Was Vatican II the arch-liberal event of the 20th century?

(Note: Below, Vincent Chiarello protests that Peter O’s attack on Vatican II is wildly disproportionate.)

Peter O. writes:

Re your comments to your Jewish friend in “Vatican II and the Church’s more tolerant attitude toward Jews”:

Speaking as a non-Catholic, I believe that the Council will be seen, in retrospect, as the single most significant event of the 20th century, deadlier for Western civilization than the Nazi and Communist interludes. The fruits have been catastophically declining birth rates in Catholic countries and a spiritual vacuum now being filled, in Europe, by Muslim immigrants. By the 1960s the Church was in full expansion, notably in the United States, and steadily eroding the Protestantism in terms of active membership. It has now joined the Main Line churches and other liberalizing denominations in a death spiral and the end is in sight. The only vigorous enclases are those, outside the West, that have resisted or ignored the fatuous “improvements.” An argument can be made that the phenomenon known as “The 60’s” would never have occurred or occurred in a more muted form had it not been for the Council which open the floodgates.

As far as the Council pronouncements alleviating the “collective guilt” of the Jews and improving relations between the two religions, I don’t buy it. The essential passiveness of Jews throughout the centuries stoked, in my opinion, the persecutorial impulse. This changed for the better with the emergence of Israel as forceful and successful military entity.

LA replies:

Peter O. has made a provocative statement that readers may want to comment on. It’s been said at VFR by people who had personal experience of the times that Catholic attitudes toward Jews notably improved following Vatican II, so I’m not sure that Peter O is right on dismissing Vatican II’s contribution in that area.

Also, one can imagine an alternative history in which a non-liberal Vatican II removed the collective guilt on the Jews, while declining to declare Muslims “fellow adorers of the one God” whose 1,3000 years of jihad against Christendom should be “forgotten” by Christians. Liberalism says that all discrimination is one, that all group differences are equal to all other group differences, and therefore if you tolerate one group, you must tolerate all groups. Non-liberalism or traditionalism says that various group differences are different from each other, and therefore it may be safe to tolerate one group, because it shares a common history, civilizational heritage, and religious basis with your own group, but unsafe to tolerate some other group, because it is radically incompatible with and mortally dangerous to your group.

Vincent Chiarello writes:

Before I respond to Peter O’s comments, let me say that I was a bit surprised that they appeared at all. I suspect that his intention was not “provocative,” (your word), but critical in a way that indicates a mind set that reminds me too much of Karen’s fondness for dismissing the evidence, and then criticizing her opponents as “brain-washed.” For Mr. Peter O. to write that Vatican II was more damaging than Nazism and/or Communism is, to put it mildly, off the wall commentary.

I have for many years written to many blogs, including this one, of the baleful effects of Vatican II on the Church of Rome. As I’ve also recently noted, I am hopeful that the new pontiff, Benedict XVI, has begun a concerted effort to reverse some of the damage already done, although how quickly and effectively that can be achieved is difficult to determine. Although they must be thoughtfully addressed, I take strong exception to Peter O’s comments regarding Vatican II, for implicit in his writing are charges which are based on the unfounded belief that the Church of Rome is, as a result of Vatican II, in large part responsible for this current, secularized world, and worse! There is more than a bit of irony here because, as a self-proclaimed Protestant, Peter O. confers an inordinate amount of influence, both religious and secular, on the Church of Rome—before and after Vatican II—in setting the agenda for the Western world, an authority, which I am sure he knows, was sundered by what those who taught the catechism classes in my day referred to as “the Protestant Rebellion.”

Not once in his philippic does Peter O. deign it possible that other Christian Churches share at least some of the blame for what has transpired in the past 40 years to what was once referred to as Christian Europe/America. I’m afraid that not only is that short sighted, it is also terribly inaccurate. Even with the twisted theology that is now presented as doctrine, including violation of U.S. law in supporting illegal aliens, or the reversal of its traditional belief that the death penalty was consonant with Church law, the Church of Rome still does not countenance a female clergy, abortion or divorce; how many Protestant churches can make that statement? Finally, to insist that the “‘60s would not have occurred, or occurred in a muted form” if the Church had been more resolute betrays a naiveté about a role that most major religious organizations relinquished by the start of the 20th century. But if these are minor points of contention, what is “beyond the pale” is this: Vatican II is ” … deadlier for Western Civilization than the Nazi and Communist interludes.”

In his own way, I take it that Peter O. is paying a compliment, albeit backhanded, to the Church, because he is again admitting that only the Church of Rome’s failure(s), not that of any other religious denomination, could have had such a cumulative effect on European/American societies. But the corrosive effect of secularization was, in fact, part and parcel of both the Nazi and Communist regimes; it was part of their game plan. To conflate the imagined negative effects of Vatican II with the horrors of Nazism and/or Communism is, if I may stoop to the vernacular, “off the wall.” It is, similarly, offensive to people like me who recognize the shortcomings of the Church, but react with bewilderment how such an analogy could ever have been conceived. (BTW, the Church’s “Golden Age” was not the 1960s, but the 1950s.)

Still, I do hope and pray that Peter will be more reflective and circumspect in his criticisms of the Church of Rome in the future. If he does write, I’ll ask him to recall the words of a Protestant of some name recognition: Oliver Cromwell:

I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you are mistaken.

LA replies:

While Vincent is gentlemanly about it, I imagine that he also a bit puzzled that I would post a comment that he sees as patently offensive. Let me explain. When I saw Peter’s remark that Vatican II was “deadlier for Western Civilization than the Nazi and Communist interludes,” that did not strike me as shocking, because it reminded me of Malcolm Muggeridge’s famous statement that when Western civilization dies, it won’t be Communism that did it in, and it won’t be Nazism that did it in, and it won’t be Fascism that did it in; it would be liberalism that did it in. Since Peter’s discussion was about Vatican II as the epitome of liberalism, I simply substituted “Vatican II” for liberalism in Muggeridge’s statement.

However, I can see how offensive the bare comparison was, and also how one-sided Peter’s statement is in only blaming the Catholic Church, and not the very liberal Protestant denominations.

Also, I should have said before that Peter’s notion that the Sixties would not have happened without Vatican II is absurd.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 07, 2007 08:56 PM | Send

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