VATICAN II IN THE DOCK
A recent article in the New York Times about the impact of the Second Vatican Council on the Church commented matter-of-factly: "The Council's documents, shaped by the bishops and their theological advisers in four two-month sessions held each fall from 1962 through 1965, offer more than enough compromises and ambiguities for conflicting interpretations."
There is no doubt about it. As the most verbose Council in the history of the Church by at least a factor of six, it is the sheer volume of words that smothers a plain interpretation of many Vatican II documents, providing support both for a novel and a traditional meaning. "The council’s lack of precision," writes Professor Romano Amerio, a pre-eminent Conciliar analyst who worked as a peritus on the draft schemas to be discussed at Vatican II, "is admitted even by those theologians most faithful to the Roman See, who attempt to acquit the council of blame in the matter. But it is obvious that the need to defend the univocal meaning of the council is itself an indication of its equivocal character." It must be stated from the outset, however, that this damning assessment is also why the ultra-sceptics are wrong to suggest that the Holy Spirit took an extended holiday from 1962-65. On the contrary, while He may not have inspired Vatican II, the Holy Spirit remained on duty the whole time, working flat out to save the Council from itself and its own verbiage! Often it was a close run thing, too, relying on last minute insertions of vital footnotes in order to keep a text, however tenuously, Catholic. Attempting "to acquit the council of blame" in all of this simply will not do. There are facts to be faced, judgements to be made and blame to be directly apportioned.
To begin with, it is a fact that those infamous ambiguities and loopholes found their way into the Council documents thanks to the disproportionate influence of a coterie of renowned Modernist theologians - Chenu, Kung, Schillebeeckx, Congar, Danielou, Rahner, de Lubac, Ratzinger and the rest. Each previously suspect or condemned by the Vatican - and all implicitly condemned by Pius XII’s 1950 Encyclical Humani Generis - they were conveniently rehabilitated for the occasion and called to Rome by John XXIII. "Fr. de Lubac later told me," recalled Yves Congar, "that it was John XXIII himself who had insisted that we both become members of this commission [that prepared the Council]." Subsequently lauded and supported by their patron Paul VI (who as Cardinal Archbishop of Milan had led the Modernist faction of the Sacred College together with notorious prelates like Konig, Suenens, Fring and Lienart), and openly admired and encouraged by other influential players at the Council including Msgr Karol Wojtyla, these exponents of the Nouvelle Theologie, as comprehensively documented in studies such as Animus Delendi - I, Iota Unum and The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, "laid the foundation of conciliar doctrine and applied it with the open support of the highest echelons of the Conciliar Church."
As if entrusting the preparation of Council documents to heretics like Kung, Schillebeeckx and Rahner was not sensational enough, however, we also know that they and their "progressive" colleagues counted among their ranks an unknown number of high level infiltrators. This shocking reality was once again raised in the summer 2001 edition of the Latin Mass Magazine, when no less a personage than Dr. Alice von Hildebrand recalled during an interview that "Bella Dodd told my husband and me that when she was an active [Communist] party member, she had dealt with no fewer than four cardinals within the Vatican 'who were working for us'." And that was some 20 years before Vatican II! We can only guess at the number of Communist (and Masonic) "plants" who had risen to positions of influence in Rome and the ecclesiastical provinces by 1962 (… not to say 2003!).
Brought back to the Church in 1952 by Bishop Fulton Sheen, Dodd testified before the House un-American Activities Committee that she was personally responsible for planting over 1,000 young men in Catholic seminaries with a view to destroying the Church from within. While another former Communist official, Manning Johnson, told the same Committee in 1953 that by "concentrating Communist agents in the seminaries" it was intended that "a small Communist minority [would] influence the ideology of future clergymen in the paths conducive to Communist purposes." And he added: "This policy of infiltrating seminaries was successful beyond even our communist expectations."
