What is your opinion of the Society of St. Pius X and Catholic Traditionalism as a whole?
I have a love-hate relationship with Catholic Traditionalism. What are some of the things I love? First, traditional Catholicism (TC for short) encourages, holds up, and defends the marriage of a man and a woman and their call to be fruitful and multiply.
The traditional Catholic married couples I know love each other, and they love children. They unapologetically have large families. I grew up in a family of six kids, and many TC families are larger. TC parents tend to see their kids as the greatest blessing God could have sent, as if each child is an angel that came down from heaven. They work hard to look after their families in many respects.
The TC movement also has strongly encouraged love for the priesthood and religious life. Because they have larger families, they not only do not discourage a religious vocation among their children, but pray for this. They consider themselves singularly blessed when a son goes off to the seminary, or a daughter to the convent.
They encourage their kids to serve the Church with piety, obedience, reverence, and loyalty. The result is that many holy priests and nuns have come from traditional Catholic families, where they were schooled well in prayer, confession, penance, works of charity, and carrying the Cross/sacrificing for God and country.
Traditional Catholicism is unique in its fierce defense of the prerogatives of the Catholic Church to spread the reign of Christ the King, in society and in their communities. Unlike most modern Catholics, they do not yell “separation of Church and State” whenever a public law is being debated which will encourage looser morals or the living out of the public vices.
They believe that the Church must actively enter the public square and make Christ the King respected and looked up to in His evangelical teachings of justice for all. They will staunchly condemn and resist any political party platforms which promote abortion choice, unnatural marriage, divorce, blasphemy in media and art, and unjust war.
Economically, they encourage our laws to promote hard work and personal initiative, with as little dependence on others as needed. Their outlook toward public tranquility is the defense of the widow, the orphan, the vulnerable, and the strong rule of law to subdue criminality and heinous crime.
Some people call traditional Catholics “Catholic rednecks.” I just believe they are following what they believe to be old-fashioned Catholic values regarding public decency and virtue.
Now, what I hate about traditional Catholicism is a tendency toward self-righteousness and Pharisaical wrangling over the letter of the law. In the case of the Society of St. Pius X, I find that there seems to be a return to Jansenism, condemned in the 17th century as a severe outlook and pessimism regarding human nature and God’s grace.
This Jansenism sees God as severe. His grace is very restrictive—only for the chosen few. His wrath and justice toward those who have failed to join the true Catholic Church, and strictly live by her laws, will be manifest by sending most people to hell.
As a result of the shades of this renewed Jansenism, non-Christians are seen in the SSPX as being in danger of going to hell, no matter how good they are or sincere in their faith. The Jewish people are seen as either Christ-killers or the accursed children of a Covenant that God has completely rejected and repented of. Protestants are loathed also, because among many SSPX, they are seen as aware of Catholic truth and have yet still refused to embrace it—thus, sealing their fate to most likely burn in hell.
The SSPX has no respect for the Catholic sense of confronting modernity. Throughout history, the Catholic Church could be called the inventor of the Marine Corps motto of “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.” But TC as espoused by the SSPX seems more comfortable to sound the retreat, to gather in small chapels with prayers in hushed Latin, and to have little mixing with the great numbers of the damned and unwashed who are outside of the confines of the Church.
When Vatican II Council convened in 1962, it was with a view to adaptation of the Church’s methods of conversion, or with a view to incorporating new knowledge of the sciences and of the philosophies of contemporary thinkers. While the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, and Renaissance, both in philosophy and theology, was allowed to undergo various transformations and growths based on advancing knowledge, the SSPX felt that Vatican II should have merely repeated the past formulas of the Councils of Trent and Vatican I.
The improvisations of the Church after Vatican II are thus seen as a laughable and disgusting experiment in compromise by the SSPX. They consider the worship in vernacular, the movement to reach out to and have dialogue with non-Catholics, and the encouragement of shared power among the clergy and laity as an overthrow of Catholic Order.
There are numerous doctrinal disputes between Rome and the Society. But even more fundamental than resolving those disputes is overcoming a certain fear, and trembling, and loathing, in the Society, of all things that originate in the world and in modern thinking. Rome knows that countless errors were committed in the last 50 years, in the latest attempt to improvise, adapt, and overcome.
