Reclaiming the Second Vatican Council

If the Second Vatican Council had not happened, there would be no ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican tradition.

Consequently, this post by Bishop Robert Barron on Reclaiming the Second Vatican Council  at Word on Fire is of crucial importance.

He explains two opposite reactions to the implementation of Vatican II, which Henri de Lubac called the implementation of a “para-council” that did not reflect the wishes of the Council fathers.

On the one hand, we have the so-called “liberal” Catholics who, under the auspices of the para-Council, encourage predominantly modernist and secular mentalities. There is a strong emphasis on the “pastoral” dimension of ministry while downplaying the intellectual and theological dimensions. Liturgy, from the para-Council view, is an anthropocentric enterprise where the gratification of the ego dictates the music, preaching, architecture, and celebration of the Eucharist. Social justice is reduced to a simple activism, which St. Teresa of Kolkata so often warned against. The Catholic identity of our schools and universities is repressed, leaving behind a shell of their former distinctiveness. As a result of these mindsets and practices, millions of Catholics have left the Church as she seemingly fades into the background of society, just another sentimental institution among others in the humdrum of civilization.

On the other hand, many “conservative” or “traditional” Catholics are in all-out rebellion against Vatican II, or more appropriately, what is falsely peddled as Vatican II. Witnessing the deterioration of solemnity, piety, catechesis, and beauty due to the para-Council, there is a temptation to “circle the wagons” and return to the tried and true infrastructures pre-Vatican II Catholicism. This regression is rooted in an admirable desire, even if its zeal is misplaced. Recognizing the steadfast doctrines, traditions, and practices of Trent, they hope to revive the past glory of the Church so she can reassert her unique presence in the world. This is verified by the growing number of young men and women who are opting for the Traditional Latin liturgy, seeing it in opposition to the liturgy of Vatican II.

Both of these competing poles are reactions to the para-Council, and each equally misunderstands the Second Vatican Council. The one side is told Vatican II opened the doors to a “new age” and “modern” theology that encourages a dismantling of the tired traditions and close-minded beliefs of the “pre-Vatican II” Church. The other is told Vatican II suppressed Latin and ad orientem, disavowed orthodox theology, and paved the way for the perversion of our religion. None of these claims are correct.

Many faithful Catholics are being attracted to the traditionalist critique because they see Vatican II used to justify modernism and progressivism, something they rightly reject.

As one theologian said to me a couple of years ago, when I was wrestling with these issues:  “It’s better to be a traditionalist than a modernist; but it’s best of all to be a continuist, a word I just made up.”

And to be a continuist, is to see the Second Vatican Council in continuity with tradition –as Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI urged us to do, and not see it as a rupture, either from the perspective of the progressivists who are gleeful at rupture; and the traditionalists who abhor it.

Bishop Barron concludes with a message that is key (my emphases):

“Furthermore, most Catholics—including many persons in leadership positions within parishes and Catholic institutions—have never read the documents of the Second Vatican Council, thus remaining uninformed of its true intentions. As a result, the most essential and exciting aspects of Vatican II are given little attention: a rehabilitation of patristic and biblical scholarship in Catholic theology, an increased co-operation and openness to the traditions of the Eastern Rites, a deeper knowledge of liturgical mysticism and sacredness, an evangelical zeal to convert the modern world, a renewal of sacred art and music, a revitalization of the ancient practice of adult faith formation, a profound consideration of the marriage vocation and its role in society, etc.


8 thoughts on “Reclaiming the Second Vatican Council

  1. I like de Lubac’s analysis, and understand your attachment to Vatican II given that you see the origins the ordinariates there. However, many of us former “conservative” Catholics are seeing the evidence de Lubac references in the context of our recent understanding that the Council was high-jacked by progressives and the “schema” – the blueprint or agenda prepared for the Council at the request of Pope St. John XXIII and approved by him – was tossed out and replaced by the agenda of the progressives from the Rhine countries.

    There are some things worth salvaging, but not the Council as a whole.

    The sad truth in the Vatican II documents there is ZERO CONTINUITY with anything Apostolic, whether Traditions or Teachings.

    Too bad, but it isn’t the first council needing overturning by a later Council. We just might not get the get a correction done in time, given that the corruption at the highest levels in the Vatican seem like the fulfillment of Marian prophecies in Fatima and Aquita.


  2. You can say you are a continuist but does that correspond to reality? I suppose you don’t want to be a nominalist and just impose a category. You will be hard pressed to show continuity


    • I actually would rather say that I am a restorationist.

      Now, let me explain. Back in 1975, a detail of midshipmen from my NROTC unit visited USS Constitution (AKA “Old Ironsides”) — the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Much to our surprise, the ship’s captain — who had done a LOT of research into the history of the vessel in connection with a major overhaul in preparation for her ceremonial role in the celebration of our nation’s bicentenary (which included returning a salute from the royal yacht HMS Britannia bringing Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip to Boston and hosting the monarch and her party onboard) greeted us upon our arrival and conducted the tour personally. During the course of the tour, he explained that the historical records showed that the ship had received several modifications during her years of active service, and that they had decided to reverse several of these modifications as part of the ship’s restoration.

      Now, for better or worse, the liturgy has evolved in many ways from that of the early church over the course of two millennia. I firmly believe that a restoration of the earlier liturgical form would provide some great insights as to what is most important among the truths and the practices of the faith, in the form of a much more authentic encounter with the true Tradition. This is NOT an invitation to reckless abandonment of what we have received, but rather a process to be carefully discerned and guided by the authentic magisterium.


      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Thanks for sharing this. Please note, however that the blogpost in question was written not by Bishop Barron, but by Fr. Blake Briton, a contributor to the Word on Fire blog.


  5. I’ve been saying this for a long while…

    I like both the terms continuist and restorationist, but I know exactly what I really am — a retrograde. I’m just an old fashioned guy, who believes in old fashioned Christianity, who sees the Catholic Church through an old fashioned lens. Pope Benedict XVI was right about Vatican II. The Hermeneutic of Continuity is the ONLY way to interpret it with any form of sanity. Every other method is illegitimate and produces defective results.


  6. YES SHANE, ITS o.kay to be an old fashioned guy, etc—- GOD loves us all, and this was shown by His death on the cross. I am also an old fashioned guy and I know God loves me, even though I fail a lot in my life, but with Jesus help I am able to get up, and continue in my Catholic life to live for the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the BODY BLOOD SOUL AND DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST.Holy Mass each day, and prayer. COME HOLY SPIRIT. Thank you. BILL H.


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