Sunday, August 11, 2019


Why have Catholics in the UK and US been leaving the Church since Vatican II?

Yes, Vatican II is the culprit but not exclusively as people who comment on my blog would write. There are in fact three culprits as highlighted by Dr. Bullivant in The Catholic World Report interview which you can read in full by pressing the title above. Below are some money quotes from that interview.

What I have always emphasized Stephen Bullivant confirms. Catholics prior to Vatican II who had a “ghetto” experience of Catholicism (something positive not negative in terms of Catholic identity supported by the community in which one lives) experienced after Vatican II a fragmentation of that community which brought them to an “ecumenical” world of a variety of people and less of a connection with a Catholic ghetto experience. Vatican II’s implementation exacerbated this fragmentation and disengagement from Catholic identity by mocking all things pre-Vatican II and erasing Catholic cultural experiences such as the Latin Mass, nuns in habits, surety of doctrine, uniformity, devotions as well as fasting and abstinence.

Vatican II also demanded engagement with other Christians, non Christian religions and secularism itself as though these were on an equal footing with Catholicism. This helped to erode the surety of Catholic identity and being a part of the “True Church” in which salvation could be experienced and only experienced in the true Church.

The second generation of Catholics living in a not so homogenous Catholic culture became less attached to things Catholic and a strong Catholic identity. Then their children brought up with even a less connectiveness to the Church could take her or leave her and many leave with no real worry about doing so.

CWR: You nicely frame one of the key Catholic debates of the last fifty years as “post concilium ergo propter concilium?” You note that Catholics generally divide into “three broad tendencies” in how they answer that question. Give us a brief sense of those tendencies and whether you think one of them has stronger arguments than the others.
Bullivant: In very rough, stereotyping terms: There are those who chiefly blame something – normally something liturgical, but not necessarily—that Vatican II directly brought about, whether intentionally or not. Then there are those who chiefly blame some stifling, thwarting, or mitigating of the Council’s positive vision – Humanae Vitae is often the culprit here, often as the harbinger of some bigger “conservative crackdown” under John Paul II and Benedict XVI. And finally, there are those who really play down there being a Catholic-specific story to tell at all, pointing instead to wider social and cultural trends already well afoot before the Council, and affecting many of other mainstream denominations too.
One of the real motivations for writing the book was my conviction that, actually, each of these basic stances has a good deal going for it. Which is why, I suppose, serious scholars and commentators can be cited in support of each.  What I try to do in the second half of the book is to offer an historical account of British and American Catholicism “since Vatican II” – though, in fact, to do that you have to start with the Second World War and its aftermath, since neither the Council nor its aftermath make any sense without that background.
Ultimately, though, liturgical changes and the “customs” and little “t” traditions completely abandoned in the 1960’s, to include habits on nuns and Catholic schools filled with nuns escalated the crisis of Catholics who no longer claim to be Catholic either by joining other Christian groups, non Catholic religions or no religion at all (nones).

CWR: I read with keen interest the details in your fifth chapter on liturgical changes at and after the council along with the decline in Marian devotion and fasting. You seem to suggest that all these changes (and others) were damaging to what Mary Douglas calls “thick” religious identity and the take-it-for-grantedness of Catholic life. Do you see any ways to repair some of this damage?
Bullivant: Well, a great deal of the damage cannot simply be undone. The whole rich tapestry of Catholic devotional life was very swiftly torn away. But a re-emphasis on things like the rosary, lighting candles for sick friends, reinstating Friday fasting (as the bishops of England and Wales did a few years ago) – all the little day-to-day things that were de-emphasized because they (supposedly) distractions from the Mass, but which in truth help the “source and summit” to stand out even more clearly. All these are things that, I think, could be easily rediscovered. In fact, I think that’s what a lot of younger Catholics are doing by themselves anyway. I believe it’s what the Fathers of Vatican II would have called a ressourcement.


Victor said...

I cannot speak for anyone but myself and maybe some of my friends, but the with all the changes of Vatican II, particularly liturgical, the Church no longer felt like our home.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"Vatican II also demanded engagement with other Christians, non Christian religions and secularism itself as though these were on an equal footing with Catholicism."