This remarkable history adds a far more sinister dimension to Archbishop Denis Hurley’s casual claim in the ensuing report that as one of the Teilhardian progressives at the Council he was part of "the conspiracy." In fact, as we can see, there were two types of conspiracy running in tandem. On the one hand the very natural conspiratio or "breathing together" of like-minded and largely sincere Modernist theologians who, by creating a rupture with the ecclesiastical past to parallel the great secular disruption of 1789, sought to bring the so-called ‘Church of the Counter-Reformation’ to a close and create a new Church at ease with a pluralistic world - involving "radical alterations in the ways of thinking, feeling and living," as one of them put it. On the other, a dead-set conspiracy in the literal sense of the word by which a relatively small but powerful clique of Communist and Masonic ecclesiastics sought to influence Council proceedings in such a way as to help them shape the Church as a tool for their own nefarious ends.
Apart from Archbishop Bugnini, who stands as living proof of the devastating Masonic influence, precisely which infiltrators at Vatican II doubled as egregious liberal theologians will remain a murky zone of endless speculation. Still, one can state that spooky arch-dissidents like Archbishop Hurley were, at the very least, part of the Modernist conspiratio - "useful idiots" aiding and abetting the real conspirators. And, certainly, their conspiratio merged seamlessly with political conspiracy when it suited them. We know, for example, that at the outset of the Council the "progressives" plotted to break the Council rules in order to nullify the three years preparatory work for the Council which had taken place under the aegis of John XXIII, and to reshape the ten conciliar commissions charged with examining the draft documents drawn up by the preparatory commission by voting in large numbers of Modernists who had nothing to do with the preconciliar work. Despite the understandable desire of Church authorities to downplay this illicit manoeuvring of the Modernist faction which propelled them into the ascendancy at the Council, the facts are now well documented. According to the renowned French academic Jean Guitton, while being shown a painting by Cardinal Tisserant depicting himself and six other cardinals, Tisserant said: "This picture is historic, or rather, symbolic. It shows the meeting we had before the opening of the Council, when we decided to block the first session by refusing to accept the tyrannical rules laid down by John XXIII." So much for Cardinal Lienart’s insistence that at the first session of the Council it was "a higher force… the Holy Spirit" Who inspired him to ignore Cardinal Tisserant, the president of the session who on a vital point of procedure had refused him permission to speak, in order to seize the microphone and secure a crucial delay in the voting for members of the ten commissions. In fact, this epochal intervention which "deflected the course of the Council and made history" [Le Figaro, 9/12/76] was a set-up all along.
Commenting on these Modernist machinations in his superlative tome Iota Unum, Romano Amerio confirms that: "This departure from the original plan did not happen as a result of a decision made by the council itself, operating within its duly established rules, but by an act breaking the council’s legal framework, which although not prominent in accounts given of these events, is now certain in its main outlines." As a result of Lienart’s illicit intervention on 13 October 1962 and a later one by the "progressive" camp on 22 November, Amerio concludes that "The general spirit of the texts was changed, as was their style, in that they abandoned the classical structure in which disciplinary decrees followed upon a doctrinal section. To a certain extent, the council was self-created, atypical and unforeseen."
Returning to the infiltrators, the malicious intentions of the Lodge had long been a matter of public record. Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII had requested the publishing of The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, the Masonic blueprint for the subversion of the Catholic Church, precisely in order to thwart the long-term plans detailed therein [CO, November 2000]. While in 1910, as recorded by the esteemed Bishop Graber of Regensburg in his Athanasius and the Church in Our Time, a leading Rosicrucian declared: "We need a council and a Pope to proclaim it." Bishop Graber also quotes copiously from the works of the nineteenth century apostate and excommunicated priest Canon Roca (1830-1893), who accurately forecast the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical changes it would usher in, stating that "the divine cult in the form directed by the Roman Church will shortly undergo a transformation at an ecumenical council, which will restore to it the venerable simplicity of the golden age of the Apostles in accordance with the dictates of conscience and modern civilization." Echoing Vatican II and it’s aftermath to a disturbing degree, "Roca’s dominating idea is the word ‘new.’ He proclaims a ‘new religion,’ a ‘new dogma,’ a ‘new ritual,’ ‘new priesthood.’ He calls the new priests ‘progressists,’ he speaks of the ‘suppression’ of the soutane and of the marriage of priests…" Similarly, his declared Masonic tactics are all too familiar to our post-conciliar ears: "to deprive the Church of its supernatural character, to amalgamate it with the world, to interweave the denominations ecumenically instead of letting them run side by side as separate confessions, and thus to pave the way for a standard world religion in the centralised world state."
