Thursday, January 31, 2013


Father John O'Malley, SJ has written a strong OPINION piece for America Magazine entitled, "Misdirections: Ten sure-fire ways to mix up the teachings of Vatican II. Press this sentence to see it."

He makes some very good common sense points but taken to an extreme he tries to eliminate any dissension from the progressive agenda for the Church, but covers it with academic good will. I suspect we could call it academic clericalism or subterfuge. But he makes very many valid points but these certainly are not above criticism. It is important to read these sorts of memes in their proper literary genre, that is, it is purely an opinion piece. And even as an academic and a theologian, whose role is to raise issues and assist the Magisterium in handing on the faith, these same people are not a parallel magisterium, try as they have since Vatican II to elevate themselves into one. In that sense it can be very self-serving, which is rather obvious to most.

You must read his article and comments to understand mine! Keep in mind, that we can be in rupture with academic theologians and their sentiments. We can dissent from them try as they may to persuade us otherwise by semi-infallible statements that are really opinions. His is an opinion piece as is mine. So read it in its proper literary form and context to interpret it properly and disagree with it properly or agree with it if you wish! We are free to do that, you know as much as they may protest!

My comments are in BOLD. Again you must read his opinion to juxtapose it to mine (press here for the America Article).

1. Insist Vatican II was only a pastoral council. Agreed. It is far more than a Pastoral Council. Vatican II changed things and did so in broad strokes, from Liturgy, to governance to ecumenism to interfaith and no faith dialogue. It was indeed more than just a Pastoral Council and reiterated infallible teachings from other Councils and the popes in the most authoritative ways. It asked that Latin be maintained, but some vernacular allowed and that Gregorian Chant have a pride of place in the Church's liturgies. I guess you could say this is just pastoral, but I would say these are things screaming to be implemented and not optional.

2. Insist it was an occurrence in the life of the church, not an event. Again, this ties in with #1. Vatican II is not just a pastoral council or an occurrence, it has ramifications for the Church many of which are yet to be implemented or realized. For example how far have we drifted from VII's Constitution on the Church: "In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.” Or how seriously do we take the following from the same: "This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will."

3. Banish the expression “spirit of the council.” I agree with Fr. O'Malley's sentiments here: "spirit, rightly understood, indicates themes and orientations that imbue the council with its identity because they are found not in one document but in all or almost all of them. Thus, the “spirit of the council,” while based solidly on the “letter” of the council’s documents, transcends any specific one of them. It enables us to see the bigger message of the council and the direction in which it pointed the church, which was in many regards different from the direction before the council." My assessment is that in most areas, we have failed the "spirit" of the Council and implemented an anti-spirit. Pope Benedict is correcting this by going back to the actual documents and its true spirit and modifying how the Liturgy was revamped to better reflect the spirit of the council as well as how ecumenism is practiced to better reflect the spirit of the council and making sure that the Constitution of the Church is understood as the spirit of the Council demanded. We just have to refrain from the "spirit" of the cultural upheavals of the 60's and 70's which is really anti-Council and anti-Spirit and in some cases "anti-Christ.

4. Study the documents individually, without considering them part of an integral corpus. This is a no-brainer and it is applicable to the Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law. It is applicable to Church history too. It is need for "reform in continuity" quite obviously.

5. Study the final 16 documents in the order of hierarchical authority, not in the chronological order in which they were approved in the council. Agreed!

6. Pay no attention to the documents’ literary form. Agreed!

7. Stick to the final 16 documents and pay no attention to the historical context, the history of the texts or the controversies concerning them during the council. We have to understand the first half of the 20th century and even the latter part of the 19th century to understand the Council. We also have to understand the sentiments that developed as a result of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Of course this means that some of what it was reacting to is no longer applicable today, so in that sense we have to react to what is happening today and formulate new strategies. This would certainly be in the "spirit" of the Council and the "reform in continuity" of the present day.

8.Outlaw the use of any “unofficial” sources, such as the diaries or correspondence of participants. Agreed, but just don't make them more important than the Council itself and the living Magisterium after the Council. The Church didn't ended in 1965! Take into account the notes of significant people in the Church after the Council, such as Avery Dulles, John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger and in the present day!

9. Interpret the documents as expressions of continuity with the Catholic tradition. Here, O'Malley is truly diversionary. He knows full well that Pope Benedict's "reform in Continuity" implies change but not rupture. Rupture in defined doctrines and dogmas, in moral theology and also in pastoral practice is not what the Council intended. It cannot be called rupture but development in continuity; it is in other words change and in the positive sense of the term.. The term rupture on the other hand is negative. The Council was not negative! And here we need to distinguish been pastoral practices, such as telling a wife she needs to stay with a husband who beats her to preserve the sanctity of marriage, to telling her to do all she can to save her marriage and her husband and to take care of her safety and peace of mind, and physical well being and to get out of an abusive relationship and seek a legal separation. This is not rupture, this is change in continuity. The same can be said of ecumenism, interfaith dialogue and dialogue with non-believers. We shift the paradigm in a positive way. This is not rupture, this is change! or "reform in continuity" which is a far superior term than "rupture." Who wants a rupture after all?

