Vatican II Continued

Half A Century Later

Catholics have been arguing about the Second Vatican Council—about what it did and didn’t do, about what it meant and still means or what it never meant and could never mean—for half a century. Many reform-minded Catholics today are disappointed by what they see as a retreat, under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, from the council’s mandate for change, especially change in how the church is governed (see “Bishops or Branch Managers?”). Other Catholics, alarmed by the disarray that followed the council and mistrustful of attempts to reconcile Catholicism to a decadent, godless modern world, have applauded papal actions disciplining “dissenters” and reemphasizing traditional markers of Catholic identity. What reformers see as a rejection of the council’s promise of intellectual openness and ecumenism, traditionalists view as an indispensible move to safeguard truths of faith threatened as much from within the church as from outside it. Catholics who grew up after the council, meanwhile, often dismiss the polemics of both sides. To them, the changes that so disrupted the everyday lives of pre–Vatican II Catholics—the vernacular Mass with its visible role for the laity and particularly for women, the cataclysmic decline in vocations, the virtual disappearance of confession, the tolerance for public dissent from church teachings—are unremarkable, and comprise the only church they’ve ever known.

The result, it seems, is that there are currently several different, sometimes contending ways of being Catholic. To some degree that has always been so. The notion of the church as a rigorously disciplined and monolithic enterprise is largely myth, and modern myth to boot (see “An Imagined Unity”). What is not myth, however, is the dramatic change in the self-understanding of Catholics brought about by the council. For at least two centuries Catholicism saw itself as a bulwark against the spread of pernicious liberal and democratic principles, and held fast to a monarchical and aristocratic worldview in which the church enjoyed a privileged civic, cultural, and political role. At Vatican II, the bishops called off this long and ultimately futile struggle against modernity. Not without ambivalence, they reconciled themselves to the separation of church and state and to the idea of religious liberty (see “Outvoted, Not Persecuted”). They then went further, extending the hand of fellowship to other Christians, to non-Christian religions, and especially to the Jewish community, while warmly endorsing human rights and aspirations for democratic self-determination. Even the pursuit of technological and material progress, long viewed with world-weary skepticism, was encouraged.

And so a church once narrowly focused on the world to come suddenly discovered much to praise in the world at hand. Most important, perhaps, the laity was now urged to bring its faith into the secular sphere, to transform a fallen world rather than retreat from it. This effort at aggiornamento, or updating, looked back to certain neglected aspects of the tradition (ressourcement) for inspiration and guidance. That project was in part an effort to find within the church’s own traditions theological and philosophical sources that could more firmly ground and thus defend what was morally sound in the modern world’s understanding of human dignity and individual liberty.

There is nothing intellectually, theologically, or politically tidy in this long-delayed encounter between the church and the post-Enlightenment world, as the ongoing struggles between the Vatican and theologians and the Vatican’s recent criticism of women religious remind us. Nearly forty years ago, longtime Commonweal columnist John Cogley offered the following assessment of the council’s aftermath: “The religious community that survived the early onslaught of bigotry, with a certain style; that built up an enormous citadel of protective institutions to protect its identity; and that valiantly fought its way out of the ghetto to achieve acceptance in American life may yet have to face its greatest challenge.” As Cogley understood it, the challenge was the seemingly irresistible, yet questionable, attraction and authority of modernity itself, with its atomizing individualism, triumphant materialism, scientific hubris, and deep skepticism about the existence of any transcendent values or reality.

Can the church rise to this challenge? So far the results are mixed. What seems certain is that not everything that worked in the past will work now. The “New Evangelization” now being implemented must do more than resurrect the apologetics of an earlier era when the church had more social and moral capital at its disposal. The larger cultural situation has changed in fundamental ways, and so has the church. It is no longer possible to protect Catholic identity by encasing it in small, carefully guarded institutions; both American life and Catholic life in America are too fluid, too differentiated, too focused on a forever idealized future. Like it or not, Catholics of all theological and ecclesiological opinion have been profoundly shaped by the larger culture’s deep skepticism toward hierarchical leadership and tradition itself. Cultivating more fruitful Catholic practices and associations will require experimentation and leadership (both lay and clerical).

Just before his death last month, Milan’s Cardinal Carlo Martini lamented the institutional and pastoral paralysis gripping the European and American church. He cast a sorrowful eye on “pompous” liturgies, “empty” religious houses, and the church’s stifling bureaucracy. “Where are our heroes today who can inspire us?” he asked, and went on to recommend that the pope and the bishops “find twelve unconventional people to take on leadership roles.” What sort of unconventional people? “Those who are close to the poor,” Martini specified; “who can galvanize young people by being willing to try new approaches.”

