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Catholic Dossier ^ | 2001 | Ralph McInerny

Posted on 05/06/2003 8:22:39 AM PDT by american colleen


Ralph McInerny

The final prayer of the final hour of the Divine Office that Pope John Paul II has said throughout his priestly life is the Nunc dimittis.

Lord, now you can let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled; my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.

The words are spoken by Simeon in Luke 2:29-32, and if in English they lose something of the elegiac power they have in the Latin the Pope uses, they retain their valedictory tone. Reciting the words now, in his ninth decade, the Pope can be imagined to invest them with wistful urgency. Who could blame him if he longs to lay down the burden he has borne since 1978?

Others have anticipated his end, not always benevolently. Peter Hebblethwaite published a little book some years ago called The Next Pope, in which he indulged a progressive’s dream that John Paul II’s successor would undo the ‘damage’ the Polish Pope had done and enact the liberal agenda the British journalist, an ex-priest, had for the Church. Well, Hebblethwaite is dead and the Pope is still alive. But the genre is not exhausted by Hebblethwaite’s book. Other Catholics have speculated about what lies in store for the Church in the papacy after this one. James Carroll has just published Constantine’s Sword, a kind of handbook for unhappy Catholics. Their impatience has been palpable. They consider this papacy a disaster. But it is not only liberal Catholics who assess John Paul II’s stewardship with a cold eye. Conservative Catholics too have ticked off the items that tick them off and their indictment is scarcely less severe than that of the liberals, however different the complaints.

One can wish the Pope continued long life, as I do, and still feel that it is not wholly presumptuous to put his long reign in the balance and try to guess what the verdict on it will be. But how does one assess a pope? A glance at the dozens of books devoted to him — the all-but-definitive work is George Weigel’s Witness to Hope — makes it clear that there are two quite distinct ways of doing this. A pope can be looked at as a world leader and appraised by the criteria such leaders must meet. This is fair enough, but it is largely irrelevant. A pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth; he leads the pilgrim people of God on their long march toward the New Jerusalem. To him in particular is entrusted what St. Paul called the “deposit of faith.” Each generation of Christians must pass on whole and entire the good news that the Messiah has come, that through Jesus Christ eternal salvation is available to all. A pope’s performance of that task can only be definitively assessed at the Final Judgment, of course, but it is in his defining role as the successor of St. Peter, as far as that can be evaluated in this life, that I presume to speak of him here.

My remarks, like Gaul, are divided into three Caesarian sections — biographical, doctrinal and administrative.

1. Out of Poland

Morris West’s novel The Shoes of the Fisherman appeared in 1963 and was subsequently made into a movie starring Anthony Quinn. The novel featured a Ukrainian, Kiril Lakota, implausibly elected pope and destined to confront the Russian menace. Fifteen years afterward, a Polish cardinal named Karol Wojtyla was the surprising choice of the papal conclave. He took the name John Paul II — a tribute to his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI (as well as to his immediate predecessor, John Paul I, who had reigned for a month).

Karol Wojtyla’s election had all the improbability of Morris West’s ecclesiastical thriller. In the twenty-two years and more since his election on October 16, 1978, Pope John Paul II has soared beyond fictional canons of probable improbability to put an indelible mark on the papacy and on the Church he heads. He has traveled more than the most peripatetic head of state. He has been the target of an assassin’s bullets. He has preached and written and inspired. Revered by millions he is also been pilloried by left and right, but he has outlived or outclassed his most vehement critics. He is the most recognized of world figures and yet he remains an enigma to friend and foe.

Karol Wojtyla was twenty-two years old when he began his studies for the priesthood in 1942. His native Poland had been simultaneously invaded by Germany and Russia in 1939 and the Poles were once again a subjugated people. Hitler eventually turned on Stalin and the two evil dictators fought it out like figures in an apocalypse. Invasion, occupation, subjugation, poverty and want characterized Wojtyla’s native land as he grew to maturity. When Hitler was defeated, Poland remained under the Russian heel, behind the Iron Curtain. This was a cheerless setting in which to come of age, but youth is the time of hope. Karol Wojtyla’s first interest had been in the theater, not the Church. The future pope became an artist. In 1940 the young Wojtyla wrote two plays and acted in one of them himself. He had entered Krakow’s Jagiellonian University but when 184 professors were shipped off to a concentration camp Karol Wojtyla became a miner and later a factory worker. Soon he heard another voice and realized he was called to the priesthood.

