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I think 1950s Catholicism looked good census-wise. There were more priests in the seminaries, more nuns in the convents, and more heads in the pews on Sundays. But so many of these were the same people who left the Church in droves in the 1960s, or stayed and became part of the problem (the liberal mess we have now) instead of part of the solution.

The issues of Vatican II were old by the time the Council was convened. Part of the Council’s professed purpose was to remind the Faithful that they were to be pursuing holiness. There had developed an over-clericization over the centuries that left the laity to think solely in pedestrian ways and to basically be spectators in the Mass and in the Faith. Such spectatorship was never the intent of the Church Christ founded. As a result the liturgy had grown moribund and was taken for granted. Heroic virtue was for priests, religious and nuns, not lay people.

There had to be renewal (imo), just as there had to be renewal in the 1500s. The counter-reformation not only attacked Protestant error, but also reformed the Church from within (mainly clerics and religious orders) of moral and spiritual laxity. Then the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction when along came Jansen. The reform had its roots in holiness, and Jansenism, to a degree, corrupted it. 

Today we have a similar problem with Vatican II and liberalism. By the second half of the 20th century, Catholics needed renewal and I have no doubt Pope John had the good of the Church in mind. When I say “renewal” I mean “restoring” all things in Christ and maintaining Tradition in the world and times we live in (not necessarily a return to the forms and norms of 1950 or the 1st century). The Church (in her human element) is like a garden that needs constant maintenance and pruning. Weeds (abuses) creep in that need to be uprooted and burned. What is demanded of us now has been demanded since the day of Pentecost: a genuine conversion and ever-deepening conversion. Now, whether we needed to call a Council to achieve that goal is debatable. But one thing is certain: The Holy Spirit is in the business of setting the world on fire. Either the Holy Spirit inspired and ordained Vatican II, or He allowed Vatican II to happen.. Either way, we got the “wake-up call” we deserved.


End of editorial. Let me turn it into a question and ask if traditional Catholics will admit that renewal (restoration) in the 20th century Church was needed? If so, how would you have effected change and/or dealt with problematic issues in the Pre-Vatican II Church if you had the know-how, the power and authority?

- Lisa
In my view, the problems within the Church in the twentieth century stem almost entirely from Modernism.  As cliché as that answer may sound, I believe it is the root of all the corruption (morally, spiritually and otherwise) at least since the mid-nineteenth century.  Had all the hierarchy and laity within the Church been more able (willing?) to root out Modernist ideas and the priests/religious who held to Modernism in one form or another, then the Second Vatican Council would have been conducted in an entirely different manner...if it had been convoked at all.  It was bad timing, it seems, to hold the Council when so many Modernists (or quasi-Modernists) were able to exert influence on the Council or on the interpretations of the Council in one way or another.  The difficulty with Modernists, though, is they can successfully hide themselves until such a time that they are able to make an impact on whatever target for which they are aiming.  Modernists often have a way of saying one thing that most people will understand as being credible, while at the same time meaning quite something else.  They are cleverly able to turn a phrase so that it seem indifferent or, worse, positive to the Faith, yet in reality the phrase may be very harmful.

The Modernists were able to "hide" themselves well enough for 50-60 years before the Council which gave them time to organize, share ideas and so forth, so that when the time came they were able to strike and impact the Council.  The Modernists were, I think, very successful in influencing several documents at the Council so that even if a statement could be read traditionally so that there was no change in Church teaching, it also left open the possibility of other interpretations which are disastrous to the Faith.  I think this has been better explained by those more read and intelligent than I, but I think it is worth repeating.

I think there were three ways around the "mess" of Vatican II and its aftermath: 1) to root out Modernism before the Council to such an extent that they could not influence the Council or the interpretation of the Council, 2) not hold the Council at all or 3) the Council should have been held during the reign of Pope Pius X when more of those within the Church were actively against Modernism.  Option 1 would have been good, though by rooting out Modernism it may have made the Council unneccessary.  Option 2 would have been good, except the Church would still need to find a way to publicly and thoroughly exterminate the corruption of Modernism.  Option 3, I believe, would have been the best option, but there was no guarantee that the Modernists at that time would not have done the same thing that they did during/after Vatican II.