One such “new” approach, as suggested by John Wilkins in this issue, would be a return to the council’s embrace of collegiality, and the development of that tradition to include genuine lay participation.

It’s important to keep in mind that over the centuries the church has found a way to flourish in every sort of culture, from empire to the industrializing nation-state. To be sure, today’s world, where social and cultural bonds are often weak and fleeting, presents a unique challenge to an institution that thinks of itself as a cohesive community, possessing a tradition that unites believers even in their disagreements. The sometimes bitter disagreements among Catholics today are not going to end any time soon. But that should not be a cause for pessimism or despair. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has reminded us, every institution or tradition is “partially constituted by an argument about the goods the pursuit of which gives to that tradition its particular point and purpose.” In other words, robust debate about the church and its mission can be a sign of health. There will need to be more room, not less, for the “argument about the goods” of the Catholic tradition. 

Modern men and women long for a unity of purpose that extends beyond mere individual striving or difference. Such unity is forged by the conviction that there is in fact meaning to suffering and death, and that the meaning and value of life itself can only be found in a good that reaches beyond this world. That was the first truth the council proclaimed, and to which it called every Catholic to give witness. The need for that witness is even greater now than it was fifty years ago.



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Without going into scandals, I have noticed that several American bishops have become shills of the political right wing (to wit Dolan and Wuerl), persecutors of nuns doing God's work, arrogant jerks like Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NE and steered the Church away from its basic calling -- servant of the servants of God. Political capital has replaced humility in a way Bernard of Clairvaux would have hated -- he of the "Steps of Humility and Pride." By assuming that Catholic rights ought to be THE rights of free speech, trumping Jewish rights, Protestant rights, Muslim rights and even atheist rights, the Church has gone back to Vatican I and the triumphalism that made me shudder.

A study noted that over 80% of Catholic married women use safe and effective birth control to decide the size and circumstances of their families and you have hierarchical voices making them marginalized. How dare they? How many abortions would be prevented by taking the plunge and adding pastoral voices to medical voices so that women are guided rather than spat on.

Yes, I'm angry. John XXIII had a vision and it has been treated like garbage. It is going to take decades for the present prelates to go to their reward and a Church worthy of Jesus's sacrifice and John's vision created -- if it ever is to be created. I am often ashamed to admit I'm a theologian.

 I am often ashamed to admit I'm a theologian

I'm sad to say you should be Karen.  As a Catholic I'm ashamed for you and by you.

To the Editors: You want unity of purpose that extends beyond mere individual striving or difference? 

Well then, follow  and be one with Christ, cross and all.  It's only because so many forget the "pick up the cross part" that 'theologians' like Karen have to insult good Bishops and rationalize against Church/Christ Teachings, being more concerned with being popular than the counter-cultural witness  to Christ of which He Christ asks.



A good article, replete with truth but not perfect in prose, as Patriicia criticism of Karen's "I am often ashamed to admit I'm a theologian".

We should never be ashamed of our religious believes, both philosphically or theologically. As Catholics, we often find ourselves in disagreement with certain Church teachings. However, a disagreement should never be an reason to prevent us from a relationship with Christ or in seeking a consensus of truth.

As Catholics, theologians, clergy and laity, we are quick to criticize others who disagree for good and just reasons, even if those reasons are not recognized by "authority". To respond to Patricia, I would say many Catholics have not fogotten to "pick up the cross part". This is often an argument about "heroic virtue", as if this is the answer to those that disagree. Those on both sides of this argument should take a deep breath and respect the need for open, honest and respectful dialogue. Until the Vatican Curia opens "a closed book" to many sexual ethical teachings, so that we can try to reach a consensus of truth, there will be more of the same division and divisiveness that Christ himself would certainly be ashamed of. Unfortunately, IMO, this will take decades.

Michael are you even aware that the Catholic Church IS Jesus Christ?  It's a revealed faith, period.  If there is one thing we don't get to have our opinion of, in or out of season,  is what Jesus Christ taught.

Vatican II has been gradually rolled back.

Rightly or wrongly, the Vatican is now seen as increasingly irrelevant - a haven that covers-up child abuse, that is dry, dusty, completely devoid of charity in any sense of the word, and explicitly authoritarian rather than self-questioning.I won't go into a long jeremiad about all that is wrong. I will pick out one thing that I believe is doing, and will do, the Church as great a harm as the Galileo fiasco.The Church is poorly informed on biological issues, and the policies it's adopting based on complete biological misconceptions are causing immense harm. Had the Spirit of Vatican II continued, this would not and could not have happened, there would have been less authoritarianism, and more listening.Examples -

The Indonesian congress of Catholic Bishops pronounced that anyone with 2X chromosomes (and only someone with at minimum 2 X chromosomes) was female - with all that entails in terms of marriage, allowable sexual behaviour, proper mode of dress, suitability for the priesthood etc.But 1 in 450 men are XXY. Many are fathers. For that matter, some women are XY, and some have given birth."Life begins at Conception" - except sometimes a fertiised egg splits, resulting in two people who are genetically identical. Rarely, they are of opposite sexes. Moreover, two fertilised eggs can fuse, resulting in a single person with two separate gene lines.Personhood therefore cannot begin at conception, but must begin sometimes afterwards - if you believe in concepts like ensoulment, concepts an essential part of Catholic belief.