He began his seminary studies in clandestine conditions, studying philosophy as notes to the underground, not the worst setting for the pursuit of wisdom. Some of his fellow seminarians were shot by the Gestapo. Eventually he continued his studies in the residence of the heroic Archbishop Sapieha. The Red Army that had occupied eastern Poland in 1939 and retreated to Russia when Hitler turned on Stalin, left the Germans as the sole occupier Poland until 1945. Then the Red Army swarmed in again as the Nazis fled. Post-war Poland, thanks to Yalta, became part of the Soviet sphere of influence. Karol Wojtyla was ordained a priest in 1946 and shortly thereafter was sent to Rome for further study. In 1948 he earned his first doctorate.

Back home, he was assigned to parish work and became a chaplain to students. During the early years of his priesthood, his artistic interests continued and he wrote plays and poems. But this artist-priest was also destined for an academic career and in 1953 he became a lecturer at his alma mater. Appointed to its philosophy department in 1954, he was given the Chair in Ethics two years later and delivered the lectures that would be published as Love and Responsibility in 1960. By then he was a bishop, having been consecrated auxiliary bishop in 1959, the year John XXIII would announce the convening of an ecumenical council.

That council, Vatican II, brought together the bishops of the world in four sessions over a period of three years, from 1962 to 1965. Bishop Wojtyla addressed the council on the liturgy, on revelation, on religious freedom, on the role of the laity, on the people of God. Nor did the other arrows in his quiver grow blunt. During the council, he wrote a poem cycle on the Church. He had been named Archbishop of Krakow in 1963 at forty-three. He was created cardinal in 1967 and advised Paul VI on the matter of Humanae Vitae. Already he was well-traveled and highly esteemed within the Church. He preached a lenten retreat to Paul VI and members of the Roman curia in 1967 and attended episcopal synods in Rome in 1971 and in 1978. The wider world might have been unaware of this Iron Curtain cardinal but not his fellow churchmen. Paul VI died in August of 1978 and a few weeks later Albino Luciani was elected pope, taking the name John Paul I. A month later he was dead and once more the College of Cardinals convened. On October 16, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected pope at the age of fifty-eight and took the name John Paul II.

At the outset, newly elected, this pope was an athletic man in the prime of life who descended onto tarmacs the world over, kissed the ground, and then righted himself with a kind of push-up to greet the crowd in their own language, no matter how esoteric. His polylingual accomplishments were evident from the beginning. When first presented as their new pope to the crowd in St Peter’s Square, he addressed them in “our Italian language.” During his watch, the Berlin Wall came down, the Communist Empire crumbled, and many give him much credit for it. He backed the reforms in Poland that proved to be the beginning of the end of the Evil Empire. The Cold War had haunted the Church as it haunted the post-war world. Indeed, the second part of the Vatican II document on the Church in the Modern World, on which as a young bishop Karol Wojtyla had worked, is all but unintelligible apart from the assumed stand-off of east and west.

The attempted assassination in St. Peter’s Square, brought John Paul II low, lower than was realized at the time, but he slowly recovered and took up again the pace that would have wearied almost anyone. But the spring was gone from his step. There was a new thoughtfulness in those Slavic eyes. He journeyed to Fatima to thank Our Lady for saving his life. His devotion at the Masses he said throughout the world was palpable, televison close-ups revealing the inner concentration of a priest commemorating the passion and death of Jesus Christ. There was the “Sermon on the Mound” in Yankee Stadium, there were huge gatherings of youth in Manila and Denver and in Rome itself. And everything pointed — as it had from the outset of his papacy — to the Third Millennium, culminating in the jubilee holy year of 2000. His body gradually bent under the burden, and from Parkinson’s disease; he shuffled when he walked. As his papacy draws to an end, he is old and stooped, his words are slurred, and he performs the many tasks of his office with obvious difficulty and discomfort. Rumors are floated from time to time that he will retire, but this is inconceivable. If any bishop will die with his buskins on, this one will. His successor will be chosen by a college of cardinals made up almost entirely of his appointees.

2. The Wake of Vatican II
The ecumenical council called by Pope John XXIII is the central event in the recent history of the Catholic Church. As a rule ecumenical councils are called to deal with some doctrinal difficulty, a quarrel over some specific point of revealed truth. But John XXIII wanted a pastoral council. It was his view that there were no difficulties among Catholics as to what the faith is. He wanted the bishops of the world to convene to discuss how the message of the gospel could be more effectively conveyed to the modern mind. He wanted an aggiornamento, a timely expression of the good news so that it would be intelligible and attractive to those living in an increasingly secularized society. Papers intended to form the basis of discussion were circulated among the bishops of the world, but when the council opened it became clear that its meetings would not follow any script.

