Category Archives: Vatican II

Secular Celebration of Vatican II 50th Anniversary



As one of those loyal Papists, I appreciate the work and spirit of Vatican II. What I do not appreciate is the misapplication of the precepts of Vatican II, and misunderstandings of the Church’s pre-Vatican II life and worship.

Nothing sums up the good and bad of Vatican II like this article.

I quote from it, with my own commentary.

The convention of nearly 3,000 bishops, under the guiding hand of John, went to work on revolutionary changes that would give more freedom to the laity, reach out to non-Catholics and allow congregants to celebrate Mass in their own language, with the priest facing them.

Before Vatican II, the priest faced away from the congregation and said Mass only in Latin.

“You went from a guy with his back to you, speaking in a language you didn’t understand, to where you were one of the celebrants,” said Schenk. “You went from a spectator to a player. It was all very exciting and new.”

Indeed it was. And that first paragraph shows the value of the Council. And then, in that last paragraph, we see one of the problematic fruits. Referring to a Priest as “some guy” shows a profound lack of proper respect for someone who is a bride of Christ, and thinking that worshippers prior to Vatican II were mere “spectators” is ridiculous. While it is true that laity are more involved in many respects of the Mass today, it has never been true that people attending Mass are not participating in it.

“I have very vivid memories of how poorly prepared people were for the changes,” said Bishop Richard Lennon of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. “Priests were not prepared at all, and as a result it was a pretty haphazard event, a bit unsettling until you got used to it.”

Vatican II opened the gates of social activism, freedom of expression and conscience, and a respect for all religions, proclaiming to put an end to centuries-old prejudices and bad blood toward other Christian denominations.

That first paragraph does speak to many of the immediate problems after Vatican II. And it also probably shows us why the pendulum swung too far in a direction where the Vatican has since found it necessary to clarify the intent of the council and rein in abuse. That second paragraph, I think, is meant to be a positive. But it is not, as it applies to the Mass itself. People have taken the call to engage the world and applied it to secularizing the Mass. Liberal theology has pervaded many a seminary and parish, and Liturgical abuses in the name of freedom of expression became rampant. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have, in recent years, tried to bring us back to the reality that was originally intended with the Council, and some find this dictatorial.

Well, guess what? Catholicism ain’t a democracy.

In Africa, Masses were celebrated with drums; in America, with guitars. Women no longer had to cover their heads in church. And nuns all over the world began shedding their medieval robes and veils. One nun told a documentary filmmaker that it was strange to feel wind on her forehead and in her hair. (John’s fresh air?)

While I personally appreciate more contemporary music, others don’t. My concern is not so much the style of music as the message and Liturgical appropriateness. This has been largely abused, and it is the Vatican has addressed this. And, personally, I think shedding the veils and habits has led to a decline in vocations. It doesn’t present these people as particularly appreciative of their vocation nor does it look different to many young people who may feel called to the consecrated life. Don’t get me wrong… I know some very holy and special sisters who do not wear the habit (my aunt being one of them). But publicly, there is still something lost.

Vatican II eventually put an end to meatless Fridays and long hours of fasting before receiving Communion.

And, one may argue, reduced reverence for Holy Communion.

It restored the stature of the Bible, which had taken a back seat to church teachings

This is just stupid. Now, I’m not saying this wasn’t the perception, and that communication wasn’t lacking in the matter. But the Church has always revered the Bible as the Word of God. It was an outdated philosophy of the Church to discourage private reflection of the Scriptures in order to prevent erroneous thinkingby people failing to read it in light of the Church’s teachings. But, to be fair, this concern has been well borne out over the years, as countless Christians – Catholic and otherwise – have given their own wisdom precedence over the wisdom of the magisterial teachings of the Church and decided that they know better. It was never about putting Church teachings above the Bible, nor was there ever a reduction of the “stature” of the Bible. Sheesh. The Catholic Church is the one that formulated the canon of the Bible, for crying out loud.

and allowed lay people to hand out consecrated Communion wafers, a job only a priest had been allowed to do.

Untold here is that the norms are supposed to be much more restrictive than they are applied, and that this is a constant Liturgical abuse. This is still primarily a Priestly function. But, yes… the very allowance of this certainly speaks to the importance of involvement by the laity. Unfortunately, the laity often do not show the respect in this office – wearing shorts, t-shirts, and blue jeans – when distributing the Holy Eucharist.

