49 years ago today…

…what the world now knows as Vatican II began.  For that reason, today is Blessed Pope John’s feast day.

Deacon Bill Ditewig looks back:

What the great Pope John brought to the world, and what the Council he called emphasized, was a “novus mentis habitus” — a “new way of thinking” — about the world and the Church.  Pope John Paul II used to speak about this quite often in the early days of his own papacy: that the world and the church today demands a new way of thinking about how we relate to the people with whom we live and serve.  Today, this message seems more needed than ever.

We read of church leaders who have decided that the richness of eating and drinking the Lord’s Body and Blood, commanded by our Lord, is best accomplished through a resurgent sacramental minimalism by consuming under the species of bread alone; we wonder why our young people (and, let’s be honest, some NOT so young people as well!) who are leaving active participation in a Church they honestly believe has lost its moral compass and any connectedness whatsoever to the real problems which today’s people face.  Instead, they see institutional church leadership fussing about translations from a dead language into a living culture while whole peoples are victims of genocide, forced migrations, war and natural disasters. They know that individual Catholics and groups of Catholics are involved in trying to make things better, but the acknowledged leadership often seems completely out-of-touch and remote from those efforts.

It was this very detachment from the “real world” that Pope John and the Council attempted to address.  In 1962, the world’s bishops had vivid memories of two world wars, worldwide economic collapse, the rise of three totalitarian regimes, the emergence of the nuclear age and the cold war.  During the Council itself, the world was brought to the brink of another worldwide war during the Bay of Pigs debacle and the President of the US himself was assassinated.  The bishops of the world, led by John himself, wanted to try to find a NEW WAY OF THINKING so that the world might be transformed into a different kind of place, so that such tragedies could not happen again.

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61 responses to “49 years ago today…”

  1. Unfortunately, as Shakespeare said, there is nothing new under the sun. Vatican II was one of many councils in the Church’s history and it is not the “mega-Council” some like to make it out to be, as Cardinal Ratzinger once said.

  2. So Deacon Bill is there anything positive about the Church today? We have lost our connectedness and relevance to the real world? I think the opposite is true.
    I guess the Bishops worrying about the Sacraments and liturgical language are just silly things.

  3. In What Really Happened at Vatican II, Fr. John O’Malley argues that Vatican II is the council for the modern era in much the same way that Trent was the council for the counter-Reformation period. Just as it took generations for the reforms of Trent to find their way into the grassroots life of the Church, so likewise Vatican II will take a long time to transform Catholicism. But the transformation will happen; it seems to me that the growth of the diaconate is just one of many positive signs that it is well underway.

  4. Thanks for this reminder that Vatican II opened 49 years ago today.

    In the liturgical calendar in use in1962, October 11 was the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, a feast that was introduced in 1931 by Pope Pius XI to commemorate the declaration of Mary as Mother of God at the Council of Ephesus in 431. It is said that Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on this day in 1962, because he wanted to entrust the entire council to the Mother of God.

    On the night of Oct. 11, 196 Pope John XXIII appeared at his window in response to a crowd estimated at a half million people assembled in St. Peter’s Square. (After all, he is the Bishop of Rome.) He said: “Dear children, dear children, I hear your voices…. My voice is an isolated one, but it echoes the voice of the whole world. Here, in effect, the whole world is represented.” He concluded: “Now go back home and give your little children a kiss — tell them it is from Pope John.”

    In a letter my uncle wrote back to us from Vatican II just a few weeks after it convened, he said: ““I have had a few experiences in my life but nothing compares to this. Day by day it grows on you just what you are participating in. Everywhere you turn you hear different languages. If the church isn’t universal, they need a new definition of the word.”

    I often wonder: Where would we be were it not for Vatican?

  5. Dear RomCath,

    Don’t pull that crap with me, and please don’t put words in my mouth. I said no such thing, nor would I ever.

    There is much good going on in the Church. But more needs to be done.

    Dear Kevin,

    Vatican II was, while certainly in continuity with earlier Councils, unique in many ways. It was by far attended by more bishops than any previous Council. With more than 2600 bishops from around the world, it was far more representative of the world’s cultures than any previous Council, and this fact alone gave the Council quite a significance. So, too, was the vast intercultural representation, with bishops attending from all over the world (less the Communist countries), and from all of the various Catholic Churches (formerly called “rites”). The numbers and diversity of attendees cannot be discounted in evaluating the Council and its work.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  6. Deacon Bill:

    And also the “separated brethren” and women auditors attended.

