Vatican II and Divine Providence
Father ("Sir") Christopher Trychay was the parish priest of the small Devonshire village of Morebath from 1520 until 1574, during which time England lurched from Catholicism to Protestantism then back to Catholicism, before Queen Bess finally quashed the one true Faith with a vengeance.
Throughout all those years this dedicated pastor recorded the parish accounts in a lively narrative fashion for reading aloud at parish meetings. In the process, as historian Eamonn Duffy concludes from his study of those extant records [Voices of Morebath, Yale University Press, 2001], Father Trychay became "the chronicler of [Morebath’s] dramatic and sometimes tragic share in the religious revolutions of that turbulent age... He had baptised their children, buried their dead, married every one of them. He had been the guide of their pieties, he had almost certainly encouraged their sons into rebellion, and, when the time came, he had eased them into a slow and settled conformity to a new order of things."
In fact, this erstwhile devout Catholic village was not so "slow" in reaching its "settled conformity" to Protestantism. Historically speaking, it happened in the blink of a chronicler’s eye.
The parish accounts reveal that as late as 1549 the normally law-abiding parishioners of Morebath had even financed and equipped (with swords and bow) five of its young men to join the ill-fated West Country rebels who rose up against the Protestant ‘reforms,’ demanding a reinstatement of Catholic practices: the Holy Mass, same or next-day baptism, images and sacramentals, reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, clerical celibacy, the Holy Week ceremonies, the doctrine of Purgatory and "all other auncient ceremonyes used heretofore, by our Mother the holy Church."
Yet barely a generation had passed when, in 1573, the year before he died, Father Trychay happily used a bequest from the mother of one of these young men who had marched off to the rebellion "carrying Morebath’s [Protestant] Prayer Book to the burning, and who had never returned," to purchase a replacement Prayer Book with which to conduct their now Protestant worship!
Duffy opines that by the end of his life, Father Trychay’s conformity "had far more than mere prudence or resignation about it" because "when all was said and done, most of what he found in the Prayer Book he would have thought godly enough… His traditionalism must of course have had a doctrinal content, of the kind spelled out in the rebel demands of 1549… but it was before everything else informed by the genius of place, his religion in the end was the religion of Morebath."
In other words, having tired of fighting the good fight against overwhelming odds, he finally rationalised and internalised those heretical tenets and practices of the Protestant revolt which have progressively secularised, coarsened and diminished England ever since.
It is a sobering tale. And how contemporary!
In our day, ghastly Tablet-liberals like the English bishops and Dr. Duffy himself have embraced the secularising tenets of the neo-Modernist revolt, effectively promoting a similar "religion of place" in the form of local (de-facto schismatic) Anglo-catholic dioceses loosed from the dogmatic dead-hand of Rome.
And as with the priest and people of Morebath, this pervasive neo-Modernism has again sucked the Catholic life and conviction out of many hitherto Catholic stalwarts.
One small post-conciliar concession after another, allied with endemic false charity and cowardly deference to corrupt prelates, has ultimately fashioned a compromising peace-at-any-price conformity among many clergy and laity who would proudly consider themselves thoroughly mainstream.
Well, Father Trychay died a "mainstream" cleric, pragmatically reconciled with the ‘real world.’ But at what cost to the overarching cause of truth and salvation?
The fact is that just as "mainstream" came to mean "Protestant" in sixteenth century Morebath, today it is simply code for the unselfconscious "Modernism" of ostensibly orthodox Catholics who, among much else: accept workaday liberal mechanisms like standing for Communion, Communion in the hand, Eucharistic Services and unrestricted Communion under both kinds; quietly tolerate altar girls, extraordinary ministers and serial liturgical abuse; maintain their financial contributions despite recurring, episcopally-sponsored scandals; remain imprudently passive before excruciating Papal acts like Assisi, kissing the Koran, invoking St. John the Baptist’s protection of Islam and the sending of a pectoral cross to Mr Rowan Williams (even though the Pope’s Modernist ecumenical advisor, Cardinal Kasper, has interpreted this latter gesture as validating the invalid Orders of the pro-sodomite pretender to the vacant see of Canterbury).
Consequently, through humdrum acquiescence in the neo-Modernist revolution, vast numbers of apparent believers have become silent partners in heresy and decay: dumbed-down, switched-off, couldn’t-care-less Catholics. As the late Father Malachi Martin once noted:
It is Morebath revisited.
And yet, in truth, we have moved some distance beyond even that.