What precisely was Vatican II? In a fundamental sense, it is the sixteen documents voted on by the bishops and promulgated by Pope Paul VI — elected after the first session when John XXIII died. The documents are of three sorts: constitutions, decrees and declarations. Some are more important than others: The constitutions — on the Church, one dogmatic, one pastoral, on divine revelation — the document on the liturgy, and the declaration on religious liberty are the most important. Other documents deal with ecumenism, non-Christian religions, the role of bishops and priests and laity, education, clerical and lay, and the mass media. All in all, the council fathers put together a blueprint for the Church in the modern world.

That the council did indeed take place in the modern world was clear from the suffocating press coverage of it. From the outset, journalists wrote of the council as a titanic struggle between liberals and conservatives. Liberals were in favor of change, and consequently were the good guys. The media spin, aided and abetted by some bishops and theologians, was that the Catholic Church was shuffling off the accretions of ages and turning a new page. In its most simplified form, such a view made Vatican II sound like the founding of a completely new Church.

The most cursory glance at the documents dispels this distortion. Each document is carefully linked to the traditional teaching by footnoted references. It is not doctrine that is being changed; rather it is being rethought in order to relate it more effectively to contemporary ears. There are new emphases, of course, as old doctrine is related to new problems, but the note struck, as always in Catholic teaching, is tradition and continuity. In the words of the creed, ours is a church “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” Its long tradition stretches back and remains consistent with the deposit of faith given to the Apostles, the first bishops.

Of the French Revolution Wordsworth wrote that “Bliss was it in that day to be alive and very heaven to be young.” The ranks of those of us who lived through the years of the council dwindle, but we remember the hope and optimism, the excitement and zeal, awakened by John XXIII’s opening address and the subsequent reports from the council. Most Catholics received such news from secular sources, but the secular media employed Catholics to cover the council. The New Yorker ran a series by an American priest in Rome, writing as Xavier Rynn, that eventually became a four-volume work. Soon shelves were crowded with such accounts and interpretations, contemporary and retrospective. But such narratives were almost invariably and confessedly liberal.

The four sessions of the council took place in that decade called The Sixties, which is far more than a numerical designation. This was the beginning of the sexual revolution. The Pill had made it possible for women to be as promiscuous and heedless as men. Sexuality could be enjoyed without thought for any consequences. Permanence of relationship had always been linked to children, so random coupling was now okay. Haight-Ashbury remained a section of San Francisco, but its influence was felt throughout the land. An orgiastic neo-paganism swept the country and indeed the western world.

Catholics were affected by this ambient culture of course, and many looked to the council to say something about the Church’s judgment that contraception was immoral, thwarting of the very purpose of sexuality. Did the Pill fall under that ban? John XXIII appointed a commission to give him expert advice on the matter, thus freeing the council fathers from getting bogged down in biology and chemistry. The very appointment of the commission was taken as a sign that a favorable judgment on the Pill was in the offing. When Paul VI became pope, he enlarged the commission. Meanwhile the council continued and on December 8, 1965 it came to an end. But there was still no word on the Pill.

In retrospect, it can be seen how the post-conciliar Church was haunted by the sexual revolution and the expectations of many — eventually the whole moral theology establishment — that Catholic doctrine would catch the winds of the sexual zeitgeist. This was far from the whole story, of course. The many new avenues opened up by the conciliar documents were explored. Liturgical changes were made overnight; gradually the vernacular replaced Latin in the Mass. Ecumenical activities multiplied. The implications of the declaration on religious liberty were drawn out. A decentralization of church governance took place, giving bishops greater authority in their sees. National bishops conferences, with the resulting bureaucracies, came into being. Lay people became more prominent in parish posts. There was an undeniable freshness in the air, a sense of renewal and excitement. Any tendency Catholics had to ghettoize themselves was eclipsed by a renewed sense of competitiveness. Catholic universities embarked on campaigns to be and to be seen as competitive with the most prestigious universities in the land. Excellence became a battle cry as well as a goal. But still there was no word on the Pill.

Teachers of Catholic morality spoke with confidence of a coming change in the teaching on contraception as such; this expectation got into pastoral counseling, confessionals and marriage preparation courses. A leak to the press informed Catholics that a majority on the commission was in favor of a change of doctrine. Couples who were told that the ban on contraception was to be lifted understandably anticipated the great day. The Catholic view of the marital act grew closer to that of Haight-Ashbury. Clergy and religious were caught up in the fever and priests and nuns fled their vows and returned to the lay estate. Not to marry, not to have sex, in the newly minted phrase, was unnatural. And then, in July of 1968, Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical called Humanae Vitae, in which he recalled the Church’s teaching on marriage and on the marital act and reaffirmed the traditional prohibition of contraception.