10. Make your assessment of the council into a self-fulfilling prophecy. O'Malley writes: This principle is not so much about misinterpreting the council as it is about employing assessments to determine how the council will now be implemented and received. The principle is dangerous in anyone’s hands but especially dangerous in the hands of those who have the authority to make their assessment operative. In this regard “the party slogan” in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four hits the nail on the head: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” This is good old 1960's rebellion against legitimate authority and tells us once again that the generation up next for elimination from the world scene by the plan of God is my generation, since our parents are the ones that are mostly gone now. This last statement says it all and is what the new generations of Catholics must recognize and reform and truly do so in terms of RUPTURE! Keep in mind, academics are human and fallible and we can question them and we can dissent from them! I think that bothers them!

MY FINAL COMMENT: The last statement of Fr. O'Malley says it all and reveals the true intent of his opinion piece. Let's all yawn and dissent from it but keep what is good. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater as this generation of theologians did!


John Nolan said...

A feature of all revolutions is that there is a desire of some to safeguard the purity of the revolution against those who might sully it. The Chinese communists under Mao Tse-Tung claimed to be the true heirs of Marx and Lenin, and castigated the leaders of the Soviet Union as counter-revolutionaries.

The 'sea-green, incorruptible' O'Malley has clearly identified counter-revolutionaries in large numbers and in high places. Unfortunately for him, if Benedict XVI is a Thermidorian, his successor may well turn out to be a Bonaparte.

Anonymous 5 said...

I offer my own point-by-point critique of this tripe:

1) Just because VII documents discuss things that sound doctrinal doesn't make it a doctrinal council, especially when popes have described it as a pastoral council. Point 6 seems to contradict this point to degree.

2) He gives positive, uplifting, warm fuzzy examples of an occurrence and an event (a distinction of no importance). I shall offer two in response: The rise of the eugenics movement, which led to the Holocaust and widespread birth control and abortion was an occurrence. The Holocaust itself was an event.

3) We can only know the spirit of the council by what the council said. Go beyond the words and you run a high risk of adding something that it didn't intend. This "transcendent" spirit Fr. O'Maley mentions sounds like private revelation to me. Is Fr. O'Malley a Gnostic, a Montanist, or both? If SSPX talked this way, its members would be pilloried.

4) This is precisely what SSPX does. Of course, the correct "integral corpus" he speaks of includes the previous 21 councils, but I see him making no reference to those. VII, VII, it's all about VII and what's contained in it (except for the spirit of VII, which isn't contained in it, but that's OK, unlike the previous 21 councils).

5) Same criticism as number 4. Why not take this argument to it's logical conclusion and see the council as one part of a larger chronological whole? I mean, if he's into this "Spirit of" stuff, why stop with the spirit of VII? Why not look at te spirit of the Magisterium as expressed in 200 years of conciliar and papal documents, which together make several VII statements appear anonalous?

To be continued . . .

Anonymous 5 said...

6) I agree with his statement but not his conclusions. as noted above, when taken in conjunction with his first point we get some pretty absurd contradictions. No proscriptions, no penalties, and a different literary form that talks about friendship and tolerance and ecumenism, but even so, THIS IS STILL A DOCTRINAL COUNCIL THAT BINDS YOU REACTIONARIES UPON PAIN OF ETERNAL DAMNATION TO ACCEPT THE SPIRIT OF VII AND LISTEN TO "SING A NEW CHURCH INTO BEING" AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT OR YOU SHALL BE EXCOMMUNICATED!!!!

7) Same criticisms as points 4 and 5. This is what SSPX does. It looks at the historical context of 2000 years. I actually think Fr. O'Malley's appeal for historicity and his proposed methodology are great. I just think his stopping when he gets back to 1962 is foolish. If he went back to 325 or 33, he would be getting somewhere with this argument.

8) Outlaw the use of "unofficial" sources, such as . . . Fr. O'Malley's private gnostic/montanist revelations about the spirit of VII?? See point 3, supra.

9) He's got the change down. But I'm still waiting for practical signs of continuity in the problem areas. very nice and easy to pay lip service to continuity as long as you don't have to show any. (Yes, yes, I know, PI, you celebrate the "traditional" Mass, but the word you really mean is "valid," since very little connects the NO and the earliest Masses except validity. Other than that, precious little has been handed on, which of course is what the word "traditio" means.)

10) "The principle is dangerous in anyone’s hands but especially dangerous in the hands of those who have the authority to make their assessment operative." The pot calling the kettle black. SSPX is on the outside and lacks this authority. Modernist bishops ae on the inside and use their authority all the time to make us sing a new spirit of VII into being. Makes a difference whose ox is gored, neh?

James Ignatius McAuley said...