While the Church has always rebounded from the ravages of heresy down the centuries, She has been numerically diminished, relatively speaking, with each passing battle, most spectacularly in the aftermath of the Lutheran revolt. England is representative of this net effect.
Once a stronghold of the Faith par excellence, nominal English Catholics now amount to a mere 7% of the total population and practicing Catholics barely 1%. But whereas a good part of that one per cent, totalling around one million Catholics, would once have been sufficiently well-instructed to defend the Faith, nowadays, too easily seduced by an amorphous heresy at work in an affluent Church, probably less than one-tenth of these practicing Catholics possess the spiritual and intellectual wherewithal even to recognise the Modernist heresy, let alone the interest and motivation to fight it, and most of those are well past their prime.
The pool of true defenders, never great in the healthiest of ecclesiastical eras, has shrunk immeasurably. The effect may be somewhat exaggerated in England - with its extreme secularism and proportionally insignificant and diffident Catholic populace - but it holds true for the West in general.
To make matters worse, however, as Modernism morphs and mutates into ever more insidious forms, even this tiny remainder of informed faithful is becoming increasingly fractious and divided. Sheep without shepherds, their confusion and dismay before ongoing scandals of one type or another has sent them spinning off in all directions. The entrenched "conservative"/"traditionalist" divide simply masks the numerous splits and differences within each of these opposing domains.
While traditionalists of different stripes pride themselves on their uncompromising stance, on seeing the ‘big picture’ and confronting neo-Modernism head-on, their internal divisions and convulsions are endless. As one traditionalist cleric described the cycle within his own milieu: "without fail, dissent erupts, parties form, priests leave, denunciations are made, and splits occur."
At the same time, in the neo-conservative arena disagreements, tensions and rifts continue to mount over anything and everything, depending on one’s personal response to papal and Vatican inaction, the elevation of notorious Modernists, tampering with the Rosary, Charismatic Renewal and the New Movements, fake ‘apparitions’ and ‘seers’, the Fatima Consecration, Assisi inter-faith extravaganzas and the ecumenical push, the death penalty, prayerful picketing of abortuaries, school chastity/sex-ed programmes, the Lefebvre schism… pick a subject!
And of course Iraq polarises opinion across the board, with as many diehard conservatives and traditionalists at odds with the Vatican’s post-9/11 application of "just war" theory as supportive of it.
Disputation and fragmentation is the order of the day. Moreover, barring Divine intervention, it will only worsen as the Church comes under increasing attack from the godless secular hegemony now seeking to legislate Her into submission to its nihilistic New World Order. As the Catholic persecution intensifies and with few noble exceptions, the damning effect of endemic Modernism looks set to fully reveal itself in the cowardly non-response of our Shepherds to the onslaught of the neo-pagans.
The refusal of Florida’s bishops to stand up and fight for the life of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo against a legal decision last month to starve and dehydrate her to death, despite massive appeals from their flock urging them to do so, is a case in point. While the English episcopate’s misrepresentation and dampening down of Rome’s recent call to arms against the legislative push for homosexual ‘marriage,’ and their studiously gutless decision not to engage a hostile media over the Vatican document, is also representative of why we can expect the abandoned sheep to scatter and splinter anew.
Before this unholy dissolution and frightening future, both of which shade even those faced by sixteenth century Catholics, we return as always to the principal objects of contention: Vatican II and the new liturgy it unleashed.
Responses to this ill-fated "pastoral" Council range from those convinced that it is the final rotten fruit of Masonic-Communist infiltration and manipulation, and thus directly responsible for all our woes; to others so accepting of the Holy Father’s claim that it was God’s gift to the Church that they feel compelled to defend even its most problematic ruminations, come what may.
In between these schools of thought we find the broader ground of confused Catholics who neither accept nor reject Vatican II in its entirety but simply cannot reconcile the ambiguities of the Council and the ensuing chaos with God’s love for his Church. Their faith has been shaken.
In all these various assessments of the Council and its tragic aftermath, however, especially as regards the definitive liturgical controversy, it does seem that insufficient attention is paid to how Vatican II fits into God’s Providence. A deeper reflection on this pivotal question might therefore be of benefit to all parties in attempting to better comprehend our dire predicament and the Council’s controverted role.
To this end, I proffer the following, based on the meditation of an esteemed clerical friend:
Yes, the faith of countless millions of Catholics has been shaken. But they should not allow room for these doubts. They should never allow themselves to suspect that God has somehow lost control. An outsider, for instance, reading the Gospel account of the Passion, could think that Our Lord was like a leaf caught up in a whirlwind. A Catholic, though, knows that the leaf is in control of the whirlwind.