All hell broke loose. Overnight, platoons of theologians prepared full page ads for newspapers declaring that they refused to accept the Pope’s authority on this matter. Moreover, they would advise the laity that they need not be guided by the Pope on this matter. Luther had used a church door in Wittenburg; modern media permitted an immediate and global dissemination of dissent. Revolt had broken out in the Catholic Church. Even some bishops wavered at first but eventually stood with the Pope. By dramatic contrast, moral theologians, in a way unprecedented in Church history, set themselves up as a rival teaching authority, one that claimed as much weight as the papal and episcopal magisterium. The reaction stunned Paul VI and defined the remaining years of his papacy. He never wrote another encyclical. A Church that Paul VI thought was in a process of auto-destruction was bequeathed to John Paul II.

A type of logical fallacy is captured in the phrase: post hoc, ergo propter hoc. It is fallacious to think that whatever follows on an event is an effect of that event. What happened after Vatican II has been both good and bad, by anyone’s estimation. But the fissure created by Humanae Vitae between professional theologians and the teaching Church is doubtless the most significant post-conciliar fact. Dissent from Church teaching became a tradition among Catholic theologians. At first it was defiant and sassy; eventually it became domesticated and matter-of-fact, now it is almost unconscious. The revolt of the theologian, more than anything else, defined the Church of which Karol Wojtyla became pope in 1978 and over which he has presided since.

From this has stemmed the truly remarkable range of his teaching. No pope in history has issued so many encyclicals and declarations clarifying Catholic doctrine. His Angelus sermons on Genesis and the roles of man and woman became books. His talks on his travels around the world became volumes. He published Crossing the Threshold of Hope and Gift and Mystery. He has been a tireless defender and proponent of the teaching of Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. The Catechism of the Catholic Church was prepared and published. All this pastoral and teaching effort was defined as the implementation of Vatican II. John Paul II can only be viewed as the pope of the council in which he participated. There is little doubt that he regards Vatican II as the central event of modern Church history. He led us to the Jubilee Year of 2000 by means of three years of preparation which made clear that he saw this Holy Year as a kind of culmination of the council as well as the telos of his own papacy. The magisterium of John Paul II will stand in the history of the Church as one of the most amazing achievements of any papacy. It is largely because of it that some predict that he will be come to be known as John Paul the Great.

3. The Scales of the Fisherman
But his papacy can, and must, be weighed in many ways. What do liberal or progressive Catholics make of his reign? Like Paul VI, John Paul II is said by critics to have betrayed the council. Humanae Vitae was seen as a throwback to a pre-conciliar Church governed from the top down, by papal fiat. The fact that Paul had overridden the commission he appointed to advise him seemed to some illicit. Hadn’t the council introduced a bottom up notion of the Church, the Church of the people of God, doing away with the hierarchical Church? Decentralization was in order. Churchmen had to learn to listen to the vox populi as to the vox Dei, letting Catholic teaching bubble up from below. The pope, responding to a barrage of questions about sexual morality, was accused of being obsessed with sex and making a big deal out of the most natural thing in the world because he insisted on reaffirming traditional teaching. John Paul II has carried on in the way critics found objectionable in Paul VI, seeing the Church as hierarchical and himself at the top. But there were post-conciliar changes that seemed to respond to liberal demands.

Under Paul VI a veritable annulment industry sprang up as decisions once reserved for Rome were made at the diocesan and archdiocesan level. That was slowed down by John Paul II. The laicization of priests and religious was facilitated and nuns and priests flowed out the doors of convents, monasteries and rectories. Soon the Church seemed filled with laicized priests and former religious ensconced in universities and church bureaucracies, in diocesan and parish positions. And by and large, they were antagonistic to the “official” teaching of the Church, and offered lay people alternatives to it. The lament of the conservative is that theological dissent is entrenched at all levels. John Paul II virtually stopped laicizations. Despite the greying of the thinned ranks of the clergy, the Pope has been adamant that women’s ordination is simply theologically impossible. Married priests? John Paul II is a poet of celibacy.

What were two emphases among the council fathers have long since hardened into factions. Bewildered laypeople were whipsawed by conflicting advice. It was not until twenty years after the council, at the Second Extraordinary Synod of 1985, that there was official recognition that the council was often invoked to undermine the council. The bishops gathered that year in Rome by John Paul II distinguished a true and a false spirit of Vatican II. The description of the latter made it clear that theological dissenters were the agents of the false spirit of Vatican II. To that point, the puzzled Catholic could only pit what must seem to be his personal opinion against post-conciliar aberrations. Now the judgment that much received opinion and post-conciliar practice were heterodox had become official. It was at this synod that Cardinal Law proposed a catechism that would clarify Catholic doctrine, a suggestion embraced and implemented by John Paul II.