As for Transsexuality - the USCCB has actively campaigned for the continued persecution in employment opportunities of both Intersex and Trans people, solely on the grounds of "freedom of association", a 180 degree turnaround from their published letters on human rights in the 60's.We now know that Transsexuals, like those born Intersex, have anatomy that is neither wholly male nor female, but something in between. Also, that such congenital conditions are far more common than once thought, they're just not obvious to cursory examination.I foresee as big a blow-up about the science of biology as there was about the science of astronomy. Bad policies, false dogma, injustice and cruelty based not just on pardonable ignorance, but obstinate refusal to admit error.

We lived in Holland/Belgium from 1962 to 1971 and lived through the economic contraction and liberalization of the Catholic Church there. Churches were closed and the property sold for office buildings or apartments.  Catholic schools and Convents were closed, religious dress was discarded, the living quarters at the seminaries were closed and young seminarians lived on the local economy so they could, as the Bishop put it, learn about life, including the sexual, before taking vows. Hippy masses were conducted by priests, usually married or living with someone and ex-priests, in living rooms. By the 1980s the Catholic Church in Holland/Belgium had liberalized itself into virtual non-existence.

Could it be that the decline in the Catholic Church in Europe resulted from changes in the Church itself?

to Zoe Brain: "LIfe begins at conception"-well, it begins but we can speak about the soul(@an individual) only after 14 days- one has to emply Plato @ Arystotles philosophy to define: "human being" @ "soul".

Karen: therefore 80% ingnores Humanae Vitae: Canadian Bishops openly ingnore it (Winnipeg statement)- apply to pastoral practise at ex. confession, to give a counselling or forgiveness of sins!  Mayb you do not know how DEvil worked in the case of Humanae Vitae in Vatican: Communists denied a visa to cardinal Woytyla to go there to help Paul vi to conquer a dissent  amoanag theologians. As you probably most of them are very poorly educated in logic or semantic realism, the one true philosophy (Aristotle, St.Thomas Aquinas....mathematical logic: A.TArski-K.Godel). Such mentioned Winnipeg Starement are violating a (divine)logical law of non conradtiction applied to the case of [email protected] conscience (in Jesus Christ)

ps. Unfortunately, a chickennes happened at VAtican II: no mentioned of The Tyrany of Communism + the Elite of West (usually left) ingnored this in order not embarass the Soviets  because they could start to sent missiles. You forgot that time?

Zoe did ever occur to you and others that maybe Vatican II was "right" and the only thing "wrong" about it was how many (mostly poorly catechized), understand/understood it?  I suspect by your 2nd paragraph, you lost any serious Catholic in the discussion.  Who could possibly take you seriously when you start your defense with false vicious, and quite harmful, attacks?

And this? Personhood therefore cannot begin at conception, but must begin sometimes afterwards

Personhood isn't the issue, only human life is.  For someone who just went on a rant about the the church not knowing her biology, you strike out again considering the fact that even a 1 second old embryo has  100% of its FULLY HUMAN DNA, of which that exact same DNA, if said embryo lives to be 101, will be identical to second one.

The truth is Vatican II was not only needed, it was/is quite good and beautiful, if properly understood.  The irony is those who accuse the chruch most of "living in the dark ages" are often the same people who beat up Vatican II, which if it did anything, it brought the church more into line with modernity. 

IMO, after 50 years, it's time to probably understand that "form your own conscience" does NOT mean to one's opinion or political liking, but to the HEART OF THE CHURCH and her teachings.  If and only then, we might have a shot at moving forward united as one, with Christ.

Correction:  it's time to probably  properly understand

When does life begin? Scientists answer.

