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The Jews and the Masons, again...

What is with those people, messing with the Catholic Church? Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the schismatic traditionalists that Benedict XVI has been diligently courting for years, says he has been assured the pope is really on his side and we shouldn't pay any mind to the "political"cover stories coming out of the Vatican about Rome's problems with the SSPX.Besides, you know who is really at fault. CNS reports:

According to an audio recording posted on YouTube Dec. 30, the bishop gave a nearly two-hour talk Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario. He spoke about the society's three years of discussions with the Vatican over the society's future and explained how he interpreted behind-the-scenes communications about the talks.Apparently speaking without a text, he also called the Jewish people "enemies of the church," saying Jewish leaders' support of the Second Vatican Council "shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the church's." (The full audio is embedded below.)Those most opposed to the church granting canonical recognition to the traditionalist society have been "the enemies of the church: the Jews, the Masons," he said.

Well, there's the hermeneutic of continuity for ya.The pope got himself in a bit of trouble in 2009 when he "rehabilitated" Fellay and three other SSPX leaders, including Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier later thrown under the bus by Fellay, who is seen as the acceptable face of the Lefebvrists.Benedict later said that the Vatican failed to do a Google search on Williamson to learn about his proclivities beforehand, an explanation which seemed implausible given Benedict's longstanding ties to the SSPX and the SSPX's longstanding history of anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish statements.Williamson's defenestration and the purging of a couple other priests was said to have cleared that all up. Maybe not so much.Why is the Vatican continuing the pursuit of the SSPX? At what cost? A principal result of the reconciliation effort has been to shift the center of gravity in the church to the far right, so that right wingers who might have been on the fringe in years past are considered sensible centrists -- a phenomenon we have also seen in the Republican party in recent years. In the end, it may be irrelevant whether the SSPX or some of its elements return to Rome. The larger goal has been achieved.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Pope Benedict relies on his aides to keep him informed. He does not touch the internet himself, and whoever might have known of Williamson's crazy statements chose not to tell him about them.The people around Pope Benedict are trying to take advantage of his advancing years and put a slant to his words and opinions way beyond what he himself would approve. I believe that some of his speeches and homilies are written by his aides, and that a careful scrutiny might reveal which ones. The ones that show a mix of appreciation for the old and the new, a mix of positive and negative statements, and a somewhat balanced, sometimes inspired, vision, are by him. The ones that are uniformly positive about trad stuff and uniformly reserved or negative about V2 and post-V2 stuff are by his entourage.It is to Fellay's advantage to pretend he believes that Pope Benedict is secretly behind him. It's all lies and politics. Not that Pope Benedict is not responsible for his selection of advisors, but he's not the lying hypocrite portrayed in the article.

Anyone who has been following the debate among the "Tradis" will not be surprised by Fellay's associations of the Church's problems with Jews and Masons. It's a very old trope, which has usually included "Liberals" as well among the guilty leaders of the Great Apostasy. It's also clear that most of the Tradis don't think that the Vatican is pursuing them, and they point to Assisi III, to the appointment of Mueller to the CDF, and to the recent approval of the beatification of Paul VI as further obstacles in the way of a reconciliation. The general impression is one of a stall, at best.

Claire, I have no doubt that many around Benedict are spinning things the way they want, and fellay is certainly trying to spin things to maintain his position and to appear relevant. I suspect he may be less effective with his own party than John Boehner is with his right now. If the SSPX reconciles, I bet only a fragment return with fellay. Schismatics split; it's what they do. But Benedict is also a very shrewd and experienced ecclesiastical player. He has flourished in the upper reaches of church power his entire career, and has seen the game played close up.Moreover, he has been closely involved with the Lefebvrists and the Trads for decades, and knows them all very well. I just don't think that it is possible to argue that he does not know the views of people he has dealt with since he was in his 60s.

I feel very ambivalent about this group. I think they are a hate group and their anti-Semitism is revolting and should be condemned for the sinful behavior it is. But I don't think we should throw people out of our Church, no matter how awful; I think we should strongly and officially and continually disavow their words and actions as being sinful and un-Catholic.

"Associations of the Churchs problems with Jews" is a rather mild way to render Fellay's assertion that the Jewish people are "enemies of the church." I continue to find it offensive that members of the curia are courting Fellay. The man claims the pope's secretary -- that is Georg Ganswein -- told him not to worry about any opposition to SSPX within the Vatican, and that even if the CDF rules against reconciliation, the pope would overrule that decision. Pope Benedict has just named him titular archbishop of Urbs Salvia -- and head of the papal household. This is new and worrying. Not old and ho-hum.

David, for Pope Benedict, there is no point in outright lying when he can always just remain silent and let his aides lie instead of him. For him to lie would be not merely sinful but also stupid, don't you agree? That's my basis for believing him. I just don't understand why he'd go out on a limb and unnecessarily claim to not know about Williamson's Holocaust denial, if that's not true. Well - reading the letter on the Vatican website, , I see now that it is ambiguous: "An unforeseen mishap for me was the fact that the Williamson case came on top of the remission of the excommunication. [] That this overlapping of two opposed processes took place and momentarily upset peace between Christians and Jews, as well as peace within the Church, is something which I can only deeply deplore. I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson []" - Pope Benedict does not actually say that "the Vatican failed to do a Google search on Williamson to learn about his proclivities beforehand", but only that he had not realized what a big deal it would be. Unless there is another source, I think that you (and the whole world) may have misinterpreted what he said. Not sure it makes me feel any better, though.

Agree, David. He knows exactly who and what they are.Anyone who doesn't, hasn't been paying attention. Here's a little article from the Southern Poverty Law Center. I find it interesting because I used to look at the web site of one the places mentioned in the article. They provided pages of links, not only to anti-semitic stuff but to neo-Confederate sites and other similarly nauseating garbage., suddenly, the pages of links were gone.

In the talk given in Canada, Fellay says that even if there were to be a reconciliation, the SSPX would still consider itself obligated to call the Mass of Vatican II "evil." Quite apart from the several other major issues of disagreement, this one troubles me the most. How can there be a rapprochement with a group that thinks the Mass that the vast majority of Catholics participate in every Sunday is certainly illicit, and likely invalid? This has been the SSPX position for decades. Given their adamant view regarding the Missal of Paul VI, what sense did it make even to invite them to a dialogue, and a protracted one at that?Pope Benedict XVI, who will turn eighty-six in April and now is the fourth (soon to be third) oldest pope since 1400, is not surprisingly showing more signs of physical impairment, but there is no evidence that his keen mental abilities are diminishing. He makes the decisions and appointments, and writes the homilies and principal talks. Some lesser talks are no doubt drafted by others, but I doubt that the Pope gives any talk without signing off on it.Fellay says also that he has received assurances of the Pope's sympathy towards the SSPX from the Pope's personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein. Will the Vatican spokesman deny this? The Pope's secretary is now also the Prefect of the Papal Household, and so the gatekeeper to the papal apartment. This is unprecedented, at least in modern times. On Sunday, he will be ordained a bishop by Benedict. He will be not just a titular bishop, but a titular archbishop. I find this double appointment shocking.In the 1870s, Blessed John Henry Newman mused about the possible unhappy consequences of popes going on too long. (To put it mildly.) The resignation of a pope needs study and discussion, soon. Many have acknowledged the possibility, including the present Pope, but a resolute engagement of the subject is continually postponed.