Honestly, I am glad I neither was nor am a cleric (especially a bishop, let alone the Pope!) during the last two centuries.  The Church has been attacked from all sides, including from within.  It is difficult at times to determine who is the enemy, who are your allies and who are mostly indifferent so that they blow with the wind.  I believe that many clerics had the best intentions during the 1950-1970s and truly wanted to strengthened people's faith.  They sadly were misled all the way by many within the hierarchy and they probably should have known better, but I still think they they tried (and continue to do so) to get people to heaven.  For example, they may have thought that celebrating Mass in the vernacular really would help people understand and appreciate the Mass better - though they eventually became blind to all the negative impacts this has had.  They may have truly believed that giving people more "options" in how they conduct themselves, such as choosing other more personal forms of penance on Fridays, would have a more profound impact on their souls - but they fail to see that people simply choose to do no penance on Friday.  These negative things have now become so ingrained in people that they truly have no clue that anything else is better, required or beneficial.  They become lost.
No! Most Catholics were pursuing holiness before Vatican II, afterward no one was. If you are reflecting on the fact that many didn't want to say go to Stations of the Cross and had to force themselves it is evidence they were working at the practice of Catholicism.  We are a sinful lot, and it don't come easy. We looked to the Bishops, and Priests to lead us and when the changes came many many many felt betrayed. This gobbledygook of the need for massive change is blaming the wrong people. The Church is hierarchical the Priests are led by the Bishops and they in turn are led by the Pope. We were to practice by remaining in the state of Grace through the Sacraments and our own favorite devotions. Generations upon generations have been saved in this manner. They were the shepherds and we were the sheep. Sheep do not lead they follow until you have a shepherd that is a hireling, then they get eaten. We need more Priests with Apostolates like we need another hole in our posteriors. What we need is Priests in Parishes and a return to ghetto parishes.  For instance a mother like you Lisa, that teaches her children to pray the rosary, and this takes time as you know, is doing more good than all the blow hards put together talking to prots or mohammedans. The Extraordinary form of the Mass in Latin  is the best catechesis we ever had; they way you pray is the way you believe.
tim
Miles, thank you for your thorough answer and views on this topic. I agree of course that Modernists posed a threat for a long time before Vatican II. You said you believed that Modernists were successful in influencing certain Vatican II documents. Let me ask you another question, though it’s hypothetical. If Vatican II was never convened and the Novus Ordo Mass never issued, do you think Modernists would have gained a stronghold anyway and brought their novelties into the TLM? Of course any attempts to do so would have been greatly restricted rubrics wise. But I'm thinking also of liberal and unorthodox sermons.

- Lisa
Pre-Vatican-II Catholicism is something I've only been able to experience secondarily--through the reminiscences of others, through reading, by inference--so I can't bring any empiricism to the discussion. I should also out myself as more of a trad sympathizer than a trad per se. The nearest TLM to my home, which happens to be in faculty housing at the nominally Catholic boarding school where I teach, is 45 minutes away; I went once and found it alienating (as some here might recall), though I would really like to be situated in such a way as to be able to go frequently and give it a fair chance. This would be easier if I weren't implicitly expected to attend the NO (and often quite deformed, to crib a mot juste from the Holy Father) chapel services at my school for 8 months out of the year and if my spouse were a little more on board with going out of our geographical way for something that, as she understands it, we can get right down the street in a perfectly valid form. The only other TLM I've attended was eleven years ago at St. Alphonsus in Baltimore, when I was I merely a Catholic sympathizer, but it definitely made an impression on me.

That said, I think this is a brave line of discussion, and I'm interested to see how it unfolds!
(07-23-2009, 03:12 PM)StrictCatholicGirl Wrote: [ -> ]If Vatican II was never convened and the Novus Ordo Mass never issued, do you think Modernists would have gained a stronghold anyway and brought their novelties into the TLM? Of course any attempts to do so would have been greatly restricted rubrics wise. But I'm thinking also of liberal and unorthodox sermons.

Yes, the Modernists would have done exactly what you stated...and, in fact, they actually did so for many years prior to the Council.  I sadly do not have my references handy, but I know there are instances of the use of "people's altars," laymen processing to the altar like the presentation of the gifts, lay homilies and so forth since at least the 1940s.  I seem to recall that someplace in Minnesota (possibly invovling St. John's University?) was especially intent on bringing about a liturgical revolution in the decades leading up to the 1960s.

I do not think we should kid ourselves in thinking that bad catechesis, sloppy liturgy, unorthodox or heretical sermons, or any other less than desireable trait of the last 100 years is new.  As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun.  If the liturgy had always been practiced with piety and according to the rubrics, there never would be a need for a pope or bishop to compose a statement stating the necessity of piety and obedience while celebrating Mass...yet there are hundreds of documents dating back hundreds of years that do just that.  There were heretics before the twentieth century, and there will be heretics in the future.  Although some people appear to believe otherwise, the traditional Latin Mass IN AND OF ITSELF is not a safeguard against heresy or simple stupidity.  If it were, then there would have been no problems for the first 1970 years after Christ's birth.