7. Stick to the final 16 documents and pay no attention to the historical context, the history of the texts or the controversies concerning them during the council - I would have to strongly disagree with the author on this point, because, as every historian knows (I have my B.A and M.A in history), you have to understand a document in light of the historic circumstances in which it was created, as well as the agendas of the individuals. It is true that we can take the documents at face value, but to understand why the document says what it does, we need to know the context. When one analyzes the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, for example, it is important to keep in mind that these were academics who crafted the document, not men with a reputation for sanctity, nor were they men with a long pastoral experience. Thus, it is the irony of history that the pastoral changes alleged as necessary in this document were crafted by men of little or no pastoral experience. That is not to say the Constitution is bad, but it needs to understood in context. For example, the suppression of Prime, which was solely at the personal instigation of Martimort, not that of the liturgical movement (it favored Prime as the consecration of the workday). Yet, as anyone who uses the 1960 Breviary regularly knows, it is difficult to say the entire Roman Breviary all in one day, and Prime was a casualty of the desire to abbreviate the breviary (irony). It would have been better, in my opinion to preserve it as an option, but such is history!

Andy Milam said...

Interesting piece. I think that the old timer liberals are now starting to see the writing on the wall and they are doing EVERYTHING they can to justify their behavior over the last 50 years.

They are like 5 year olds who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, at Grandma's house. This article speaks volumes about that...

A couple of points, I won't belabor the whole thing...because frankly most of it is nonsensical. But there are a couple of points to speak to.

1. We must insist that Vatican Council II was a pastoral council, because that is how it was defined by the Pontiff who called it.

"The salient point of this council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. For this a council was not necessary. [...] The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character."

It is clear that Fr. O'Malley is trying to revise history. For all we can do is take history for what it is...and Bl. John XXIII was clear. Especially, if we're going to follow his advice and look at the Council beyond the scope of the documents....(I bet he wasn't thinking that would come back on him that way, huh? LOL!!!)

2. Nobody has banished the idea of the "spirit of the Council." However, understanding it does mean that we find the spirit in the letter. Where else do we find it? If a Council is defined by what it promulgates, then that is the only place the spirit can be found. Fr. O'Malley is playing some mental gymnastics which are unnecessary, I think.

3. Nobody wants to outlaw "diaries, etc..." except the liberals. Case in point, The Ottaviani Intervention. Why don't the libbies take that bit of post-conciliar writing seriously? Hmmmm....

4. I disagree with Fr. McDonald, Benedict does mean to speak about rupture. He is very clear about that. All we have to do is look to Benedict's writings to see that point. There is to be a change to RETURN to continuity, but in all honesty, right now we do live an ruptured age...

Fr. McDonald is right about one thing, we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, we must first realize that the baby isn't a bar of soap, but a baby.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Andy, I think you and I are in agreement that Pope Benedict would oppose a theology of rupture, which theologians like O'Malley think is implicit in the documents. That is not true, but there is certainly reform in continuity which is quite different than rupture.

Henry Edwards said...

"Thus, it is the irony of history that the pastoral changes alleged as necessary in this document were crafted by men of little or no pastoral experience."

Which likely is why none of them have worked out in practice. And I speak as apparently the lone admirer here (in addition to Fr. McDonald) of the real richness and depth of the Novus Ordo missal, with which I spend time and devotion every day (as with my TLM missal).

But the OF liturgy is defined not by its missal, but by its implementation and practice, which have been a failure almost everywhere.

And before any one responds contra that "richness and depth", let me speculate that no one can point out to me a defect of the Novus Ordo with which I am not already painfully familiar.

Andy Milam said...

Fr. McD,

We are. It is true that the Holy Father doesn't advocate a ruptured theology.

O'Malley's views are askew, as I stated above and we are in agreement of concepts.

Henry Edwards said...

My only response to Fr. O'Malley's tedious verbiage might be that this fixated preoccupation with Vatican II, with whatever it did or did not say, is such a stinking bore that . . . Why spend time on him or it?

For a traditionally minded Catholic, I am so open-minded that some of my fellow traditionals may well have their suspicions about me. But in decades of diligent study I have yet to discover a single definitive teaching of Vatican II that an inquiring mind really needs to know, or contributory to his salvation. For instance, a doctrine not previously taught and fully understood (e.g., by Trent), a principle of participation in the liturgy not previously familiar (e.g., to Pius X), a Marian dogma not long since already believed, some aspect of the Body of Christ not already explicit in Pius XII, etc. Is there any "there" really there? If so, somebody please tell me!

rcg said...

Henry, that is a very interesting point, I had really considered. However, We have been 'playing catch up' with people who at least claimed to have read it and made huge changes to Liturgy and the Mass as a result of what they claim to have found. This is where fall into the trap of having to prove, or disprove, what is in it and what is done about it. Just the fact that is is so open to misinterpretation makes me suspicious of it, to say the least. I am glad it is not doctrinal because that attitude is tough for me to over come.

mjl said...

What I found fascinating was #9, cautioning against considering "the documents as expressions of continuity with the Catholic tradition," apparently because Fr. O'Malley believes discontinuity is necessary for change. Calculus (the mathematics of change) shows that continuous change is much to be preferred over discontinuous change - from my vantage point at 65, I'd say the same is true for Catholicism as well.

Henry Edwards said...

"2. Insist it was an occurrence in the life of the church, not an event."

For these progressives, this perhaps unfortunate occurrence in the life of the Church was no doubt the pivotal event of their own personal lives, those heady days of youthful excitement which they have spent the rest of their lives trying to recapture.