Defense of Vatican II vs. Oliveira Leonardo’s Attacks

Defense of Vatican II vs. Oliveira Leonardo’s Attacks October 13, 2022
***
I know Brazilian Catholic writer Oliveira Leonardo a bit and we have engaged in many cordial and pleasant discussions. I consider him a friend. So this is not personal. But when error is publicly promulgated, it’s my duty as a Catholic apologist to speak out and correct it. This is out of a motive of love for him and all who are reading what he is writing, and a love for truth. He made his comments on a public thread on his Facebook page. I replied there and reproduce my replies here, along with many (but not all) of his comments (which can be read in their totality at the link I just provided). His words will be in blue.
*****
I see Catholics celebrating CV II [Vatican II]. But the question is, what do we have to celebrate? The Church, since the 60s of the last century, has only lost prestige. And now the Pope signs a world wide accord between religions, whose policies are downright questionable.
*
Are you this naive and thoughtless and “unCatholic”: to start attacking an ecumenical council and ecumenism (the two usually go hand in hand)? This shocks and saddens and disappoints me. Basically, you have adopted two basic fallacies:
*
1. Everything has one cause or one primary cause (“VCII is the font of all evils in the modern world”).
*
2. The fallacy of “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” (Latin: ‘after this, therefore because of this’), or “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.”
*
There are a host of reasons for the current sad state of western civilization: not the least of which is the sexual revolution: that Vatican II had absolutely nothing to do with. I would say it has nothing to do with any of our problems. It’s a completely orthodox and wonderful council, guided by the Holy Spirit, just as all the other ecumenical councils had been.
*
I will be removing from my Facebook friendship list all who liked this comment. Unless you renounce this garbage, you’ll be the next in line to go.
*
I’ve been critiquing what I call the “reactionary” attitude for more than 25 years (in two books [one / two] and a huge web page). It’s poison. It destroys Catholic unity. No good comes from it.
*
For those who want to read some of my many defenses of Vatican II, see those articles on this web page of mine: “The [Catholic] Church and Ecclesiology” (word-search “Vatican”).
*
Leonardo Pataca: But every Pope, since Saint Paul VI, has praised the Vatican Council II. Would they all be wrong?
*
Your argument is a fallacy of authority. Please: Has faith grown or decreased in the last 60 years?
*
Actually, it’s an argument from Catholicism. God protects popes from error. All the popes praise Vatican II. It follows that Vatican II was a good thing, which any orthodox Catholic should already know, anyway.
*
You should consider the facts. And the facts reveal that secularism has won and CV II has essentially embraced a view dangerously close to liberalism. CV II’s guidelines . . . harmed apologetics.
*
I am a Catholic in large part due to Vatican II, and my apologetics ministry is largely guided by its Pauline-inspired vision, too.
*
Catholic countries have ceased to be Catholic, and the growth of Catholicism in some areas of the world has been largely due to an apologetics neglected by CV II. By the way, perhaps one of the few advantages of CV II was to give voice to the layman, who is doing apologetics, while the clergy has blatantly boycotted it.
*
Leonardo Pataca: Yes, five Popes, including two saints, got it wrong, but your analysis obviously can’t be wrong.

*

. . . which is, of course, like three things: the schismatic (Donatist-like) attitude, the Protestant rule of faith (private judgment), and theologically liberal dissidence.
*
I’m waiting: why did Catholic countries stop being Catholic? Why are we increasingly seeing a secular society without faith?
*
Why do you casually assume that these things have but one cause (or one primary one)? You have a brain. Use it!
*
[someone objected that my critique was “completely wrong”. I replied:]
*
What he is expressing here is worthless reactionary slop. I can spot it a mile away. I’ve been following it and critiquing it as serious error for over 25 years. I don’t need to know someone closely to know whether or not they are spewing error. It’s precisely the sort of language he is using that is causing no end of problems in the Church right now. People are losing faith because they see Catholics engaging in mindless “masochism”: bashing their own Church with false and heretical notions. His is textbook / playbook reactionary thought. It hasn’t changed at all since 2002, when I wrote my first book about it. I could quote lengthy sections from that book that interact with exactly the opinions he is expressing now. They’re nothing new.