The notion that it is not the king, but the king's evil (or incompetent) advisers, who are responsible for troubles is, of course, as old as monarchy itself. And by no means only in the West; it was something of a commonplace in Chinese imperial history, and for all I know, in Byzantine, Ottoman, Mughal, etc. etc. histories. It carries over into post-monarchical times as well, e.g. in the claims that Mao Zedong was shielded from the truth about the Great Famine of the late 1950s by his entourage (though today only the true believers still hold on to that notion) You could even make a case that such claims are not unknown in Washington.I think that what's more worrying about these kinds of stories is the sense that Benedict may be losing his grip -- his administrative grip, at any rate (always a danger in an absolute monarchy, as the Vatican claims itself to be). And it raises, not for the first time, the question about what would happen were a pope of advanced age to start to lose his mental grip as well (not that BXVI seems anywhere near that). Dementia, in its various forms, is frighteningly common, and as the medicine men manage to prop us up and keep us alive for an ever-increasing number of years, sooner or later it may well strike in Rome as elsewhere. In this country, Reagan's aides apparently covered up his oncoming Alzheimer's pretty well, and the story of Mrs. Woodrow Wilson concealing her husband's problems from press and public is well known. But of course both Wilson's and Reagan's terms of office would have come to a constitutional end within a few years. Unlike George III, whose mental illness (porphyria?) flared up from time to time since the early 1780s (I think), yet it was not until 1810 that a regency was established to do his work for him.

I am very slow in writing, even slower in typing. While I was "away" writing, others had already taken up some of my points. Sorry for the duplication.

You're all quite persuasive and depressing. To complete the picture, Wikipedia adds: "Ganswein initially began his seminary training at the international seminary in Ecne (Switzerland) run by the Society of St Pius X (SSPX). This was finally reported in 2009 by French magazine LExpress. No one at the Vatican has ever officially denied it."

Whatever happened to the Illuminati? Apparently, interest in that conspiracy theory is enjoying one of its periodic rises, if my student research papers are any indication.

"..he has been assured the pope is really on his side.."How reliable is what other people say the Pope will or won't do? I certainly don't follow the Pope closely, but he doesn't seem like someone to pigeonhole; he says and does surprising things. Someone (unnamed) asserting he is on these people's side doesn't mean he is.

If hou on't want to take an hour and forty mimutes to listen to the video, here is an unofficial transcript with some time markings. go to page 10 and look for a very long post by MatthewAt the end it says: Posted Jan 2, 2013, 2:03 amThe members of the group transcribed individual sections which were then assembled by the moderator. I havent compared this against the audio so, if you quote from this transcript, I would first go to the time point in the tape and satisfy yourself that the transcription is accurate.

It would be impossible for Benedict, living in Europe and especially during WWII, not to know the SSPX is antisemitic. There's a long history of the group being that .... they gave a hiding place to Paul Touvier, a Nazi collaborator charged with crimes against humanity, for instance. Here's an NCR article - Lefebvre movement: long, troubled history with Judaism

Typical. Everyone's whining about the Jews. But why ain't nobody upset about his being an anti-Masonite?!

I am trying to figure out, how awful must a group of people be for us to say we don't want them to be Catholics? I guess the SSPX are the ones doing the leaving, but a lot us are saying, well that's just fine. And it might be fine, but I'm trying to understand the criteria.I think they are a fringe group with some extremely disturbing beliefs. But if we're a Catholic family, just because some of us are awful, it doesn't mean they're not part of the family. And just because they're our family, it doesn't mean we can't think they're awful and can't stand in opposition to their bigoted beliefs. But there are probably fellow Catholics who wouldn't mind seeing liberal people like me leave (and the SSPX might be among them) so I'm reluctant to be telling other people to go awayAnd, ok, so they don't agree with some Church teachings. Me,neither. I just disagree on different things than they do, so I can't say they should go away for that reason.I completely understand why people dislike the SSPX, but maybe the Pope is doing the right thing reaching out to them. It would be good if he would also reach out to progressive Catholic groups on the margins, too.

Irene --It seems to me that the difference between people like you and me who disagree with the Vatican about some things and the SSPXers is that their bishops and priests claim to be the current real teachers of Catholic dogma. You and I don't make that claim. Teaching dogma is, of course, the function of bishops. So how to distinguish the bishops who are right from those who are wrong. The classic answer is that the teachings of all the bishops in concert with the pope are the msot authoritative, This is the very problem for the SSPXers -- they deny that V II had no such authority.

Oops -- they deny that V II had such authority.

In his very first homily as Pope, the Holy Father indicated that Christian Unity is his #1 priority. We've seen this time and again. If there are lost sheep, the Pope goes after them, making up new ways and means to make it happen if necessary.Personally I think the Pope should be seeking the strays. No?

From his inauguration homily:Here I want to add something: both the image of the shepherd and that of the fisherman issue an explicit call to unity. I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must lead them too, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd (Jn 10:16); these are the words of Jesus at the end of his discourse on the Good Shepherd. And the account of the 153 large fish ends with the joyful statement: although there were so many, the net was not torn (Jn 21:11). Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn! But no we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. Let us remember it in our prayer to the Lord, as we plead with him: yes, Lord, remember your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!

I read the transcript John Hayes provided above at 1/4: 9:30. If one can believe Bishop Fellay, he has been approached with very mixed messages from different parts of the Vatican (which is not hard to believe).If he speaks for the group, I can't imagine how one can reconcile with them when they are so baldly anti-Semitic and consider the Mass "evil". And besides Jews and Masons, he also lists "modernists" as the enemy of the Church. Would "modernists" be all of the rest of us?But I also thought his statement right before the tirade on the Church's enemies was interesting: "This Church is the Catholic Church, its OUR Church! Its sick, full of sickness, yes? So, be prudent. We are not going to abandon the Church no! If someone is sick in your family, you dont say, Get lost! Its your father! Hes sick! You take care of him! You dont let him, say I dont want anything to do with you no!"That's kind of how I feel about his own organization. I think the Vatican should draw a line in the sand about the anti-Semitism and the criticisms of the Mass, but should keep talking to them. As Kathy, said, it's the Pope's job to bring in the strays and we have a better chance of showing them the right way if they are part of us, not out there on their own just talking amongst themselves.But I would also like the Pope to work equally hard at reconciling with Roman Catholic Womanpriests.

What I'm going to say here, I wouldn't want to be construed as some sort of lowest-common-denominator-ism. I deplore anti-Semitism in the SSPX. I also wonder to what extent it continues to flourish among those who are fully in communion with the Catholic Church. Is it an issue that needs to be addressed within the Church itself? How much superior are we to them?I'm just asking the questions. I don't know the answer. When I was a teenager, rather a long time ago now, it wasn't that unusual to hear casual expressions of anti-Semitism, just as it wasn't that unusual to hear casual expressions of racism. I almost never hear either anymore. At the very least, we seem to have learned not to speak the thoughts aloud. Have our hearts changed? The church is a very, very big place, and I occupy a tiny patch of it. That I don't feel vibrations of anti-Semitism from where I sit doesn't mean that it's not happening elsewhere in the church.I guess I'm wondering if anti-Semitism is really a unique identifier of the SSPX, or if it's a symptom of something broader.

What if it was your subdivision? If the officers announced at the annual meeting that they intended to use a portion of the annual dues to attract new or former neighbors who were radical masculinists, anti-semites, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, etc., would you be content?If you raised an objection or questioned their goals, and they denounced you as a conspiracy theorist, would you assent? If they had obtained their positions because of the support of groups whose beliefs and practices you find obnoxious, would you put aside your personal values for the sake of . . . whatever?

