Douthat’s Pope-Bashing Book Attacks Vatican II

Douthat’s Pope-Bashing Book Attacks Vatican II August 19, 2020

Maike Hickson at One Peter Five, reviewed Ross Douthat’s book, To Change the Church on 5 March 2018. I want to focus on one aspect: how Douthat views Vatican II. To me this offers hard evidence that he is thinking like a reactionary in this key aspect (precisely as fellow pope-bashing author Phil Lawler has also expressed).

The clincher and dead giveaway is Douthat’s raising the notion of Vatican II being deliberately “ambiguous.” That is absolutely classic reactionary thinking about the ecumenical council. It wanted to have it both ways; it was two-faced, equivocal (in plain English: dishonest, and in the end, anti-traditional; in conflict with past Catholic tradition).

Critics of Pope Francis are now saying exactly the same thing about him: he’s sneaky, “jesuitical’; won’t say what he really means; if he expresses something orthodox, it’s a mere fooler to keep the people hoodwinked, etc., etc. What goes around, comes around.

Hickson writes, citing Douthat’s own words from the book:

While further discussing the council, Douthat shows how ambiguities were deliberately placed into its documents – “because the Council had many authors, and because many of those authors were themselves uncertain about what could be changed” (p. 23) – so that in some way, two different readings, the liberal as well as the conservative, were “in some sense intended by Vatican II.” With regard to the topic of religious liberty, for example, “there seemed to be a plainly-revised teaching, but even where there wasn’t there was a new language, and the apparent retirement of older phrases and rhetoric and forms.” Importantly, the author adds: “And this linguistic shift inevitably suggested a new teaching, to those who wished to have one, even as it stopped short of offering one outright.”

I already showed how Douthat (quite definitely) dissed Vatican II in an article almost exactly two years ago, long before this book.

Moral of the story? The bashing of Pope Francis doesn’t come from nowhere. It largely comes from an existing context of reactionary thought, in which not just Francis is severely questioned, but also Vatican II: an ecumenical council, and (increasingly), Pope Benedict, who, I recently documented, is being increasingly bashed by reactionaries also.

Thus, the reactionary sites (most notably, The Remnant, and One Peter Five) that are out there bashing the pope and rejoicing in Douthat’s and Lawler’s books, also bash Vatican II and Pope Benedict. And Lawler and Douthat bash Vatican II in addition to Pope Francis. It’s a mindset; it’s a mentality. And it’s not in line with the Mind of the Church or orthodoxy or authentic Catholic tradition.


(originally 3-24-18 on Facebook)

Photo credit: Travis Wise (3-3-12) [Flickr / CC By 2.0 license]


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