Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Canonizing the Second Vatican Council"? -- the Vindication of Paul VI

[Advisory & disclaimer: See Rules 7-9]

In an essay from this past spring, "Paul VI and John Paul II on the Council and Its Interpretation -- and Fatima" (Saint Louis Catholic, April 29, 2014), the article's author writes [added emphasis is his]:
I've been struck in the last several days by the observation of many that by the canonizations and beatification of this year that Pope Francis was in effect "canonizing the Second Vatican Council". This effort has been obvious to me for some time, but for some reason the phrase kept sticking with me last weekend.

Therefore, I was more than usually struck by comments I recently read from these popes themselves about the Council they are being used to "canonize", and of its consequences.

This first passage is from Paul VI [during his 1967 pilgrimage to Fatima], and I actually feel very sorry for him-- his worry and disillusionment come through. And note he comments about the Council's interpretation and then speaks of Fatima:
... The ecumenical council has reawakened many energies in the bosom of the Church.... What an evil it would be if an arbitrary interpretation, not authorized by the Magisterium of the Church, were to transform this spiritual renewal into a restlessness which dissolves the Church's traditional structure and constitution, substituting the theology of true and great teachings with new and partisan ideologies which depart from the norm of faith, that which modern thought, often lacking the light of reason, neither comprehends nor accepts, finally transforming the apostolic anxiety of redemptive charity into an acquiescence in the negative forms of the profane mentality of worldly customs. What a disenchantment, then, would be caused by our effort at a universal approach!

This thought carries our memory at this moment to those countries in which religious liberty is practically suppressed and where the denial of God is promoted... We declare: the world is in danger. Therefore we have come by foot to the feet of the Queen of Peace to ask for the gift that only God can give: peace.... Men, think of the gravity and the greatness of this hour, which could be decisive for the history of the present and future generation. The picture of the world and of its destiny presented here is immense and dramatic. It is the scene that the Madonna opens before us, the scene we contemplate with horrified eyes."

-- from the Homily of Paul VI, at Fatima, May 13, 1967 (emphasis added [by SLC])
St. John Paul II also echoed these thoughts fourteen years later:
We must admit realistically and with profound suffering that Christians today feel lost, confused, perplexed and also disappointed; there are diffused ideas in contrast with the truth as revealed and always taught; there are diffused true and proper heresies in the field of dogma and morals [...] the liturgy has been altered; immersed in intellectual and moral relativism and therefore in permissiveness, Christians are tempted by atheism, by agnostics, by agnosticism, by a vaguely preached illuminism and by a sociological Christianity, deprived of definite dogmas and moral objectivity. It is necessary to begin all over again.

-- John Paul II, as reported in L'Osservatore Romano, Februay 7, 1981 (emphasis added).
In a free promotional issue of Catholic Family News (November 2014) I recently received, Christopher Ferrara comments on an article,"Vindicated: Why a Maligned Pope will be Beatified" (CNA, October 17, 2014), in which Dr. Alan Schreck of the Franciscan University of Steubenville is quoted as saying: "Pope Paul VI suffered greatly from the growing apostasy of the world from Christian values and from the distortions of the teaching of Vatican II." Ferrara asks: "What distortions of which teachings? Paul VI offered no answers, and neither did Schreck. Nor did Schreck make note of the fact that the 'growing apostasy of the world from Christian values' invaded the Church itself immediately after the Council, and that Paul VI spent the last years of his pontificate lamenting and weeping over this unexpected situation precisely as the outcome of the Council." He then suggests that we consider what the "vindication of Paul VI" might mean in light of his own words. We can hardly maintain that he and his reforms are "vindicated," Ferrara suggests, while ignoring his own numerous admissions of an immediate collapse of faith and discipline in the very midst of those same reforms.

It is at this point that Ferrara suggests that if we are to talk about the vindication of Paul VI, we might begin to do so by attending to his words at Fatima:
To begin with, there are Pope Paul VI's momentous observations on May 13, 1967 during his pilgrimage to Fatima, where he linked the Fatima Message to the Book of the Apocalypse and thus to the Third Secret, which his predecessor had suppressed only six years earlier at the "event horizon" of Vatican II. Paul's encyclical Signum Magnum, promulgated on the same date, begins with a telling reference in the context of the Fatima apparitions to "[t]he great sign which the Apostle John saw in the heaven, 'a woman clothed with the sun,' [which] is interpreted by the sacred Liturgy ... as referring to the most blessed Mary, the mother of all men by the grace of Christ the Redeemer (Apoc. 12.1)." Pope Paul's sermon at the Fatima Shrine sounded an alarm about disturbing trends already manifest in the Church in the Council's immediate aftermath."
Then citing the same passage from Paul VI's words at Fatima quoted above by Saint Louis Catholic, Ferrara remarks: "This was the first in a series of dire admissions that after the Council -- not before -- the world was invading the Church. Here Paul VI stands vindicated, if we are going to talk about vindication at all."