In 1981 (April 23-24) a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee held hearings on the very question before us here:   When does human life begin? Appearing to speak on behalf of the scientific community was a group of internationally known geneticists and biologists who had the same story to tell, namely, that human life begins at conception - and they told their story with a profound absence  of opposing testimony. --Dr. Micheline M. Mathews-Roth, Harvard medical School, gave confirming testimony, supported by references from over 20 embryology and other medical textbooks -- that human life began at conception. --"Father of Modern Genetics" Dr. Jerome Lejeune told the lawmakers: "To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion ... it is plain experimental evidence." --Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman, Department of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic, added: "By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception." --Dr. McCarthy de Mere, medical doctor and law professor, University of Tennessee, testified: "The exact moment of the beginning of personhood and of the human body is at the moment of conception." --Dr. Alfred Bongiovanni, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, concluded, "I am no more prepared to say that these early stages represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty ... is not a human being." --Dr. Richard V. Jaynes: "To say that the beginning of human life cannot be determined scientifically is utterly ridiculous." --Dr. Landrum Shettles, sometimes called the "Father of In Vitro Fertilization" notes, "Conception confers life and makes that life one of a kind." And on the Supreme Court ruling _Roe v. Wade_, "To deny a truth [about when life begins] should not be made a basis for legalizing abortion." --Professor Eugene Diamond: "...either the Justices were fed a backwoods biology or they were pretending ignorance about a scientific certainty. 

We now have catholic politicians and activists who support abortion at any time during pregancy up to and including the denial of medical attention to a child born alive after a botched abortion. Is this the idea of  "subjective conscience" in action as a result of Vatican II as some believe? 


Zoe Brain, your knowledge of biology is seriously wanting.  Notwithstanding that, human life begins at conception.  If it isn't HUMAN life, what kind of life is it?  Regarding Vatican II, the problem is not that its work has been ignored or discarded; the problem is that so many have gravely misinterpreted what the council actually did and did not do and mean.  A radical reading of Vatican II has polluted many of its authentic doctrines, causing confusion and misleading the people of God.  Pope Benedict XVI has written extensively to correct this.  Please read the wonderful books he has written.  They are right on the mark!

Zoe Brain, your knowledge of biology is seriously wanting.  Notwithstanding that, human life begins at conception.  If it isn't HUMAN life, what kind of life is it?  Regarding Vatican II, the problem is not that its work has been ignored or discarded; the problem is that so many have gravely misinterpreted what the council actually did and did not do and mean.  A radical reading of Vatican II has polluted many of its authentic doctrines, causing confusion and misleading the people of God.  Pope Benedict XVI has written extensively to correct this.  Please read the wonderful books he has written.  They are right on the mark!


Jesus Christ never said that the only licit means of birth control was natural family planning (periodic continence), nor did he say that contraception, under all circumstances and ethical contexts, is illicit. The last time I recall, God never revealed his "procreative plan" to a pope, bishop, theologian or lay person. Yet the Church believes that God revealed his plan to Karol Wojytla when he wrote Love and Responsibility as a bishop, and The Theology of the Body, as pope. No one knows God's procreative plan and philosophican anthropology and symbolism is speculation and a weak moral theory.

Catholics don't have a right to disagree with the fundamentals of our faith, but on disputed matters of morals they can disagree based on their informed conscience (emphasis added). This does not mean Catholics can pick and choose what teachings, e.g., sexual ethics, they like and dislike, believe or not. However, is does mean that for good and just reasons (philosophically, theologically, anthropologically) they can disagree with certain Church teachings based on adequate education of the subject, the guidance of their spiritual advisors, constant prayer and refection, and frequent sacrament. They must also be open to further education and reflection even if they disagree with a church teaching, e.g., contraception.

As to whether life begins at conception, consider the contradiction in prinicple that the USCCB offers in cases of rape.

After a "negative" pregnancy test, administered within 48-72 hours of a rape, it is licit to give the morning after pill to the victim. However, a pregnancy test can only detect pregnancy "after implantation" which occurs about 3 weeks after fertilization. Hence, all pregnancy tests will be   ipso facto "negative" if performed within 2 weeks after a rape (unless the victim was pregnant before the rape ocurred). This practice is contradictory to the teaching that under no circumstances can someone frustrate the normal biological process of a fertilzied egg from implantation (the church's teaching). The morning after pill works the same way birth control pills work. If life begins at conception, the only way to detect it is an ovulation test, and this only determines ovulation has occurred, not whether the female egg has been fertilized. Today, most Catholic hospitals, under the guidelines of the USCCB, only have to perform a pregnancy test before administering the morning after pill to rape vicitms.

If Humanae Vitae is true, then how can anyone justifiy the Church's teaching that a married female whose life is threatened by another pregancy cannot take reasonable and secure means to safe-guard her life? According to the Church, this person must practice "risky PC" (an irrepsonsible act under the circumstances) or live a life of sexual abstinence (that will destroy her marriage). She cannot take the pill or be sterilized to safe-guard her life, she must ensure that every martial act has a procreative meaning. Absurd? Of course it is. Does it conflict with the heirarchy of values? Yes it does. Can a woman who has 2-3 children and wants no more for good reasons (Pius XII) take the pill? Why not? Because it violates God's procreative plan? Nonsense. No one knows God's procreative plan with moral certitude. This is only one of "many" issues that make Humanae Vitae a dead letter. 

