Vatican II in its pure form was not a Requiem for the priesthood or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other sacraments of the Church!
Cardinal Mueller's excellent analysis of what has happened to priestly identity since the Second Vatican Council makes me wonder how this happened when the documents of the Second Vatican Council actually sought to strengthen priestly identity.
Perhaps the lesser and non-essential, non dogmatic documents on ecumenism derailed so much of the good that Vatican II could have accomplished but didn't. Dogmatic documents were ignored and twisted or expanded in ways that the fathers of Vatican II never envisioned.
In this regard, one can understand completely why the SSPX reject the Council's theology (not doctrine, and certainly not dogma) on ecumenism, religious freedom and interfaith dialogue and dialogue with the world.
Intimately linked to the priesthood, of course, is cultic worship. We know how Vatican II's document on the liturgy was ignored and something else instituted that caused a liturgical and spiritual crisis in the Church and a loss of Catholic liturgical identity in favor of a Protestantized vision. So too with the priesthood--a protestant version substituted the true Catholic one and caused the crisis in the priesthood and her liturgical life we have today.
Here is Cardinal Muller's article reprinted from the Chiesa blog:
Catholic priesthood and Protestant temptation
by Gerhard Cardinal Müller
Council II sought to reopen a new path to the authentic understanding
of the identity of the priesthood. So why in the world did there come,
just after the Council, a crisis in its identity comparable historically
only to the consequences of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th
I am thinking of the crisis in the teaching of the
priesthood that took place during the Protestant Reformation, a crisis
on the dogmatic level, by which the priest was reduced to a mere
representative of the community, through an elimination of the essential
difference between the ordained priesthood and the common one of all
the faithful. And then of the existential and spiritual crisis that took
place in the second half of the 20th century, which in chronological
terms exploded after Vatican Council II - but certainly not because of
the Council - the consequences of which we are still suffering from
Joseph Ratzinger highlights with great acumen that,
wherever the dogmatic foundation of the Catholic priesthood declines,
not only does there dry up that spring from which one can in fact drink
of a life of following after Christ, but there also disappears the
motivation that introduces both a reasonable comprehension of the
resignation of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt
19:12), and of celibacy as an eschatological sign of the world of God
that is to come, a sign to be lived with the power of the Holy Spirit,
in gladness and certainty.
If the symbolic relationship that
belongs to the nature of the priesthood is obscured, priestly celibacy
becomes the wreckage of a past hostile to corporeality and is singled
out and fought as the only cause of the shortage of priests. Not last,
there also disappears the obviousness of the fact that, for the
magisterium and the practice of the Church, the sacrament of Orders must
be administered only to men. An office conceived of in functional
terms, in the Church, is exposed to the suspicion of legitimizing a
dominion when instead it should be founded and limited in a democratic
The crisis of the priesthood in the Western world, in
recent decades, is also the result of a radical disorientation of
Christian identity in the face of a philosophy that transfers to inside
the world the deepest meaning and ultimate end of history and of every
human existence, thus depriving it of the transcendent horizon and of
the eschatological perspective.
Waiting for everything to come
from God and founding all of one’s life on God, who has given us all in
Christ: this and only this can be the logic of a choice of life that, in
the complete donation of self, sets out on the path of following after
Jesus, participating in his mission as Savior of the world, a mission
that he carries out in suffering and in the cross, and that He
unavoidably revealed through his Resurrection from the dead.
at the root of this crisis in the priesthood there are also
intra-ecclesial factors that must be emphasized. As he shows in his
first statements, Joseph Ratzinger possesses right from the beginning a
lively sensitivity in perceiving immediately those tremors with which
the earthquake was announced: and this above all in the openness, on the
part of many Catholic circles, to the Protestant exegesis in vogue
during the 1950’s and ’60’s.
Often, on the Catholic side, there
was no realization of the biased views underlying the exegesis unleashed
by the Reformation. And so on the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church there
fell the fury of criticism of the ministerial priesthood, on the
presumption that this does not have a biblical foundation.
sacramental priesthood, entirely centered on the Eucharistic sacrifice -
as had been affirmed at the Council of Trent - at first glance did not
seem to be biblically based, either from the terminological point of
view or from that which concerns the particular prerogatives of the
priest with respect to the laity, especially when it comes to the power
to consecrate. The radical critique of worship - and with it the
overcoming, which was the aim, of a priesthood limited to the claimed
function of mediation - seemed to reduce the scope of priestly mediation
in the Church.
The Reformation attacked the sacramental
priesthood because, it was maintained, this would bring into question
the unicity of the high priesthood of Christ (on the basis of the Letter
to the Hebrews) and would marginalize the universal priesthood of all
the faithful (according to 1 Pt 2:5). To this critique was added,
finally, the modern idea of the autonomy of the subject, with the
individualistic practice that results from it, which looks with
suspicion upon any exercise of authority.
What theological vision did this unleash?
the one hand it can be observed that Jesus, from a
sociological-religious point of view, was not a priest with ceremonial
functions and therefore - to use an anachronistic formulation - he was a
On the other hand, on the basis of the fact that in the
New Testament, for the services and ministers, no sacred terminology is
adopted but rather designations that are maintained to be profane, it
seemed that one could consider demonstrated as inadequate the
transformation - in the early Church, starting in the 3rd century - of
those who carried out mere “functions” within the community into the
improper holders of a new ceremonial priesthood.
subjects to detailed critical examination, in its turn, the historical
criticism imprinted on Protestant theology and does so by distinguishing
philosophical and theological prejudices from the use of the historical
method. In this way, he succeeds in demonstrating that with the
accomplishments of modern biblical exegesis and a precise analysis of
historical-dogmatic development one can arrive in a very well-founded
way at the dogmatic statements produced above all at the Councils of
Florence, Trent, and Vatican II.
That which Jesus means for the
relationship of all men and of the whole of creation with God -
therefore the recognition of Christ as Redeemer and universal Mediator
of salvation, developed in the Letter to the Hebrews by means of the
category of “High Priest” (Archiereus) - is never made to depend, as a
condition, on his belonging to the Levitical priesthood.
foundation of the being and mission of Jesus resides instead in his
coming from the Father, from that house and that temple in which he
dwells and must be (cf. Lk 2:49). It is the divinity of the Word that
makes Jesus, in the human nature that he assumed, the one true Teacher,
Shepherd, Priest, Mediator, and Redeemer.
He makes participants
in this consecration and mission of his through the call of the Twelve.
From them arises the circle of the apostles who found the mission of the
Church in history as a dimension essential to the ecclesial nature.
They transmit their power to the heads and pastors of the universal and
particular Church, who operate on the local and supra-local level.
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.