An idiosyncratic explanation of Vatican II

The below exchange about Vatican II is from an e-mail discussion that began with my question about whether Pope Pius X, promulgator of the great Oath Against Modernity, was anti-Jewish. It then turned into a discussion of Vatican II, ending in a perhaps idiosyncratic theory I present about it. In that comment, I feel that I’ve touched on the answer to something that has been puzzling me for years: the indefinable quality of the Roman Catholic Church that had always kept me, personally, from being drawn to it, despite the fact that I’m very much drawn to everything about the Church of the Middle Ages, and, further, how this quality connects the pre-Vatican II Church with the post-Vatican II Church. Among other things, I also think I’ve identified the source of the error that I’ve decried for many years in the pro-life movement: that it focused just on abortion, while failing to challenge the entire modern culture of which abortion was an inevitable outcome.

My correspondents are identified by single initials, I’m identified by both my initials. R is an agnostic philosopher sympathetic to Christianity, A. is a Catholic, E is a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union.


What I find most inexcusable about Vatican II is that it is possible to bicker endlessly over whether it represents an absolute and official statement of the Church’s position or not.

There is no excuse for something so fundamental to be ambiguous. This to me is red flag of sleazy dealing.


Ambiguity and squishy language pervades the documents. I believe that the Council will be best remembered for its utter impotence and uselessness once the Vatican II generation of clerics has gone and all the nonsensical sycophantry about it ceases to be obligatory.


Thank you for confirming my thesis: you have a fundamental change in the Catholic Church (please don’t waste my time denying this) and it isn’t even clear whether it’s actually official or not.

How any institution could expect to thrive, which allows such things, is beyond me.


Vatican II: Just another leftist monstrosity foisted upon the world, which does untold damage until it’s finally revealed as the fraud that it is.


I want to know how they managed it.


Liberal self-hatred.


The problem with this theory is that Catholicism survived the Catholic guilt it generates for so long. What changed?


John XXIII was Papal Nuncio in Istanbul during the Holocaust and saved dozens of Jews. He probably felt very guilty about what happened in Europe and decided that the atmosphere of Jew-hatred was partially the Church’s fault and that liberalizing reforms should be made. Adam probably has a different, more accurate explanation since he’s much more knowledgeable about the Church P.S.: I think that another tragic consequence of Vatican II was the beginning of the acceptance of sodomites into the priesthood. I’ve never heard of a pedophile priest scandal that took place before Vatican II.


Why do Jews always think everything is about them?

I seriously doubt John XXIII felt guilty about the holocaust, especially since he and Pius XII did everything possible to save Jews from it. He was certainly a philosemite, and he without doubt desired better relations with Jews, but that is only a small part of the story.

His motives for calling Vatican II had more to do with his dislike of the “fortress” mentality of the pre-Vatican II Church. He perceived Catholics as retreating from the world and not engaging non-believers the way we should.

He wanted the Church to engage the world more, naively hoping that dialogue with non-believers and modernists would help bring them to Christ.

Modernists hijacked the council, mostly after his death, and turned “dialogue” as an end in and of itself. Among other things.


And what an error!

The truth of Christianity is eternal, always new and fresh. It didn’t need to speak the language of modern humanism to reach people, it just needed to speak the language of Christianity.

But a possible problem was that, very likely, the experiences and language prevalent inside the Church HAD gotten stiff and stale and musty and dusty and broken down and repressive and like a sick room. And THAT kind of language would not appeal to people in the 20th century or any other century! So it wasn’t a modernization of the Christian message that was needed, but a re-Christianization of the Christian message. So they went in exactly the opposite direction from what was needed. What a disaster! What ruin for Christianity, for our civilization, for the human race.

This is what liberals and leftists ALWAYS do. They sense something is wrong. But instead of going back and revivifying things at the root, which is the answer, they move further away from the root, in search of something new.

In other words, the Church prior to Vatican II was already too much like Nietzsche’s caricature of Christianity—a sick room, a place for the consoling of broken-down spirits, rather than a place for the truth and joy of Christ and the Gospels and salvation. So, sensing that something was wrong, what did they do? Instead of moving back toward Christ and life, they adopted the view of liberal, humanistic man. Instead of leaving the Church’s hospital room and returning to the altar of God, they secularized the hospital room. In place of a broken down Christian victimology (a victimology that the Church had always overemphasized at the expense of the positive aspects of Christian truth and that had made the post-Counter-Reformation Church so heavy and material rather than spiritual and uplifting), they adopted liberal victimology, a victimology that had less and less to do with God and instead got into class conflict, social protest, guilt over racism, liberation theology, whiny pacifism, obsessive focus on the right to physical life (anti-abortionism) rather than spiritual life (which would have led them to an attack on the whole culture, not just on abortion!), opposition to capital punishment, and all the rest.

To expand on what I said about anti-abortionism and how it fits with my theme: the post Vatican II Church secular-humanized itself. One expression of that has been an inordinate focus on “welfare” type issues—human rights, immigrant rights, physical well being, economic equality, and so on—in place of basic Christian doctrine and liturgy. Then Roe v. Wade happened, which was a monstrosity, and the Church totally focused on the wrong of abortion, while utterly failing to oppose the general liberationist culture of which abortion was an inevitable expression. In other words, having liberalized/humanized/secularized itself, the Church made a fetish out of the “Culture of [Physical] Life,” which it counterposed to the “Culture of Death,” meaning those aspects of modern society that allowed abortion as well as other supposed attacks on the human person such as capital punishment and restrictions on immigration. Yet, at the same time, because the Church had thrown away so much of its spiritual core, it failed to oppose the modern culture as a whole, which was anti-spiritual life. It could only oppose the grossest expression of that culture, abortion, not the culture itself.

To boil this down, the excessive emphasis on the victimhood of Christ that had characterized the Counter-Reformation, pre-Vatican II Church, was changed, in the post-Vatican II, liberal-humanism Church, into the excessive emphasis on the victimhood of man. And so we have today’s Pope, always whining about the “human person” and his need to be treated decently. For this Pope, man is not primarily an active being who finds his true self in relation to God, rather he is someone who is primarily defined by his need for other people to act and do for him, to protect his rights, to take care of his material and social needs, to fulfill his cultural requirements, to respect and never violate his precious human personhood. It’s a vision of the human race as the client of a vast social welfare agency.

In the same way, and expressing the same sensibility, President Bush in his 2001 Inaugural Address treated America as one vast collection of victims needing succour. I found Bush’s victimological treatment of America deeply offensive and demoralizing. “Conservatives” were ecstatic over it, because it used biblical imagery.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 21, 2004 01:12 PM | Send

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