    I heard this anecdote: A Methodist Bishop, Bishop F. P. Corson, caused a bit of a stir among the Italians in the street, because he wore a wedding ring.

  7. Vatican II (1962-1965) hit when I was an undergraduate (1961 – 1965) at one of the largest Roman Catholic universities in the Midwest. I loved every minute of living through that great era and in my Junior and Senior years took elective Theology seminars rather than the required lecture courses just so I could keep abreast of what was happening in Rome.

    At recent reunions (like our 45th in 2010), a lot of my friends recalled with great joy the depth of our faith that we now had because we — as university students of the 1960’s — had explored together a church that was still “under development.”

    Regularly, I praise my Brother Jesus for letting me live through that era.

  8. Pope John XXIII of blessed memory opened the Council on my 12th birthday, and it radically shaped the course of my life as a Catholic woman. I continue to believe it was the wind of the Spirit, and not the smoke of the deceiver, that blew in through that opened window, and blows still, reforming always. The reformation was joyful for many of us then, and is more painful now, but still good; I think the reverse is true for many, and I hope that the pain the reforms caused them early is now turned to joy as the reformation continues.

  9. On a somewhat related note, Oct 13th (anniversay of Fatima), is the 50th year anniversary of Father Peyton’s San Francisco Rosary Rally (the largest crowd EVER in San Fran, over a half of a million attended, including the CA politicians and the Hollywood A list).

    This weekend Father Andrew Aposti (Fulton Sheen’s “agent” of sorts (sorry don’t know the technical term), for sainthood). I recently looked at some old footage from that rally, something that could only be believed by seeing it; a totally faith filled country, including celebs and polticians. Most of all, the theme was the “Family who prays together stays together.”

    I will be very curious to see the turnout 50 years later. Next to the mass, if all that is good of America, from families to freedom is to be saved, it will be through the rosary. I wish everyone could understand and or experience how much peace praying the rosary brings to the soul.

  10. Sorry, major editing probelm in #10. I intended to say that this weekend, Father Aposti will be having a rosary rally in San Fran honoring the 50th Anniversary of Father Peyton.

  11. Wonderful things came out of Vatican II. If one takes the time and reads the documents, you get a far different perspective on what should have been a result. When the first person used Vatican II as an excuse to make changes not in the documents and called it “spirit”, the Church should have reigned them in. If they actually implemented what was agreed, we would have avoided many of the problems we see today. Now, our Pope and his predicesor have been trying to unwind some of the mess created.

  12. There is more than anecdotal evidence that John XXIII died despairing of what was happening in the wake of the Council he called. But whether there is still some future springtime coming or not, the numbers about pre and post VII tell a fairly stark story. Vatican III will ultimately be necessary to interpret the unfortunately flowery and verbose language of the documents, which lent themselves to all kinds of mischief.

  13. I also would respectfully comment on Deacon Bill’s reference to the “real world.”

    The Church is always very close to the real world, from the perspective of what ultimately matters; it is in fact closer to the real world than any culture ever is. The horrors of the world wars, and the nuclear age, pale in comparison to the supernatural realities, the wars being waged over our souls, which we barely comprehend most of the time.

  14. I remember when this blog used to be something other than “Pray Tell Blog” in a dalmatic. Now it’s just a center for Baby Boomer lefty dissent.

    Just let the young priests take over, already. You Boomers have done quite enough to “reform” the Church.

  15. I hear the two extremes of Vatican II, and I’m no expert to have an opinion one way or the other. I will say I am grateful for the mass being celebrated in the vernacular. I personally connect so much more with it than if I had to struggle with the Latin. I know it’s controversial, but I think most people prefer the vernacular. And I would add it’s very hard to attract converts if it wasn’t.

  16. Manny, the issue is not saying the mass in the vernacular. The issue is that much more was changed that was not involved in what Vatican II clearly agreed to change. Everyone who wanted change just went out on their own and changed it and called it the “spirit” of Vatican II. It is kind of like a judge who wants to allow abortion finding the right to privacy in the constitution and from that finding that this right includes abortion. Thus we move from allowing the mass in the vernacular and end up with clown masses and every other abuse we have seen. We end up with Catholics voting for Obama and abortion and some thinking that confession can then be used with each vote to cleanse the soul without remourse or intent not to vote that way again. We end up with Catholic Universities religious professors teaching open dissent on Church teaching and nuns setting up their own ordination despite the Pope’s clear statement the Catholic Church can not now or ever have women priests. We end up with full page ads when Humane Vitae is given to us by the Pope denouncing this Catholic teaching which is still the teaching of the Church.

