.

Though, fortunately, in order to "sneak" this document by the voting bishops, it was written so that the Church can now--if it will--restore continuity with the classical Roman rite by re-interpreting SC in a traditional way.

Andy Milam said...


I agree with your premise and I fully support the ideas of manuevering and politics rather than open dialogue and discussion. That much is self-evident, but I don't think taht I agree with your conclusion that SC and the NO are connected.

I think that if you were to argue that SC and the so-called "Missa Normativa (transitional missal)" were connected, I would 100% agree with you. I think that is definitely arguable, but I think that the break is so great regarding the Novus Ordo, that we cannot properly say that it is connected to SC, other than Bugnini had a hand in both.

What I think is more plausible is that Bugnini drafted and maneuvered what would become SC and he was successful in doing so. So much so that he was able to take his most radical ideas from the Consilium's work and get it implemented. This, IMHO is where the break with Tradition took place regarding Holy Mass. I also think that he stopped just short of completely invalidating the Mass, but the changes are so radical that the Novus Ordo doesn't even resemble the so-called "Missa Normativa."

So, premise, yes...conclusion, not so much. But I would like to hear more of what you have to say...I think we're on the same track.

rcg said...

The only thing they didn't expect was for people to catch on. There has been no secret about what was done 'in the spirit of V-II'. Heck, the pictures, the music, the books, the Masses with clowns and coven style altars has been anything but a secret. This was The New Way, yet was also the Old Way, the way our pagan ancestors did it when they first held Mass. It can only be the intervention of the Holy Ghost that has made us question what has been pushed on us.

Henry Edwards said...


I suspect that any difference in our views is largely one of semantics as to what is meant by a "connection" between SC and the NO, and a reflection of the difficulty inherent in simplifying the complex dynamics of Vatican II.

The conciliar commission on the liturgy which started with the prefatory schema (largely written under Bugnini's direction) and edited it (without his participation) in drafting SC in a form that could be approved by a predominately conservative Council, had at least two main groups. One represented the "genuine" pre-conciliar liturgical movement that sought to reinvigorate participation in the Mass while preserving its traditional features. The other had a more revolutionary purpose, and sought to lay the foundation for a radical transformation of the Roman liturgy.

The ambiguities with which SC can be read reflect the success of both groups. It is arguable that a conservative reading of SC and the interim Ordo Missae basically reflects the conservative group, though in the extent to which it permitted the vernacular and in versus populum it went far beyond anything that was discussed during the Council itself.

Card. Antonini's memoirs reflect the sharp discontinuity that you emphasize, between the conciliar commission deliberations, and the post-conciliar commission with Bugnini brought back into the picture and rehabilitated by Paul VI, which in using the authority of SC to construct the Novus Ordo, carried out the agenda that the second group had intended.

My point would be that SC was intentionally formulated with sufficient ambiguity to serve either purpose. But I believe it is a mistake to talk about what the Vatican II bishops "really intended" or would have done if they'd known then what we know now. Because the vast majority of them were probably oblivious to these subtleties that played out behind the scenes (however obvious they are to any of us today) and were not fully discussed in deliberations of the Council itself.

ytc said...

I suspect it is a bit too extremist to go all the way in either direction, either totally blaming the Council (and documents) itself, or totally blaming the interpretation of said documents. I rather think it is a combination of both. I do not think it is intellectually honest to separate the documents themselves from their interpretation.

I do not believe the documents of Vatican II are actively malicious or evil, but I believe they are overly permissive in allowance of interpretation which, let's face it, is a problem with the documents themselves and their Eminent and Excellent authors.

So yes, SC said X but we got Y instead. But SC is such a careless document more akin to a treatise than a directive, and its authors took so little caution and had such little obvious foresight--at least as far as I can tell--that I think it is fair to say that the liturgical mess can be blamed partly on the interpretation of SC but also partly on SC itself.