Further, he observes: "Five years later, Paul was openly acknowledging that the Council had provided an opening to disorder in the Church which did not exist before the Council. I quote that famous admission in its full context as cited by Monsignor Guido Pozzo, who is still the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, in an address to the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in 2010" [added emphasis his]:
By some fissure there has entered into the temple of God the smoke of Satan: there is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest. Doubt has entered our consciences, and it has entered through the windows which were meant to have been opened to the light. This state of uncertainty reigns even in the Church.

It was hoped that after the Council there would be a day of sunlight in the history of the Church. Instead, there came a day of clouds, of darkness, of groping, of uncertainty. How did this happen? We will confide Our thoughts to you: there has been interference from an adverse power: his name is the devil, that mysterious being to whom frequent allusion is made even in the Epistle of St. Peter.

Paul VI, Insegnamenti, Ed Vaticana, vol. X, 1972, p. 707, quoted in Msgr. Guido Pozzo, "Aspects of Catholic Ecclesiology in the Reception of Vatican II." Address of July 2, 2010 at FSSP Seminary in Wigratzbad; accessed at
Note that, "unlike Schreck, Pope Paul does not refer vaguely to an apostasy in the world at large that paul was nobly attempting to combat," remarks Ferrara, "but rather specifically to a sudden loss of faith within the Church that Paul specifically links to 'the windows which were meant to have been opened to the light' -- meaning the Council's endlessly vaunted 'opening to the world.' In admitting that this unheard-of initiative had already had terrible consequences, Paul likewise stands vindicated."

Finally, about a year later, there is Pope Paul's admission specifically linking the "opening to the world" to the subsequent crisis in the Church:
[T]he opening to the world has become a veritable invasion of the Church by worldly thinking. We have perhaps been too weak and imprudent.

From Romano Amerio, Iota Unum, pp. 9-10.
Ferrara remarks: "Such an admission has no precedent in the annals of papal pronouncements because there was no precedent in the history of the Church for a deliberate 'opening to the world' in the name of an ecumenical council. In admitting that the opening to the world had led to an invasion of the "Church by worldly thinking -- and who, in view of the travesty of the recent Synod, can honestly deny that this invasion is now reaching its final stages? -- Pope Paul is vindicated once again. So too is he vindicated in his admission that weakness and imprudence on the part of the hierarchy are to blame for this self-inflicted catastrophe."


Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Pope Blessed Paul Vi at Fatima; another view

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

". . . The ecumenical council has reawakened many ENERGIES in the bosom of the Church. . . . What an evil it would be if an arbitrary interpretation, not authorized by the Magisterium of the Church, were to transform this spiritual renewal into a RESTLESSNESS which dissolves the Church's traditional structure and constitution, substituting the theology of true and great teachings with new and partisan ideologies which depart from the norm of faith . . . ."

Energy is not a moral concept. Energy is simply power, capacity for action. It is an entirely neutral thing, like the tidal wave that crashes on the beach, or the volcano whose explosion and aftermath affects every life on the planet.

Of course, if you are caught in the path of such releases of energy, these fine points may escape you. In this respect, Pope Montini's leadership may be best expressed as Mickey Mouse, the sorcerer's apprentice, witlessly tapping the energy potential of his broom. The romanticism of the 19th century led to two world wars and the devastation of the old world in the twentieth. But this fact, symbolized perfectly by the pestilent mushroom cloud which ended it all for awhile, was lost on Montini, another romantic hero whose dreams and aspirations led to his undoing and ours. Perhaps our first byronic pope!

Not being of the wit to have asked his questions in 1961 rather than 1967, Montini only belatedly and imprecisely realized that change is not always for the good, and imagination is not always sanctioned by the Holy Ghost.

St Teresa of Avila discouraged her neophyte sisters from seeking mystical encounters such as she herself experienced. She recognized (as did the Church at one time) the neutrality of the experience itself, which others sought to romanticize. She knew that the voice from the other side is not always that of the Lord, and that therefore such experiences ought not to be courted by romanticist neophytes.

Change is not always good; in fact, it is potentially so bad that the prejudice ought to be against embracing it. Energy is not always good; it can turn out to be nihilistic restlessness. We have been burdened with a succession of popes who realized these truths after the fact, or perhaps never fully grasped them at all, but in any case did not have the fortitude to do what needs be done. How much suffering will have to be undergone by his Church before Mickey V (the fifth V2 or post V2 pope, excepting JP1) learns the great -- and once self-evident -- lesson?