Perhaps the key to understanding recent events lies in an observation of Newman, that God periodically weeds His Church. What has been happening is the ordinary way that God deals with His Chosen People. When he sees them living in false security, thinking that they are on the way to salvation when in point of fact they are not, He gives them a rude awakening.
For instance, in Jeremiah's time, we can see from reading him that they must have been very displeasing to God. It seems that they were extremely worldly, had been skimping their Temple sacrifices, and were simply not worthy now to be called the People of God.
And at that time, of course, Temple worship must have been very elaborate and very costly. Away from the lowing and bleating of the animals and all the flies, there was the hallowed ritual and the sacred chants. It must have been magnificent.
But once they were in Babylon, things would have been very different. To begin with, no doubt, the priests among them would have carried out as much as they could of the sacred rites. But as time went by, their Sabbath observances must have been curtailed and would have been followed by only the most fervent among the captives – people like Tobias. After all (they would have said) one has to live, and many would have taken jobs that entailed their working on the Sabbath.
So when finally God sent Cyrus who told the Jews, "You may all go home now to Jerusalem and resume your Temple worship," there were few who did so. "A remnant," we read, went back to rebuild the Temple and resume their traditional worship. Most of the Jews had settled in to the pagan society of Babylon and were satisfied with the abbreviated worship, devoid of sacrifice, they had now got used to.
And where do we all stand now?
As stated, the vast majority of priests and laity, like their Morebath forebears, have become well content with things as they are. The priests find today's liturgy satisfying. They appreciate the scope it gives them for "saying a few words" and arranging the liturgy as they think best. And as for the laity, often their only complaint is that their children no longer go to Mass and their grandchildren, perhaps, are not even baptized.
Most Catholics in this country now prefer the Novus Ordo Mass. And it has surely changed their idea of worship. The six Protestant advisers who helped construct the new liturgy filtered out the references to sacrifice contained in the traditional liturgy and this omission has changed the thinking of many Catholics. They no longer see sacrifice as occupying the central role in all worship. Just as a saucepan taken off the stove soon loses its heat, so with us, because of original sin, we find that worship without sacrifice is better suited to our fallen human nature than the elaborate ritual and references to its being a sacrifice that we find in the traditional Mass. The word "sacrifice" now has a wholly negative connotation for most people.
More perhaps than the changes in the text, it was seeing the priest face the people that has made them forget that the Mass is a holy sacrifice (which is why papal reaffirmations of that Catholic doctrine, as in the Holy Father’s recent Ecclesia de Eucharistia, remain of little practical value). When, instead of seeing the priest standing at the altar offering the Divine Victim to God, people see him, like a shop assistant behind the counter, offering the Sacred Host to all who come up, who can blame the good ladies for thinking that they could do this too?
God sent Cyrus when He saw that the Babylonian captivity had done its work. For seventy years His fan had been in His hand, and now its work was done. The wheat was separated from the chaff, and ready for sowing once more in the Promised Land.
In the same sense, even Archbishop Bugnini, the Masonic architect of the New Mass, was only doing the job God gave him to do. Like Nebuchadnezzar, he was a scourge God utilised (through the agency of the Conciliar Popes) to chastise His children, a fan God used with which to separate the wheat from the chaff. We must have deserved the suffering of the past few decades, or God would not have given it to us. The plentiful vocations and converts, high attendance at the traditional Mass, active laity and firm leadership appear to have masked a gradual embrace of worldly ideas, attitudes, tastes and behaviour by the general mass of pre-conciliar Catholics. Though benign by present standards, this sinful compromise was surely abhorrent to God.
We must now try to make amends by loving Him more, being more grateful for the Holy Sacrifice He has enabled us to offer Him and by viewing a universal restoration of the Old Mass not as an end in itself, but, rather, as the sine qua non for living out the demands of a truly Catholic life and establishing the Social Kingship of Christ.
That is the attitude we must cultivate in readiness for the day when God sends us another Cyrus, and Rome gives the faithful free permission to return to their traditional liturgy.
Yet when this comes to pass, how many will avail themselves of the opportunity?
A Babylonian remnant?
Indeed, when the dust has finally settled and Vatican II has fulfilled its role as God’s winnowing fan, there will remain, as the late Father John Hardon insisted, only two sorts of Catholics: ex-Catholics - those millions whose lifestyles were not in accord with Church teaching and who are no longer coming to Mass to receive their sacrilegious Communions; and heroic Catholics - "a remnant, selected out of grace" [Romans 11:5].