An interesting article from Crisis on Vatican II

UPDATE:  Just read a part in Congar’s Journal about birth control.  He wrote that he hoped the Pope would take a moral approach to the issue; that people were approaching the whole matter in a materialistic way as if they could get some “thingumabob” that could free them from having to be virtuous.



Since I am still reading Yves Congar’s Journal of the Council, I googled his name to see where he stood on Humanae Vitae, because there are some hints in his diary he was open to birth control.  Among the results of my search, this 2006 article in Crisis Magazine.

Russell Shaw writes:

When judging postconciliar developments like these, it is necessary to consider a fundamental question: Was the Second Vatican Council really the sharp break with the Church’s past that the “spirit of Vatican II” rhetoric claimed?

Rev. Yves Congar, O.P., for one, thought not. Father Congar, a French Dominican, was one of the most prominent theologians in the years before the council, with the added cachet of having been silenced by the Holy Office (the predecessor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). His ideas helped to shape Vatican H’s positions on ecumenism, the laity, and much else. John Paul II named him a cardinal shortly before his death in 1995.

In 1979 Father Congar deplored the “rather simplistic practice” of interpreting the council as if it had been “an absolute new beginning, the point of departure for a completely new Church.” Against claims of a revolutionary break with the past, the eminent theologian declared he was “anxious to stress the continuity of tradition.” Vatican II, he said, was “one moment and neither the first nor the last moment in that tradition.”

To grasp the significance of that point, remember that the Second Vatican Council has often been called “Newman’s council.” The reference is to John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), the convert from Anglicanism whom many consider the most distinguished Catholic theologian of modern times. Newman’s contribution to Vatican II is his theory of “development,” set out and meticulously documented in his book An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

This seminal work explains how the Church’s understanding of the deposit of Faith expands and matures over time, without substantial change in the deposit itself. “From the necessity…of the case, from the history of all sects and parties in religion, and from the analogy and example of Scripture,” Newman writes, “we may fairly conclude that Christian doctrine admits of formal, legitimate, and true developments, that is, of developments contemplated by its Divine Author.” Upon finishing the Essay late in 1845, the author of those words went over to Rome.

The theory of development provides theological underpinning to support doctrinal insights introduced by Vatican II on ecclesiology, ecumenism, religious liberty, and much else. The council was not jettisoning the tradition but developing it. Seen in this light, the notion of Vatican II as a revolutionary break, whether urged by Catholic progressives or Lefebvrists, is a coarse caricature of Newman’s finely wrought account.

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A look at what reform really means within the Catholic Church

Came across this blog post about how reform in the Catholic Church really means restoration, not change.   In reading Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s book,Mystery and Sacrament of Love: a Theology of Marriage for the New Evangelization, I see how much the development of doctrine on marriage is more a recovery or an illumination of what was already revealed in Scripture or intuited by Church Fathers.  Anyway, here’s an excerpt of the LMS  (Latin Mass Society) Chairman’s blog.  The whole piece is well worth reading.

Today I am publishing a Position Paper from the International Federation Una Voce on the concepts of tradition, restoration, and reform. Go over there to read it.

Some readers will know about all this already, but the paper establishes with a degree of care and thoroughness the fallacy of claiming that there is some kind of opposition between reform and restoration. The talk of reform ‘going forward’ and restoration ‘going back’, and all this sort of irritating guff, seems to emerge from nothing more than a metaphor gone berserk – the metaphor of spatial movement for political change. Anyone would think, from the language of ‘change change change’ in current politics, that change is a good thing in itself, as long as the situation it produces has not been tried before.

It should be obvious that this kind of glib nonsense can’t be applied in the Church, but there is a particularly fundamental problem with it. The documents of Vatican II, and reforming documents before and since, don’t actually talk about ‘reform’ at all, but about instauratio – restoration – and a couple of closely related words. Instauratio is translated, in the official English translations, both as ‘restoration’ and as ‘reform’. The latter translation is tendentious, but even if it were not the idea that there is an opposition between ‘restoration’ and ‘reform’ doesn’t get off the starting blocks: we are not dealing with two concepts here, but only one. The opposition between ‘reform’ and ‘restoration’ has no basis in theology. Insofar as we can give it any sense at all, it is connected with ecclesial politics – or even secular politics.

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Article by George Weigel captures what’s at stake at the upcoming synod

I believe the intent of the fathers of the Second Vatican Council was to renew the Church through going back to the Church Fathers and Scripture so as to update the presentation of the timeless truths the Gospel in ways that would be better understood by contemporary men and women.