    Its all in the “spirit” of Vatican II.

  17. kevin #13

    “There is more than anecdotal evidence that John XXIII died despairing of what was happening in the wake of the Council he called.”

    Anectodal ? Fictional hyperbole more likely! Do some fact checking on your chronology of all this. Session I ended in December 1962 and John XXIII died during the summer between Sessions I and II of stomach cancer. Because of the pain and debilitating nature of that disease, I might even question whether his mind was even focused on the council at all during the last two months of so of his life.

    Of he had despaired about what was happening, especially since he knew he was “terminal,” it may well have been the that Session One did not settle anything. There were long and bitter debates on only three draft documents. No draft was ever settled enough to vote on until Session II and most of them were not approved until Session IV.

  18. For an updated and totally different perspective to Vatican II by a non-Catholic research scholar, try:

    Melissa J. Wilde. Vatican II: A Sociological Analysis of Religious Change. (Princeton; UP. 2007).

    He main point, and I am convinced it is true, is that there were not two polarized “camps” of bishops during the Council but — if fact — four. A fascinating read!

  19. “Don’t pull that crap with me, and please don’t put words in my mouth. I said no such thing, nor would I ever.”

    The “crap” as you so crudely noted is the statement that you made that some Church leaders are guilty of sacramental minimalism and “fussing over translations from a dead language”.
    Those are your words, not mine. If you think those two things that Church leaders are concerned about are why people have lost their faith in the church, I think otherwise.

    Have a great day.

  20. Kevin:
    I have read a lot on Vatican II and have never heard that Pope John XXIII died despairing about the council. I do know that just a few weeks before the opening of the council Pope John XXIII was diagnosed with stomach cancer and throughout the council and the months after until he died on June 3, 1963, he had hemorrhages and blood transfusions. I find it hard to believe that an optimistic leader as Pope John was about the Church would have despaired about the council that he had convened.

    I did find a source on the Internet, which peaks to your point. However, I have no idea how valid this source and the citations are.


    “In fact, the Second Vatican Council was apparently a great disappointment to the pope. According to Anne Muggeridge, the daughter-in-law of the famous British Catholic convert and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, in The Desolate City, John Cardinal Heenan of Westminster reported that when, during the rebellious first session of the Council, the pope realized that the papacy had lost control of the process, he attempted to organize a group of bishops to try to force it to an end.”

    HOWEVER, most commentators on the Council say that the pope was delighted that the bishops took control of their council.

    “His last words on his deathbed, as reported by Jean Guitton, the only Catholic layman to serve as a peritus at the Council, were: ‘Stop the Council; stop the Council.’”

    ON THE OTHER HAND, Jean Guitton became a close friend of Pope Paul VI, who continued the council.

  21. Deacon Norb (#20), I think it’s really important to support solid scholarly analysis of the Council, but I question how well Wilde’s book actually serves that purpose. On page 1, we read that because of the Council, Catholicism “relinquished its claim to be the one true church, . . . relaxed dietary restrictions and requirements regarding confession and attire for the laity, eliminated the Latin mass, and forever changed the character and identities of Roman Catholic nuns and brothers.” Slipshod stuff, the Princeton imprint notwithstanding. Far better analysis of the Council is available from John O’Malley, S.J., whose What Really Happened at Vatican II has yet to get the wide readership it deserves.

  22. Dear HMS, in my view Montini really had no practical choice but to continue the Council and end it. The ball was already rolling down the hill or, as another commentator once, said the Rhine was flowing into the Tiber, at that point.

    He did what he could. But he did not have the temperament of a Pacelli who just would have sent everyone home and ended it. He must have been under enormous stress especially when he had that “illustrious” commission urge him to change the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception. To his credit, he threw their report in the proverbial circular file.

  23. Kevin ” he threw their report in the proverbial circular file’
    and that 90% of Catholic laity picked it out of the ‘trash.’??? tells you what??, Ever hear of ‘reception’? It’s why the Vatican bank charges interest now.. get a grip..

  24. “New ways of thinking” can be scary. Many well-intentioned people look to avoid it and return to a more certain time…yet with the Spirit working in and through the Church, how can we go wrong? If things were as wonderful as many people believe BEFORE Vatican II, then why did the world’s Bishop’s and the Pope John feel it necessary to throw open the windows and let the Spirit in? It can at times be a bumpy road, but the Spirit will be sure we arrive at the right destination.