Had the Council Fathers actually known what they wanted--ah, there's the rub!--they could have easily gotten it. But they had no concrete idea of what they wanted, I'm convinced of it. Most bishops are not liturgists, nor were they then, and I think the majority are humble enough to admit it. I believe the bishops had good intentions and noble hearts, but they were duped. They were duped. I think that unfortunate reality can be at least partly blamed on them, but not totally.

Anonymous 5 said...

Fr. McD,

I think this post of yours is open to a great many criticisms.

1) To begin with: the title. Tt suggests to me that you think that the VII bishops could have worded the VII documents themselves differently had they known what was going to happen. This raises deep questions of how much those documents are touched by human subjectivity and thus fallibility.

2) On many occasions you've taken issue with Marc (less so with me) when he states that certain papal actions--e.g., promulgation of the NO Mass--may be validly criticized if they don't fall into the doctrinal or "subjection of intellect and will" categories. If that's the case, shouldn't you show the same subjection to the episcopal and papal documents that you here propose to "blow[] out of the water?"

3) I must differ with you implicit definition of "active participation" (i.e., your phrases "more active in the Mass," “'non-participative' Latin Mass," etc.). Your definition seems to assume that joining your prayers devoutly to that of the Latin Mass celebrant isn't active, and that VII enjoined "true" active participation. Sacrosanctum concilium nowhere suggests that devout prayer of the laity at a Tridentine Mass is either a) non-active or b) an activity different from what they were contemplating when they called for active participation. If we adopt your definition in light of SC 14, literally every layperson present at every Mass must get out of the pew and do something besides kneeling there and praying.

4) Re mixed marriages and weddings in the rectory or outside the altar, and whether people today would accept that: If that's the right way to do it, then their refusal to accept it wouldn't make them right; it would just make them a "stiff-necked people." If we truly believe that Protestants are members of non-salvific sects and that their souls are thus in danger, isn't it false charity not to use liturgy, and the sacrament of marriage itself, to point this out to them? Isn't treating them the VII way just giving them a false sense of security?

5) I appreciate your appeal to those among us who like good liturgy by mentioning the impossibility of Anglican Use prior to VII, but I don't agree that it would have been impossible. The Sarum rite of the Church of England is Catholic in origin; Anglican Use is thus reclaiming something Catholic from a non-Catholic tradition, just as the Catholic Church reclaimed the Catholic heritage of the Eastern churches that returned to communion long, long before VII.

6) Just because the VII documents may reflect "decades of theological thought" doesn't mean that thought is orthodox. Modernism has been around for nearly two centuries. That doesn't make it orthodox.

7) I think I could do several posts critiquing your assertion that the VII documents are "conservative," but time doesn't permit.

Sorry for the extensive criticisms. I guess I ate too many Wheaties this morning. :-)

Respectfully submitted (really).

rcg said...

Mixed marriages: this is a variation on the communion question. People who know what they are doing would not want to married at a Catholic altar unless they are Catholic any more than I would want to married at a Protestant altar. It's not what I am and it does not hurt my feelings one bit for them to exclude me. Anyone who is wanting to play act at being Catholic is going to be upset at a lot of things as would any little kid who is told 'No'. When my wife worked in the Rectory office people would call all the time wanting to use the church for a wedding like it was a park or something they could rent. Even Catholics who had not been to Mass since their third husband disappeared would call to see if they could get married there. Here is one that is strange: people asking for a Catholic 'funeral' that had not been to Mass in many years were remarried and had no family had ever been in a Catholic Church. I guess it is always good to hope, but what are they thinking?

John Nolan said...

@ Anonymous 5

It is misleading to refer to "the Sarum Rite of the Church of England". The Use of Sarum was the liturgy of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church in most parts of the British Isles and even in some places in continental Europe. It was the rite of the "Church of England" only for the fifteen years between the Henrician schism and the imposition of Cranmer's first Prayer Book in

Anonymous 5 said...

John Nolan,

Thanks for the correction. nevertheless, I think my argument is clear: that The Anglican Liturgy had/has a more direct connection to Catholic liturgy, through its Sarum antecedents, than non-liturgical evangelical services, as well as liturgical Protestant services.