Their intent was to open the Catholic Church to the mission of sharing the Gospel, instead of protecting the truths of the Catholic faith in a defensive fortress.

But this is not the way many prominent theologians understand what happened.  George Weigel in this article at First Things puts his finger on the problem.  An excerpt.

In a painstaking analysis of the intellectual building-blocks of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s theological project, Professor Stark argues that, for Kasper, the notion of what we might call “sacred givens” in theology has been displaced by the idea that our perceptions of truth are always conditioned by the flux of history—thus there really are no “sacred givens” to which the Church is accountable. To take a relevant example from last year’s Synod: On Kasper’s theory, the Lord Jesus’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, seemingly “given” in Scripture, should be “read” through the prism of the turbulent historical experience of the present, in which “marriage” is experienced in many different ways and a lot of Catholics get divorced. And that historically-determined “reading” will lead, in turn, to a tempering of what once seemed settled: the Church’s understanding that those in second marriages, whose first marriages haven’t been declared null, cannot be admitted to Holy Communion because they are living in what is, objectively, an adulterous relationship.

Stark quotes Kasper to the effect that history is, well, everything. Moreover, what happens in history does not happen atop, so to speak, a firm foundation of Things As They Are; there are no Things As They Are. Rather, writes Kasper, “history is the ultimate framework for all reality.” For the cardinal, then, there seems to be nothing properly describable as “human nature,” a careful study of which will yield moral truths. There is only humanity in the flow of history. And just as there is no “human nature,” but only historical experience, so there is no Scripture understood as a “sacred given.” There is only the evolving reception of Scripture in a Church that is, so to speak, rafting down the whitewater rapids of history. Thus Kasper can write without blushing that “the truth of the Gospel can only emerge from a consensus.”

Which seems in tension with the notion that the “truth of the Gospel” is a gift to the Church and the world from Jesus Christ: a “sacred given.”

Reading the “signs of the times” in such a way as to have history trump revelation is exactly what happened to the Anglican Church—-the signs of the times of feminism led to the ordination of women, the overthrowing of a sacrament in a revealed religion by democracy and a kowtowing to the latest sociological thinking.  This same attitude has also led to changes in the sacrament of marriage in some Anglican jurisdictions.

In reading Yves Congar’s My Journal of the Council, it is also interesting to see some of the debate about the relationship of Scripture and Tradition and what could potentially happen if a notion of Tradition as the consensus Kasper talks about ended up trumping Scripture  (or more old fashioned notion of Tradition as the deposit of faith).

Congar opposed too expansive a notion of Tradition so as to block those with a maximalist view of Mary and of the Pope.   These days it seems to be progressivists who want a maximalist view of Tradition, the kind of equivalent of the living tree model we see in interpretation of the U.S Constitution (and Canadian)—that the text  means whatever we say it means and that meaning is constantly changing.

No, there is a living Tradition—the Truth of faith is not frozen in amber at one particular point in time—but at the same time, that Truth does not develop in a relativistic fashion by democracy or by giving history or “experience” as the Anglicans have argued, the same weight as Scripture.

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Oliver Sachs essay about the Sabbath

I have always enjoyed Oliver Sachs writing.  This essay in the New York Times is no exception.

MY mother and her 17 brothers and sisters had an Orthodox upbringing — all photographs of their father show him wearing a yarmulke, and I was told that he woke up if it fell off during the night. My father, too, came from an Orthodox background. Both my parents were very conscious of the Fourth Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”), and the Sabbath (Shabbos, as we called it in our Litvak way) was entirely different from the rest of the week. No work was allowed, no driving, no use of the telephone; it was forbidden to switch on a light or a stove. Being physicians, my parents made exceptions. They could not take the phone off the hook or completely avoid driving; they had to be available, if necessary, to see patients, or operate, or deliver babies.

We lived in a fairly Orthodox Jewish community in Cricklewood, in Northwest London — the butcher, the baker, the grocer, the greengrocer, the fishmonger, all closed their shops in good time for the Shabbos, and did not open their shutters till Sunday morning. All of them, and all our neighbors, we imagined, were celebrating Shabbos in much the same fashion as we did.

Around midday on Friday, my mother doffed her surgical identity and attire and devoted herself to making gefilte fish and other delicacies for Shabbos. Just before evening fell, she would light the ritual candles, cupping their flames with her hands, and murmuring a prayer. We would all put on clean, fresh Shabbos clothes, and gather for the first meal of the Sabbath, the evening meal. My father would lift his silver wine cup and chant the blessings and the Kiddush, and after the meal, he would lead us all in chanting the grace.