*

Post-conciliar language doesn’t help much, because it is confusing and gives room for heterodox conclusions.
*
So is, alas, the Bible. There is no heretical group in the world (falsely claiming to be Christian) that doesn’t claim to derive its false doctrines from the Bible itself. I know. One of my first huge apologetics projects back in the early 80s was to undertake massive research on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. So do we ditch the Bible because folks with confused, troubled thinking, “get” their heretical ideas “from” it? Did the Bible actually cause that? By analogy, that’s how you are reasoning.
*
American Catholicism has grown, despite CV II. Because Catholicism there is militant.
*
American Catholicism has barely held its own. But the revival of Catholic apologetics and evangelism and the spate of recent converts (I’m one of those) is a very real phenomenon, of the nature of a minor revival. Again, our problems (like those of Catholics around the world in first-world countries) have nothing to do with Vatican II at all. Yet here you are bashing it as the supposed primary cause. You have thrown away your brain, which is a great shame.

*

Post-conciliation Catholicism is a total failure.
*
That’s equal parts blasphemy and heresy. The Church cannot “fail”, because she is indefectible. That is Catholic dogma. The papacy is also indefectible, which was dogmatically proclaimed at Vatican I in 1870. The Church can, of course, go through times of spiritual decline, (inevitably) eventually followed by revival. We’re in one of those times, but Holy Mother Church herself has not “failed.” Catholics have failed to live up to the high ideals of Catholic Christianity and discipleship, as has always been the case from the beginning.
*
Latin America and traditionally Catholic countries such as Spain and Portugal are radically secularized . . .
*
So are America and many other countries. And you think that is solely or primarily because of Vatican II? Are you that shortsighted and blind? You can see no other causes? I can see about a hundred other ones: none of which are Vatican II and the doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic Church, preserved since the time of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit.
*
And even though CV II has not substantially changed issues concerning faith,
*
It hasn’t changed any doctrines of the faith. It has developed some fresh approaches, which is fine, and has always taken place. Augustine and Aquinas and Newman all did that.
*
[I]ts political and pastoral attitude towards modernity has been a disaster.
*
It has not. Dissident Catholics within the Church are the disaster, and you are placing yourself among them with this pathetic rhetoric.
*
Fall of vocations, fall in the number of Catholics, radical secularization of Catholic countries and a warm, lukewarm attitude towards apologetics . . . 
*
And that’s all because of Vatican II and nothing else, according to you? If you think not, then stop using the extreme, exclusivistic language and start naming other causes of all the tragic problems.
*
I will answer every point of my friend Dave Armstrong . Let me clear it up. I fully understand your concerns. But I’ll make some points clear; no problem. Hugs.
*
It’s nothing personal at all (and I’m glad and relieved that you seem to not be taking it personally). I feel that I am defending Holy Mother Church, which is part of the duty of a Catholic apologist. What you are expressing, I have seen a thousand times for over 25 years. I know this sort of thinking inside and out.
*
CV II uses completely new and strange terminology to the previous texts, causing a dangerous doubt. Dignitatis Humanae, for example, is a very problematic text, precisely because it defends the religious freedom condemned by the previous popes.
*
There is no problem with it, as I showed in my defense of that document: included in my 12-part refutation of Paolo Pasqualucci’s trashing of the council.

