As the Society of St. Pius X strives not to lose its Catholic footing in its on-going diplomatic war-dance with the churchmen presently in Rome, it could be helped by a Congress taking place in Paris early this month to examine the documents and fruits of the Second Vatican Council (1962 to 1965).
The reason for the Congress taking place this autumn is that October 11, 2002, is the 40th anniversary of the solemn opening in St. Peterís Basilica of the Council, which was by any reckoning a momentous event in the history of the Catholic Church. And so a number of interested priests and layfolk, drawn mainly from within the ranks of the Society of St. Pius X and its followers, are meeting on October 4, 5 and 6, to take stock of 40 years of Vatican II.
That Council is intensely controversial. Some say it saved the Catholic Church, others say it is still devastating the Church, but there are three things that few Catholics deny: firstly, that Vatican II sought to bring the Church up-to-date with modern times; secondly, that that "modernization" has made today's mainstream Church almost unrecognizable from what the Catholic Church was prior to the Council; thirdly, that the highest churchmen now governing the Church in Rome, from the Pope downwards, still adamantly believe in that "modernization" brought by Vatican II. ln fact that Council so governs their thinking that if in any dealings with these Romans one wishes to know with whom one is dealing, that Council is the most important thing to know. That is why the Congress in Paris may, however humbly, help the Society to see how it needs to deal with the Romans, for as long as these are in the mental grip of Vatican II.
What, then, was the Council? It was the large-scale penetration within the Catholic Church - or churchmen - of the principles governing the modern world since, especially, the French Revolution of 1789. Both friend and foe of the Council (e.g. Cardinal Suenens and Archbishop Lefebvre) said that it was the Church's 1789. Now one may or may not like those principles, but they are what they are, and whether or not one likes them, they will have such and such effects: "liberty", "equality", "fraternity", "the rights of man", "pluralism", are amongst the main ones, and they are objective in their working.
Now from the moment these modern principles began to gain wide acceptance, let us say from the time of the French Revolution onwards, they were clearly, firmly and repeatedly denounced by the Catholic Popes and by the Catholic Church, up until Vatican II, as being principles of godlessness which would destroy the Church and civilization if they had their way. ln other words, between the modern world, as such, and the one true God, there is an irreconcilable war.
Not so, said the friends of these principles. They said that the modern world is nice, that God is nice, and so since everybody is nice, there should be an end to the war. They said that the modern principles can and should be taken into the bosom of the Church which can purify them (so says Cardinal Ratzinger) and reconcile them with the still true (?) principles of the good old Catholicism.
And these friends of the modern world, under the decisive leadership of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, prevailed at Vatican II over the rearguard enemies of those modern principles. Now this rearguard did put up a fight against the admission of the modern principles into the Church, so that the 16 final documents of Vatican II show both the ancient and the modern ideas alongside one another. ln fact the ancient ideas are so well represented that even a conservative like Archbishop Lefebvre underwrote 14 (some say 16) of the 16 documents.
However, the modern principles were also there. They had at last gained admission within the Catholic Church, and in accordance with their objective nature, they began to do their work. Their most sensational success, affecting directly or indirectly every Catholic, was the replacement in 1969 of the Tridentine Mass by the Novus Ordo Mass. From that triumph of theirs onwards, they wrought one change after another within the Church to the point that, as said, anyone who knew the Church before the Council could hardly recognize it some time afterwards as being the same Church.
Now a large number of Catholics, layfolk, priests, bishops and cardinals, welcomed these changes. At last, the Church was in step with the modern world all around us. That world is not bad, they say, so thank goodness the Church no longer requires us to fight it. Everything in the Church has been renewed, they say, and the signs of the renewal are all around us. For instance, when Italian journalist Vittorio Messori interviewed recently Pope John Paul II for one of his books, it appears that he tried repeatedly to get the Pope to admit that not all the fruits of the Council were good, but the Pope would not once admit it. As an SSPX colleague stationed in Italy says, this Pope has "a mystic belief" in the Second Vatican Council.
On the other hand enemies of modern principles, and therefore of the modern world as such, say that the "renewal" has devastated the Catholic Church and is still devastating what little remains of pre-Conciliar Catholicism. That these modern principles would melt down the Church was as predictable as that heat will melt down ice, they say. Friends of modernity may claim that the modern world is changing, and that there is more and more heat, but therefore to pretend that if ice is put out into this heat, it will not melt, is ridiculous, because ice and heat have not changed their natures. Godless principles are bound by their nature to destroy the true Church of God, yesterday, today or tomorrow.
But the enemies of modernity go further. They will say that the Second Vatican Council, by conserving in its documents the ancient alongside the modern, and by thus seeming to preserve the good old Catholicism, did in fact no such thing. Just as the old elements of validity preserved in the Novus Ordo Mass helped the New Mass to be established by preventing a sane Catholic reaction of rejection of the New Mass, so the old elements of Catholicism preserved in the documents of Vatican II helped the new religion of secular humanism to be established within the Catholic Church by preventing what would otherwise have been a wholesale Catholic rejection of Vatican II and its modernized version of "Catholicism".
Therefore, say those who equate modernity with godlessness (and they have their arguments), the problem lies not in the after-Council (as many "conservatives" pretend) but in the Council itself. The problem is not that the documents have been misapplied following the Council, the problem is that the documents themselves are riddled with contradiction and ambiguity as they try to fit together heat and ice. Of course, then, both friend and foe of the old religion can appeal to the same documents. Of course, then, such documents were tailor-made to produce the civil war and havoc we have seen for 40 years within the Church.
ln other words, say the enemies of modernity, whatever may have been the sincerity, good intentions, naivety, etc., of the great majority of cardinals and bishops who at the Council voted for the 16 documents, the 40 years that have passed since the Council have shown by their fruits of devastation what the small minority of Council bishops said from the very beginning, namely that modernity as such is as objectively deadly for Catholicism as heat is for ice. Therefore the Catholic Church, to save souls, must throw out every single paragraph of Vatican II, and have no further truck with, nor mercy upon, the miserable principles of modernity.
Let us hope then that the Paris Congress will help firstly to distil out of the Conciliar fruits, but especially out of the documents, the powerful underlying error. Error, not errors, because a plurality of errors not united by some central idea could never have had the hurricane-force of destruction that Vatican II had upon the Church. If one were to claim that that central idea is the putting of man in the place of God, obviously one would not be pretending that that error of errors is stated in so many words in the Council documents - rather it appears there beneath the disguise of, for instance, the "dignity of the human person".
Secondly, may the Congress show with what skill - consciously or unconsciously - the modern errors are disguised beneath ancient appearances in the Conciliar documents, so that to this day a mass of sincere "conservatives" are still deceived. By insisting on giving to the documents their Catholic interpretation, such conservatives succeed in conserving only the Novus Ordo Church, which sweeps them aside! The Revolution eats her own children, says an old saying.
Thirdly, may the Society of St.. Pius X be helped to see that while all due respect must be shown to the churchmen who occupy the seat of Moses (Mt. XXIII, 2), and while all allowance may be made for their subjective sincerity and even benevolence towards the Society, nevertheless for as long as they have not shaken off the bewitchment of the Council with its reconciling of irreconcilables, they must be treated like madmen, not clinical, but ideological madmen, whose minds are no longer working. And by what sign will we know that they have recovered their non-contradictory Catholic wits? Certainly not by their blanket approval of everything the SSPX zeroes do or say. Certainly by their unconditional approval of the ancient Faith which those zeroes attempt to defend by all they do and say!
All blessings. Let us pray there be no insane onslaught upon Iraq.
Sincerely yours in Christ,