But there is, in the post-Vatican II era of the Church, among faithful and stalwart Catholics, especially with Pope Francis, an indomitable and unconquered spirit of “let’s go back to the drawing board, and try, and try again.” We cannot run away from the world and pretend that the world will return to the 16th century, when we waged wars against Protestantism with the help of Christian kings and princes who ruled with divine right and coerced dissidents and strays back into the fold of the True Catholic Church.
Our modern world has freedoms and a sense of personal rights that is, what it is. Insofar as the SSPX fail to, and refuse to, understand and deal with the modern world as it is, it will always be a Catholicism of the remnant who may be holy and faithful in their tiny chapels, but who make little difference for the great majority of people who are still searching to find God and the pearls of the wisdom of Catholicism. God bless and take care, Fr. Angel
“Catholicism believes in the traditions they hold being as sacred as the Bible they read.“In the supremely wise arrangement of God, Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others.”(Vatican Council II) Jesus plainly says in the Bible that there are people whose hearts are far from Him even though these people claim to worship Him. He says that these people follow the traditions of men instead of their own Lord. (Mark 7.6-9) So from this, one can see a denial of a decree from Jesus Himself that traditions will take away from the word of God. Catholicism is based on a few things though: The Bible, Tradition, and the works that Catholicism has added. These traditions that Catholicism follows range from how they proceed with their church service to the kissing of the pope’s hand to catechism. With tradition defying God in Mark, we can also see it in Matthew: “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matthew 15.6b). Catholicism not only adds tradition to the Bible, but it also adds works.
In Catholicism, you are to work toward salvation, forgiveness for sins is through another sinner (called priest), and that the pope is the representative for God on earth. This is where Catholicism is denying sound Biblical doctrine again and the Gospel itself. The Bible clearly says how it is that a Christian is saved and from this salvation, reborn through Christ Jesus: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2.8–9), but from Catholicism we can clearly see a denial of THE GOSPEL. “The Sacrament of Baptism…Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life…through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn [born again] as sons of God…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sec. 1213, p.342). Catholicism has added the Baptism as a requirement for, and the basis for, salvation when clearly Holy Scripture tells us that it is our Lord and Savior’s Grace alone by our faith alone that caused salvation. This isn’t the only work that the Catholic church has added to the Bible.
According to Catholicism you need to be constantly doing good works in your life to be saved but, from previous scripture, one can see this is Doctrinally wrong. To be forgiven of one’s sins, one has to talk to a priest and he can forgive them.“The forgiveness of God can be obtained only through the supplication of priests.” (Pope St. Leo the Great) A great question arises here as a Christian and it was asked in the Bible. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2.7b) This is a great rhetorical question which also leads one to question priesthood as well, but the Bible has a distinct answer in just who priests are.“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood… a people belonging to God…”(1 Peter 2.9, a referring to the Christians). The pope claims to be THE representative for God on earth, “The entire body of society is sick; all it’s most noble parts are infected; the very sources of life have been tainted. The one refuge, the one remedy, is the Pope.”(Pope St. Pius X), but according to sound Biblical Doctrine, one can learn something quite different. “he that hath seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14.9) Here, Jesus says that he is the form of God walking the earth. That if you have seen God, you have seen Jesus, and that if you have seen Jesus, then you have seen God. This would make him the representative of God, and God, on earth whom the pope claimed to be. Claiming to be the representative of God sounds mildly all right until you realize that it means you are claiming to be God.
When looking at the beliefs of Christianity compared to Catholicism, one can see the difference in the two. Denial of the Gospel should have been a key sign. Claiming to be the representative of God, a role placed only for Christ Jesus, should have been another sign. Traditions taking away from the word of God can be seen as yet another indicator. With these reasons out in plain sight with sound Biblical Doctrine to earnestly contend for the faith of Christianity, one can see why Catholicism isn’t Christianity.”
There are so many urban legends that circulate in the Catholic blogosphere, and I don’t have the time to write the book it would take to rebut them. But concerning Vatican Council II and the “New Mass” (Ordinary Form), let me just make a few historical notes for the benefit of the Catholic Tumblr community. These are taken from conversations I had with my seminary liturgy professor.
My professor was actually at Vatican II. These are some things he pointed out.
–The Catholic bishops met between 1962 and 1965.