Irene Baldwin wrote "I read the transcript John Hayes provided above at 1/4: 9:30. If one can believe Bishop Fellay, he has been approached with very mixed messages from different parts of the Vatican (which is not hard to believe)."But, after all that, he wrote a letter to the Pope and got an answer directly from him. This is interesting because it is the first time I have seen a precise statement of the requirements from the Pope that he refused go accept. "And so I write him: "Please tell us what you really think! What you want!" I also request an audience, but of course [chuckle] this was not granted. But I got a letter, an answer to that. It's the first time that the Pope does answer me, [0:55:00] anyway, and in this letter which is dated from the 30th June, we have these following points. First he says: "I did agree that we change the text." Then he said: "There are three points which you must accept, so that you will be recognised. The first is that it is the Magisterium which is the judge of what is Traditional[sic] or not." And, well that's true, that's point of Faith, so. But if we say yes they will use it against us, of course, so it's dangerous. Second point: "You must accept that the Council is integrante[sic] part of Tradition." That the Council Vatican II is traditional! Imagine! [0:56:00] During forty years themselves have said the contrary. Now they say it's traditional. And we say "Beg your pardon?" We say, "Look at the reality!" And the third point, we must accept that the New Mass is valid and licit. But that point I told them, "Well, we rarely use the word licit, we just simply say about the New Mass that it is evil." And um... that's the situation. I say with this clarifications, things are cleared but everything is blocked

What concerns me the most about this story is what Bishop Fellay said about Cardinal Hoyos. It is widely understood that the Vatican is requiring the SSPXers to accept the new Mass and the teachings of Vatican II. But the article quotes Bishop Fellay as saying that Cardinal Hoyos said to him, "That is not what the Pope thinks". So far none of the media seem to have asked C. Hoyos whether or not he said that. Think ahead: since C. Hoyos is often spoken of as papabile, it seems to me it should be a matter of some concern what C. Hoyos' view on the matter is.

No orthodox Christian would deny Jesus is the Good Shepherd. On the other hand, the history of the church shows that there is far from unanimous agreement that a pope can be legitimately regarded as fulfilling this role for Christianity. There is ample reason to question, if not deny, that Mt 16:18 is the foundational text for the papacy.Regarding Rome's shifting to the right, see Richard McBrien's:+ "Redefining the Center - I" at "Redefining the Center II" at "Redefining the Center III" at Ganswein's elevation to the episcopacy, his initial training at Econe, and his role as papal gatekeeper, one has to wonder what's going on in the Vatican.

Ann, there is no way Cardinal Hoyos can ever become pope. See for yourself:

Also, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos will be eighty-four in July. As a cardinal over eighty, he will not be in a future conclave. Papabile? No.

I have said before that I think many of the feature of the SSPX remind me of people with serious personality disorders, including their self and other destructiveness. What they say has just enough truth to sound credible but is so distorted that it will take hours and hours to patiently try to explain the matter to them. And even when you do, those words will be twisted in as negative a light as possible. If you have ever had the misfortune of having to interact with someone with a diagnosible personality disorder all the markers are there....including, yes...we must admit....certain charms. :(I think that the problem with the SSPX is psychological. They are living in past battles and wars that no longer exist. If, and that is a big if, there were historical animosities with certain Jewish groups or Masonic groups actively plotting to undermine the Church''s authority, that time has now long, loooong since past. Fellay is putting old wine in wineskins that are getting so thin that they cannot even hold it. It has all the hallmarks of desparation and living, literally, in the fullest sense of the word, in a fantasy world disconnected from real currents today.The issues we face in our current age are the forces of secularism and a dimming of appreciation of the religious dimension of human life. I think the Declaration on Religious Freedom, collegiality, and ecumenism were among the most prophetic features of the Second Vatican Council. It accurately foresaw the challenges facing not only Catholic life but religious life in general and saw that all this fighting was scandalous and contrary to the gospel. I think this is a consensus view and there has been more or less of a rapproachment with the Jewish community and the Catholic community and, perhaps, even now more of a mutual appreciation of traditions.

If Bishop Fellay sees modernists as enemies of the Church (see Irene Baldwin above), perhaps we had all better become post-modernists to keep him happy. (Though then we'd all have to learn post-modern lingo, which is not easy).

George D,Are you suggesting that no one can be Catholic without passing some sort of mental health screening?

George D. My question about psychologizing a whole group of people away is whether the analysis is meant to apply to all of them, to some of them, to their leaders. Another problem I have with the method is that it invites the counter-charge: E.g.: "O.K., you've given the deep psychological roots for why I hold what I hold. Now tell me what deep psychological roots nourish your view of me?"

Claire and JOhn Page --Thanks for the information about C. Hoyos' age. I didn't realize he is so old.

I don't believe that they, or anyone else, has to pass a mental health screening but I am suggesting that we, at least consider, the possibility that there may be other issues besides psychological ones at play. And yes I am serious.To Fr. K's point, this applies only to the leaders. I have no doubt that many of their followers, follow out of devotion to the old mass and tradition (at least as far as they interpret it). If that was the only obstacle, it is no longer an obstacle. The extraordinary form is already available and I would bet that addresses a good 85% of this issues that those who sympathized with their movement had. My late father was very sympathetic to Lefebvre so I understand all of this on a personal level.But, a fair analysis, has to, at least consider that there is at least some kind of psychological resistance since many of their concerns have been addressed with respect to the liturgy. But no, the Church isn't going to suddenly acquiesce to their spin on Catholicism.All conciliar and dogmatic texts, including, the Nicene Creed, were basically consensus documents. So the Vatican texts are consensus texts which means you may disagree with how something is phrased here or there but in the main, we all agree.Personally, I think the message to them simply needs to be, yes you are most welcome (whatever that means canonically) and here is what we believe and that will not change. The Vatican has had (it seems by all reports) painstaking, detailed, rigorous, discussions around all of the issues that they have. By far, much, much more than they have had with the LCWR! Some of the Vatican reps were Opus Dei people, etc so hardly unsympathetic. The SSPX leaders received a king's welcome (again much more than the LCWR would) and that was a mistake. As far as what nourishes my psychological roots of them, perhaps it is due to the fact that I can't stand attitudes of entitlement. Perhaps, it was because I was not the favoured son!!But least I didn't go and pout about it!! LOL

"I guess Im wondering if anti-Semitism is really a unique identifier of the SSPX, or if its a symptom of something broader." Anti-Semitism is still a problem among some Catholics as well as so many others. I would suggest a different perspective over this whole Lefebrite deal. We know that the Vatican is no longer Anti-Semitic as well as the rest of the leadership notwithstanding some others. They realize there is no going back. The Jewish leadership is highly contented with the advance we have made. As long as there is no approval by the Vatican of some of the statements of this group why not keep them in hoping to reach those who succeed them and are supervised by them.

A past Tablet editorial once said of the SSPX, they are evil. I agree. It's depressing that so many here can rationalize accepting them back.

Lot of "evil" talk here. The Lefebvrites think the post-conciliar Mass is evil; The Tablet thinks some of their views are evil; Ms. Watson seems to think that the SSPX is evil.

Yes, I think a group that says it's christian and yet perpetuates the hatred of Jews is evil.

Crystal,The leaders are certainly against love of neighbor. But what about those who follow them and are mislead by them? Can they be helped and brought back?