Read Massimo Faggioli's "Vatican II:  The Battle for Meaning."  He very succinctly in about 150 pages compares and contrasts the 2 schools that have emerged.  For the scholars, there are extensive footnotes and a very good bibliography.

This was written for the average reader, not the scholarly.  Hence it is eminently understandable.

You will not waste your time if you read this book.

Jim McCrea,

Great recommendation!

I read Massimo Faggioli's "Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning" and it is excellent. It will surprise many Catholics who will read this book how political and undermining the minority traditionalists have gone, and continue to go, to ensure that "tradition" is never reformed regardless of the overwhelming amount of good and just reasons to do so. Responsible reform does not mean the pillars of the Catholic Church will come tumbling down, as many exaggerate.

Michael I'm not going to turn a Vat II discussion thread into a contraception debate but I will leave you with this. 

You are clearly misguided on the subject.  Regardless of Humane Vitae, the fact tht the Magesterium has taught for centuries (from apostolic teachings), against un natural means of birth control, in and of itself makes it  an infallible teaching.  To contracept "artificiallly" is a great blasphmy ("interference"), against  both the will of God and the marriage vows.  The interference is the issue, not the intent. 

It may also surprise you that until 1930, all of the protestants (who have since caved to culture), also taught strongly against it.  Here's a good link to help you understand what and why the chruch teaches what it does, as well as the Scriptual roots:


As for the "life of the mother", I understand why in these times, any reasonable person would find it beyond appauling that a mother should risk death over her unborn child.  The AZ case of the mother with  pulmonary hypertension (who did have an abortion in a Catholic Hospital) was a great example.  Personally, I believe the mother was being called to martydom, so "counter cultural" that few if any would even know it if they did see it.  These are very very rare cases, especially with modern technology when 99% of the time, no mother is truly at the risk of death providing she has access to good medical care and modern technology, even at 5-6 months.  That said, ever once in a while we do read of such a story, usually a mother who refused chemo while pregnant, althought, even in pregancy, chemo can be safely given in many cases. 

I assue you and anyone else reading, that it really does all "make sense" if one truly knows not only what the chruch teaches, but why. 

Again, the entire Vat II debate boils down to one or two things:

1.  Not knowing/understanding what and why the Chruch teaches as it does

2.  Not WANTING , for personal selfish reasons, to be obedient to Church Teachings, including the infallible ones. 

FWIW, I think many DO know much of what the church teaches (albeit in most cases probably not the "why's"), but like myself for over 20 years, simply don't/didn't  want to live it.  Trust me, that's it in a nutshell!


I appreciate your point of view, but not your judgment.

I also do not want to turn a discussion about Vatical II into a debate about direct-indirect abortion (the Phoenix Case) or contraction. However, there are more complex philosophical and theological issues that argue against the teaching and judgment of the Church in these two matters.

I am well versed in moral theology and the issues...the what and why of Catholic teachings. For your information, most theologians and many priests and bishops disagree with Humanae Vitae for good and just reasons. They are not all misguided or invincibily ignorant. Nor are they dissenters and other degrogatory name-calling the Church likes to pin on most Catholics who disagree with certain teachings. This includes more than 90% of the laity, many of whom attend weekly Mass and recieve the Eucharist.

Everyone who is aware of this culture understands its extremes, but this is does not make everone liberals, relativists, individualists or as you say "selfish". Most are faithful and loving Catholics. This issue has been debated for the past 44 years without a resolution. This is one of the reasons we have a divided Church and a Crisis in Truth. 

As for the Phoenix case, you need some education. Ditto for contraception. The moral method and analysis of Germain Grisez and Martin Rhonheimer were used by Therese Lysaught of Marguette University in her excellent report to Catholc Healthcare West on the moral analysis of this case. That procedure was indirect abortion and any Catholic with or without a theological education can wisely reason that the judgment and decision of the Bishop of Phoenix in this case was both ill advised and deplorable.

If you want to discuss this further let's take this off-line (e.g., email me). I would be happy to get into the more complex aguments. However, I doubt any argument will change your mind.


With all respect to you Michael, I have no desire to battle out or rationalize intrinsic evils and or Church infallible teachiings. 

It's when we think we know more than 2000 years of Church Teachings, especially from an "intellectual" standpoint, that we are duped. 