–They did not meet every day for the whole year. Each session of Vatican II took place at St. Peter’s in Rome, in the months of October, November, and the beginning of December.
–Before flying to Rome, and after leaving Rome in December, each bishop received packages in the mail with huge stacks of documents to be studied and discussed later at the council.
–The bishops gathered in St. Peter’s basilica, which had an excellent sound system set up with microphones so that bishops could make interventions and comments during the council presentations and talks.
–The seating was like a stadium, with sections. There was a section for Protestant observers. They had no microphones and were not allowed to speak, at all, to the gathered bishops–only listen.
–Bishops could visit with, an interact with, the Protestants, before or after the working day of speeches and presentations. But during Vatican II, no Protestant ever spoke, even once, to the Catholic bishops, or voted, even once, on anything published at Vatican II.
–Besides the Protestant “auditores” (observers) there was another section for the Catholic nuns who were invited to be “auditrices” (female observers). These were women from the major religious orders.
–It never occurred to the Catholic bishops to ever allow the Sisters to speak or give input. Like the Protestants, they had no microphones.
–We find it bizarre, but in those days people took it for granted that a Church Council was for Catholic bishops to give input at, and everyone else was to be quiet, to be seen and not heard, even Catholic Sisters who did at least 50% or more of all the Catholic apostleship.
–My professor knew impeccable Latin and French. So, as the council bishops spoke in Latin, he would be facing the Protestant observers, who had earphones on their heads and would have everything translated to them in French. He had help from other translators who worked during Vatican II.
–A few Catholic bishops were stubborn and refused to speak in Latin, but spoke in French instead, which was considered something of an international language at the time.
–There were lots of nice dinners and parties throughout Rome during the Council. The bishops liked to have nice social dinners LOL. Many of the bishops interacted with the Protestant observers, who were all scholars and very educated theologians in their own churches.
–Fr. Hans Kung was making a lot of money from his liberal books and articles. He bought an expensive sports car and drove around Rome showing it off, along with his flashy new suits. So much for liberal priests always being into poverty and social justice.
–Concerning the Mass, my professor said it was only the Tridentine Mass recently edited by St. John XXIII in 1962.
–My professor would laugh when people would speak of the “liberal Mass of Vatican II” since they did not realize that the only Mass at Vatican II was the Latin, Tridentine Mass.
–Everything at Vatican II, prayers, ceremonies, speeches, were conducted in Latin, except for the few times a bishop would insist on speaking in French. One bishop who spoke only in French was Armenian Cardinal, Greg Agagianian.
–After the 1962 session, the bishops called for a “thorough reform” of the rites. All of these bishops had grown up only with Latin and the rituals from the Council of Trent. But they believed that the Mass and sacraments needed an updating by 1962.
–A “Consilium” was set up during Vatican II. It was a liturgical commission for studying the Mass and Sacraments with a view to reforming them.
Now, this is where it gets tricky. In the traditionalist Catholic blogosphere, people speak of Protestants observing, and then giving input. That’s where you get that famous black and white photo of Pope Paul VI allegedly meeting with Protestants who “helped put together the Novus Ordo.”
What is lost is this. First of all, the “Novus Ordo” is not from Vatican II. The Novus Ordo did not go into effect until November of 1969, four years after Vatican II had already disbanded.
We must make a distinction between the COUNCIL, and the CONSILIUM. Yes, there were Protestants at the Vatican Council. NO, there were no Protestants on the Consilium.
The Consilium, or commission for drafting new liturgical texts, was composed of bishops and priest scholars who had been writing about the liturgy for decades. It only met a few times a year in Rome.
The members all had full time jobs and did not have time to be in Rome having meetings all the time. Mostly, each guy worked from his home location. They were all priests. No lay people. No nuns. And absolutely NO PROTESTANTS.
Again, Vatican II had Protestant “observers.” The Consilium’s members were only Catholic bishops and priests. Clear? Capisce?
The rest of the year, documents circulated among members and were then sent with revisions to Rome, where priests working in the Vatican began writing or putting together new rituals based on the Consilium suggestions and the suggestions of bishops/Cardinals who were not on the Consilium, but were still consultors.
The Consilium members had all studied the Missals and Sacramentaries of the Ancient Church and early Medieval Catholicism. While keeping many of the Tridentine prayers from the Traditional Latin Mass, they also incorporated texts from the Ambrosian, Gelasian, Leonine, and other ancient texts of the liturgy.