Father Joe Komonchak:Did Bishop Fellay say that the post-concilar Mass was "evil"? Or no? The SSPX has made clear that in any possible reconciliation the priests of the Society, even in case of pastoral necessity, would never accept saying Mass according to the Missal of 1970. However, Summorum pontificum stipulates that in extending the use of the Missal of 1962, the Holy Father would still require that priests who celebrate according to the most recent revision of the Tridentine Missal must be ready to use the Missal of Paul VI in cases where the faithful would otherwise be deprived of the Sunday Eucharist.The SSPX has been coddled and favored despite its venomous attacks on the Church of the Council, and even the post-conciliar popes have not been spared. Theological parsing notwithstanding, when is it time to name them "heretics" rather than the emollient "schismatics"?As well, the SSPX has already had dissident break-offs, and appears on the verge of still further divisions. The Old Catholic Movement that refused to accept the definition of papal infallibility is now all but dead. Pius IX and the subsequent popes virtually ignored them. It seems to me they've been proved right. These groups, as history amply attests, have a tendency to eat their own.How can the shepherd round up the stray when they continue, truculently, to ignore his solicitous call?

Bill,No, I'm speaking of the leaders, not the followers.

Thomas Reese SJ wrote about the church un-excommunication the SSPX in 2009 ... He wrote that the reason Benedict is willing to accept them back, while not being so forgiving of people like Call to Action or Fr. Roy Bourgeois, is all about turf. The SSPX, with all its lands and seminaries, has bishops, and bishops can make more bishops and more priests ..."Why is the Vatican putting so much effort into reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X? The real reason is because these men are bishops. If they were simple priests, the Vatican would not give them the time of day."

Crystal --I agree with Fr. Reese. Further, there are two facts about the SSPXers that are important in ways that Fr. Bourgeois is not notable. First, they support a very common prejudice, the prejudice against Jews, which would attract a goodly number of people to them. Second, they make a valid point about Vatican II which the Vatican itself is not willing to admit, namely, that the Second Vatican Council *reversed* some Catholic doctrines, notably the old doctrines about the Jews and Protestants being condemned to Hell. The SSPXers are *right* about that -- Vatican II changed some doctrine that previously had been held for centuries. This makes the SSPXers group very attractive to people who are convinced that "the Church does not change". In other words, the SSPXers hold some positions which are very attractive to many Catholics. If they broke away, others might follow them.The issue between the Vatican and the SSPXers is: does the Church ever change its doctrines? The Vatican *used to say* that it couldn't (and Benedict himself does sometimes echoes this position). But Vatican II showed that it could. There's the rub.

Ann nails a critical point: The SSPX has the true "hermeneutic of continuity." Rome can claim it, but only at the cost of either being laughable or rejecting Vatican II -- and the teaching that the Holy Spirit guided the bishops.The SSPX has the opposite problem. Bishop Fellay admits that the magisterium is the authoritative interpreter of tradition (in the part John Hayes provided at 11:59 yesterday). He says: "(W)ell thats true, thats point of Faith, so. But if we say yes they will use it against us, of course, so its dangerous." So he can't uphold the faith he broke away to uphold -- at least not while he is talking to Rome.The Vatican-SSPX talks might go better if both sides could acknowledge reality instead of standing on "doctrines" they are violating. It's hard to find truth when one starts from dishonesty.

Ann Olivier:I had twenty years of (strictly) Catholic education, and no one -- Sister, priest, or parent -- ever taught me that Protestants and Jews were going to hell. In the late 1940s, Father Leonard Feeney, SJ, was excommunicated for obstinately teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church, fifteen years before the opening of the Second Vatican Council.I think you are overlooking the hierarchy of truths. Every popular Catholic myth was not defined faith.

John Page: I believe the reports that Fellay said that the "New Mass" was "evil." And I reported this, so I'm puzzled as to why you ask me your question. I was struck that others seem so ready to use the same adjective in return.Ms. Watson: I don't think you fairly represent Fr. Reese's argument when you speak of the Pope's lifting of the excommunications as "all about turf."It shouldn't be necessary to say it, but I'm no defender of the SSPX, who I think are wrong on every one of the distinctive points in their dossier of grievances against Vatican II and Rome. But I will repeat that Fellay said nothing in the latest speech that he hasn't said elsewhere and often, and I find it odd that the issue is being raised at the very moment when the Lefebvrites themselves consider the talks to have failed and things to be back to square one. I also think that Lefebvre et al. are best understood against a background of intransigent Catholicism that goes back at least to the French Revolution and includes in its rogues' gallery Liberals, Masons, and Jews. They are also correct in saying that the Council reversed many of the typical orientations and strategies of modern Roman Catholicism. In his famous speech about interpreting Vatican II, Pope Benedict used the conciliar declaration on religious freedom as an illustration of his "hermeneutics of reform" in that it displayed both continuity and discontinuity at different levels. He was echoing the stronger statement that he made a couple of decades earlier when he spoke of that declaration and Gaudium et spes as "a counter-Syllabus," a comment that infuriated Abp. Lefebvre and has not been forgotten by his successors. I don't think we need to fear that the Pope is putting the conciliar teaching up for grabs.Finally, in the letter he wrote to bishops after the Williamson affair, the Pope gave a clear explanation of why he lifted the excommunications and was seeking to bring the Lefebvrites back into the fold. Perhaps people might like to address what he says there:

Thanks, Joe K. I jumped too quickly to an unwarranted conclusion. I appreciate the light you bring to this discussion. A blessed Epiphany feast! The reading from St. Leo in today's Office is one of my favorites,

JAK wrote "They are also correct in saying that the Council reversed many of the typical orientations and strategies of modern Roman Catholicism. In his famous speech about interpreting Vatican II, Pope Benedict used the conciliar declaration on religious freedom as an illustration of his hermeneutics of reform in that it displayed both continuity and discontinuity at different levels. He was echoing the stronger statement that he made a couple of decades earlier when he spoke of that declaration and Gaudium et spes as a counter-Syllabus, a comment that infuriated Abp. Lefebvre and has not been forgotten by his successors."I think he basic issue is who gets to interpret the content of tradition. Bishop Fellay says that the VII documents contradict statements in Mirari Vos, Quanta Cura and the Syllabus, etc. Benedict says (Christmas 2005, etc): yes, but not every statement in them is an eternal principle - many were responses to specific issues of their time and don't bind us today (in his language, they are "contingent")In +Fellay's recounting of he three points required of the SSPX in the June 2012 letter he received from the Pope, "the first is that it is the Magisterium which is the judge of what is Traditional[sic] or not.I suspect that a clearer statement of that would be that it is the Pope who is the judge of the content and meaning of Tradition.And that is the reason for +Fellay's unwillinnrss to agree.

"They are also correct in saying that the Council reversed many of the typical orientations and strategies of modern Roman Catholicism. In his famous speech about interpreting Vatican II, Pope Benedict used the conciliar declaration on religious freedom as an illustration of his hermeneutics of reform in that it displayed both continuity and discontinuity at different levels."JAK ==Pope Benedict keeps saying that there is "continuity" in the Church's teachings about the Jews, etc., even though he also says that at certain times the Church taught something different. Even he admits that the teachings sometimes were diferent, so he is simply not justified in saying that the teachings have been "in continuity" with the past. The best he can say is that the old teachings were dropped but have been resumed. His appeal to "contingent" circumstances explains only one thing -- why the teachings were changed. Those circumstances don't turn interrupted teachings into continuous ones. All this rigamarole about "continuity" and "contingency" misuses the established meanings of those terms, and it is an embarassment to the Church. And the allusion to "different levels" of something or other (truth? authority?) only obfuscates the matter.