  25. The Church was an expert in humanity before Vatican II, and remains an expert after. So “ways of thinking” about God and man haven’t really changed, insamuch as human nature has not changed. Or has it changed? Did I miss something? Are we less inclined to sin than we were before Vatican II? Were all the popes before John XXIII hopelessly naive and/or dense?

    We must stop thinking of Vatican II as marking a “break” or rupture in the history of the Church; it was not. There is only one Church.

  26. I do not recall the Church before the Second Vatican Council. My only conscious memory of “Church” is post Vatican II. But I have read all the documents and my book is so used that a rubber band is needed to hold it together. I have read, studied, discussed and read again. And you know what? The documents of Vatican II look more like what B16 is trying to do now that what the “implementing documents” had turned the Church into over the past 50 years.

    I know that implementing documents gain validity when “signed off: by the pope…but it is only the decision of the Council itself that we can hold up as magisterial in the full sense of the pope and bishops united as teachers. And it seems that this is exactly what B16 is doing: returning to the documents OF the Council.

    Just taking the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy as an example, you cannot find therein much of anything about Mass facing the people as opposed to ad orientum, vernacular as the standard rule instead of the exception as needed, etc. (FYI: I am a vernacular kind of guy).

    However I am VERY confused by the return to the Missal of 1962 as an equal post-Conciliar option because these very same Council Fathers with the pope decided to reform that very same 1962 Missal, calling it something that needed to be updated.

    So I guess for me, both the documents AND the present practice of the Church sometimes seem to be at odds or confusing since both sides appeal to the Council.

    But there is one thing from the Council that I am so grateful for: the revival of the permanent diaconate!

  27. Ron #24:

    I have no argument on your criticism of Professor Wilde. She is not Roman Catholic. Those “slipshod” teachings you cite meant a great deal to her because those were the publicly characteristic marks of our Pre-Vatican Church that non-Catholics of that era knew best. She is not a theologian — never claims to be one — but a sociologist and her theories behind institutional change — as she uses those theories to explain what happened in Vatican II — needs to be understood by all of us who still teach about the council.

    My point in post #20 was to raise the “Four-Camp” insight and try and thus challenge the more simplistic “Two-Camp” theory that still gets a lot of press.

    I think you still have a blog. I’ll try and find the review I wrote of Wilde and pass it on to you.

    You have cited O’Malley’s book — and so have others — and I readily agree that I have not read it yet.

  28. Just read Deacon Norb’s review of Melissa Wilde’s book, and I want to say that I agree with his point (in #20 and in #30) about her overall thesis. Her book is at its best when it explains the power of collegiality at the Council itself, not just in the public sessions but even more in the informal discussions leading up to them. That’s why I think it’s such a shame that she is careless in her casual remarks about Catholic teachings; she badly needed a Catholic editor/proofreader.

  29. Ron:

    I have a copy of John O’Malley’s “What Really Happened at Vatican II.” I have not read it cover to cover but refer to it from time to time when I am giving a class or workshop on Vatican II. The fact that he was there in Rome for three of the four sessions is interesting to me.

    Another book that I HAVE read cover to cover (and often go back to) is “The Voices from the Council” edited by Michael R. Prendedrgast and M.S. Ridge (2004). In it are interviews of bishops, periti, theologians, observers and media people – all of whom were there.

  30. It’s an older collection of essays, but some really good stuff is in Vatican II Revisited By Those Who Were There ed. by Alberic Stacpoole (Winston Press, 1986), like Yves Congar’s “Moving Towards a Pilgrim Church.” That is where we still need to be moving.

  31. Kevin #25

    “But he (Pope Paul VI) did not have the temperament of a Pacelli who just would have sent everyone home and ended it.”

    I read somewhere that Pius XII had thought about convening a council. I wonder if anyone else has read that and in what source.

    It was widely rumored that Montini was hand-picked by Pope John to be his successor. An American bishop, who attended the council, told me a few days before the election that Montini would be the pope. (I was VERY young at the time!) This bishop had contacts in high places in the Vatican. Today, he would probably be one of Rocco Palmo’s sources. (joke)

  32. I am a Christian and then Catholic convert. I came to the Catholic Faith well after the council. What was disturbing to me was the amount of dissent in various RCIA classes; it was very painful to me. Ten year later I still am confuse about the Church.