So, it is not historically true that the Novus Ordo was made up, on the spot, and out of thin air. Even the rumors that some prayers were made up in the cafes of Rome would not be accurate, because the Consilium carefully documented the sources for the prayers of the Missal.
For instance, Eucharistic Prayer III which was supposedly invented out of thin air was composed by Fr. Cipriano Vagaggini in the 1940′s, and was circulated and discussed by bishops even before Vatican II. Eucharistic Prayer II which was supposedly composed at a cafe in Rome can easily be seen as originating from the prayers of St. Hippolytus in the 2nd and 3rd century of Rome. Let us repeat again that in the Ordinary Form, there are still many, many prayers lifted out of the Missal of Pius V.
Besides the debates between scholars regarding the Ordinary Form, we have a record of numerous cardinals and bishops who wrote in after they received the huge draft copies in the mail. The bishop of my diocese, Aloysius Willinger, used to speak of comments and input he gave back in the mid-60′s when he would get draft copies from the Consilium.
The canard about the Roman Missal of Paul VI being used by Protestants is simply laughable and preposterous. There was not one, single Protestant denomination that adopted the New Mass. The language of “offertory” and the Latin “offerimus” found throughout the Novus Ordo in Latin was found to be extremely objectionable.
For all the talk that the Novus Ordo has “no sense of sacrifice” the Protestant theologian Max Thurian made very clear that in Protestantism, nothing is “offered” to God. That, he said, is Catholic theology of the Mass as propitiatory sacrificed “offered to God.”
Protestant theology insists that the only offering given to God was given by Jesus at the Cross. Therefore, even the supposedly watered down language of the Novus Ordo presupposes with “offering” that we are making a sacrifice to God.
Such language contradicts clearly the teaching of the Protestant Reformers, who said that at worship we can praise God, thank Him through Jesus, and repent of sin. But in no way can Protestant liturgy accept the idea that at worship, we “offer” anything for we are nothing and Christ is alone the One who offers sacrifice to His Father.
Hopefully, this gives the Tumblr Catholic community a sense of how to see the traditionalist accusations of Paul VI. I hate to say it, but it is now a given that anything quoted from Paul VI or Consilium head, Annibale Bugnini, has to be taken with a grain of salt and vetted to see if there is any accuracy to the quote. Quite a few juicy traditionalists quotes are practically made up out of thin air, if not a complete distortion of the words of Paul VI and Bugnini.
Sorry if it is trigger and this will be probably a weird question, but I see that you are catholic and believe in LGBT rights, I'm struggle with my faith because this and for being very sexually awake. I don't know how to believe in God, in Jesus when the church teach that LGBT things are sin and also preach a more traditional role for women, with a lot of misogyny. but, I was teach that the church has all the authority in interpretation, or anyone could invent things. how you keep believing?
This is a difficult thing and it’s very personal for everybody so I can only tell you about myself. But for me, here’s what I can say.
First, the church is not God. The church is not infallible. Even the most cursory look at church history will show us that.
There are, of course, factions within the church that would like people to think the church is infallible - there are factions like that in any organization. It’s very important that we not listen to them.
In fact, it would actually be heretical to do so. Because that would mean we are putting the church on a level with God.
Second, and equally important, we have to remember that the church can, does, and should change. Again, it would actually be heretical to say that the church doesn’t change, or can’t change because that would mean we’re once more equating the church with God, who is the only eternal and unchanging truth.
It would also mean that we’re failing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. One of the most important things that our belief in God as Trinity means is that God is still speaking. The Spirit still communicates with us, with the body of Christ that is the church - not the church as building, or the church as hierarchy, but the whole church, every single member of it, individually and as a body.
The church can and has changed its teaching on many issues over the centuries. Most recently, Vatican Council II changed all sorts of things - theology, liturgy, practice, lay involvement, and on and on. And we believe that these changes were the result of the Spirit speaking, and the church - the whole church - listening.
The Spirit is still speaking, calling us to greater authenticity, to a more fully Christ-like life. And I firmly believe that one of the ways the Spirit speaks is through the voices of LGBTQIA Catholics, calling the church to more truly live Christ’s life of radical love and acceptance.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there are all sorts of issues in the Catholic church. But we also have room to question, and that’s something profoundly important to me.