*

There are many statements from CV II that seem to contradict the Syllabus and too many earlier Church texts.
*
Sometimes they can, because it has to do with discipline, practice, or approach: things which are not infallible in the first place. But no doctrine is untraditional. You are adopting the very same mentalities of the liberal dissidents you claim to be against. Wake up! The problem lies in you at the moment, not in Vatican II.
*
[It] looks like Mr. Dave Armstrong sees me with certain ideological labels that I have never defended, either with the breast of “reactionary” or denying legitimacy to CV II. Far from it . CV II is valid as the popes have been valid since then.
*
Reactionaries always say that VCII is valid and that the New Mass or the pope is. And then they go on to absurdly and impiously trash them. You simply don’t understand what reactionary thinking is. I do, because I’ve studied it closely and critiqued it for over 25 years. You’re so immersed in it you don’t know that you are. You’re like a fish in water, who denies that it is in water.
*
[I]t should be added that at no point did I attribute “only” to CV II the reason for the evils of the Church.
*
That’s not true. In your rhetoric, you kept asking someone else — over and over –, why the Church is suffering and secularization is triumphing, etc., with the strong implication, in context, that VCII was the cause: if not the only one, then the primary cause. You never mentioned any other cause. You wrote (at least according to the English translation):
*
Has faith grown or decreased in the last 60 years? [60 years ago = 1962]
CV II has essentially embraced a view dangerously close to liberalism. [classic, quintessential reactionary slop; textbook, playbook]
*
the growth of Catholicism in some areas of the world has been largely due to an apologetics neglected by CV II. / American Catholicism has grown, despite CV II. [i.e., when the Church thrives, it’s despite VCII, not because of it.]
*
Why are we increasingly seeing a secular society without faith? [again implying that VCII is the sole or primary cause; never mentioning any other possible reason]
Post-conciliation Catholicism is a total failure. [God’s Church can never totally fail, and this is dogma, as I pointed out. To claim that it can is no different from the revolutionary mentality of Luther and Calvin]
*
You’re obviously digging in now and have no intention of renouncing this outrageous rhetoric. How sad. I noted that I had defended Dignitatis Humanae. You’re welcome to try to refute that, but in my experience, when people have their minds made up and have espoused error, they very rarely interact with critiques of their sort of thinking. So I don’t expect it to happen.
*
I think that maybe Mr. Dave has no clue what it was like to live in this kind of Catholic society, since he lives in a country of Protestant and secular tradition.
*
That’s very true indeed. I can read and learn about it (and I have) but I haven’t lived in that environment. But that makes it all the more ironic that I am (as a former Protestant and resident of a thoroughly Protestant and now secular country) defending Holy Mother Church and one of her ecumenical councils over against a person who has had the privilege of growing up in an historically Catholic country. You’re “biting the hand that has fed you.”
*
I’m the one now who is thinking like a Catholic; thinking with the Mind of the Church, whereas you have rejected that, and ridiculously feel that you are in a position to trash and bash an ecumenical council. That’s theological liberalism and the Protestant mentality, not how a consistent devout Catholic thinks.
*
So you have bought the slop in your [formerly] Catholic country, and masochistically trash your own Church, but I think like a Catholic (by choice) in my Protestant one. I love the Church as a convert does, because I found the “pearl of great price.” I know how much better it is than Protestantism and secularism: having formerly adopted and lived both of those things.
*
The fact remains that people in these traditionally Catholic countries like Spain, Portugal, Latin America, and Brazil have decided en masse to reject Catholicism. Even if Vatican II were to blame for that (which I vehemently deny), it doesn’t get all these people who rejected the faith off the hook. It was their personal choice to worship sex and/or secularism and/or Marxism and/or pleasure. They will stand alone before God, and God won’t accept their excuses.