“The fundamental change is the role it gave to lay people,” said the Rev. Lou Trivison, 84, retired pastor of Resurrection Church in Solon. “It called on the laity to put their faith into action – to work for peace and unity among ourselves and all Christian churches.

“There’s more to being a Christian than just baking cookies and making coffee after Mass,” said Trivison. “The laity can now be more-active members of the church through involvement in parish ministries.

I couldn’t agree more. This is the best thing to come from the Council, in my opinion.

“Prior to Vatican II, the laity’s role was to pray, fast and obey. In other words, ‘Shut up.’ “

Ugh. I’m incensed by this. No, “pray, fast, and obey” does not equate to “shut up.” Jesus prayed, fasted, and obeyed. And Vatican II did not eliminate the need to pray, fast, and obey. It expanded upon it. This is a ridiculous statement.

But the newly empowered laity would speak up, unleashing a host of hot-button issues that today remain subjects of fierce debate: Ordination of women, marriage for priests, gay sexual intercourse and the use of contraception – all, to various degrees, not approved by the church hierarchy.

Give people an inch, they take a mile. Vatican II did not give the laity license to redefine sin. And while women’s ordination may have been an appropriate theological discussion point up until Pope John Paull II said the matter was closed, and this is a doctrinal position, then this whole “obey” thing needed to be considered again. Marriage of Priests is a discipline, and discussion needs to be cordial and respectful, even if the discipline remains unchanged. People have lost that respect, and don’t feel the need to humbly obey any more. That is a problem.

“I believe those things need to be addressed,” said Marilyn Cunin, 78, of Cleveland Heights, a lifelong practicing Catholic. “We have educated people in the congregations today who don’t just say, ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir.’

This may be OK sometimes, but nowadays the Catholic laity have decided that they don’t have to say “yes” any more even with moral obligations, Church doctrine, and Church disciplines. And guess what? That is sinful. Vatican II never changed the call to humbly obey. To think otherwise is simply wrong, and prideful.

“I can’t imagine why Rome would object to ordaining women. Women are perfectly equal.”

Equal in dignity does not mean equal in all ways. Men are fathers, women are mothers. Men become Priests, women become sisters. Rome has looked at the issue, and this is nothing personal. That has been made clear. Rome has determined that, theologically, it simply is against God’s divine plan and will. There is no hint of disrespect meant. To believe otherwise is to ignore JPII’s writings on the subject, and get mired in your own pride.

Cunin said the church in pre-Vatican II days was preoccupied with the trappings of ritual – rosaries, candles, incense, icons, novenas – which, today, she said, have little meaning for her.

This is unbelievably sad. I can understand the idea of “trappings” if a person does these things blindly and without any understanding of why they are important. But to dismiss them as having no meaning is horrible. These are gifts and blessings to us, and greatly aid in the spiritual life. It is simply sad that people somehow think their time is past.

“If you forgot your chapel veil, you had to put a Kleenex on top of your head,” she said. “That’s just ridiculous. It’s laughable.

I’ll kind of agree with this one.

“I can appreciate the rituals, but sometimes there are people down the street going hungry while you’re saying the rosary. I believe faith should be more about addressing the problems of world hunger, AIDS and injustices.”

This seems unfair. One can (and should) both pray the Rosary and assist in social justice. I sometimes find it odd that some people who, to their credit, are very involved in social justice and service, and seem to have outright antipathy towards Catholic devotions. The two go hand-in-hand. To be fair, I think that some people do sometimes fall into a “prayer without action” mode, so maybe they are just overreacting.

Most Catholics, both liberal and conservative, support Vatican II, although they may differ in their interpretations of it. And most believe Pope John Paul II slowed the Vatican II movement by issuing conservative decrees and reaffirming Rome’s authority, which to some is a blessing and to others a disappointment.

Slowed? No. He reverseda tide of movement that was, in fact, antithetical to Vatican II’s intent.

A small minority of Catholics rejects Vatican II outright, calling it heresy and the work of the devil.

Yes, this is unfortunate and true. Pray for them. And, the devil being who he is, he has led imperfect people to abuse the true intentions of the Council in many ways, so many long for the more traditional Mass. This doesn’t affirm the stand of sedavacantists, but it may indicate that they saw certain fallout from the Council that led to the erroneous equating of Satan’s influence on post-Vatican II abuse with his influence on the Council itself.