The fundamentalist church I grew up in didn’t allow for questions. For that church, I was fundamentally (no pun intended) wrong and a sin against God, and there was no way to argue that.
But in the Catholic church we have something I like to call the best kept secret of Catholicism: primacy of conscience.
The theology of the primacy of conscience teaches us that it’s our duty as Christians to fully form our consciences: to educate ourselves as thoroughly as possible about an issue, to pray about it and discuss it with others, to consult scripture and church tradition and teaching, and finally, having done all that, to follow our consciences.
Even if our conscience leads us to go against official teaching. Even then. Because if you have fully formed your conscience, your highest moral duty and calling is to follow it. This is a foundational belief of Catholicism. (It’s just one we don’t talk about nearly as often as we should.)
That’s how change is possible. That’s how change happens. When we follow the guidance of our consciences, led by the Holy Spirit.
The church hierarchy, like all institutions, will never be the one to initiate change. That’s not how institutions work. They’re inherently conservative, holding to the status quo, until the fabric of the world in which they exist shifts enough around them for the status quo to change.
That’s why we have - and why we need - prophets. The prophets are the people who challenge us to live most fully and authentically - even when it doesn’t fit into the set idea of what we’re supposed to do. Eventually, if we as the body of Christ follow the guidance of the Spirit, the institution will catch up.
“Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.”
- Cardinal Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy p. 198
Hi Father, Anon sent this to my ask, I was wondering what you thought: Hey, I'm struggling with Sedevacantism, the belief that Vatican Two corrupted the Church. The more I research to try and disprove it, the more I find myself thinking it's the only way to Salvation. Do you have any advice on what to do?
There is no doubt that the last 50 years have seen great problems for the Catholic Church.
Many priests and religious have left their service and returned to the world. Many people who grew up Catholic have joined another faith or have lost their faith altogether. Vocations to the seminary and convent have dropped. Abortion, contraception, divorce, and cohabitation among Catholics have increased dramatically. Mass attendance is down.
There is no denying that the Church is in a crisis. The quick and easy solution, in our minds, is to say, “What happened 50 years ago that might be the cause of all of this? I KNOW! It is Vatican II Council. The Council and the new Conciliarist Church that followed are the cause of all these problems!”
Ah. How easy that would be. A black and white answer. Let’s scapegoat and blame the Council. Then, let’s attack Vatican II and all those who have believed or followed Vatican II. We can point to the Novus Ordo, friendship with Protestants and other faiths, and belief in religious freedom, as the expression of the present-day “modernism” that has brought down the Church.
Then we will form a new Remnant of the true Catholics. Everyone else will be seen as belonging to the Newchurch. Everyone else will be on the side of the devil. Then, we will be the holy ones who hold on to the True Catholic Faith, while everyone else goes to hell in a hand basket.
It all sounds nice. The Vatican II conspiracy theory all sounds so easy to fall for, and so believable. But that is how propaganda is. Propaganda is the proposing of simplistic memes and gifs, the proposal of a black and white, uncomplicated world.
The idea of propaganda is to assume that people are shallow and don’t take time to think, research, and educate themselves. The idea is that if you think for people, by spoon feeding them simple answers, they won’t even bother to go deeper and challenge you with questions. In some ways, this idea of propaganda is true–people don’t like to go beyond simple answers and study the complexity of a problem.
So it is with the Catholic Church’s problems. The question I ask people is, “Besides Vatican II, what else was happening 50 years ago? What else was challenging to Catholics in the modern world? What else was problematic at the time?”
The main question, of course, is, “Did Vatican II create a crisis, from scratch, or did Vatican II attempt to respond to a crisis which was already in the making?”
Those are deeper, more complex questions. They are not the questions that the simple mind wishes to ponder and research. Because if you go deeper, you will find that the easy, black and white answers, are not the truth. The truth is much more complex. The truth will show that God is still with us, that Jesus is still with His Church, and that the Holy Spirit is still guiding us through the storms of faith!
Fifty-five years ago, even before Vatican II, Catholics were living in a world where people, on a large scale, were questioning how much they needed religion in their lives. On a large scale, people were questioning whether having sex was just for making babies, or whether having sex was just for married couples. People were questioning authority figures, and they were already starting to rebel on a large scale.