    I have not a bit of problem with Bishops taking care with translations – it is a critical thing I think. The Holy Eucharist is where most Catholics absorb the teachings of the church; many do not have seemed to absorb much. Maybe the new mass translations will help people to understand how precious the Eucharist is.

  33. HMS, I had not heard that about Pacelli but if you have a source I’m all ears.

    The scuttlebutt from what I’ve read is that Pacelli did not trust Montini for doctrinal deviations in his earlier church career. I believe he exiled him to some disfavored see, but I may be confusing him with Roncalli.

    But there’s really no disputing that the Church’s influence was at a a zenith in the late 50s and has plummeted more or less straight down, with some brilliant exceptions like Solidarity, ever since.

  34. I really wonder if all the “post Vatican II ergo propter Vatican II” complaining is correct. Obviously, when baldly stated, it is logically fallacious. But beyond that, as one who was a student at Georgetown from 1961 to 1964, I can report that even then, many students questioned the value of scholastic theology and philosophy and Hans Kung was lionized when he came to give a speech on campus. Authority was no longer an adequate reason to believe or obey in many minds.

    It may be that the light in which VII was widely portrayed contributed to an atmosphere which was generated by the election of JFK, the civil rights movement, Woodstock, and the antiwar movement. But the Church’s place in society would have been affected even if the Council hadn’t taken place, IMO. And dissent within the Church would have emerged as well. After all, to take one example, the dissenters from Humanæ Vitæ were products of the pre-Conciliar Church, as were people like Teilhard de Chardin.

  35. @Greta
    “Manny, the issue is not saying the mass in the vernacular. The issue is that much more was changed that was not involved in what Vatican II clearly agreed to change.”

    I acknowledge that a lot of unintended consequences happened as a result of VatII. I can’t have an opinion on it all because (1) I’m not old enough to have lived through it, and (2) I haven’t studied it. I’m not for reliving past struggles. Lets make the changes we want as we go forward, including righting the mistakes of VatII.

  36. Kevin:

    Sorry I just can’t locate the source about Pius XII having considered convening a council. I don’t like to say things that I can’t back up, so I will continue to search in my library and notes.

    Now, with respect to Montini being exiled to some disfavored see. Well, his appointment as Archbishop of Milan, the see of St. Ambrose who baptized St. Augustine, is hardly banishment.

    There are some in our Church, who despise Pope John XXIII, have accused him of heresy, and claim that in the 1920’s he was removed from his teaching position at the Lateran Seminary for teaching Modernist ideas and was sent to Bulgaria as representative of the Holy See.

    As to the church plummeting in influence from a zenith in 1950’s: Well, having lived in both eras, I see the pros and cons of each. But, speaking as a laywoman, my experience in the church since Vatican II is so much richer.

  37. I don’t think good John XXIII even dreamed what would happen after his departure. He is probably amazed today up in heaven at the turmoils and tempests, the diminishing influence and the upheaval that his council would leave in its way, for good or for ill.

  38. Kevin #37:

    One source that Pius XXII and indeed Pius XI had seriously considered calling a council in order to complete Vatican I (which never was officially closed) can be found on p.17 in “What Happened at Vatican II” by O’Malley (2008). He says that those initiatives were well-guarded secrets and that even John XXIII probably did not know about them until after his announcement. However, John’s council was to be called Vatican II, and thus not a completion of Vatican I. He officially closed Vatican I in 1960.

    The source I had in mind said why Pius XII decided against calling a council and that, as I recall, the council would have take place in the early 1950’s.

  39. OK Folks!

    Let me add one more book to all of the ones you all are arguing about:

    Colleen McDannell: “The Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America.” (New York, Basic books. 2011) ISBN 978-0-465-04480-1.

    She is a Professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of Utah at Salt Lake City.

    What she does is follow the history of her own birth family as it traveled across the country relocating generation after generation before/ during/ and after Vatican II.

    She has some absolutely fascinating insights (both damning and complimentary) to say about how various areas of the country responded to the call of Vatican II.

  40. HMS, that is very interesting. So is Vatican I closed officially now? I do recall that it was disbanded.

    I’m for more discussion of Vatican I for a change of pace.

  41. Kevin #44:

    Pope John XXIII officially disbanded Vatican I in 1960.

    As to discussion of Vatican I, I think that it would be off topic, but you may want to research the American bishops who attended, especially Bishop Edward Fitzgerald of Little Rock Arkansas, who was one of two bishops to vote against the declaration of the dogma of papal infallibility, an act known as “Big Rock versus the Little Rock.” (He thought that the declaration would hinder conversions in his diocese and he might have been right.) Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone has come into the Church as a result of that dogma.