Ann: The example the Pope adduced, and to which I referred, was not the statement about the Jews but the one about religious freedom, so your first point is not relevant to my post.Secondly, there is nothing illogical in saying that there is continuity in one teaching and not in another. He admitted that there was discontinuity between certain things in, say, the Syllabus of Errors and Dignitatis humanae, so he escapes the strictures of your second paragraph. That there was nothing continuous on the level of principle between the two documents I think he would deny, just as I would.John Courtney Murray argued that there were three essential principles that controlled Catholic teaching on Church and State:

(1) The first principle is that of "the freedom of the Church." The Church must be free fully to exercise her power to teach, sanctify, and rule, and to this end to "occupy ground" in this world....(2) The second principle is that of the necessary harmony between "the two laws" whereby the life of man is governed--the divine law, both natural and positive, and the human law made by the political power..... As a member of two societies the human person has the inherent right to demand that the two laws whereby he is governed should be in harmony with each other; if they are in conflict, the conflict is felt within him, and results in the destruction of his inner integrity.(3) The third principle is that of the necessary cooperation between Church and State, each in its own order, towards the total good of man. The principle itself is always valid; but the forms of this cooperation have varied. They are not determined by the nature of the Church, or by the nature of man. Rather, they are determined by the special character of particular political societies as these exist in varying and changing historical contexts. The forms of political society, like the forms of private property, are subject to historical evolution, especially in what concerns the institutions of government. The modern lay democratic state can be regarded as a legitimate term of that progressive development of the distinction and relative independence of "the two societies" which is visible in political and ecclesiastical history.

Murray concluded his argument:

The conclusion from the foregoing is that the affirmation of American political principles entails no denial or diminution of traditional Catholic principles regarding the relationship between Church and State.On the contrary, only the manner of applying these principles need be different, in order that Catholic doctrine may be vitally adapted to this modern form of the democratic State.

Now one may disagree with one or another of the stated principles, but one can also see that an intelligent argument is being made here which could well illustrate Pope Benedict's distinction between enduring principles and concrete applications. There is no rigamarole about it, nothing embarrassing about it. I would like to know what "established meanings" of "continuity" and "contingency" are misused in the argument of either man.

I have just posted on my blog the essay of Murray from which I quoted in the previous post:

I have to say that it is dreadfully difficult to first understand and then explain ideas such as partial communion, levels of continuity and discontinuity, hierarchies of truths, and more generally everything that is not black and white.

JAK --The problem I was addressing is how Benedict has reacted to the SSPXers' contention that "the Church never changes its teachings"As you say, Benedict (at times) admits that some teachings have changed insofar as specific applications of certain general principles have changed. But notw consider what he said in 2005. According to Sandro Magister, he quoted JP II on the truths of the faith, and then commented on what John XXIII had said, and then appealing to "the of discontinuity and rupture" and "the hermeneutics of reform" as contrasting ways of interpretation:"I would like to quote pope John XXIII's well known words in which this hermeneutic [of reform] is unequivocally expressed when he said that the Council ;wishes to transmit doctrine pure and whole, without attenuating or falsifying it', and continues: 'Our duty is not only to watch over this precious treasure, as if we were only concerned with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with active will and without fear to this work, which our age demands... It is necessary that this sure and immutable doctrine, faithfully respected, must be deepened and presented in a way that answers the needs of our time. One thing is in fact the deposit of faith, that is the truths contained in our venerated doctrine, and another thing is the way they are enounced, maintaining nevertheless their same meaning and scope' (S. Oec. Conc. Vat. II Constitutiones Decreta Declarationes, 1974, pp. 863-865)." especially that the hermeneutic of reform "wishes to transmit doctrine PURE AND WHOLE, WIHOUT ATTENUATING OR FALSIFYING IT". It is "SURE AND IMMUTABLE". I grant you that John XXIII thinks it must be expressed in different ways -- but the SAME DOCTRINE MUST BE PRESERVED IN THE NEW LANGUAGE -- INCLUDING THE SCOPE OF THE DOCTRINE. This clearly implies that the Catholic doctrine cannot change at all (even in scope, in specifics)) without falsifying the old. Benedict here agrees with this view, so it is understandable that Benedict avoids making such a bald statement as "a teaching was changed". He would prefer some other way of talking about the differences in teachings. Now consider what he said this very week about the difference between the teachings of Vatican I and Vatican II about freedom of religion. He said that the teaching of Vatican I was "not sufficient". He did not say outright that it was wrong/false/mistaken/at variance with today's teaching -- no, according to Benedict this week it was just "not sufficient" -- and he said this even after he has already admitted elsewhere that it is different, i.e., changed -- wrong.He contradicts himself from speech to speech. No doubt the SSPXers have noticed. myself have no problems with changing specific teachings while retaining the general. What I have problems with is Benedict's *implication* in other contexts that there are no changed specifics -- that "Church teachings" remain "whole and immutable".

OOps -- should be: He has already admitted in other places that before the teahing was changed it WAS WRONG.

Claire --I have problems with any theory of "a hierarchy of truth" other than a hierarchy among more and less general truths and specific and particular ones. My big problem is with the levels of authority of Church teachings which are sometimes spoken of as if different "having different levels of authority" confer different levels of truth on statements. Yes, there are different levels of certitude, but certitude is an attitude towards a statement (confidence). Certitude is not a grasp of the truth of the statement. The authority to teach possessed by an individual is not identical with what is taught, and that is quite different from the "authority" of the statement itself. Granted, some authority to teach possessed by a person is greater or less than other's authority. But *what is taught* cannot be both more or less true, no matter how much the Curia would like some statements to be hedgeable. If Church teachings are truly inspired, they cannot be false in the least.

Ann: Re your comment: "If Church teachings are truly inspired, they cannot be false in the least." The traditional view is that only the Scriptures may be said to be "inspired", a term that is not properly applied to Church teachings, even those dogmatically defined.The conciliar comment--"When comparing doctrines [i.e., Catholic and non-Catholic doctrines], they [Catholic theologians] should remember that in Catholic teaching there exists an order or 'hierarchy' of truths, since they vary in their relationship to the foundation of the Christian faith."--does not suggest that some truths are "more true" than others, but that they vary in their relationship to what is fundamental in Christian faith. Some doctrines are closer, some more distant. I think the sentence was designed as a way of suggesting that in ecumenical conversation one should not confuse the central and the peripheral, to change the metaphor, with perhaps the suggestion that the conversation ought to focus on the central, as indeed has happened in the last fifty years.It is traditional also to distinguish the degree of authority that stands behind doctrines, that is, the degree to which the Church has committed itself to them. In that sense, there would be greater authority--trustworthiness--behind something that has been universally believed and has been dogmatically defined in an ecumenical council (e.g., the Holy Trinity) and something that has been simply a pious belief (e.g., guardian angels?). (The two examples could also illustrate the meaning of a "hierarchy" of truths: belief in the Holy Trinity is more fundamental, more central, to Christian belief than belief in guardian angels.)

Father K, I normally try to stay out of arguments with people smarter than me, but in your discussion with Ann you are focusing on what the magisterium (pope) thinks it (he) is doing. But if the faithful get it fouled up -- believe, for example, that guardian angels are as important as the Trinity or that the Jews always were and always will be "perfidious" -- how does it help the Church's mission that the shepherds know what they are doing if all the while the sheep keep thinking what they (wrongly?) think they were (wrongly?) taught?

Joseph;Are you trying to state that angels are mere literary devices?

Mr. Blackburn: It doesn't help the Church's mission.Dr. Smythe: No, and I wonder why you ask.