Fifty-five years ago, a lot of the world was Marxist-Communist. Large parts of the globe had fallen to militant atheism, and the practice of religion, any religion, was banned. The other parts of the world that had lots of money was using money to build a comfortable life.
The people that had jobs and were making decent money, were buying decent homes. They were buying decent cars, decent clothes, were taking comfortable vacations, and were sending their kids to get a decent education at nice schools and colleges. For many Catholic countries, the material standard of living, the level of healthcare, and the opportunities for education had advanced.
Young people, in a lifestyle that was comfortable and enjoyable, naturally asked why they needed God, and the Catholic Church, when life could be happy and comfortable just on a material level?
In poorer parts of the world, people were asking why they were hungry and poor. In Catholic countries with great poverty, people asked, “If Catholics are supposed to fight for justice and take care of the needy, why is our Catholic country filled with so many starving people?”
The political repression and economic problems in many Catholic countries, even before Vatican II, was leading people to question, “What use is it to be Catholic, when you keep living in poverty and being politically marginalized?” Church attendance, 55 years ago, before Vatican II, was great in the United States. But in Europe and other parts of the world, the attendance at Mass was already going down–even before Vatican II.
These are serious questions, and people were pondering these questions even before Vatican II. In the United States, millions of married couples now had the birth control pill available to them.
Secretly, they could get abortions, if they wanted one. And millions of Catholic couples asked,”How am I supposed to get ahead in this country if I am having boatloads of kids? It costs a lot of money to have kids these days. It is difficult to pursue a nice education and a well-paying career if you get married young and start having babies. Catholic women asked if their only option, in a country like the U.S., was to get married after high school and start having a large family.
Entertainment, music, dancing, theater, and the modern arts were reaching millions and millions of people, with a secular message of living life by your own rules, not the rules of institutions and churches. The drug culture began to spread among famous people and artists. Vatican II did not cause any of this. But Vatican II could not stop it, either.
Priests and nuns said to wait until marriage, but that’s not what the music and films said. Priests and nuns, and your parents said, to go to Mass on Sunday. But if you move away from home and go to college, or just live on your own and get a job, you don’t have to follow those rules any more. This was the 1960′s, and people made up new rules as they went along.
Vatican II did not cause that.
And although, today, a lot of people think Latin is beautiful, and that we should have Gregorian chant, formal worship, and sermons with lots of dogma, that was not what they were thinking at the time of Vatican II.
People, before Vatican II, already had music and entertainment that was exciting and bold. The old radios were replaced with nice stereos and could rock out music in your living room. The whole world seemed to be charged up with a new kind of art that encouraged people to let loose and be fancy free.
Going into old-fashioned churches with Latin and the same old sermons did not always appeal. It just didn’t.
In short, the secularism and questioning of God, and questioning of the use of religion, did not begin with Vatican II. The 1960′s were a boiling cauldron of desire for change, radical action, and being “for real.” People were clamoring for political rights for everyone, equally, in a world that seemed so racist, unjust, and status quo.
Church, God, and Catholicism seemed to promote the same old medieval ideas that were just irrelevant and useless for life in the modern world. Then came 1962 and Vatican II Council. If you actually go back and read the articles and news coverage of the Council, you will see that Catholics were overjoyed at the prospects of the Council.
Catholics desperately wanted Vatican II, because they wanted the Catholic Church to mount a response to the modern, secular, humanistic world and its sexual revolution, and not just sit and repeat old formulations.
And if you want to know the facts, you will find out that the major falling away from Catholic faith did not occur in 1965, after Vatican II. The major falling away occurred in 1968, when Pope Paul VI published “Humanae Vitae” or the birth control encyclical. That is when Mass attendance and vocations plunged.
Of course, certain liberals and dissenters used Vatican II for their agenda, of trying to start a new religion, so to speak. But Vatican II itself, was not a liberal Council, nor did it advocate for the abandonment of doctrine of good liturgy. It did, however, advocate for Catholics to use their wisdom and talents to express their Catholic Faith in a way that was meaningful in today’s world.
Hi Father, I hope you are doing well. I have a question for you and I hope you can answer it. What is the significance of Vatican II?
I can’t answer that question for everyone, or even for the Catholic Church, since I do not speak for the Church like a bishop would in an official capacity.