  42. Here are some observations on Vatican I — argue with them if you like.

    The geopolitical environment in Western Europe in the mid 1800’s was chaotic — to say the least.

    (1) Prussia, under Kaiser Wilhelm, was desperately trying to consolidate all of the German speaking regions under one formal rule. In the process, he created the “Kulturkampf,” a formal “struggle of the cultures” between his own ideas about imperial power and those of a LOT of his citizens. As a result, thousands of Roman Catholic German-Speaking folk emigrated to the United States seeking religious freedom. [Yes, folks, if your German ancestors came over during this era, they were essentially “Draft-Dodgers.”].

    (2) France, early in the century, had to deal with Napoleon, who wanted nothing more than power for himself over all of Europe. The “Republics” that followed him were little better and still retained that sense of superiority and power.

    (3) Nationalistic movements amongthe disorganized regions of Italy coveted the “Papal States” because those papal lands cut a belt-like band across the Italian Peninsula — something the secular leaders thought was shameful and disgusting. They wanted it all.

    (4) Great Britain was at its zenith of its political influence under Queen Victoria — “The Sun never set on the British Empire.”

    Then add the humanity of Pius IX. He was elected in 1846 and died in 1878. It was during his tenure that the First Ecumenical Council of the Vatican was called. Pius IX had only one item on that agenda — the Dogma of Papal Infallibility.

    History has justifiably called him the “last of the power-hungry” popes. He wanted nothing more than to rule Western Europe with an Iron Hand politically but needed a Council to validate his personal “infallibility” on this issue.

    The Council Fathers at Vatican I refused to do that. They did agree that the Pope had the charism of infallibility but only in very limited situations: only in situations of “faith and morals” and only when speaking “ex-cathedra” — in his official role as the living holder of the “seat” of Petrine Power.

    Bottom line. Vatican I was a “malformed” council — the fact that it ended with one decree — and only one decree — and one that most of Catholic Christianity can live with had to have been the result of the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit from on high.

  43. HMS on dogma of papal infallibility
    “Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone has come into the Church as a result of that dogma.”

    I think you might have missed quite a few. If one watches a program called Journey Home for example on EWTN, you will hear many who state that this belief, having a true north in faith, a central authority one can count on, was a factor that many have stated very strongly.

    Lets face it, there are certainly a wide array of protestant churches and after searching for a while, many find that the teaching on infallibility and the leadership of the Pope and Magesterium gives great comfort. It certainly comes up in a lot of discussions at our RCIA program as well.

    At any rate, it is a teaching that Catholics must accept and believe as part of their faith.

  44. Wait a minute, a “malformed” Council? wasn’t the Holy Spirit there as well, or only at Vatican II.

    Vatican I is hardly off topic to Vatican II, unless we are going to continue to divide the Church into before and after sections.

  45. Pio Nono was reacting more to the coming loss of all political power, which the Church never should have had in the first place.
    The articulation of infallibility was a reminder to the world what the original source of that misbegotten political power was. As such, it was equally as inspired as Vatican II.

  46. Greta #47:

    Greta #47:

    I have watched or listened to perhaps 10 episodes of the Journey Home over the years, because I am interested in people’s spiritual journeys and in particular why people want to enter the Catholic Church. (I also find Marcus Grodi to be a rather engaging interviewer.) I must say that I have never heard any interviewees say specifically that they came into the Church because the pope could declare a dogma infallibility (given specific conditions).

    Rather I would like to suggest that papal infallibility has been more a deterant to conversion. That is why Newman said that, although he believed the dogma, he thought that it was “inopportune” to define the dogma.

  47. To answer Kevin in #49.

    Vatican I was “malformed” because it “died in utero.” Pius IX, as was mentioned by “hms” in posts #42 and #45, never officially closed that council — John XXIII formally did before he opened Vatican II. Vatican I was suspended because the on-going Western European power struggle was breaking-out in armed conflict and if the council did not disband, the delegates would not be able to get back to their home diocesan sees safely.

    Here a Council of the Church, convened to bring about a “new world order” by making the Papacy the supreme political power of Western Europe (and — by extention — the entire world), was forced to suspend its deliberations because secular political power itself ruled the papacy irrelavent.

