January 6, 2000
volume 11, no. 4

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    Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat gives equal time to the other side of the coin regarding Vatican II. In an eye-opening treatise he shows how ultra-conservative Catholics resent Vatican II because they also misinterpret the intent and actual decrees adopted by the Council Fathers. They join the liberals and modernists in going to extremes by blaming Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI for allowing it to happen and our present Holy Father Pope John Paul II for carrying out the directives of the Second Vatican Council. Pat clears up the truth with documents from both Vatican II and the Council of Trent in one of his most insightful columns ever. He shows the wisdom of the addage that one can leave the Church through either the left door or the right door, proving that the best course is to stay in the center, not as a liberal Catholic or a conservative Catholic, but a Roman Catholic! That is the gist of Pat's column today, Why Vatican II? The other side of the coin. For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives   If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at

Why Vatican II? The other side of the coin
    As I wrote before, Vatican II was not convened to 'democratize' the Church, nor dispose of even the smallest part of the Deposit of Faith. Rather, it had another purpose. But just as we have those who push a 'spirit' of Vatican II, we also have those who are decidedly opposed to Vatican II. Where the one group are collectively called 'progressive' or 'liberal' Catholics, the other group are generally called 'conservative' Catholics. We should look at these as well.

    For conservative Catholics, the view is dim. Once, the Church was alive and vibrant, as Pope John XXIII pointed out. Now, it appears awash with relativism, modernism, liberalism, heterodoxy, apostasy, and out right heresy. They point to one event as the cause...Vatican II. And the 'person' who convened the Council, Pope John XXIII. It's just as understandable for them to decry Vatican II as it is for the liberal Catholic to follow some 'spirit' of Vatican II. Both are hampered by their understanding of the Council and John XXIII. Whereas one distorts the Council, the other blames the victim. However, both distort the Council. In this, they are alike.

    According to the conservative Catholic Pope John XXIII was not really the Pope. How they come to this conclusion is odd and needs some theological gymnastics, no less than their liberal counterparts. According to them, the Conclave of Cardinals were hard pressed to find a person of 'papal timber', according to the media of the day, to replace Pius XII. At that time, most people knew that Pius XII was not the weak, plotting anti-Semite many want to portray him as today. He was a wise and prudent leader and to find one like him would be difficult. The thing is, every conclave has to face this. Does one think they will have any easier task when time comes to name John Paul's successor?

    For whatever reasons they may have had, in 1958, the white smoke rose from St.Peter's, and it was announced, "We have a Pope". Not, 'We have an interim pope', or 'We have a brevet pope', but "We have a Pope." No one challenged the election of Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli to become Pope John XXIII. He was the Pope.

    This 'anti-pope' (as they view him) discovered a new way to govern the Church. Here, the conservatives fall in line with the liberals. They accuse him of saying inspiration is the means of governing the Church, the 'We are Church' argument. The thing is, Pope John XXIII never did, or said, any such thing.

    They assert that this 'discovery' was the "sole excuse for convocation of a council to update the Church, to open and re-examine every Catholic doctrine (but one, papal infallibility) to accommodate modern man." This assertion is totally false. John XXIII's address opening the Council disproves this: "In calling this vast assembly of bishops, the latest and humble successor to the Prince of the Apostles who is addressing you intends to assert once again the Church's Magesterium (teaching authority), which is unfailing and perdures until the end of time, in order that this Magesterium, taking into account the errors, the requirements, and the opportunities of our time, might be presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world...The greatest concern of the ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously." (Open Address of the Second Vatican Council; Oct. 11, 1962)

    Nothing was said about changing, re-examining, or updating the Church to accommodate modern man, rather it was to safeguard the all of Christian doctrine and find ways to teach them to the whole world better.

    In fact, Vatican II makes it's aim quite clear: "Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils. The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical and cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ." (Lumen Gentium; DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH; Preface)

    Let's take another look at the world and see why John XXIII called this Council. Europe was still recovering from World War II, the suffering was still occurring. The Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union was heating up. War in Korea and Vietnam, and proxy wars in other parts of the world added to this suffering. In the US, material prosperity was clouding the vision of Christ. Any and all authority was being questioned and/or coming under attack. Various parts of the world were being seduced by the allure of Communism, removing God from any part of human life. Technology was growing at a furious pace. Television, once a novelty, was fast becoming an instrument which bound the world together. And now, mankind found a way to even stop a pregnancy by just taking a pill, making the sexual revolution a viable movement.