But my personal opinion is that Vatican II is a reconciliation of the ancient faith and Tradition of Catholicism with modernity. “Modernism” was condemned by St. Pius X as a theory which said we cannot know God through direct revelation, only through indirect experiences and feelings of spiritual encounter.
But modernity is a word that describes the world we now know: the world of new inventions, a post-Industrial Age economy, global communications and the loss of the government as a Monarchical State. The culture of modernity is one of independence, self-expression in all forms of art, the guarding of privacy, and a sense of seeking gratification and freedom from inconvenience, pain, and discomfort.
Modernity brings with it the loss of the Catholic Church’s privilege, a special status afforded to it over 1,000 years ago by the Roman Emperor Theodosius and later confirmed by King Pepin of the Franks when he created the Papal States and the Papal Monarchy. Without the previous means to coerce the culture of modernity to an obedience to Christ and Christian Doctrine, how is the Catholic Faith to be defended and spread?
These, and many other existential anxieties, were pressing against the Church at the dawn of 1959, when Pope St. John XXIII officially announced plans to call another General Council of the Church.
Now, from the old black and white photos of the pre-Vatican II era, showing the triumphant, powerful Catholic Church in ascendancy, you would have the opposite picture of the Catholic religion. You would say, “The Catholic Church is unstoppable. It does not need to call a General Council!’
The public press of the Church was all golden, with packed churches, joyful public processions, and gatherings where the clergy and religious were bedecked with happy smiles and festive raiment of capes and colors. But appearances can deceive. The reality was that in certain parts of the Catholic world, the medieval, rigorous discipline and authority was presiding over growth, such as in the United States.
However, underneath that growth, there were powerful currents which advocated divorce, alternative families, abortion, contraception, and actively worked to strip churches of privilege and power. In universities and nightclubs, in concert venues and political powerhouses, the agreement was that the old ways of the Church and of religion in general were a relic of past oppression.
The answer was to actively work to marginalize the clergy and religion to the sidelines, in all aspects of culture and public life, and to convince a once religious populace that they could have a life of more material comforts and freedom as long as they would stand up to authority and discard the faith and obedience of their parents.
It was working. Entire swaths of European Catholicism had begun to abandon the Catholic Faith. Eastern Europe and all of Orthodox Russia had fallen to Soviet communism, which quite successfully exterminated all religion from public life and education. In China, Chairman Mao brought to an end all hopes of the Catholic Church to evangelize and spread the Faith. In Southeast Asia, atheism and Marxism was spreading like wildfire and Catholic Vietnam fell to the Vietcong in 1954, with only the South being able to keep the Faith for a few more years.
The same left-wing politics of liberation and freedom from Catholicism began to invade Catholic Latin America, while American millions poured into Protestant evangelization to slowly break down the Catholic hegemony from Mexico to Argentina.
Yes, Catholicism had its beautiful Latin liturgy, Gregorian chant, and rigorous discipline, with Thomistic philosophy and theology to give reason and logic to the Catholic intellectual edifice. But if one tallies up the numbers in a war, the numbers of losses and attrition were actually staggering in this sense: Where Catholicism was already existing, it was holding steady or growing, but the attacks against it were growing in intensity and huge areas for possible missionary growth were being lost because of the spread of militant atheism on a geopolitical, global level.
And this was the kernel of the attack: “Your religion, Catholicism, has no appeal to a new generation who study modern philosophers, who live by modern politics, who now are free to find new meanings in new, alternative lifestyles. All you can do is repeat medieval philosophy and medieval doctrines, which we’ve already heard and have become bored listening to.”
The Catholic Church, on a certain level, was successfully portrayed as being a repeating tape recording of past formulas and answers. It was a broken record. Her enemies said the Church has no capacity to face modern problems. In fact, the Catholic Church, her enemies said, is incapable of even caring about modern problems. She doesn’t care, as long as she can play “dress up” and continue doing medieval ceremonies—sort of like an old lady who has a nervous breakdown and thinks that she’s living in 1948.
In the face of the attacks of modernity and the real questions that were raised by the oncoming revolutions of culture, Pope St. John XXIII convened Vatican II.