Even allowing for the usual intrigues and power-plays of various factions at Ecumenical Councils down the centuries and their not uncommon tendency to take a different direction than that originally planned, as at Trent, it does seem that there was something unusually rotten at the heart of Vatican II: an explosive mix of rebellious and alien spirits prepared to pursue their converging ideological agendas at any cost. And when, under the guise of liberty or progress or renewal, theology becomes ideology, it not only breaks the rules in order to shut down debate, it marches off to start its own idea of a church - in this case one involving "radical alterations in the ways of thinking, feeling and living." It was to vanquish clericalism, but raised up a super-clericalism. It opposed authoritarianism, yet imposed a liberal tyranny. It guaranteed liturgical renewal, then introduced a reign of iconoclastic terror. It spoke endlessly of a Second Spring, only to plunge us into the long dark night of an endless Winter.
The ongoing post-conciliar crisis is not, therefore, simply "due to enthusiasts who misread the Council's theology for the cultural and political ideology of the 1960s," as the New York Times correspondent stated on cue. That is only a small part of it. And it lets the Council off scot-free by shifting the blame. The fact is that the secularisation of Catholic faith and morals and the catastrophe it has engendered in every aspect of Church life is the genuine legacy of Vatican II insofar as the various time-bombs planted by the conspirators – in the deliberately wordy, imprecise, compromising passages which litter the Council documents - have been correctly interpreted and applied by them and their ideological and fellow-travelling clerical and lay successors. When one is left dependent upon largely inaccessible footnotes rather than the primary text to make necessary doctrinal connections between Vatican II and previous Councils (as with Dei Verbum - CO, March 2002, pp.173-4), the underlying heterodox or heretical intent of influential Conciliar forces is pretty clear. Little wonder that such documents are so often and so easily misrepresented and twisted to suit the Modernist agenda, or that we spill so much ink continually setting the record straight, as yet again in this edition.
So, what to make of the Council? How to react to all these rather shocking facts and hostile connections that surround it? Since one can always join up conspiratorial dots in different ways and to various degrees there is certainly no need to exaggerate them. But nor should they be downplayed. As with its catastrophic fruits, the shady roots of Vatican II speak for themselves and are legitimate matter for reflection and assessment by faithful Catholics. They cannot and should not simply be waved away with smug and patronising appeals to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity and a supernaturally fireproof Church, as is the want of many orthodox defenders of the Council who consider strong criticism of Vatican II per se beyond the pale and likely to send the simple faithful hurtling en masse into sedevacantism!
Such overreaction betrays a telling defensiveness that seeks to avoid facing uncomfortable questions inevitably raised by unsavoury Conciliar events. It also intimates that Catholics have no right to wide-ranging, even condemnatory, assessments of the Council - a view that Father Pierre Blet, S.J., for one, rejects. Celebrated for his defence of Pope Pius XII against the charge of anti-semitism, this distinguished Professor of Church History stated last July that the Society of St. Pius X calling Vatican II into question "was not an impediment" to their possible rapprochement with the Vatican "given that the Council had not promulgated any binding dogmatic definition. Everyone therefore has the right to examine what he feels able to accept." In this regard, Archbishop Lefebvre himself was able to accept quite a deal that the Council had to offer. He wrote about the "many satisfactory declarations in Vatican II." But he added that in his opinion: "The good texts have served as cover to get those texts which are snares, equivocal, and denuded of meaning, accepted and passed." By any objective reckoning, whatever one makes of the Archbishop and his Society, that is surely a reasonable assessment.
