The Jeremiahs were right: Good Pope John was wrong
More about that Lake Garda Statement I talked about last time…. But first, a brief statement written over 400 years ago by the great Dutch Counter-Reformer St Peter Canisius SJ (1521-1597). It speaks as powerfully to our own times as it did to his own.
Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.
As was brought out at the Roman Forum symposium, our present plight stems to a large extent from the Church’s failure since Vatican II to proclaim the Social Kingship of Christ, in season and out of season… Below are some thoughts from Fr John Hunwicke.
I think it is becoming ever more clear … well, clear to me, anyway … that what was wrong with Vatican II is not that it promoted explicit heresy. Persistent and painstaking attempts to detect doctrinal error in its documents have, I believe, tended to reveal that this particular haystack does not in fact conceal a needle. What was wrong … and this is something perhaps only discernible with hindsight (I am not claiming that I had such hindsight half a century ago; I was as blind as the blindest of the Conciliar Fathers) … is that it completely misread the signs of the times, and thus set the Church upon a mistaken course. The assumption was that the culture of the World had reached a point at which it would be open to mutually profitable dialogue if only the Church herself became more open; if she attempted to move beyond stale and formulaic statements of dogma, accompanied by anathemas, into new expressions of evangelical Truth which the World would take seriously, if only it could be brought to see that they reflected its own deepest and most honourable concerns. Fr Aidan Nichols has wisely written: ‘I do not see any theological difficulty about querying the wisdom of some of the reform provisions made by the Council. Matters that turn on the exercise of practical wisdom in particular sets of circumstances do not involve the “charism of truth” given to the total episcopate.’ He goes on to write about the Council’s ‘misjudgements about contemporary trends’. He is dead right. The World of the Conciliar decade was in fact on the point of tipping over into a new and greater apostasy as a result of which, within a couple of generations, Christians in the “Christian heartlands” would actually become liable to persecution for resisting the imposition by ‘law’ of patterns of sexual perversion and the holocaust of the unborn. It is true, and it needs to be said, that the Conciliar documents do indeed contain explicit condemnations of abortion and of sexual immorality. But the overall cultural bias of those documents is of optimistic engagement with the World. Put in traditional terms, the Council Fathers failed to discern that the World was on the verge of a new great onslaught upon the Kingship of Christ. Despite the fact that National Socialism had used the very concept of Law itself to impose a monstrous and murderous tyranny, the Fathers did not foresee that Law was again about to be perverted, in the ‘civilised’ ‘democracies’, in precisely the same way as it had been perverted in the Germany of the 1930s. If you say to me that it is unreasonable to expect the Fathers to have had a crystal ball, I suppose I will have to agree with you, but I will come back at you with the plain and irrefutable point that, however inculpably, they did not see all this, and did not equip the Church for the dark days which in fact did lie ahead. In this failure, whether culpable or not, I discern the roots of our current problems.
Part of the blame must also lie with the holy but naïve Pope St John XXIII. If you’re as old as I am, you will remember how he inveighed against “Jeremiahs and Prophets of doom”. The world applauded and—silly young ass that I was—so did I.