*

On the other hand, I had the choice to reject secularism and whatever is false in Protestantism, and to embrace the fullness of truth in Catholicism, whether America was Protestant or VCII was a terrible thing or not. We simply can’t blame loss of faith entirely on a council (again, even if we wrongly think — as you do — that it could err to that extent).
*
I’ll guarantee (as an apologist and social observer and critic these past 40 years) that if we went out and asked any individual who has left Catholicism in Brazil, why they did so, it would not be because of VCII’s position on religious liberty. It would be because of various and sundry lies about the Church that they have accepted, and their own ignorance and lack of catechetical formation. That is the fault of themselves and whatever Catholic teachers they have had: who failed in their task.
*
Good teaching brings about converts and revival. I know that from my own case. I have seen many hundreds of people convert or return to the Church, as a partial result, by God’s grace, of some of my writings. The truth has power. It will draw people in. So these apostates usually didn’t have adequate teaching, or if they did, they neglected or rejected it. And that has nothing to do with Vatican II: nor does Marxism or obsessions with immoral sex.
*
Another downside to CV II: [hostility to] apologetics. The clergy, in the name of a certain ecumenism and “dialogue between religions”, dismissed apologetics, by considering it offensive to other religions. If that was the intention of CV II, I don’t know. But many bishops and priests have ceased doing apologetics and defending the Church, and instead called for peaceful coexistence with other religions: a dangerous kind of irenicism.
*
Again, the problem here isn’t the teaching of Vatican II. It’s all for evangelization. In Lumen Gentium, we find the following:
***
As the Son was sent by the Father, so He too sent the Apostles, saying: “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world”. The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of the earth. Wherefore she makes the words of the Apostle her own: “Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel”, and continues unceasingly to send heralds of the Gospel until such time as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves continue the work of evangelizing. For the Church is compelled by the Holy Spirit to do her part that God’s plan may be fully realized, whereby He has constituted Christ as the source of salvation for the whole world. . . . The obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his state. (II, 17; my bolding and italics)
*
[T]he laity go forth as powerful proclaimers of a faith in things to be hoped for, when they courageously join to their profession of faith a life springing from faith. This evangelization, that is, this announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word, takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world. . . . the laity can and must perform a work of great value for the evangelization of the world. For even if some of them have to fulfill their religious duties on their own, when there are no sacred ministers or in times of persecution; and even if many of them devote all their energies to apostolic work; still it remains for each one of them to cooperate in the external spread and the dynamic growth of the Kingdom of Christ in the world. (IV, 35; my bolding and italics)
*
Is apologetics disparaged? Nope. Rather, it’s commanded:
*
It is through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues that the sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly community is brought into operation. Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church. They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ. (II, 11; my bolding and italics)
*
The Catechism teaches the same:
*
905 Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, “that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.” For lay people, “this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.”
*
So anti-apologetics or anti-evangelization and wishy-washy indifferentism are false notions that cannot be found in Vatican II or the Catechism. Vatican II also firmly proclaims and reiterates that there is no salvation outside of the Church. What you are talking about comes from theological liberalism. It has adopted an unbiblical and unCatholic “either/or” mentality. The liberal loves ecumenism but despises apologetics. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the reactionary like you despises ecumenism and loves apologetics. Then there is the actual teaching of the Bible and the Church: the “orthodox center”: where I am at: I love both apologetics and ecumenism, because both are good and wonderful things, and don’t contradict each other in the slightest, because they are two different worthy goals. I’ve written about this many times.

*

The irony in your rhetoric and mindset is that you condemn liberalism out of one side of your mouth, yet you adopt its false “either/or” mentality. You pit ecumenism against apologetics and claim it is liberal indifferentism. Sometimes it is, when liberals do it, because they misunderstand its central purpose. But Vatican II ecumenism is perfectly orthodox. And though certain emphases of it are quite new or fresh in approach, it’s not essentially different from anything in the past. It can be traced back, for example, to St. Thomas Aquinas. I put together that article in 1999. That’s how long I have been thinking and writing about these issues.
*
You leave me no choice but to unfriend you on Facebook, just as I have all the others who liked your post. I refuse to put up with this dissident liberal and heterodox thinking, coming across my feed.

*

I’m not saying we can’t still be friends and talk. It’s just Facebook, which has little significance in the overall scheme of things. But if you think like this, then you won’t benefit from my writing, and so there is no good reason I see for my posts to appear on your feed. I have stated my case here and you reject it.
*
You have chosen to think like a liberal dissident and a Protestant, and I am worlds apart from either view. I rejected social and political liberalism for good in 1982 and the errors of Protestantism in 1990. I always utterly despised theological liberalism, going back to my Protestant days. But you seem enthralled with both, so I don’t see how you would benefit from my writings.
*
I believe all that Holy Mother Church teaches, and that includes Vatican II as the most highly developed manifestation of the Mind of the Church. I’m a Catholic because a Catholic friend of mine, back when I was Protestant, blocking abortion clinic doors and getting arrested for it, took seriously its advice to share the faith in ways that people can understand. He talked to me about the Catholic faith for nine months (the first thing I changed my mind on was contraception), and then I gave up my groundless objections and joyfully embraced the fullness of the faith (shocking all who had observed me fighting so zealously for evangelical Protestantism).

