Is Vatican II Ancient History?

June 2003

There was a most interesting debate in America (Feb. 24, 2003) on the meaning of the Second Vatican Council between Avery Cardinal Dulles of Fordham University and John W. O'Malley of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. Cardinal Dulles stressed the letter of Vatican II and how it is to be interpreted in continuity with Catholic Tradition. Fr. O'Malley, on the other hand, spoke of the "radical nature" of Vatican II, meaning that the "style" and "spirit" of the Council were designed "to make some fundamental changes in the way the church operates...." How so? Vatican II essentially abandoned the "punitive language of previous councils. Believe this, or else!" O'Malley also points to significant changes with regard to ecumenism and Church-state relations, and to the vocabulary of Vatican II, "words like 'development,' 'progress,' and even 'evolution.'" His basic point: "What this implies, of course, is further change in the future," though he is not specific about what those changes would be.

Of course we side with Cardinal Dulles, but a letter from Joseph F. Kelly of Cleveland (March 17) put the debate in a new light: "After reading Cardinal Avery Dulles's article about how traditional the Second Vatican Council really was, one cannot help but be struck by how much the reality of Catholic life, at least in this country, has already changed since the council. The council may not have legitimized dissent from noninfallible teachings [as Dulles says], but one need only go to a meeting of a scholarly religious society to learn that dissent is flourishing.... The council may have reaffirmed traditional teaching on contraception, but surveys show the vast majority of American Catholic women have used it.... The council may have reaffirmed the pope's authority, but authority has little value if people ignore it.... For better or worse, many of the council's positions are becoming history in American Catholic life" (or shall we say ancient history).

It's as if the Third Vatican Council, which liberals have been yearning for, has already happened. It came by stealth, and nobody quite noticed.

If Cardinal Dulles, whose views reflect those of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, is right, how is it that Fr. O'Malley's take on Vatican II seems to have carried the day? And what is being done about it?

In this context, one can better understand the laments Rod Dreher has been making lately. His first cri de couer came in The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 20, 2002), where he asked: "Why does such a great and good man [John Paul II].... allow so many American bishops, nearly all of whom he has appointed, to eviscerate the liturgical, catechetical and pastoral life of the Church to the point where we are now living in an undeclared schism?" Dreher pointed out that the chief duties of a pope are to "teach, sanctify and govern," adding that John Paul has "taught and sanctified zealously," but has "failed to govern the Church." Moreover, John Paul "has explicitly recognized the crisis, given clear direction for its correction -- and done nothing when his orders were ignored or undercut...."

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

New Oxford Notes: June 2003

Read our posting policy Add a comment
I just scanned the document above but one thing that hit me: "Zmirak responds: "Fine. Is President Bush's house in order?... America currently has the most permissive abortion laws in the world. Bush is the most powerful man in this country, with vast presidential privileges, which he could employ to stop or hamper this practice.... He could talk about the issue, consistently, from his bully pulpit. He could refuse to support pro-abortion Republican candidates.... He could leave vacant any judgeships he cannot fill with a pro-life judge."
To the extent that Bush's house may not seem in order and to the extent he would have to leave judgeships vacant because he can't get pro-life judges approved by the Senate - a lot of this is because of democrats who are bound and determined to bring Bush down, are pro abortion and pro gay marriage and thanks to senators Kenedy,Leahy will fight against pro-life judges being appointed. Would they be in office if catholics did not vote democrat? no. Would the senate majority leader be in open rebellion against our troops if catholics were in support of Pres Bush? no. According to the National Catholic Register, several articles ago, the percent (voter percent) of catholics is sufficient to disallow a democrat victory. Why are the Catholics unwittingly encouraging such anti-catholic behavior? I would suggest tht it is because of a lack of leadership from our Bishops and disinformation from some of our priests (such as Fr Drinin et al). There is no excuse for the Vatican to allow such incompetance in our Bishops. The church is supposed to be our standard not our friend and co-conspiritor in visiting the cafeteria. So far President Bush has stood the heat (not saying he is always right but he is trying to do what is best for the country) what about the Vatican and the Bishops?
Posted by: wunsch
April 23, 2007 05:35 PM EDT
Add a comment