I don’t know.  This makes me nostalgic for an era when fathers would lead family prayers; where liturgy and life intermingled in a living worship to God.

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The Anglican Use Society has a new name!

Not long ago, I was named to the Board of the Anglican Use Society and no sooner did I become a member, we launched into a debate about changing the name.

Some of the reasons for the name-change—Anglican Use seemed to be referring to a form of liturgy or rite; the society has gone international and in England and the United Kingdom there is apparently an aversion to using the word “Anglican.”

So a lively debate ensured via email, with some Latin names among the many being proposed.  As someone who wishes to resist the Latinization of the Ordinariate  (we have enough work to do with unpacking and sharing the treasures of our Anglican patrimony and heritage) I said the only Latin name I would agree with was “Anglicanorum Coetibus Society.”

Well, ta da, drum roll, that is now the new name of the Society.

Our president Steve Cavanaugh put this update up at our website:

New Name for the Society & Announcement of Annual Meeting
In order to reflect its expanded mission, the Board has voted to change the name of the society to the “Anglicanorum Coetibus Society”. For the present, our web site and bank accounts will continue the “Anglican Use” name, so any donations to the Society should be made out to “Anglican Use Society”.

Another change we have made is to drop the requirement for dues. Instead, we encourage all members to make a donation to the Society in support of its mission. Donations may be made at the time of membership application or renewal, or at any time by check or at this site via our PayPal account. We encourage all members to renew their membership using the renewal form on our site so we may update our records, and for all interested persons to join the Society using the membership form.

And further down in the post:

New Board Members Appointed
At its board meeting on June 15, 2015, the Board amended the by-laws to allow up to 15 members on the Board of Directors. Invitations were issued subsequent to the meeting and we are pleased to announce that the following have agreed to join the AUS Board to assist us in our renewal and extension of service to the Ordinariates. The four new members are:

  • Ms. Deborah Gyapong, journalist from Ottawa, Canada who blogs at “Foolishness to the World”;
  • Professor Hans-Jürgen Feulner, author, lecturer and professor of liturgics at the University of Vienna and member of the Anglicanae Traditiones commission;
  • Mr. David Murphy, webmaster of the Ordinariate Expats blog.
  • Ms. Antonia Lynn, a former deacon in the Church of England, who is a frequent contributor to The Portal, magazine, and who blogs at The Love That Moves the Sun.
New President and Board Member of the AUS
At its board meeting on May 11, 2015, the Board of Directors accepted the resignations of long-time board members Margaret Pichon and Joseph Blake, and appointed Steve Cavanaugh and Dr. William Tighe in their stead. The Board then elected Steve Cavanaugh as president of the AUS. The Board of Directors would like to thank both Margaret and Joe for their many years of service and dedication to the Pastoral Provision and Ordinariate communities.

Actually, my personal preference would have been Anglican Heritage Society or Anglican Patrimony Society or even to keep the name Anglican Use Society so as not to seem to exclude those who are not Ordinariate members or Roman Catholics.  All Anglicans and others who are interested in Anglican patrimony are, of course, not excluded but most welcome to our project.

We arrived at the name through a ballot in which we ranked our preferences for about 15 or 17 proposed names.

I hope you’ll consider joining!

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Was Vatican II responsible for the Catholic Church’s decline in the West?

My fellow Ordinariate member from the United States Shane Shaetzel has a new post up at Catholic in the Ozarks about how Vatican II actually saved the Catholic Church.

He writes:

 In spite of its flaws (and there were some flaws of ambiguity which many have taken advantage of) the Second Vatican Council, combined with the witness of Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, are what breathed life back into the Catholic Church during that inevitable and unavoidable collapse in the latter half of the 20th century.

What many of my good traditional Catholic friends just don’t understand is that the collapse of Christian faith in the Western world was UNIVERSAL. It didn’t just affect the Catholic Church. Nearly every western Christian church was affected. Anglican churches were nearly obliterated. Methodist churches saw declines. Lutheran churches struggled to survive. As a result, many of these mainline Protestants fled their traditional denominations and formed new ones, particularly in the United States, where starting new churches is easy. This was the Evangelical boom that occurred in the 1970s through 90s. One has to understand. These Evangelical churches didn’t just pull in new members out of thin air. Rather, they simply captured long-established Christians who were fleeing their liberal mainline denominations, and liberal clergy in the Catholic Church. The Protestant collapse that happened in the last decades of the 20th century had nothing to do with Vatican II. I dare say, most of them could care less about Vatican II, and some of them never even heard of it.