    The Church saw the need to re-affirm her belief's, call on ALL faithful Catholics, alive and vibrant in the faith, to take those beliefs to a world confused and darkened to the light of Christ. That was the reason for Vatican II. That was why it was called. Not to change the Church, but through the Church, to change the world, give it hope.

    One of the most visible changes in the Church has been, sadly, is the Mass. According to progressive Catholics, Vatican II called for it to be said in the vernacular and changed whenever and however someone felt in order to make it more appealing to the masses. To conservatives, this was wrong. Neither Pope John XXIII, nor Pope Paul VI, had any authority to change one iota of the Mass as set down by Pope Pius V. But again, Vatican II never called for such changes.

    "Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Vatican Council II; SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Introduction)

    Any changes were to be done carefully in the light of sound tradition. The Council of Trent condemned the total use of the vernacular in the Mass. Trent stated, "Although the Mass contains much instruction for the faithful, it has nevertheless not seemed expedient to the Fathers that it be celebrated everywhere in the vernacular." They even condemned "anyone who says that the Mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular only." (ref. Canons of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 9; Council of Trent) Vatican II:

"1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2,to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.

4. Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned above. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Vatican Council II; SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM)

    In fact, if one had watched the Christmas Mass on television, they would have noted a substantial use of Latin in the Liturgy.

    The Church's desire to include the vernacular didn't reject Pius V's teaching, but expounded on it. "Actually, the Council was looking into the future with the prospect of new nations and peoples being evangelized and entering the Church. Whenever possible, their 'genius and talents' (culture) and 'way of life' (tradition) are to remain unchanged and even admitted into the liturgy, provided they are 'not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error' and 'harmonize with the true and authentic spirit' of Catholic Christianity. New rites were envisioned as the work of evangelization of peoples gained momentum in the Church's missionary outreach to the world." (The Catholic Catechism by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.; Part Three: Ritual and Worship - XII. The Liturgy: Trent and Second Vatican)

    The Eucharist remained the Real Presence of Christ, whole and complete in even the smallest particle of the Sacred Host or Consecrated wine, just as it was taught by the Council of Trent.

    No heresies were approved by the Council, as conservatives believe. In fact, this too plays into the hands of the liberals who point out that NO supposed heresies were condemned. The Council didn't address heresies because the heresies of modernism and liberalism (as it applies to the Church) were condemned long before. It wasn't the Council's task to condemn what had already been condemned, or even lift condemnation.

    Conservatives are correct when they say that Church law (Canon law) says that public heretics are automatically removed, excommunicated, from the Church without any need for declaration or ceremony. This was what Bishop Bruskewitz warned members of Call To Action and Planned Parenthood about. That the Church didn't need to excommunicate them, they had done it to themselves. But who do you think the conservatives label as heretics? Montini, Luciani, and Wojtyla, respectively, Pope Paul VI, John Paul and John Paul II. The exact same Popes the liberals decry as attacking Vatican II. (Interesting huh? With the exception of John Paul I who liberals 'claim' would have been the Pope that would have given them what they wanted. But his death makes it possible to create anything about him.)

    When asked about what kind of Catholic he was, Scott Hahn responded, "I'm not a conservative, nor a liberal Catholic. I'm a Roman Catholic." To liberal Catholics, orthodox Catholics who follow Pope Paul VI and John Paul II in the true teachings of Vatican II are intolerant, narrow minded, pre-Vatican II Catholics. Whereas to conservative Catholics, the orthodox are heretical, post-concilliar, apostate Catholics.

    You just can't win for losing. But if anything, we see that, in many ways, and from different positions, both the liberal and conservative Catholics distort the real Vatican II. Angered by what has happened to the Church, conservatives attack the wrong target. To paraphrase something Bishop Sheen said, There aren't one in hundred who hate Vatican II, but there are thousands who hate what they 'think' is Vatican II.

Pax Christi, Pat


January 6, 2000
volume 10, no. 4

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