Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vatican II and the "Spirit" of Confusion that Followed

Catholic Meme's on facebook has me chuckling on a daily basis and this morning was no exception when I refreshed my page and saw this:

You see, when I first converted to Catholicism, I was very confused about the whole Vatican II "thing."  The problem was that I'd heard that the Church was "against" all of these things, like contraception and whatnot, back in the day, and then I went through our Engaged Encounter and RCIA and never heard them mentioned a single time and I'd heard that Vatican II had "changed things."  So I figured, Vatican II had changed them.  I mean, if it hadn't wouldn't I still be hearing something about them?

A wise, soon to be retired, priest that I knew, did tell me a few times when we were talking that the council really hadn't changed very much, but those words didn't match up with what I was seeing on a day to day basis.  Of course it had changed things, otherwise, how could the present look the way that it did?

As I learned more about Catholicism and began reading everything I could get my hands on, I swung back the other way, with a feeling of annoyance towards the second Vatican Council, because it almost seemed as if I had been lied to.  The Church still taught these things.  And the changes I was seeing that were explained as a result of the council, the holding hands guitar masses that had apparently replaced whatever came before (at least in my area) rankled my introverted personality.  So many people I hardly knew hugging me and grabbing my hands to hold them, made Mass a sort of hour long trial.

Still I pushed on, determined to find out more about my new faith than I'd absorbed pre-Confirmation.  I was learning through my own studies, and learning by proofreading Paul's papers for his Master's of Theology program and talking with him about his classes, but the moment that stands out to me as a game changer in my understanding of the Council was on a long, winding drive into the city for our weekly shopping trip, when I offered to read to Paul from a giant stack of Vatican II documents that he needed to finish for a giant research paper that he was working on.

As I read out loud, I found myself shocked.  These papers didn't say anything like what I expected them to say.  I didn't disagree with what they said in the least.  And I certainly didn't see how they could have been used, in the way that they've been used.

I felt like I'd been watching skewed AP reports of political speeches, and now, reading the actual documents, found that everything I thought I'd known had been taken out of context, twisted and created to make something that certain people fondly referred to as "the Spirit of the Vatican II."

I found that certain documents had a bit more "spirit" than others, since they seemed to be sited to "prove" that the "spirit" had meant something that it clearly didn't mean if you actually read an entire paragraph in context, instead of picking a choosing the parts that fit a certain argument.

And I began to think of Pope Paul VI as a sort of council action hero, stopping nonsense before it could spiral too far out control when certain zany groups tried to insert the cultural kool-aid into Council documents (I was amazed that the man could use a footnote to smack down an errant group who seemed intent on leading the Church into a grave error).

No, I don't think that the documents from the second Vatican Council quite say what most people think they say.  They do show that if we really, really want to see something somewhere, we can delude ourselves into finding it in the "spirit" of a council and then using that spirit for decades as a battering ram against tradition and beauty.  But in the end, the secret is bound to get out, when people who know the truth, or who are searching for the truth, start flipping through pages, without an ulterior motive and realize that those same pages just don't say the things they've been used to prove over the decades.


  1. So so true.

    I like to think I have a great deal of patience with many things, but if I see one more lay person in the flippin' orans posture at Mass, I'm going to lose it!

    I have been to a beautifully celebrated reverent NO. I just wish it were more common. And I wish we were bolder about telling people why the Liturgy matters. I have now started speaking up when I hear people say "he's so stuck up!" about priests who are very precise about the liturgy; now I take the time to explain to them that we have a GRIM, that it dictates what happens, that these things are so important because "as we pray, so we live."

    But really I'm selfish. I just want to get through one gosh darn Mass without CLAPPING. And this is coming from someone who self-identifies as charismatic, for pity's sakes!

  2. I so agree with you guys! Those who abuse and misuse Vatican II drive me crazy. I found my alternative in the new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. It spans the new (vernacular) with the old (beauty and reverence). This however seems to make two groups of Catholics (Most of the TLM and the more liturgically liberal the NO crowds.) despise me and criticize my points. I love the TLM when there is a high sung mass but low masses just don't do it for me. That might be because of my dyslexia. It's hard for me to pray the mass properly and I feel like I'm cheating God by not being able to focus like I should.

  3. Obviously, Cam, this strikes a chord with many lifetime Catholics. There were so many things implemented in "The Spirit of VII" that just made me sad, like the beautiful churches turned into gymnasiums, or the priests who preached what THEY believed in THEIR church. But more than sad, often it made me feel lonely. Many friends were not my spiritual family anymore. I was forced to change parishes until I found one that was truly Catholic (and I am not some kind of fanatic).

    Now I see some of the parishes I left becoming orthodox again. His Church will not pass away; we just need faith. (In addition to the VII docs, the catechism, esp. the section on Life in Christ is a good teaching tool.)

  4. I think that much of the "interpretation" of Vatican II is a classic example of "give them an inch and they'll take a yard."

    Some fresh air was needed, but what we got was a hurricane.


  5. Cam,

    Have you read AA-1025? Tan books publishes it...I think you can get it through as well. It is very interesting, and explains a whole heck of a lot that has been happening within The Church the past 40+ years. much was twisted in Vatican II, but the little word changes made that possible. We are in a MAJOR crisis...and the "Spirit" of Vat II opened the floodgates for the Kooks and subversives...

  6. I love that picture you have at the beginning of your post. Funny.

    You should go to the audio archives on EWTN and listen to the program "What Went Wrong with Vatican II". It's right in line with your post and they go through each document. I very much enjoyed them.

  7. That Vatican II thing is CLASSIC.


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