Sorry, been there done that.  By the grace of God, not going back. I wish you and others the freedom and peace of heart that comes with the acceptance of  the grace of obedience.  Only then will you realize that what you now think sets your "free" is in actuality, enslavement. 

For the record, the Church didn't survive all of these  years by getting it wrong.


Michael I want to point out one more thing, which is quite relevant to the Vat II overall discussion. 

Your write:

 most theologians and many priests and bishops disagree with Humanae Vitae for good and just reasons. They are not all misguided or invincibily ignorant. Nor are they dissenters and other degrogatory name-calling the Church likes to pin on most Catholics who disagree with certain teachings. This includes more than 90% of the laity, many of whom attend weekly Mass and recieve the Eucharist.

Everyone who is aware of this culture understands its extremes, but this is does not make everone liberals, relativists, individualists or as you say "selfish". Most are faithful and loving Catholics. This issue has been debated for the past 44 years without a resolution. This is one of the reasons we have a divided Church and a Crisis in Truth.


Firstly, it's time to put HV to rest.  Not only is the church teaching of contracepton infalliable by years of Magesterial Teaching (regardless of HV), but HV has now been proven to be right in all of its prophesy and consequences.  Even the Winnepeg Bishops have admitted that they were wrong. 

You seem to fail to understand that simply because the "laity disagree" the church must be wrong, when in point of fact, the laity being wrong is EXACTLY the reason we need the Chruch.  There have been countless examples throughout church history where bishops, priests, and even a few popes were wrong.  What has NEVER been wrong, or never changed, is the offical (dogmatic) teachings of the Catholic Church. 

We do NOT have a "crisis of Truth."  Truth is right there, in black and white, in offical church teaching, the immutable teachings of Jesus Christ.  Either you believe that the CC is the true Chruch guided by 2000 plus years by the Holy Spirit or you don't.   Jesus can't be wrong.

 We are know where "division" comes from, and it's not the "Holy" Spirit. 

After reading your articles on Vatican II Continued and Bishops as Managers I am reminded of Carl Barth's comment: " the church is the greatest obstacle to the kingdom of God on earth, yet the church is the only place where the redemptive love of God is preached". We live always in that tension and most especially in these post Vatican II years of revisionism.

fr. Joe Sanches


This blog about Vat II and it it is not the place to argue about Church teachings. However, your argument "from authority" is the weakest of moral arguments. Thank God we have a robust theological community who are constantly striving to understand the truth and throught their good work, assist popes and bishops in formulating doctrine and reforming it as well. We benefit from their continued scholarship, advances in the sciences, philosophy, theology, anthropology, nature and the world. The fact that most theologians disagree with HV is not to be cavelierly dismissed. Catholics are not drones, they can think for themselves and are guided by faith and the Holy Spirit. Most Catholics respect the heirarchry but their authority has been serverely harmed by their own failings and intransigence in ignoring the pain and suffering that some teachings cause. Not everyone is called to martydom or heroic virtue in order to ensure that a Church teaching is followed without remainder. There are many ethical contexts that argue for the refore of HV. Yet, the Church holds on to an intelligible and unconvincing theory in defense of HV.

It is obvious to me that you do not have a grasp of the fundamental theological arguments that have been going on for the past 44 years, regarding Humanae Vitae. You dismiss, perhaps by ignorance, that most theologians and many bishops and priests disagree with HV, because they must be misguided or invincibly ignorant.  This issue of contraception, as well as other sexual ethical teachings, is not dead. If you want to learn something, contrasting a traditional point of view versus a revisionist point of view, read the two articles in Theological Studies, one of the most predigious Catholic journals in the U.S.....the December, 2011 issue (article by Bill Murphy) and the March, 2012 issue (article by Joseph Selling) regarding contraception, Aquinas et al. Based on your argument, you will likely not bother to educate yourself to what is referred to as "good and just reasons". 

I can only summize that you live in some kind of bubble. Everyone knows that we have had a "silent pulpit" for the past 44 years for fear of heirarchical consequences, e.g., most bishops and priests remaining slient about preaching about contraception. A few do, but most will  carefully advise Catholics in confidential guidance meetings, that their informed consciences can be used in making such birth control decisions. You don't have to have a theological education to know this.

Your dogmatic assertion that there is no crisis of truth in the Catholic Church is refuted by the late John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Anyone who studies and writes about sexual ethics knows quite well that we live in a divided church. 

Lastly, my judgment about contraception is not based on the fact that since the laity disagrees with the Church, the teaching must be wrong. I base my judgment on a long history of education and studies in moral theology. You can disagree and still be a faithful Catholic.