There is nothing in Vatican Two that says or suggests that "other Christians, non-Christian religions and secularism itself" are on an equal footing with Catholicism.

Unitatis Redentigratio states plainly the following:

"...the Lord founded one Church and one Church only." (no 1)

"...division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel..." (no 1)

"For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect." (no 3)

"The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion." (no 3)

"It follows that the separated Churches(23) and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects,..." (no 3)

"For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation." (no 3)

"Moreover, in ecumenical dialogue, Catholic theologians standing fast by the teaching of the Church and investigating the divine mysteries with the separated brethren must proceed with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility." (no 11)

"Though the ecclesial Communities which are separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us flowing from Baptism, and though we believe they have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Orders, nevertheless when they commemorate His death and resurrection in the Lord's Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and look forward to His coming in glory." (no 22)

Plainly, Unitatis Redentigratio states that we are not on "equal footing" with the churches and ecclesial communities separated from us. Your accusation has no basis.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A significant number of Catholics don't believe in the real presence despite centuries of teaching on this. The things you quote, do you really think Catholics know these and believe these. The heresy of universalism abounds in the Church in both clergy and laity and maybe to the same percentage as those who don't believe in the Real Presence as the Church teaches. Your claims are academic and have no basis in the lived reality of Catholics today.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

You claimed, as I quoted, that Vatican Two demanded that we must see other religions and drnominations as being on an equal footing with the Catholic Church.

It makes no such demand and points out the various ways in which they are not.

Your claim is false and misleading.

Mark Thomas said...

Pope Benedict XVI/Emeritus/Cardinal...has insisted for decades that the "authentic" Council/liturgical reform has heaped graces upon us.

He even worked in a positive reference to Vatican II via his essay this year in regard to the non-existent sexual abuse "crisis."

It is difficult to reject Pope Benedict XVI'S unrelenting support of Vatican as Western Church "conservative" dioceses and parishes aligned with the authentic Council/Novus Ordo have prospered in holy fashion.

From the 1960s to date, the Faith has blossomed in tremendous fashion within African and Asian dioceses aligned with the authentic Council.

Pope Benedict XVI distinguished between two Councils: The real, authentic Vatican II, as compared to (his terms) "the Council of the journalists, the Council of the media."


Mark Thomas

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Please quote me as I actually wrote:

“Vatican II also demanded engagement with other Christians, non Christian religions and secularism itself as though these were on an equal footing with Catholicism.”

I did not say what you wrote “, that Vatican Two DEMANDED that we must see other religions and drnominations as being on an equal footing with the Catholic Church.

Nice try though! I stand by what I wrote which you intentionally misquote.

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald said..."Vatican II also demanded engagement with other Christians, non Christian religions and secularism itself as though these were on an equal footing with Catholicism."

Father, that isn't from Vatican II. The Council made it clear that Catholicism is the true religion...the Catholic Church is the one true Church.

By the way, it was Pope Venerable Pius XII, years prior to Vatican II, who demanded engagement with other Christians via his approval of Catholic participation in the Ecumenical Movement.

Pope Venerable Pius XII insisted that the Holy Ghost inspired the Ecumenical Movement.


Mark Thomas

TJM said...

Kavanaugh should consider going back to posting as Anonymous. Vatican II was a flop. In industry and the real world , these "leaders" would have been fired. I attended an EF at my little country parish yesterday, celebrated by a priest who is 30 and more than half the congregation was in their 20s or 30s. Deo Gratias - this is the future

Mark Thomas said...

In 2013 A.D., Pope Benedict XVI praised the "authentic" Second Vatican Council.

He insisted that there are, in effect, two Councils: The real Vatican II, as well as the false Vatican II. That is, the "Council of the media...the Council of journalists" that has misrepresented the true Council.

Pope Benedict XVI, 2013 A.D:

"...there was the Council of the Fathers – the real Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council apart, and the world perceived the Council through the latter, through the media.

"Thus, the Council that reached the people with immediate effect was that of the media, not that of the Fathers.