Did confusion about what the Church actually taught then disappear? Were dissidents silenced and unanimity among Catholics restored? Not at all. And this has become a major complaint of conservative Catholics against John Paul II. His teaching may be clear as a bell, but his governance leaves much to be desired. Take universities as an example. Books on the secularization of Catholic universities have created a new literary genre. Our great institutions were slowly becoming indistinguishable from their secular counterparts. Why didn’t the Pope do something about it? John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae, on the Catholic university, in 1990, and for ten years Catholic institutions have been dismissing the document as irrelevant to their nature. Academic freedom was so interpreted that heterodoxy became as legitimate as orthodoxy in the Catholic university and that was that. Students were often taught the diametrical opposite of Catholic doctrine as if it were Catholic doctrine but that, it was said, is the nature of a university. The canon law requirement that theologians receive a mandate to teach in order to assure that what they teach as Catholic doctrine truly is Catholic doctrine has been dismissed by a committee of the Catholic Theological Society of America. The theologian has come to see himself as a freelance thinker who plays no ecclesial role.

Bishops of course accept, defend and preach what the Pope teaches, but they have been less than enthusiastic about addressing difficulties right under their noses. It was much easier to deplore nuclear weapons or capital punishment than to face their own immediate responsibilities. For ten years the American bishops were waltzed about by theologians and university presidents concerning Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the mandate for theologians. Now it is arguably too late to alter the trend toward the total doctrinal divorce of the university from the Church. Most of the active bishops in the country have been appointed by John Paul II. They are his picks. Why then do fundamental difficulties remain?

Item: The scandal of pederast priests. The extent of the spread of homosexuality and AIDS among the clergy, even into the ranks of bishops, was made known by the secular media, and the bishops responded with a species of damage control. They invoked statistics, and said that the number of aberrant priests did not exceed the percentage in the population as a whole! They spoke of counseling and psychiatric cures. They might have been CEOs defending themselves against pesky stockholders. Their language was not the language of Catholic morality but of pop psychology. The situation was never described as a priest’s being involved in a life of mortal sin. The problem was rather the millions of dollars in settlements paid to the victims of priestly predators. And John Paul II permits this to go on.

Item: The scandal of the seminaries. The problem begins in the selection of those who study for the priesthood. Young men who wholeheartedly accept Church teaching, particularly on sexual morality, are screened out; those with a penchant for homosexuality are admitted. John Paul II has permitted his bishops to sweep such matters under the rug for decades.

The so-called lavendering of the clergy has elicited the ire of both liberal and conservative priests who are outraged by the implication that their celibacy may be an expression of a penchant for boys. They feel their own virility is called into question. The homosexual agenda of the ambient secular culture has seemingly been adopted wholesale by representatives of Catholic doctrine. Campus ministries fret about “homophobia,” a term manufactured by those determined to have sexual aberrations declassified as sins as they have had them declassified as psychiatric illnesses. A priest who is a chaplain in the Marine Corps has said that “homophobia” is a word that will never be found in the mouth of an honest man. Young Catholics are led to believe that acceptance of the Church’s judgment on homosexual behavior is a sin against charity.

Is it fair of conservative critics to lay such scandals at the feet of John Paul II? The fact is that he has dealt no more harshly with theological dissenters than Paul VI. Some of the bishops he named, even some of the cardinals he created, are, if only covertly, on the side of the dissenters. It is clear that John Paul II does not micro-manage the Catholic Church and that his macro-management is faulty. The indictment of him by liberals and representatives of the “false spirit of Vatican II” is amplified by the secular media and many once great Catholic publications. This has led to the founding of new journals and magazines and publishing houses whose role in strengthening the faith of ordinary Catholics cannot be underestimated. But Catholics who enthusiastically support and defend the Pope often get the cold shoulder from bishops appointed by him. To say that John Paul II has often been let down by bishops may be true, but that is not much of a defense when it is realized that it was he put these bishops in place.

So it is that, on left and right alike, John Paul II’s governance of the Church comes under severe and justified criticism. So wherein does his greatness lie?

Although only two of his predecessors reigned longer than he, John Paul II has been in many ways an interim pope. From the time he ascended the throne of Peter, he has pointed toward the Third Millennium. It is as if he sees the period between the council and the year 2000 as a shakedown cruise that is readying the Bark of Peter to enter the waters of the Third Millennium, ready at last to implement Vatican II. One detects in John Paul II, as in Paul VI, a sense of the inevitability of the turmoil that has characterized the post-councilar Church, as if dissent simply had to work itself out. But his enemies, like himself, grow older. A new generation has arisen for whom the post-conciliar quarrels make no sense. Contraception? In the light of Natural Family Planning only a theological dinosaur could speak of contraception as if it were the one stay against enormous families. A glance at the demographic consequences of the contraceptive culture tell an alarming story. Will we live to see an Italy without Italians, a France without French, a Spain without Spaniards, and so on? Population growth has been well below zero for decades in most countries of the so-called First World. The western nations are committing contraceptive genocide even as Africa and Asia quicken with conversions to the Faith. Increasingly, the teaching of the Church and of John Paul II on marriage and the family are finding receptive ears. And that teaching is part of a rich and total teaching that alone can answer the great questions of life as listed by John Paul II in Faith and Reason. Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?