Your claim "from authority" is all you have to offer in respones to complex philiosophical and theological arguments, much deeper than a simple "the Vatican and pope says its the truth, so it must be the truth". This does not mean I don't respect the Church's teachings, or do I pick and choose what teaching suit my lifestyle or idealogy. I am a faithful Catholic, well informed about the issues, and for good and just reaons believe that Humanae Vitae is "too great of a moral certitude". This means that there is some truth in HV, but it is not God's all-inclusive procreative plan and a moral absolute without remainder.

History is replete with many doctrines and teachings that were proclaimed by popes and bishops as truth, taught for centuries, and were later reformed: usury, slavery, freedom of religion, the torture of heritics, the ends of marriage. It took centuries for the Church to apologize for the Galaleo affair. I could give you a list of other issues, but this discussion will get us no where based on your point of view of claiming the higher moral ground.

Let's not bore the other bloggers who want to stick to the topic of Vat II. If you want to debate me further, email me.


.To Michael B: <For your information, most theologians and many priests and bishops disagree with Humanae Vitae for good and just reasons>

Wha tkind of argument it is? If na idiot bishop or theologina or a set of them claim something what is it? If you call John Paul II his Theology of Body too abstractive to comprehebd  that is your [email protected] that taught you. Probably you are a fan of sth like [email protected] bunch of half educated mass media gurus; H.Kung's for example discussion on the arguments for and contra for the existence for God reveal his total ignorance of classic thinkers @ especially modern mathematical logic-it is a joke repeating all agnostic arguments conquereed already by Aristotle. Home work: apply logic to your just slogans of half-educated some theologians against Humane Vitae. I can cite by names all these chicken "experts"; I do not deny they are some fools also at VAtican; for example, the kissing of Koran by John Paul II was a ...childlish wishfull thinking to "win" Muslims- they are just human mistakes. There is a lot of "junk"(i.e., just only a traditional view on some subject ignoring the latest discoveries in ex.biblical studies or logic) even in CAthesism of Catholic Church- these msitsake are nothing comparing to "junk" of other site or enemies (ateists, agnostics, skeptics).

ps. these bunch so called theologians especially feminists are more devilish than communists  I met at (St.Paul's University).For them for example J.M.Bochenski, The logic of religion, 1956 will be always a total mystery (of intellect)

Krzysztof Cluba,

My comments were not a substitute for a robust discussion about the philosophical and theological issues underpining HV. Far from it.

I don't call JP II's Theology of the Body too abstract. It is based on his philosophical anthropology, symbolism, mysticism and personalism. This theory was formulated in the mid 1950s while Karol Wojtya was a bishop and professor at the University of Lublin. He also wrote about it in his 1960 book Love and Responsibilty...and once again in his Krakow Memorandum sent to Paul VI in February, 1968. I am fully aware and versed in his thought and theology on marriage and procreation.

JP II's symbolistic argument goes sometime like this: Christ's love for the Church is also a love of total self-giving and self-donation...and by analogy, spousal love is a total self-giving love but concupiscence exchanges a self-seeking gratification for the sincere gift of self; it uses the other as an object made for my sake rather than loving the other as subject for his or her sake...therefore contraception falifies creative love and speaks to the diabolic anti-Word. 

The issue here is whether it is a metaphoric leap that unless there is a total self-giving and openness to procreation under all circumstances, and in every act of coitus, spouses are expressing a false, evil and destructive love. Wojtyla had a creative moral imagination, but “imagination enables theology to resist the constant temptation towards absolutizing…. And if we are to accept the priority of symbol over intellect, then theology has an important role to play in ensuring that the image does not become the only word, or the last word….”[Dermot Lane] This means we must resist the temptation of proclaiming we know God’s procreative plan with moral certainty based on symbolic speculation. We also must balance assertions with existential reality when we find no evidence whatsoever that PC couples treat each other as loving subjects, while couples that use artificial birth control have a utilitarian attitude and a diabolical love grounded in concupiscence.

HV also claims that "natural family planning-periodic continence" is God's procreative plan. No one knows God's procreative plan with moral certitude! Are to accept by faith that God took more than 2000 years to tell a pope about His procreative plan? Where in revelation can we find it? Where can we find it beyond symbolic speculation? This assertion that NFP is God's procreative plan challenges the practical reason of most Catholics...and theologians, and many bishops and priests.

More importantly, no pope, bishop, or theologian ever wrote or spoke about an "inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marital act" before 1960 (when Karol Wojtyla wrote about it in Love and Responsibility). This was not tradition or a constant teaching of the Church, yet it was proclaimed as Divine law.

There is some truth in HV, but the principles are claimed as "moral absolutes". For many reasons, beyond these comments, they represent too much of a moral certitude.

If you want to discuss this further, email me.