Had Vatican II never happened at all, the implosion of Western Catholicism would have been worse not better. I say this because, prior to the Council, most Catholics generally ignored the Scriptures, and saw Catholicism as a list of rules and traditions, not a living and breathing Church organism.  Some people took advantage of ambiguities within Vatican II, to introduce those innovations and renovations they had been planning since the 1950s. It is interesting to note however, that those very same people opposed the proper implementation of Vatican II as taught by Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. When Vatican II was implemented properly, by these two great popes, what we saw was a PRESERVATION not a destruction.

I cannot stress this enough. As a former Protestant, I know. The errors of Modernism, that my traditional Catholic friends rightly oppose, are not native to the Catholic Church, and they certainly had nothing to do with Vatican II.


Modernism swept over Western Christianity like a tsunami, and it all started in the 1950s, right after World War II. As for Vatican II, it couldn’t have changed this. The council was both used and abused, by those in the Church who had their own agendas. However, when Vatican II was used properly, it became an instrument of preservation, that slowed the decline of Catholicism in comparison to what was happening in mainline Protestant denominations.

The popes have told us that Vatican II still has not been fully implemented. Traditional Catholics shutter [sic–should be shudder] when they hear these words, because all they can think of is the Modernist abuses of Vatican II that have occurred over the last 50 years. However, they must understand that when the popes said this, what they meant was that the Modernist abuses of Vatican II were never part of Vatican II, and what is needed is a Hermeneutic of Continuity in implementing the conciliar reforms. We’ve only seen a little of this over the last 50 years, but every time we saw it, the Church was preserved, souls were saved, and the decline of Catholicism was reversed.

I might quibble a bit on his historical analysis, as Modernism has been a problem for far longer than since the 1950s, but it had certainly reached tsunami proportions by then.

When the writings of the Second Vatican Council are read through the lens of Modernism and the latest sociological and psychological pet theories, yes, you are going to have disaster on your hands.  But read through the lens of the living Catholic Tradition going back to the Apostles—through the eyes of faith– the Council’s contribution to Church renewal has yet to be properly worked out.  Both progressives and traditionalists see the Council as a rupture because of the event of the council and its aftermath.  They say the documents are the virtual council—the real Council was the event.   But 100 years from now, the documents will be more important  than the aftermath because we can already see a correction taking place as more and more younger people get drawn to beauty in the liturgy and the 1970s hippie Masses become ever more out-of-date.

Reading Yves Congar’s Journal of the Council, it is so interesting to see him stressing a return to Scripture and Tradition in the face of what he considered a rigid ultramontanism that saw the Pope as a monarchical power and as Vicar of Christ tantamount to being the voice of Jesus Christ—the Pope as a more important source of revelation than Scripture and Tradition.

It’s therefore ironic to see progressives now falling into the ultramontanist camp since they think (erroneously) Pope Francis is going to singlehandedly change Church doctrine and discipline, regardless of what Scripture and Tradition say.

Now those arguing for Scripture and Tradition and for a more modest view of the papacy are traditionalists!

One thing for sure:  the Anglican Ordinariates would not have been possible were it not for the Second Vatican Council.

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Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s book now out in English

I received Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s book Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and Family for the New Evangelization in the mail along with an assignment from my boss to write a story on it in light of the upcoming synod on the family in October.

Here I am reading the book out in my backyard the other day when our weather was perfect for siting outside.  No bugs, no humidity, blue sky, beautiful.

Today is more humid, cloudy and I am heading off to the nearby farm to pick up some fresh vegetables.  Then I plan to do some cleaning before I get back to the book.  I am on page 127 and I highly recommend it as a view of what the Second Vatican Council was meant to bring to the understanding of marriage, as also developed further by St. Pope John Paul II.


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Interesting article on Cardinal Jean Danielou

In my readings related to the Second Vatican Council and influential theologians, one of my favorites so far is Cardinal Jean Danielou.

I am reading his God and the Ways of Knowing, and while flying home from California I read the chapter on God and the philosophers and my heart burned within me as if I were on the Road to Emmaus.

The Bible and Liturgy sits on my bed table—slowly reading these extremely rich chapters on the Early Church Fathers’ understanding of liturgy and sacraments.