It is here, I suspect, in his laying the ground work for the Third Millennium, that John Paul II’s greatness lies. He declined to enter into an overt civil war with dissenters. He knew the Church would survive them. Despite the terrible depredations of doctrinal confusion, there is only so much discipline can do. Neither faith nor orthodoxy can be forced on anyone, not even theologians. John Paul II has apparently chosen to wait them out, to look to the future, and to provide sound doctrine for the renewal that he and Vatican II foresaw. Only God knows the impact Pope John Paul II has had on millions of his contemporaries. For many he has been an inspiration and a beacon of hope. “Be not afraid,” he has urged, again and again. It has been said that every life is a book in which we set out to write one story and end by writing another. The hand of providence is discernible in the life of Karol Wojtyla, poet, laborer, dramatist, philosopher, theologian, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, pope. From the lead mines of his native Poland he brought more natural talent to the papacy than any but a handful of his predecessors. He has led the Church in turbulent times. And each evening, as he has through a long priestly life, he recites the prayer of Simeon, “Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace: Lord, now you can let your servant go in peace.” Sometime soon that prayer will be answered and John Paul II will face the only judgment that really matters.

Ralph McInerny is editor of Catholic Dossier.

TOPICS: Catholic; General Discusssion; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Theology
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Came across this article and liked it very much - I found it fair and balanced.
1 posted on 05/06/2003 8:22:40 AM PDT by american colleen
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To: Salvation; narses; NYer; Maximilian
Could one of you guys use your ping list if you think this article is worth it. Thanks a lot.
2 posted on 05/06/2003 8:24:33 AM PDT by american colleen
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To: Diago; narses; Loyalist; BlackElk; american colleen; saradippity; Polycarp; Dajjal; ...
I'm pinging this at your request, colleen.

But here is another classic example of someone getting it totally wrong. How can a man who is one of the last of the true Thomists so thorough reject all reason and logic?

First he claims that "The ecumenical council called by Pope John XXIII is the central event in the recent history of the Catholic Church." Then he claims that it would be the post hoc ergo propter hoc error to conclude that there was any causal relationship between the unexpected and total collapse of the Catholic Church and what he calls "the central event in the recent history of the Catholic Church." Come on -- it was total coincidence? He wants to blame the "sexual revolution"? The Church was just a victim?

I went round and round with another poster the other day about this topic. Here we see it in action again from another one of the pope's apologists (the last one was Fr. Neuhaus). Vatican II happened. It was the biggest event to hit the Church for 400 years. The Church collapsed in virtually every area of spiritual life. These events have no causal relationship. And if you'll believe that story, then I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Neuhaus and McInerny are not stupid guys. What makes them say these things that any rational person would reject outright as preposterous? It's clear that they have an agenda, and they are willing to fudge the facts to defend it. They have a vested stake in defending the status quo, but it's rather like defending the captain of the Titanic. All the evidence is against you.

3 posted on 05/06/2003 10:05:13 AM PDT by Maximilian
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To: Maximilian
All Vatican II did was put a dent in the defenses of the church which were exploited for nefarious purposes. It started with good intentions, I think, but anytime guard is lowered, someone or something will try to take advantage. That's what happened.

Truthfully, the roots of the collapse were embedded in secular thinking not quite 200 years before Vatican II and it crept into "spiritual" life. Vatican II was just a catalyst. The council could not help that.

And, contrary to popular belief, Vatican II really didn't ruin much of anything doctrinally speaking. Those who sought change in the liiturgy used it as an excuse, and it is now beginning to be recognized that Vatican II never authorized the changes. Honest reporting does wonders.
4 posted on 05/06/2003 10:17:48 AM PDT by Desdemona
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To: Maximilian
Neuhaus and McInerny are not stupid guys.

No, they're not. But I'm beginning to wonder if you are.

The Church has GROWN since Vatican II. In most areas, like my own parish, you have to shoehorn people into the pews at almost every Mass.

You seem to think that Catholics, who spend 6 and 3/4 days per week NOT at a Catholic Church, aren't influenced by cultural trends.

It's a guaranteed certainty that, with or without Vatican II, the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass weekly would be EXACTLY where it is today.