Does Augustine's dictum, as embraced by Newman, "Securus iudicat orbis terrarum" ("The verdict of the world is conclusive"), have bearing on the SSPX's exalted claims regarding the errors of the Second Vatican Council, and on the several facets of the discussion of same represented on this thread? I tend to think it does, but I defer to the those better versed in theology than I. I just can't see Newman's being persuaded by the position of Fellay and his followers.

John: I think the dictum does apply. All of the conciliar texts were passed by overwhelming majorities and the reforms authorized by the Council have also been accepted and received by the great majority of Catholics. The SSPX represent a tiny percentage of Catholics worldwide, and one would have to believe that a general apostasy has taken place in the Church for them to be considered the "true" Catholic Church, the faithful remnant. In his little book on the Lefebvre case, Fr. Congar made a similar argument about them.

Were the reforms of the post-Conciliar commissions broadly accepted? I wonder. There certainly was a remarkable exodus from religious and liturgical life at the time. I'm not questioning the Council, but the success of its immediate implementation.

I should explain my remarks above. I've spoken to a number of people who left liturgical practice after the Council because they felt like there was nothing for them at Mass anymore. Recently I spoke with a priest who left his religious community and became a secular priest because the liturgical life proper to his Order prior to the Council was perceived to be outlawed. I think there was a lot of quiet shuffling out the door, folks no one has ever counted.

Kathy: I think we can probably all mention similar anecdotes, but I don't think they will add up to a number sufficient to challenge my comment above about "the great majority of Catholics" and the reception of the Council.

Similarly to what David Nickol wrote in the latest thread about gays: "A big question for the Catholic Church (or any religion, I suppose) is how it chooses to interact with people it wishes to evangelize but will not accept into the fold until there is some kind of conversion.Of course, the question would be quite different if the Church did not consider disagreement on [conciliar] matters of such importance that if you disagree, you place yourself outside the Church. It seems to me, in spite of the fact that some even claim that [Vatican II documents] are infallible, that [liturgy] is a matter about which if you dont get too vocal in your disagreement, you are not considered outside the Church. But [submission to papal authority] is a matter that, however privately you dissent on, you are considered outside the Church. And if you speak up, you will be disciplined or silenced."

Fr.,What would the percentage have to be to qualify as a challenge?Another anecdote: once I worked as a research assistant for a sociologist. If anyone did anything particularly pious (left parish ministry for a spiritual motivation, e.g. to become a Benedictine), that person's questionnaire was discounted. The person was called, quote, "an unusual person," and their response was not noted.

Kathy: High enough so that the majority is no longer great.

Fr.,Priestly ordinations for the US halved between 1965 and 1990. The religious brotherhood and sisterhood declined by much more than half in the same period. don't think the reception of the post-conciliar liturgy was a rousing success.

"Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the schismatic traditionalists that Benedict XVI has been diligently courting for years, says he has been assured the pope is really on his side "Can we prove that he isn't? Benedict almost restored the "perfidious Jews" prayer, and when forced to change it brought back the idea that Jews need to be converted to Jesus (in clear opposition to John Paul II).Benedict believes that the Old Testament is not Scripture in the full sense as the New Testament is and that Isaiah's hope for world peace was an illusion transcended by Jesus who brought inner peace instead. Marcion?

Personally, I think angels are literary devices, and are consciously used as such by the biblical authors.

Fr. K - your earlier comments about anti-Semitic language from the SPPX, Masons, liberals, etc. Can you comment about the false allegations made by curial conservatives & opponents of some of VII about Bugnini as a Mason? It seems to be in step with the Fellay comments.Kathy - would suggest that you are repeating the traditionalist mantra about how Vatican II can be completely judged by number of vocations, mass attendance, etc. It is a mantra because it confuses categories, makes a sweeping over-generalization, and makes room for no type of nuance.Reality - others have demonstrated through sociological and theological studies that the West underwent dramatic cultural and societal changes in the second half of the 20th century. Some theologians and church fathers were already discussing trends indicating that church attendance, etc. were being impacted by the pre-Vatican II liturgy, catechesis, etc. This was one of the drivers behind a *reformed* liturgy. Sociology trackes cultural changes - they do not happen overnite and can take decades. The sexual revolution, changes in politics, views on gender equality, racial equality, human rights, etc. were significant in the second half of the 20th century (these had nothing to do with Vatican II).And what does your *thesis* say when we have seen explosive Church growth in the southern hemisphere - almost 100% along the lines of Vatican II. Your mantra seems to be isolated to a narrow, European dominated cohort - a cohort that was already having trouble by the time of Vatican II.Other church historians have shown that religious vocations at the mid-20th century were an anomoly in church history - the total number of priest/nun vocations had never been that large - it was an outlier. The numbers or pattern in terms of vocations returned to historical patterns by the 1990s. Again, this had little to do with Vatican II. These same researchers have shown (with a few exceptions) that most religious orders are founded for specific reasons, grow, meet a specific need, and die out within a hundred years (an average). Keep in mind, religious/clerical vocations is not the goal of the church.You seem to imply that the life of the church can be measured only by the number of religious vocations.....well, that measure has never really been used in the history of the church. Rather, measuring the life of the church was based upon other things e.g. specific religious orders or leaders/founders who arrived to address specific church needs (rather than to only found an order - rather a selfish goal). Vatican II deliberately re-looked at theology and structure so that the people of God were a starting point for the mystery of the church through Jesus Christ; not clerical vocations; not a hierarchy and they redefined church vocations - they are servants and ministries to meet specific needs. They exist to serve the church - not the other way around.

A very devout and conservative relative of mine said the best way to move past calls for Latin Masses is for people to actually attend one. He went to one recently and he said it reminded him how glad he was that we got rid of them. I guess not all who remember the old ways mourn their passing.

Bill,I don't have a "mantra." And surely you will agree that belittling characterizations have no place in reasonable argument, here or elsewhere. Besides their obvious rudeness, they immediately make an argument look weak, because they seem to say that a person feels the need to bolster his/her side of the argument with insults. If you really believe in what you are saying, why not just say it.You have a point regarding the worldwide Church. But discussions hereabouts tend to be about American Catholicism. Charity begins at home. Here in the States there was an immediate, precipitate flight from the commitment that lifelong religious vocations represent. Any parish worker will tell you that weddings are still on the decline, so it is not as though the vocation to matrimony has taken up where religious life left off. Fr. Komonchak, I thought, suggested that the flights following the Council were anecdotal and not widespread enough to reflect poorly on the post-Conciliar implementation. I think the statistics tend to argue otherwise. I also think that discussions will be more fruitful when they distinguish between what the Council Fathers themselves wrote, and what was implemented by working groups.

Yes, some of the reforms of the Council had begun years prior to it. Maybe one reason that Vatican II has been followed by a mass exodus from the Church is that Vatican II was actually too little too late. :-(

Kathy: To clarify: I pointed out the anecdotal character of your, er. anecdotes, and said that they were not enough to belie the claim that the great majority of US (and other) Catholics had received the Council, and this in support of the view that "the whole world is a safe judge," against the Lefebvrites. I wasn't making any great claims about how well the Council was implemented, and your questions are legitimate: Why did the reform of the liturgy not result in an increase in Mass-attendance? Why were texts about the priesthood and religious life--texts that went far beyond pre-conciliar dreams--followed by a mass exodus and precipitous declines in vocations? I'm sure the answers need to be complex--and Bill de Haas points to some of the complexities--, but the questions are legitimate. Bill de Haas: I've read that Bugnini was banished to Iran because he was accused of being a Mason. There are people who see a Mason behind every other tree--e.g., John XXIII, Paul VI, and others whose views and actions they disagree with it.