The significance of the Council was a resounding Catholic display of confronting these modern accusations of the new philosophers and the new politics and the new governments of the world. It was an outcry from the Church saying loud and clear, “WE DO CARE about the problems and anxieties of modern Catholics trying to live in today’s culture and face today’s problems.”
Vatican II did not want to define any new doctrines or change her moral beliefs in any way. Rather, the significance of Vatican II was to see if there was a way that the world’s bishops could take Catholic morals and doctrines and pastorally apply them to the anxieties and difficulties of modernity.
The intentions were all very good. The message brought to the average person, however, was all bad, in the sense that people were given the erroneous impression that the Catholic Church was apologizing for, or going back, on its Tradition and faith. But thank God, there were many good bishops, priests, and religious, who took the pastoral orientations of Vatican II and applied them creatively to all areas of ministry, liturgy, and evangelization. God bless and take care, Fr. Angel
I found the Saint Pope John XXIII prayer card I thought I had lost. What a beautiful opening statement to this Saint’s glory: the second Vatican Council. This prayer was relevant and true in 1962, remains so, and will always be so. Please pray for us, Saint Pope John XXIII: patron of the Church I dream of.
Modern man is on the road to a more thorough development of his own personality, and to a growing discovery and vindication of his own rights. Since it has been entrusted to the Church to reveal the mystery of God, Who is the ultimate goal of man, she opens up to man at the same time the meaning of his own existence, that is, the innermost truth about himself.
The Church truly knows that only God, Whom she serves, meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer. She also knows that man is constantly worked upon by God’s spirit, and hence can never be altogether indifferent to the problems of religion. The experience of past ages proves this, as do numerous indications in our own times.
For man will always yearn to know, at least in an obscure way, what is the meaning of his life, of his activity, of his death. The very presence of the Church recalls these problems to his mind. But only God, Who created man to His own image and ransomed him from sin, provides the most adequate answer to the questions, and this Ho does through what He has revealed in Christ His Son, Who became man. Whoever follows after Christ, the perfect man, becomes himself more of a man…
For God’s Word, by whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh so that as perfect man He might save all men and sum up all things in Himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings.
Vatican Council II
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World “Gaudium et Spes”, §41,45
Is the RCC's official stance Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus? Does this explicitly mean that ALL of those outside of the RCC can't attain salvation?
Yes, the teaching of St. Cyprian that outside of the Church there is no salvation, is the official stance of the Church. The Catholic Faith is based on God’s revelation in Scripture and the Apostolic Traditions. The Bible clearly tells us:
For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
This is the core Catholic conviction—Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior, is Lord and only in submission to his lordship can a person be saved and enter eternal life:
Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3).
Where Protestant Christianity and Catholic Christianity differ, at heart, is in answering the question: “How must I place myself under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and be saved?” The Protestant will usually answer (usually because different Protestants may differ in their answer) that you must make an act of faith.
The Catholic Church will answer that you must make an act of faith, be baptized, and enter into the Catholic Church, which is Jesus’ Body here on earth, for outside the Church, you are outside the Body of Christ here on earth.
To answer your question: No, this Catholic teaching DOES NOT MEAN that those who are outside the Catholic Church are deprived of salvation.
For we must take into account that some are ignorant of the true Church of Christ; others are not ignorant, but they have a psychological or mental block to entering the Catholic Church; others have entered the Church but without understanding and knowledge and have left in order to seek a spiritual fulfillment which they did not have as Catholics; others have desired to become Catholic but have not had a chance to be baptized and confess the Catholic Faith.
For all of these, the Church intercedes and prays, so that God will use the Blood of the Passion of Jesus to wash their sins away and grant them a chance to enter heaven after they die. The Church does not believe that her prayers are in vain, for Jesus Himself taught that it was the Father’s will that none be lost.
Thus, if people are not yet in the Catholic Church, the Church works and prays so that “through” the Catholic Church and the grace of Christ which is active in His Body the Church, those who are not yet in will receive the chance for eternal life. We read in #16 of Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution of Vatican II Council:
Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life.
I hope this gives you a sense that “extra ecclesia nulla salus” must be interpreted carefully, so that the Good News of the Catholic Faith is not turned into the Bad News of so many going to hell, through no fault of their own. It is the official stance of the Catholic Church, but as interpreted by the Catholic Church, not as it is interpreted by some who wish to use religion as a baseball bat to beat others down and keep them away from salvation.