5 posted on 05/06/2003 10:21:18 AM PDT by sinkspur
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To: Maximilian
I have similar feelings about the Crucifixion. Jesus' ministry was starting to blossom. He was cheered and saluted as he entered Jerusalem and hailed as the Messiah. Then it all collapsed. Suddenly and unexpectedly. From a hero he was transformed in no time into a villain. What went wrong? Well, we can look to the single most dramatic event of his ministry, which occurred just prior to the Crucifixion. That's right, I'm talking of the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Immediately after The Last Supper, they arrested Him. All was going well until this point. Then it all went to pieces. There's little doubt that these two events are connected. For sure, wasn't it this gathering that Judas walked out of? Yes, it was the last Supper that caused the Crucifixion. No sooner had he gone out into the Garden of Gethsemane than they came looking for him.You'd have to be blind to not see the connection.

Or then again, could it be that the Last Supper and its aftermath simply provided the ideal opportunity for Jesus' enemies to hatch what they had been planning for some time? Could it be that their evil had been incubating for years and they took their opportunity when the traitor saw an opportune moment? I wonder.

Clue: the sort of errors which have become rampant in the Church in the last 40 years were being condemned by Pius X at the turn of the 20th century, in his encyclical on modernism. This great Pope thought them to be of sufficient danger 60 years before VII to warrant a formal encyclical.

6 posted on 05/06/2003 10:33:53 AM PDT by marshmallow
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To: Maximilian
I would say that only God knows the cause and effect of VII. Truly, the magisterium convened VII and voted on the changes. Truly, many priests and bishops took it as a license to make whatever changes they wanted and truly, society changed extremely.

I'd have to watch the tape again but some visionary said that Mary said that Satan had 100 years to do his best and I think he's had it.

The license taken by Catholics in the name of VII and the results I see around me of Catholics who know their faith is just proof to me that Jesus words are true and the gates of hell haven't and never shall prevail against the Body of Christ on earth. The Church will emerge stronger and more filled with faith than ever. Jesus never said it would be easy but He is with us even until the end of the world and my faith in Jesus Christ and the Church he founded does not waver.

7 posted on 05/06/2003 10:55:44 AM PDT by tiki
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To: marshmallow
Yes, it was the last Supper that caused the Crucifixion.

For your metaphor to be appropriate, there should have been a Pentecost 40 days after Vatican II. And in fact for 40 years now, the liberals have been CLAIMING a new Pentecost. But where are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? We've been waiting 40 years now for them to show up.

By the time 40 years had passed after the Ressurection, Christianity had already been spread around the known world. The apostles had already testified to the presence of the Holy Spirit through their faith, through their miracles, through their testimony, through their martyrdoms. The Catholic Faith had been established on the firm foundation of the Apostles' Creed and the inspired teaching of St. Paul.

On the other hand, you might want to call Vatican II the anti-Pentecost. All of these fruits of the Spirit have disappeared. And trying to blame enemies outside the Church just won't wash when we see that the entire program was enacted by the Catholic bishops themselves. Nor should you be solaced by the decisive actions of Pope St. Pius X. He proved that proper use of hierarchical authority will destroy a heretical movement. If the post-Vatican II innovations are still with us, and still worse than ever (refer to today's thread on the CTA liturgy), then that is objective evidence of a failure of appropriate governance.

8 posted on 05/06/2003 10:59:35 AM PDT by Maximilian
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To: Maximilian
My metaphor depends on no knew Pentecost to be appropriate.

It is simply a paraphrase of your argument, with names and places changed, that because unprecedented Event A occurred in close temporal proximity to unprecedented Event B they must therefore be causally related.

I chose that particular metaphor because of its potent Christian symbolism. I could just as easily have chosen the juxtapostion of the election of George Bush and the occurence of 9/11..

9 posted on 05/06/2003 11:42:44 AM PDT by marshmallow
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To: Desdemona
It started with good intentions


A flawed assumption. Go back to Start.

I encourage you to read "The Undermining of the Catholic Church" by Mary Ball Martinez. It will explain the history behind the last one hundred years through the eyes of one who saw much of it first hand.

The planning for Vatican II and the abominable Liturgical changes started under Pope Pius XII. Pius XII is the one who "Novus Ordo'ed" Holy Week and the Calendar and the Psalter. These were the model for what was to follow.

Vatican II really didn't ruin much of anything doctrinally speaking

Many of us disagree with you on that point.

10 posted on 05/06/2003 12:41:15 PM PDT by Hermann the Cherusker
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Comment #11 Removed by Moderator

To: sinkspur
The Church has GROWN since Vatican II. In most areas, like my own parish, you have to shoehorn people into the pews at almost every Mass.

Only because the number of parishes constructed in the suburbs is a fraction of the empty or closed parishes in the cities. Sure it looks crowded when you force 10,000 families into one parish.