It's not that by using birth control,every act of intercouse becomes a selfish evil act,but rather that over time-if artifical birth control is used -then the spouses who are not open to procreation-are living out a marital life that compartimentalizes procreation and sex. Because sex is the natural way to procreate-this decoupling of sex and procreation corrupts the natural God made connection between sex and procreation. Sex is now a different human act which is not in harmony with the natural wholeistic man/woman /married couple.This unnatural alteration effects the man and woman psychologically,emotionally and physically.It's one thing to intercede artificially when nature is flawed[illness and even infertilility,say].God gave us intelligence and medicine used to heal and alleviate suffering or otherwise improve life on earth is in keeping with how God made us.But to

intervene to stop what is natural and good[human life is natural and good]and to separate sexual intercourse between married couples from  procreation,needlessly violates what is natural and good.To not be open to life [life made by God who is good and creates us in his image]is a greivous abandonement of a faith centered life. We're created for heaven- not to have all our ducks in order[just the right amount of children at just the right times in our lives,say].   

Mr.M.B:<Where in revelation can we find it> That is your main problem! Yes, directly nonewhere; indirectly-yes! Right now I donot have with me the bibliography on it, book on the history of contraception (or sth); my anti-Devil source are few thousands kilometer from  me thanks to the action such people  like you at one University in North America); your arguments are ....eternal like sophists, though on different subject;  you just ....repeats that of my personal enemy, Fr. Andre Guindon O.M.I (ex.Sexual Creators , and not....creatures (!); if you wish I can sent you officials letter [email protected] Vatican on my counterattack (1991/1992- you see how I foresaw it; he .....died beceasue of me.

HV just repeats again the Church on contraception from the past! What  do you expect? To change it because the contaceptice pill was invented? Use your intellect - about the lack you accuse JPii @HV- and not "feeling" of [email protected]; Yes, we know the procreative plan of God though we need to adjust  it to new conditions like God's plan in any natural sciences. 

Jesus never said you will know that you are my disciples by your sexual behavior


In his October 10/05/12 response to Patricia, Michael J. Barberi writes: "History is replete with many doctrines and teachings that were proclaimed by popes and bishops as truth, taught for centuries, and were later reformed: usury, slavery, freedom of religion, the torture of heretics, the ends of marriage. It took centuries for the Church to apologize for the Galileo affair. I could give you a list of other issues, but this discussion will get us no where based on your point of view of claiming the higher moral ground."


Barberi, like those supporting the nuns in the Vatican's crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, has discovered the fact that conservative, pre-Vatican II-minded Catholics are quick to claim the moral high ground via an appeal to the church's questionable wisdom and authority re: teaching on sexual behavior of which they have little knowledge -- beginning with their usual quick draw of the abortion card. 


Speaking of abortion, it is interesting to note the post-Vatican II abortion of the church's newborn collegiality by Pope Paul VI -- who along with the Curia panicked at this threat to their authority -- and its burial by his autocratic, monarchial-minded successors Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. (This was taken from my comment on John Wilkins' Oct. 12, 2012, piece, "Bishops or Branch Managers?")


For related insights on the governance of the institutional church and its potential pre-Vatican II future, see the following book reviews at <>. 


o "Back to the Future?" on Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose;

o "Father Greeley Was Prescient Re: Ratzinger Papacy" on Andrew Greeley's The Making of the Pope 2005


o "Fox's Book Relevant to the Times" on Matthew  Fox's The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved.


FYI, the second run of "A Church reborn," NCR's 52-page special edition on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, is now available for distribution. For ordering details visit the NCR website at, or call 800-333-7373.


Notwithstanding the undermining of Vatican II reforms by the pope and his curia, the people of God must continue to build on the council's spirit of renewal and foundational documents with unblinking eyes on John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Note that Jesus never said you will know that you are my disciples by your sexual behavior

To Mr Frank.G.S:Matthew 19:12 says nothing for you? St.Paul's teaching on marriage @ homosexual behviour is nothing for you? 

to remind you as you as most of graduates do not know: absolute laws are in only formal sciences! Natural sciences @others are governed just by probable laws but, ex. Sklodowska Marie -Curie, [email protected] bomb-by an analogy apply it to [email protected]. Devils are plenty also in Vatican not only in this world-do you believe (better, know) the Devil?- example: archbp Dabrowski, also as we know now, an agent (TW-secret cooperator)of KGB/UB he delievered a warrant to Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, a later martyr, because he (Fr.Jerzy)personally did refuse to receive such JUdge letter as a legal way to fight with Regime- what happened to Archbp Dabrowski? He died in a accident.

Of course it is too  much for your naive,by "feeling" understanding of the Bible.

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