Thank you, Fr. K. I think they are not only legitimate but essential questions, and I agree that the answers would be complex. I would enjoy teasing them out, with as much light (and as little heat) as possible.

Thanks, Fr. K.Kathy - you quibble and your anecdotes from a couple of personal experiences color what you are asking or saying. You started with a question, immediately linked to a statement - e.g. "Were the reforms of the post-Conciliar commissions broadly accepted? I wonder. There certainly was a remarkable exodus from religious and liturgical life at the time. Im not questioning the Council, but the success of its immediate implementation."You then posted a statement about *halved* ordinations and link to mass attendance. Again, you posited an assumption that less ordinations and mass attendance impacted the success of VII implementation. Sorry if you interpret my response as *heat* but your anecdotes remind of the usual *mantra - banter* that you read on traddie blogs. The sub-set is the frequent haranguing about how traditional orders vocations are booming vs. so called VII orders (experts have studied, explained, and corrected this mantra caricature) - if anything can be said, it is that traditional orders have refused to implement lots of VII.You responded to my *heat* but not the core of my response or points, again. Let's ask questions but let's not skew the analysis from the get go by assuming your *measuring* stick or leaping to the conclusion that less ordinations or mass attendees are directly linked to VII implementation. In fact, most church historians writing about VII and its implementation would posit that JPII and even more, Ratzinger/B16 have *paused* or *turned back* VII goals, directives in terms of VII's implementations. Examples - new code of Canon Law 1983 (ignored or failed to express VII directives e.g. collegiality); liturgical changes e.g. Summorum Pontificum, Liturgiam Authenticam, Vox Clara, etc.You quickly dismiss my comment about 2/3rds of the church where VII seems to be an overwhelming success. You choose to focus on the European/N. American church - as I suggested earlier, trends and patterns in terms of mass attendance were already decreasing by the time of VII and societal/cultural changes only speeded this up. Have not even mentioned the *elephant in the living room* - Humanae Vitae....which had nothing to do with VII and, in the eyes of many, undercut what VII directed. Any sociologist would show that marked decreases happened after 1968 - European/N. American church did not accept its teaching...leading to changes in authority acceptance, responses to epsicopal announcements, etc. At least in the US, by 1980s we had a significant change in the tone and style of US bishops - conservative, authoritarian, etc. and continued decrease in mass attendance. In fact, the other significant *elephant in the living room* is the current curial/papal/US episcopal denial and avoidance of the lack of mass attendance - what you see, instead, are weak efforts called *new evangelization*, etc.Again, agree with Fr. K - the question is good but your continued anecdotes and sweeping generalizations/connections don't shed much light on the subject.

Bill, calm down. Honestly. Hopefully we are all looking for the truth here, right? Because best pastoral practices take into account their effects on human beings. I realize these particular issues have been troped again and again, on both sides. But that is not what I am trying to do, and I would ask you once again to stop the name calling. I really have trouble hearing your valid points over the shouting.If we are to have any clarity on this subject, I think we should probably begin by avoiding generalizations about "what Vatican II said." When referring to the Council's teachings, I think we should ordinarily begin with the texts of its documents.

Okay, Kathy - but your last line is another matra - "When referring to the Councils teachings, I think we should ordinarily begin with the texts of its documents."That is a nonsensical approach - we don't do that with scripture unless you believe *literalism* is part of the church tradition (it is not).Fr. K has written authoritatively on this subject and coupled with the likes of O'Malley, Faggioli, Baldovin, Congar, etc., you can't just start with the texts and expect that this will provide some type of *enlightenment*.

Bill deHaas: If we want to find "what Vatican II said" or "the Council's teachings," surely we have to go first to the texts: that's where the Council said what it said, taught what it taught." That's not the end of the interpretation, but it surely is part of it. And I think the same is true of reading the Scriptures. If someone accuses St. Paul of something, I have a right to ask, "Where did he say that? In what text?" And this isn't "literalism"?

For those who read French, here's a note making the point I made above about Fellay and the Jews, Masons, Liberals, Modernists, etc. here is the Vatican's reaction to the Fellay comments:

I finally took a deep breath and looked at the transcript. Fellay says that Jews are enemies of the Church. In 2012! Given that, if we're going to hold our nose and, in spite of the pestilence, pay any attention at all to what he is saying, we should start by assuming that whatever opinion he has on anything, the opposite opinion is the one more likely to be true.That is why there can be no dialogue with the SSPX. It is impossible to be open in the presence of the repulsive stench of anti-Semitism. If some people want to do the dirty job of negotiating with them, let them try, but they may get stained in the process. (How come they're not repulsed? Isn't that suspect already?)Fellay makes me think of Fanny in the fairy tale "diamonds and toads". "When Fanny arrived home, she told her story to her mother and disgusting toads and vipers fell from her mouth with each word. [] In time, even the widow was sickened by her older daughter, and drove her out, and she died alone and miserable in the woods."

I think everyone agrees that there is an important difference between causation and association. There are a countless number of very significant movements, trends, and events that have occurred in the church and in the world in the time since the conclusion of Vatican II. Lots of things that have happened in the church since 1965 are associated with either the texts or with forces set in motion at Vatican II but not caused by them. The decline in the number of couples coming to the church to arrange a wedding is one such item. This is partially the result of a significantly reduced birth rate. It is also a consequence of the sexual liberation movement which certainly accelerated in the 60's but cannot be traced to any conciliar teaching of implementation that occurs to me. It is further associated with the movement against authorities of all kinds which was perhaps kindled by the anti-war movement, the watergate scandal, as well as the reaction to Humanae Vitae. But while there are less weddings in the church by those entering marriage, there has been a huge increase in the number of couples reconciled to the sacramental life of the church after a failure in marriage through the annulment process and other pastoral initiatives. With regard to the great decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life we must also consider the astronomical increase in the number of Catholics embracing the call to service and holiness because of a renewed understanding of the sacraments of initiation. The number of individuals seeking degrees in theology, biblical studies, liturgy, and canon law now far exceeds the number of seminarians and priests who sought them in the glory days of old. Whether this was caused by VII or merely associated with it I'm unsure. As to attendance at Mass: I think the decline may be directly attributable to the changes both in the liturgy and the manner in which priests have exercised their pastoral ministry. In the past priests--and their episcopal superiors--were perceived as the only ones who knew what the church believed and could teach it authoritatively. What Father said was supposed to be followed, whether it always made a lot of sense or not. So if he said eating meat on Fridays would result in eternal hellfire, so be it. Following VII, priests are not the only people who have access to the history or teachings of the church. They can no longer just tell people what they are supposed to believe or supposed to do without expecting some critical assessment by the people. Some people needed to be told what to do and what to think and were scandalized by the notion that they might have to do some thinking for themselves. Many of these "more Catholic than the Pope types" left the church shaking the dust from their feet. Another cohort that left includes those whose passivity during the Mass of old left them thinking that fully, conscious, and active participation in Mass was just about a lot of noise and moving around. Nor had it occurred to many of them that there was a huge connection between how and what we prayed on Sunday and what we did during the rest of the week. Now they were faced with calls to be actively involved in parish life which included participation in adult education classes, and many just thought it was too "protestant" for them. Did I mention the folks who thought it was also too protestant for them to be singing during Mass? Anyway, there's lots to consider when assessing what was or was not caused with VII.