If you carefully peruse the Catholic Directory, you can see the mass apostasy before your eyes in the carefully laid out statistics. 1/4 of those Baptised never take First Communion, 1/4 of those taking First Communion are never Confirmed. Another 1/4 of those Confirmed never Marry within the Church. The Church is seen to be "growing" only by pretending that all these apostates are still Catholic and keeping them on the parish registers.

There has only been one true area of growth within the Church in the past 40 years - the number of Bishops has gone way up, even as the number of priests and faithful is way down.

You seem to think that Catholics, who spend 6 and 3/4 days per week NOT at a Catholic Church, aren't influenced by cultural trends.

"Behold I have overcome the world."

It's a guaranteed certainty that, with or without Vatican II, the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass weekly would be EXACTLY where it is today.


In 1962, over 75% of 48 million Catholics were at Mass every Sunday - 36 million.

In 2003, 25-33% of 60 million Catholics are at Mass every Sudnay - 15-20 million.

I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

12 posted on 05/06/2003 12:48:33 PM PDT by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: Hermann the Cherusker
I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

Of course you do, Hermann. And, if you were in charge, we'd still be praying for the "perfidious Jews" on Good Friday, and performing wedding ceremonies between Catholics and non-Catholics in the rectory.

13 posted on 05/06/2003 1:17:50 PM PDT by sinkspur
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To: Maximilian; american colleen
First of all, kudos, Colleen on an excellent find! I not only enjoyed this article but bookmarked it as well.

As for your suggestion that the church has "collapsed" spiritually, I would beg to disagree. The post concilliar church has brought in some outstanding converts who have contributed MUCH to the spirituality of the church.

God acts in His own ways. To ridicule the Second Council is, in a sense, to challenge God's handiwork through His church.

14 posted on 05/06/2003 4:53:35 PM PDT by NYer (Laudate Dominum)
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To: Maximilian; Desdemona; BlackElk; american colleen; St.Chuck; Salvation
Max, it was I with whom you danced regarding your judgment that VatII is the cause of all ills---and there were others who shared my disbelief in your pat pronouncement.

As I recall, there was one open issue remaining, BTW: you were going to document the sources on which you have determined that 99% of American Catholics are going straight to hell on their death.

Since it was not difficult for you to prove that VatII was the cause of all the ills in the Church subsequent to 1965, I am rather surprised it's taking you so long to come up with the other items.
15 posted on 05/06/2003 5:33:58 PM PDT by ninenot
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To: NYer
As for your suggestion that the church has "collapsed" spiritually, I would beg to disagree.

I agree wid ya.

Thank you Jesus, I was sitting rather lethargically at Mass a few years ago - in a liberal, NO parish with a liberal NO priest and a nun/priestess wanna-be and I nearly keeled over when I heard that inner voice tell me to come back and that this is where I belonged. My entire body relaxed and I almost cried because I had so neglected Him for so long and I knew it - which I hadn't before that happened.

At the risk of sounding like one of the progressives (YIKES), we are the Church and change has to come through each one of us. Well, my entire life changed while sitting in a nondescript, NO parish.

16 posted on 05/06/2003 5:35:00 PM PDT by american colleen
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To: NYer
"To ridicule the Second Council is, in a sense, to challenge God's handiwork through His church."

I suspect it may rather be to respond appropriately to Satan's attack on God's Church.
17 posted on 05/06/2003 5:44:11 PM PDT by dsc
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To: Maximilian
I disagree with your (very well written and thought out as usual) points in #3. Wish I could think and write as well as you.

The entire article tells me one thing in particular. The culture of Catholic dissent has its roots way before Vatican II. It sprung from the giddy anticipation of the Catholic Theologians and some priests (prolly bishops, too) who were convinced that the birth control debate would go in their favor. When it didn't, those same Catholics ignored the pope/magisterium and basically told the laity that they could use their own consciences to decide what to do. Thing is, it only made sense to think "why stop there?"

I firmly believe with all my heart and soul that whether Vat II happened or not, attendance at Mass would be the same as we see today. We've succumbed to the secular culture.

18 posted on 05/06/2003 5:47:57 PM PDT by american colleen
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To: Hermann the Cherusker
In 1962, over 75% of 48 million Catholics were at Mass every Sunday - 36 million.

In 2003, 25-33% of 60 million Catholics are at Mass every Sudnay - 15-20 million.

Bet ya the figures for mainline Protestant denoms are roughly the same, if not worse. And they didn't have no Vatican II!

19 posted on 05/06/2003 5:49:35 PM PDT by american colleen
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To: Maximilian
You know, almost immediately after you posted on this thread, I broke wind.

Your post must have been the cause of my gas.
20 posted on 05/06/2003 5:54:25 PM PDT by Notwithstanding
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