    Another suggestion. Get ahold of a biography of Thomas Dekker. He is an American priest who lived during that era and who founded the “Paulists” — the very first genuinely American order of Roman Catholic priests. His story is filled with anecdotes about him and his community trying to explain both Papal Infallibility and the “Syllabus of Errors” to a highly charged anti-Catholic W.A.S.P. American culture of that era of the mid-late 1800’s.

    Wasn’t it also in that same era that an unknown American said: “Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

  48. Firegenholt, wast it convened to make the papacy a “supreme political power” Do the Council documents say that in the preambles somewhere? I will have to check and will look at the book you note. I just think it’s an error to basically take the position that the only council guided by the Holy Spirit was Vatican II. That would make the divine guidance at all councils untenable and pure speculation.

    Pius IX was the not the “power mad” person some are here making him out to be. Need we be reminded that he was beatified? He also articulated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and served longer in the office than John Paul II.

  49. Fiergenholt #52:

    I think you meant Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers and a great proponent of spreading the Gospel though the media. The translation of his biography into French inspired those French who wanted less papal influence in Europe and thus, contributed to skepticism by the papacy about the American Catholic Church (Americanism). I learned recently that Cardinal Egan has opened his cause for sainthood. He would make a fine patron saint of evangelization.

    Re Pius IX: When he was elected in 1846 it was thought that he would be open to democracy and many of the nationalistic and liberal trends in western Europe at that time. That all ended in 1848 when one of his ministers was assassinated and he had to flee Rome.

    Many American Catholics can trace their lineage back to those who emigrated from the chaos in Europe during those times.

  50. to Kevin #53: couple of things:

    –I stand on my position that I took in those last few paragraphs of Posting #46. You essentially confirmed that in your posting #50 when you said “Pio Nono was reacting more to the coming loss of all political power, which the Church never should have had in the first place.
    The articulation of infallibility was a reminder to the world what the original source of that misbegotten political power was.”

    –The issue of beatification has nothing at all to do with Pius IX being “power-hungry.” All of the saints that we honor had their human faults.

    –If you get a chance get the large paperback edition of Eamon Duffy: “Saints and Sinners” from Yale University Press. It has some marvelous photos of “Pio No No” (photography had just come into vogue during his reign) holding court. I did not realize what a small of stature man he really was. Duffy’s book also has some biographical insights into him that you might enjoy reading.

    to hms #54. Of course you are correct. Thomas Dekker was a dramatist and a contemporary of William Shakespeare. My only excuse for mistaking him for Isaac Hecker is the time of the early morning that I posted it. I had not had my third cup of coffee yet.

    The issue of the French Cardinals and the heresy of “Americanism” is even more complex than the issue of Pius IX and Vatican I. I’d love to find an honest analysis of all that mess — although Duffy does a good job of summarizing its high points.

  51. Fiergenholt #55;

    I already had my third cup of coffee and I thought that you were referring to that cute young actor, who is also named Thomas Dekker.

  52. There are some quite beautiful passages in the documents, having taken a new look a them, apart from the issue of infallibility. Take this one for example:

    “This one true God,
    by his goodness and almighty power,
    not with the intention of increasing his happiness,
    nor indeed of obtaining happiness,
    but in order to manifest his perfection by the good things which he bestows on what he creates,
    by an absolutely free plan,
    together from the beginning of time
    brought into being from nothing
    the twofold created order, that is
    the spiritual and the bodily,
    the angelic and the earthly,
    and thereafter the human which is, in a way, common to both since it is composed of spirit and body [10].
    Everything that God has brought into being he protects and governs by his providence, which reaches from one end of the earth to the other and orders all things well [11] . All things are open and laid bare to his eyes [12] , even those which will be brought about by the free activity of creatures.”

  53. Very, very sad to read most of the commentaries here. I was an alter boy back in 1963 when the mass was in Latin. The masses were always filled with people. It was not uncommon for Sunday mass to be concelebrated. Week day masses were also well attended 6:30 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, and evening masses. Each parish had several priests; we had catholic nuns or sisters in every class in our grammar school. There were only a few lay teachers. Confession was held weekly, and had lines of pews filled with waiting penetants as several priests were hearing confessions in different confessionals. There was an active holy name society, the Knights of Columbus, the Legion or Mary, and Catholic Daughters of America to name just a few parish activities. The church, God’s church thrived. Tuition in catholic grammar schools was basically free, and high school was a reasonable tuition. In lent we had a well attended Benediction, we had the Stations of the Cross, and the rosary. Vocations were plentiful for priest, nuns, and brothers. We also had junior seminaries, catholic retreats, and days of recollection. On Saturdays, it was not uncommon that I would be an alter boy for several funerals, and 3 or 4 weddings. It was the Golden age of the Catholic Church.