It makes me wonder why traditionalists are so quick to dismiss theologians like Danielou as modernists, when the aims of theologians of the Ressourcement movement seem praiseworthy to me.  Anyway, came across this article on Danielou at Catholic World Report that is most interesting.  Marc C. Nicholas writes:

Also, Daniélou is well known for his endorsement of the ressourcement adage, ad fonts, or “return to the sources” which sought to reconnect contemporary Catholicism with the great Christian sources of the past. To this point, Daniélou, along with Henri de Lubac, established the Sources Chretienne series in France which inspired other non-francophone attempts to make the Church Fathers accessible to the greater reading public.

Of lasting importance is Daniélou’s defense of the Church’s traditional teaching concerning the “spiritual interpretation” (Daniélou specifically argues for typological) of the Christian Scriptures. In his The Bible and the Liturgy and From Shadows to Reality, Daniélou maintains that the modern tendency to limit the interpretation of the biblical texts to the literal-historical meaning of the text—which modern historical-critical methodology does—is a serious breach of tradition and violates a holistic understanding of the text which was protected by the spiritual interpretation of texts.

Lastly, Daniélou is well-known as one of the catalysts to the Novelle Théologie (a label given to Daniélou and his confreres by his theological opponents) which emphasized a return to the earliest Christian sources as a way to renew theology, a revival of the historical nature of Catholicism and a rejection of the notion that the Neo-Thomism of the 19th and 20th centuries was the sole arbiter of Catholic doctrine.

Neo-Thomism of the 19th and 20th centuries as the sole arbiter of Catholic doctrine.  So, so interesting.  A theologian wrote me that Danielou has been criticized as against St. Thomas Aquinas, but he was really more against Thomists!

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The battle against ultramontanism

It is so interesting to read Yves Congar’s My Journal of the Council to read the behind the scenes account of the battle among theologians like himself with what he described as the rigid ultramontanism of the conservatives, who resisted any change to the status quo, and promoted the role of the papacy to such an extent that it was as if the Pope was the source of Revelation.

Congar was pushing for a return to Scripture and Tradition—because he thought the power of the papacy had become too concentrated and the Catholic Church had become too Roman, too Italian, locked into a monarchical model.   Though traditionalists often trash Nouvelle Theologie as modernist, I see it as springing from a desire to return to the Sources of Catholic teaching—Revelation, i.e. Scripture and the teachings of the Early Church Fathers rather than being confined to  a Neo-Scholastic and philosophical approach to doctrine alone.  (Not that, however, that approach has ever been abrogated!   It hasn’t.  I would say it has been fleshed out.   Just as natural law has never been abrogated. It can’t be abrogated!  Any new approach to theology must keep in mind the entire conversation going back to the first Apostles—no rupture. )

Well, interestingly, now it is the traditionalists who are crying out “Scripture and Tradition!” against a perceived ultramontanism of today’s progressives who see Pope Francis as their ally in changing the teachings of the Church, or at least its pastoral practice, which is tantamount to the same thing.  (I do not think Pope Francis will change either the teaching or the pastoral practice).

I am for Scripture and Tradition and the Pope as a sign of unity and defender of the deposit of faith.

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A call for both women and men not to be soft!

Most interesting article by Fr. James Mason about the vice of effeminacy that I found over at the New Advent site. He writes:

I have five sisters, and all are feminine, but I would describe none of them as effeminate or soft.  They are women; yet, they do not exhibit this particular vice.  So, it must be understood, I am not putting down women or speaking on homosexuality, (though effeminacy is often a sign of this sexual disorder) but rather on acting in an inappropriate manner that is often prevalent in seminaries.

When I was giving a retreat to some of Mother Teresa’s sisters in Washington, D.C.,  I briefly mentioned  this vice, and after the conference, the regional superior asked if I could give a more thorough conference on the matter.  I told her that this type of softness was certainly not something that I observed with the Missionaries of Charity, but she insisted on the topic.  I decided to use the example of St. Teresa of Avilla who when she went about with her reforms she immediately began to address this type of softness.  The Carmelites had become a soft group of social elites who would sit around and gossip in the parlor.  She told her sisters we need to be “con pantoloni” (with pants).  Many modern religious have taken a completely literal translation to these words, but she meant that they needed to roll up their sleeves, and get to work.  They could not be soft, delicate Southern belles but feminine women able to finish a job.  St. Teresa of Avila, observing the group of virgins around her stated:

What shall I do with them?  Ah, I shall employ them to destroy heresy, to bring forth Doctors of the Church, to make reparation for sins, to convert souls.  They will be solid walls, armed ramparts.  They will be living fountains of light and faith…

There is nothing soft about such a call.

I love that call!

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