Thanks, Fr. Jack - excellent comment.Fr. K - sorry if I have pricked something; of course your f/u comment is correct but, IMO, disingenous at best. Kathy's pattern is to quote from traddie blogs - her two comments are typical and her f/u statements or historical connections reveal little beyond the usual traddie mantras. Not sure what the agenda is here but will leave it at that.Would end by just adding that two topics were not allowed to be discussed at Vatican II by Paul VI - birth control and celibacy. Would suggest that papal action or inaction on both of these topics had more to do with the last 40 years than any judgment about VII implementation. Add to that papal centralization; sexual abuse scandals, financial scandals, church/school closures that are only increasing....and the pattern of institutional/clerical denial is there.

Bill deHaas: What is a f/u comment? I don't understand your reply to me.

Bill deH. --I didn't know that Paul VI had forbidden discussion of contraception and celibacy at VII. That implies that there were bishops at that time who already saw them as significant problems and wanted to discuss them. How different the history of the Church might have been had the topics been debated! Yes, maybe VII just didn't go far enough to stem the upcoming exodus. Denial, denial, denial. When will the Vatican learn that it never works.

f/u is 'follow up' comment, I think, based on some on-line searches and the context.

F/U - sorry for corporate jargon....*follow up* as in:"If we want to find what Vatican II said or the Councils teachings, surely we have to go first to the texts: thats where the Council said what it said, taught what it taught. Thats not the end of the interpretation, but it surely is part of it. And I think the same is true of reading the Scriptures. If someone accuses St. Paul of something, I have a right to ask, Where did he say that? In what text? And this isnt literalism?"Assumed we all know that this is the staring point but Kathy's comment is too often *code* for a traddie mantra that justifies some type of alternative universe approach - the hermeneutic of continuity or reform of the reform in continuity, etc. Read Fr. Z's blog. It eventually becomes a circular argument that goes nowhere. Thus, start with the text can mean rejecting any type of interpretation (sorry, hermeneutic) that sees Vatican II as an *event*; or sees the spirit of Vatican II as a reality; or accepts the usually accepted Alberigo interpretation (you were the english editor?); that wants to somehow ignore the notes and records of the council written by the likes of Congar, Rahner, Ratzinger, Schillebeeckx, etc. Often it means you can copy/paste from a VII document and then, as if there is no history, context, different sides to the question, or even that the final language was a compromise - you can write and interpret as if the Ottaviani camp wrote this specific paragraph and it means *whatever* as opposed to what the *spirit of VII* folks have said. It all gets very tiresome and frustratiing.Not unlike those who take the Advent talk by B16 and see it as some type of full blown reform of the reform that shows that B16 felt that all prior interpretations were a rupture and only his ROTR movement would save us from this wrong approach. Actually, as you have written, B16 emphasized the it was a hermeneutic of reform - and that the extreme positions pushed one to either rupture or that nothing happened at Vatican II (well, it was a pastoral council - another mantra). You alos posit that he was speaking to groups such as SSPX - rather than the usual approach by the ROTR folks who use this talk as a cudgel against reform, spirit, etc. Or we get the even more exotic - *mutual enrichment* stuff.

I suppose I can keep talking about this, even in a climate of suspicion, but that really makes it more difficult. Still I would like to continue if we can.

Here's an effort of the SSPX effort to contain the fire: deHaas: My students used to express surprise upon reading SC 36:1-2 and would ask how it happened that the vernacular was introduced into the whole of the liturgy and Latin largely disregarded. Their questions contained no "codes" and didn't come from Tradi sties. Many people rightly claim that the Council's teaching on collegiality and co-responsibility has not been adequately received. How can one assess that claim except by close examination of the conciliar texts on the subjects, texts that, of course, need to be understood historically and contextually and with whatever auxiliary helps are available. But it remains that the texts are the starting-point for any understanding of the history of the reception, or non-reception, of the Council's teaching.In the last chapter of Models of the Church, Avery Dulles called for "a collective and ecumenical application of the 'presupposition' set forth by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises: 'Let it be presupposed that every good Christian is more ready to save his neighbor's proposition than to condemn it.'"

Kathy, if you want to avoid a climate of suspicion, you probably had better choose a thread other than one about the SSPX and anti-Semitism if you want to start criticizing the council.Fr K, was that last paragraph for me? I know my last comment was intemperate, but do not wish to even try to apply self-restraint against anti-Semitism. Intemperate, and with no regrets.

Claire: No, I did not have you in mind at all.

Claire - he was continuing to respond to my earlier comments directed to Kathy.Fr. K - totally agree with what you have written and hope that in my historical and current life that I have approached scripture, theology, ecclesiology, liturgy, and pastoral questions in this way. Again, agreed with you earlier. I may state this approach by highlightiing or emphasizing a different part of your statement but agree with it. Would suggest that we only differed earlier in our emphases.This started with a question and immediate statement by Kathy - and I reacted not to the question but the statement. Sorry if my reaction (use of the term *code*) is what precipitated this off the subject comment trail. Yes, you are correct (quoting Avery Dulles) that I reacted to what Kathy stated and then reacted when she became defensive and sought some type of support that her initial question was a good one. She then changed the subject again and threw out the line about *starting from the texts*. You and I will have to agree to disagree in terms of my reaction and reading into Kathy's statements. Find her comments to follow a pattern; connect dots that just aren't there historically; and appear to mimic some of the same topics in some of the most outspoken traddie blogs e.g. Fr. Zuhlsdorf, etc. You are correct that this may not be fair but will leave it up to other dotCommonweal commenters on whether I have over-reacted or misread Kathy on that point (see Claire's comment above). (Didn't you teach Kathy at some point? wonder if that reflects some subjectivity in your comments? Have you also given me and my comments the same treatment as advocated in your Avery Dullles' quote- yes, you did affirm some of my propositions in my initial reponse)Allow me to go back to the initial question/statement and cite Congar (1978-79):"I do not believe that the present crisis is the fruit of Vatican II. On the one hand, much of the disturbing facts we see today were on their way already in the 1950s, sometimes already in the 1930s. Vatican II has been followed by a socio-cultural mutation whose amplitude, radicality, rapidity, and global character have no equivalent in any other period of history. The Council felt this mutation, but it did not know every aspect nor its violence."Will just leave it at that! (vs. anecdotal stories that provide a sweeping generalization about VII failure based upon mass attendance and lack of clerical vocations)

Bill deHaas: You wrote: "Didnt you teach Kathy at some point? wonder if that reflects some subjectivity in your comments?"You might consider that it might have led me to a greater objectivity in her regard.

It was one of the toughest classes I took, and the one I looked forward to the most.It is true that I believe that the documents of Vatican II are to be taken as they are, without much consideration of the context. I certainly do not feel that they should be taken as compromise documents. Yesterday I decided to read from The History of Vatican II. I read the introduction to the first volume, and a lot of Fr. Komonchak's essay on the Preparatory phase. Liturgy was obviously an interesting aspect of the preparatory phase. Maybe that is a place to start.The introduction to Volume I does seem to say that context is all-important for interpreting the event of the Council. I guess the presupposition there is that the event-character of the Council is important for interpreting the documents. If I am reading this correctly, then I differ with the orientation of The History in that regard. Bill, you are right to think that I read the documents "out of context" in that sense.

If I understand what Bill de Haas is saying, it would be a little odd to posit that Vatican II led to a decline in vocations, Mass attendance in the US, just because one event preced the other isn't enough to make that connection. Is it also then equally responsible for the growth of Catholicism in emerging nations?And I can't imagine that switching to an SSPX type Church (even one without the controversies) would bring hordes of new Catholics to the Church in the US. And how big is its membership among Catholics in African and Asian nations?

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