    So my question to you is “So what exactly did Vatican 2 accomplish?” Stop patting yourselves on the back! Vocations have disappeared, we have a church that is plagued with sexual scandals and cover ups, parishes are closing left and right, the seminaries are long since closed, vocations are non existent, and you never see a cathoic sister or nun anymore, and for the most part churches are empty.

  54. “So what exactly did Vatican 2 accomplish?” Stop patting yourselves on the back! Vocations have disappeared, we have a church that is plagued with sexual scandals and cover ups, parishes are closing left and right, the seminaries are long since closed, vocations are non existent, and you never see a catholic sister or nun anymore, and for the most part churches are empty.

    Many (most?) of the priests involved in the sex scandals underwent their formation and were ordained before Vatican II concluded. As for the drop in mass attendance, parish closings, disappearing vocations — look at the culture. Vatican II didn’t cause the social upheaval that led so many to disrespect authority and turn away from God. Vietnam, Watergate, the “sexual revolution” had something to do with all that. In fact, the one area where the Vatican did hold fast to traditional teaching — condemning artificial contraception — was routinely mocked and rejected by the people in the pews, and that had nothing to do with Vatican II.

    You seem to be implying that everything would have been better without Vatican II. I’m not sure about that. There were too many other factors at work in the world.

  55. Jim #58

    I’m maybe ten years older than you — was in college studying theology as electives during Vatican II. Marvelous time in my life — but that is another story.

    Picking up on Dcn Greg’s point that a lot of the chaos of that era had roots in an even earlier time, I’d like to talk about the “Great Exodus” of 1968 as an excellent example.

    All during that calendar year, but far more evident during the summer when school was not in session, religious communities started losing their members is big numbers. A very large community of religious brothers and priests who were my inspiration during high school and college lost over half of its members. The community of Franciscan Friars that I was working with at that time lost 50% of its members. I have also checked data from several motherhouses of at least four orders of religious women and the same was true for them. Consistently 1/3 to 1/2 of all women religious of that era bailed-out as well.

    The immediate reason was a still confidential letter — I know of its existence but have not been able to actually read a copy — from the Vatican to all religious communities basically saying that “the times, they are a changing” and if their membership was upset because the post-Vatican Church would be very VERY different from the church that they signed-up for, then they should “git while the gittin’s good.”

    Hindsight from laity might argue about the wisdom of that letter but the one thing it did do was to clean out of the religious communities — men and women — a lot of folks who should not have been there in the first place (not my notion but something I have heard consistently when I have asked Vocations Directors from that era to describe it all).

    The Law of Unintended Consequences:
    –Moving from the free-labor of those hordes of nuns in the schools to a lay faculty that deserved decent salaries also caused parish schools to charge tuition for the first time.
    –Since “Father” and “Brother” and “Sister” was not there to teach Religion any more; more and more graduate programs in Theology and Religious Studies were opened to laity.
    –The ones that left in “The Great Exodus” were usually the younger ones and thus religious communities were left with the mounting economic reality of providing for an increasingly aging population of celibates who were never placed under Social Security in the first place. (That, of course, changed in later years.)

    Yes, it was all very chaotic but the real cause predated Vatican II by at least one full generation. I have no personal insight as to why all these folk did join religious communities in great numbers during the post-war years but hindsight from a lot of sources suggests that very human motivations — power; prestige; self-fulfillment, among others — were really at work — not spiritual ones.

  56. One simple explanation — particularly for women. In the immediate post-war years there was a LOT of gender discrimination:

    If you were a lay woman in the pre-Vatican American Church, you were a “stay-at-home” mom often with a large family PERIOD.

    If you were a woman religious in the post war era, you could be, obviously, a teacher/ lead instructor/ principal of an elementary/ middle or high school or a nurse/ floor supervisor/ even a hospital administrator. Those were obvious secular career choices for women religious.

    But maybe not so obvious: women religious could also be college Professors/ Deans/ or even Presidents; women religious could be medical doctors in a field other than OB-GYN; women religious could be accountants / financial planners / even be a market analysts; women religious could work in facilities management or personnel management; women religious could be authors or artists.

    LOTS of personally fulfilling roles in the immediate post-war society were open to women religious that were NOT open to lay-women at all. That, of course, started changing in the post-Vatican years.

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