*

My mentor, Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (an advisor to Pope St. Paul VI and St. Teresa of Calcutta) said that anyone who rejects any doctrine of the faith loses the supernatural virtue of faith. You have either crossed that line or you are in danger of doing so. I urge you — beg and plead with you — with all my heart to reconsider this path you have gone down. And you’re taking others with you (as seen in the “likes” you are getting for this post). That’s how these outrages spread so rapidly. Itching ears; lack of thought and sufficient consideration . . .
*
Jesus said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42, RSV). If your friends in this thread, who are enthralled with your thinking on these matters, eventually lose faith because they despise VCII, and go on from that to despise the pope and the Church herself, or the Church’s moral teachings, because they think like liberal dissidents or Protestants who don’t believe in infallible popes and ecumenical councils, part of that is on you, and you will stand accountable for it before God. I’m trying to spare you that.

*

The Bible also teaches: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) This is no small matter. You can’t oppose liberal heterodoxy by thinking the same way the liberal thinks in many respects. That’s the absurd position you have sadly adopted. “Either/or” false dichotomies . . . You’ve identified with your oppressor.
*
[he then made several lengthy comments in reply, reiterating the same positions and learning nothing whatsoever from my points. They can be read on his thread, at the link listed at the top]
*

All of these additional comments (which I did read, but will not further respond to, except in this statement) add up — in sum — to one thing: you are blaming Vatican II for the perverted interpretation of it promulgated by theological liberals. You’re “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”, as the saying goes.

You have the council itself confused with innumerable liberal falsehoods and lies. That is your fundamental error, and the devil rejoices over it. I can and do heartily agree with almost all of your social criticisms. But I profoundly disagree that Vatican II brought about this state of affairs. We don’t disagree on the secular results and the tragedy of the loss of faith in societies, institutions, and individuals. We totally disagree on the causes.

Vatican II was butchered and distorted, and hardly even read, by these faithless, witless theologically liberal morons — sometimes literally wolves in sheep’s clothing — who invoke it in order to supposedly bolster their damnable errors. What could make the devil more happy than to see zealous Catholics like you and multiple millions out there who now think like you do, bashing Vatican II, when the real target ought to be the liberal dissidents who have tortured and abused and misrepresented the council?

This is identifying with the oppressor. In fighting so hard against the liberals and theologically liberal rotgut, you started thinking like them. In fact, they reject Vatican II because they know (unlike you) that it is thoroughly in line with previous Catholic tradition. That’s precisely why they have to misrepresent it. This is what liars and manipulators of public opinion always do. They take what is accepted and respected and pretend that it is something other than what it actually is. And now you mirror their error and lie.

By (in effect) persuading you to bash what is a perfectly good and proper Catholic council, their victory over you is complete. Now they have you working for them within the Church — causing all kinds of havoc and division — , as a useful idiot. This is the most insidious aspect of reactionary dissidence.

I have tried my best to get you to see this, but so far you don’t. Well, then, maybe some others who are reading this will see how dangerous and destructive your error is. They can’t unread what I have written, if they have read it, and will henceforth be responsible for what they have read. I’m sounding the alarm and issuing the warning: to you and your readers. Take it or leave it. Your choice.

You can lead a life of bitching and pissing and moaning within the Church, about the Church: doing those things that St. Paul roundly condemned over and over (and told us to separate from those who did it), or you can decide to join me and many others in defending Holy Mother Church, including her solemn ecumenical council, Vatican II.

You can continue to think like a dissident liberal or like Luther and Calvin did (rejecting councils), or you can think like a consistent, devout, observant Catholic and cease and desist with this destructive, damnable rhetoric.

I detest and comment upon the problems among Catholics as much as anyone does. You have nothing on me in this respect. But I don’t attack Holy Mother Church herself. Theological liberalism and pick-and-choose dissidence is the problem, not Vatican II. Read my 12-part defense of the council over against a rabid reactionary critic of it: which would — what a novelty! — actually bring about a real dialogue about the council.

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Summary: Brazilian Catholic writer Oliveira Leonardo has decided to start bashing and trashing Vatican II. I defend it and note that his oppositional zeal is utterly misplaced.

"Before I respond to this I just want to say that it seems I am ..."

Dialogue w a Protestant on Mary’s ..."
"The Birth of the Messiah , which normally I would think would be the one ..."

Svendsen’s Dissertation on Mary: 1. Preliminaries
"He is referring to Fr. Raymond E. Brown, who was a theological liberal and dissident ..."

Svendsen’s Dissertation on Mary: 1. Preliminaries

Browse Our Archives

Close Ad