"We know that this Council of the media was accessible to everyone. Therefore, this was the dominant one, the more effective one, and it created so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering: seminaries closed, convents closed, banal liturgy … and the real Council had difficulty establishing itself and taking shape; the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council.

"But the real force of the Council was present and, slowly but surely, established itself more and more and became the true force which is also the true reform, the true renewal of the Church.

"It seems to me that, 50 years after the Council, we see that this virtual Council is broken, is lost, and there now appears the true Council with all its spiritual force."


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

The traditional argument is that Vatican 2 was the cause for the drop in Catholicism. Sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t more the effect of a diminishing religious belief. The decline might have been obvious in the 60 and 70s, but the cause of that decline probably started in the 40 and 50’s.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan - Your words: "Vatican II also demanded engagement with other Christians, non Christian religions and secularism itself as though these were on an equal footing with Catholicism."

Vatican II...demanded. Demanded what? "...engagement with other Christians, non Christian religions and secularism itself as though these were on an equal footing with Catholicism."

This is false. Vatican II made no such demand. There is no place in the ecumenical and/or interreligious statements from the Catholic Church stating or suggesting that other Christians, non-Christians, or secularism itself in on an equal footing with Catholicism.

John Nolan said...

I think Fr Kavanaugh wins the argument here. Vatican II certainly did not advovate, let alone demand, religious pluralism or syncretism. Before 1965 Catholics were forbidden to worship with non-Catholics, so for the first three years of my secondary education we Catholics could not attend morning prayers, nor the school carol service in the adjacent medieval parish church, nor the annual Founder's Day service (ironically the school was founded before the Reformation by a Catholic bishop, Foxe of Winchester). Catholics needed permission from their bishop to attend a wedding or funeral in an Anglican church, although I suspect that in practice few bothered. Do we really want to go back to all that?

Nor did the Council fathers envisage, let alone advocate, the rupture in the Church's liturgical tradition which in a few short years would see (in most places) the total abandonment of Latin, Communion in the hand, laypeople of either sex handling not just the sacred vessels but the Sacred Species itself, and a radically new rite of Mass; things I suspect Fr Kavanaugh wholeheartedly approves of.

In one sense, the argument 'post Concilium ergo propter Concilium' is fallacious if one relies on the Conciliar documents. In another, and wider sense, the 'spirit of the Council' is not just something invented by progressives to justify their agenda. Yes, they see it as a rupture, as do traditionalists (both are on common ground here).

Benedict XVI's attempt to distinguish between the 'authentic' Council and the 'Council of the media', while reassuring to traditionally-minded Catholics, is unconvincing. I doubt whether he even convinced himself. He is, after all, the most intellectually able pope of modern times.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

Here is another thing Kavanaugh would probably approve of in the name of "relevancy":

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John, I am quite comfortable with mass celebrated in the vernacular, communion in the hand, and laity distributing communion and handling the sacred vessels.

I would not agree that the NO is a "radically new rite of Mass." I would describe it, rather, as a reformed rite. And, yes, I am comfortable with the reformed rite.

TJM said...

Kavanaugh, so you are comfortable with failure, how nice. Fyi, I do not believe Pope Benedict thought much of the OF, referring to it as a fabricated, on the spot creation by committee

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

I don't doubt that you are comfortable with those things. Unlike some, I do not ascribe attitudes and opinions to you which you have not previously expressed in writing. Radical change is easily demonstrated; 'reformed' does not exclude this, although it implies improvement, which is a matter of opinion. Cranmer's 1549 Prayer Book was a 'reformed rite' but those who rebelled against its imposition certainly did not regard it as an improvement.

Fr. Michael J.Kavanaugh said...

John, My disagreement is with your assertion that the NO is a "radically new rite of Mass," not that there were substantial- you prefer the descriptive "radical" - changes made following Vatican Two.

John Nolan said...

Fr K

I rather think we are splitting hairs here. There are too many innovations in the new rite to argue that it is simply the old rite with substantial changes. Ratzinger used the analogy of a house demolished to its foundations, and a house then built on those foundations but to a new and different plan.