Tuesday, June 28, 2016


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!
 So how and why in the Holy Name of God and all that is Holy, did this happen to the priesthood and liturgy after Vatican II?

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

Vatican 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 century?

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 today.

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 sense.

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.

But 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.

The 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?
On 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 layman.

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.

Joseph Ratzinger 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.

The 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.


Anonymous said...

Cardinal Muller can not convince the Holy Father who seems to be much too preoccupied with other issues of lesser significance. We know our Pope can be passionate about things he thinks important. But like Martha he cares more about the lesser issues and unlike Mary fails to choose the better part. He lost his way somewhere and some time. The question is what will it take for him to find the Way?

Fr. MIchael J. Kavanaugh said...

"The sacramental priesthood, entirely centered on the Eucharistic sacrifice - as had been affirmed at the Council of Trent - . . ."

"Entirely" gives me pause. While my ministry as a priest is rooted in the celebration of the sacraments, and among them, in first place, the mass, I'm not sure how Card Muller (or his translator) means "entirely" in this regard.

"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."

I think the rejection by SSPX and others of the teaching of the Church regarding ecumenism, religious freedom, interfaith dialogue, and dialogue with the world is far beyond a matter of merely disagreeing with theology. Rejecting the teaching of the Church in these areas is more than a battle over words.

Anonymous said...

"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."

In the decade following Vatican II, the actual documents of the Council were paid even less attention than now.

The post-conciliar revolution in the Church took as its license and pretext the fact that Vatican II had occurred and (it was claimed) had thrown everything up for grabs. However the actually recommendations of the Council and the discernible intentions of the (conservative) majority of council Fathers were blocked, sidetracked, and subverted rather than followed and implemented.

TJM said...

Evil liberals determined to destroy the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic Church. Thank God most are gone or doing to their "reward."

Victor W said...

"......the documents of the Second Vatican Council actually sought to strengthen priestly identity"
Not really. The documents are full of "tensions" as Ratzinger said, or better, as we used to say, "contradictions". For instance, in the liturgical document, you have on the one hand the Liturgical Movement applying their heretical idea of active participation in terms of a knowledgeable universal priesthood, while at the same time specifying that Latin is to be retained. If one does not understand Latin, that would conflict with active participation as salvation through knowledge.
The main problem in this mess was Paul VI who should have had better sense and have independent experts go over the documents before mechanically signing them.

gob said...

TJM....I am a liberal. I am not evil. I am not determined to destroy the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic Church. In spite of the fact that you wish I would die, I wish that you live long and prosper. Peace be with you. Father McDonald's new church has a Facebook page. Somebody (not I) should post an invitation to the parishioners to sign on the "Southern Orders" blog...get a good insight into the new pastor and his friends...

Gene said...

Hey, Gob, nobody wishes you or any other lib would die...we are just making party plans for when you all do. Oh, and peace on you, too.

TJM said...

gob, were you a Council Father or a peritus? Then you had nothing to do with the destruction.

John Nolan said...

Actually, Gobshite, those of us of a traditionalist bent do not regard 'liberals' as evil, simply as being misguided and often ignorant. We don't arrogate our opinions over everyone else's, since they are not opinions, based as they are on what the Church teaches.

I have been asked to come out of (semi) retirement to teach religious education at a large local Catholic High School. I am minded to accept, not least because I think that Catholic education has gone off the rails and I can rectify this, at least to a small extent.

My priority will be to establish a schola cantorum to sing chant in both Latin and English. Watch this space.

Marc said...

"To my mind there are not two different kinds of priestly spirituality, there is only one: that of his Mass, that of the Sacrifice of Our Lord, because the priest is essentially the man of sacrifice. I would say there is a transcendental relation between the priest and the sacrifice, and between the sacrifice and the priest. One cannot imagine sacrifice without a priest, and the priesthood without sacrifice. And so there is a relation there that is more than essential, transcendental really, a relation that goes beyond even the essence of the priest. So, we must go back to the idea of the Sacrifice. One can say that our sacrifice, the sacrifice which Our Lord has put into our hands, the sacrifice which Our Lord has left us, is a thing without limit, inexpressible, so divine and mysterious is it, that it surpasses everything we can imagine.

To think that we are really 'other Christs,' and that it is His words, His words that produce His presence, that we recite these words each morning, that it is not simply a narrative but also an action, and that we say, 'This is My Body,' we do not say, 'This is the Body of Jesus Christ.' But we say, 'This is My Body,' 'This is the chalice of My Blood' it is we ourselves who pronounce it! Consequently we are truly in the Person of Christ, it is truly Christ that we represent. It is no longer we who speak; it is Our Lord Who makes use of our lips, Who makes use of us to pronounce these words anew. There it is, I truly believe, the great program of the priest, the program of priestly life: his Mass. That is why the Mass is so important. And this program, it is not really complicated, it is very simple."

- Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, 1984

Thank God for the SSPX.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John, I suspect you would be a superb rel ed teacher. I hope this can work for you.

rcg said...

John, that would be wonderful. You would get many young minds on a watch list. Heck, I would go.

Jenny said...

As Fr. K says...
God be with you, John.

Gene said...

Excellent, John. Wish you were here to teach my kids and grandkids. We could also hit the old MacCallan.

Rood Screen said...

The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.

John Nolan said...

Thanks for the endorsements. I particularly value that from Fr Kavanaugh since we disagree on a number of details yet surely agree on the essentials. The point about education is that it is not about polemics (which can be great fun in forums like this but will not win young minds - they have an innate curiosity and a sense of fairness and justice).

RE at secondary level is also about comparative religion and ethics. We do indoctrinate (that is our purpose) but not in the negative sense in which the term is used nowadays. I was always taught to question, and one of the most depressing things about modern society is that it has embraced assumptions which people accept without questioning, either out of intellectual laziness or ingrained prejudice.

'There is more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.'

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - I have no difficulty with indoctrination. And I agree that "acceptance without questioning" is an absolute scourge. I fear that, at this point, many have lost the ability to question, to know how to ask essential questions, and, therefore, how to judge critically the answers they may receive.

I recall hearing a rabbi, I think, say once that when he greeted his children after a day at school, he did not ask, "What did you learn today?" but, "What questions did you ask today?"

I have gently proposed this tactic to my nieces and nephews who have children of their own now. I don't know if the suggestion was taken up, but I hope .