Clearly, then, one need not doubt the validity of the Council or the New Mass in order to query many of the prudential judgements associated with Vatican II or, indeed, the entire enterprise. Given the chaos that has ensued from the radical and subversive elements that shaped its unprecedented and deliberately indefinite "pastoral" nature, which looks set to blight the Church for the rest of this century until a new Council under a Pope Saint is heaven sent to restore order, one is perfectly entitled to conclude that it would have been better if the Council had never been called in the first place, regardless of its positive contributions. Or that it was more a conduit for chastisement than a divine gift to the Church as the present Holy Father often insists. Only those unfamiliar with Catholic teaching on the papacy and ecumenical councils would object to the holding of such views. As Father John Parsons wrote in our December 2001 number (and further to Fr. Blet’s point above):
In respect of this last point, even John XXIII’s claim that his decision to convene Vatican II was a sudden inspiration which came to him on 20 January 1959 has been discredited by numerous high-ranking clerics (as per Cardinal Lienart). Fr. Giacomo Martina, S.J., recounted in an interview with 30 Days in 1988 that "it is historically confirmed, as we have already mentioned, that John XXIII had been thinking about doing this since November of 1958." In other words, the decision to hold the Council was as premeditated and prudential as the decision by Pius XII only thirteen years earlier not to hold one (following disagreements among his episcopal advisors as to its duration and form). Whereas Pope Pius believed that it would take at least 20 years to prepare the Church for a Council, Blessed John’s incurably optimistic nature and naïve faith in ‘modern man’ convinced him otherwise. Subsequent events proved the sober Pius correct in his assessment of the signs of the times and his two immediate successors spectacularly wrong (the inscrutable designs of divine Providence notwithstanding).
So we need have no fear of contradicting the post-conciliar Party Line which seeks to impose the much hyped "pastoral" dictates of Vatican II as divinely inspired, infallible teaching that the faithful must receive without demur. "We are logically free to hold that any council can be ill-advised when making these kinds of [pastoral and prudential] decisions," concludes Father Parsons. John Paul II, for instance, may regard the conversion of the liturgy into the vernacular as a blessing, but we may respectfully disagree and view it as ill-advised and worse. Moreover, we may confidently argue that the unprecedented verbosity of the Council documents, and the ambiguities and compromise it engendered, was not only ill-advised but entirely due to the Conciliar pontiffs rehabilitating Modernist theologians peddling the same "progressive" agenda that St. Pius X had comprehensively condemned barely 50 years before.
The Holy Father, Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Hoyos and others are perfectly entitled to argue their corner - to pin all their hopes on convincing us (and themselves!) that Vatican II represents a necessary and divinely guaranteed Great Leap Forward to rival the giant secular leap caused by the French Revolution. But we are under no obligation to agree with them on this point. We are not required to suspend our critical faculties when they scream that all is not well: when our lived experience of the Council multiplies many times over Cardinal Ratzinger’s own damning assessment about "the devastation that the Church has suffered [due] to the chain reaction set off within [the Council], of latent forces that are aggressive, polemic, centrifugal and perhaps irresponsible." Moreover, one remains acutely aware that virtually overnight the Modernist hegemony at Vatican II was able to engineer "a 180 degree turn" in Church practice and policy, thus leaving today’s "progressive" purview liable to suffer a similar reverse in the future, as the "aggressive, centrifugal" conciliar forces of perpetual change and novelty turn full circle. Hardly a thought to inspire confidence in the longevity of post-conciliar ‘traditions’ like altar girls or the sharing of schools and churches with Protestants.
In sum, our Catholic instincts as well as reason and prudence all dictate that we weigh carefully everything that is happening today in the name of the Council, especially the ecumenical and liturgical ventures, "and hold fast to what is good." And should anyone suggest that you are paranoid for adopting such a cautious, sceptical, conspiratorial attitude to an Ecumenical Council so beloved of the Holy Father and the Western episcopates, offer them this Catholic reality check from Cardinal Newman, who wrote of the Church in the fourth century:
Vatican II? Guilty as charged.