I somewhat agree with you Lisa that, at least in some parts of the US, there was a bit of "laziness" on the part of the faithful and clerics.  I think it had as much to do with the composition, history and general climate of the nation itself rather than an overall "impiety" of the faithful, though.  Many parts of the country were heavily influenced by Irish Catholicism which is externally remarkably different than "German Catholicism," "French Catholicism," "Italian Catholicism," etc...  To a degree this was due to the way the Church and the faithful had to survive in Ireland for many years - many of the traits of Irish Catholicism immigrated to the US along with the Irish themselves.  I sadly do not have the resources or the time at the moment to delve into this topic more, but hopefully somebody else does.  I do not intend to imply that Irish Catholics were lazy - rather, I mean that they might appear externally lazy to an ignorant eye.

In short, I think that most people (laymen and clerics) in most places were very devout in their practice of the Faith...they generally tried very hard to do the right thing, to worship God properly, and so forth.  Their methods of piety may not have been ideal and may have even been at odds with what some popes and bishops stated on the matter, but I think they truly put out a pious and concerted effort to save their souls and the souls of their family and friends.  Sadly, some "traits" of certain groups became ingrained in American Catholicism which allowed and at times fostered the negative changes within the Church.  For example, the silent Low Mass became the standard for every Mass at many parishes - few had Solemn High Masses even on principal feasts, Sunday Vespers were often neglected, sermons were ineffectual, and so on.  I do not mean to disparage Low Masses - I quite like them, myself.  However, some people "need" more than a Low Mass each week to be spiritually fulfilled - they "need" the chant, hymns, incense, pageantry, etc...  I think many priests were misled by the Modernists so that the parish priests believed the New Mass would essentially enable them to have the "richness" of the Solemn High Mass at each Mass they celebrated.  The sad fact of the matter, though, is that nearly every New Mass celebrated today is the equivalent to a poorly celebrated Low Mass...in which the congregation is forced to externally "participate" while doing very little (if anything) to foster interior participation.

I believe that, if nothing else, the "cultural force" of many Catholics would have withstood the Modernist charge for a few years (decades?) if the situation remained as it was in the 1950s.  People were very attached to the Faith not just because it was the Faith, but because it was also their heritage.  They would have been upset about changes to the Mass, rejection of popular devotions, etc...simply because it was a change and not what was "in their blood."  Many would have succomed sooner or later, though, depending on how the official fight against Modernism was waged.  Left to our own devices, we can only survive for a short while.  I really am hard-pressed to think that Vatican II or liturgical changes after Vatican II improved matters very much for the laity.  Sure, they could see the action on the altar better when the priest turned his back to the tabernacle...but did they internalize any better what they were able to see?  You would think that people would be better able to understand the prayers of the Mass when said in the vernacular, but do most people really understand the Mass any more now than 60 years ago?  They may have realized that loving and helping your neighbor is a requirement of a good Christian, but what have they neglected in the name of pursuing "social justice?"  I think that the general aims of Vatican II were well-intentioned...that is, it wanted to make the Faith more important, understandable and appreciated by the laity.  But it seems to have had the exact opposite effect (for a variety of reasons).  I do not think we can blame only the Council for the dreariness of the past 40-50 years, but I also do not think it should be held up as an example of the way a Council should be held, should be presented to the people, etc...  It was conducted and presented in such a way that peole "knew the Faith was changing," when in fact the Faith cannot change.  It allowed very diverse and harmful things to be done and said, and the hierarchy of the past 50 years have been very reluctant to put their collective foot down and declare "Enough is enough of this heretical silliness of the Spirit of Vatican II."

I hope this long-winded - and probably confused - answer helps!  I am sure when I re-read it I will notice that I came nowhere close to answering your question...I apologize!

[Edited for clarification in the last main paragraph.]
Perhaps if the laity had actually gotten more active in the Faith and liturgy – and in the proper spirit promoted by Pope St. Pius X - there would not have been a Second Vatican Council. I think one of the advantages for liberals was that the First Vatican Council was interrupted by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. It was never resumed and was never officially closed. One of the items in the decree of opening of the First Vatican Council was the “reformation of the clergy and the Christian people.” An examination of pastoral concerns regarding the whole Church was unable to be addressed, so this left open the hope of a “second Council” to pick up where the first Council (supposedly) left off.   

I was quite young in 1962, so my mother would have a better perspective than I. Many Catholics were of course devout and tried their best to be good so they could get to heaven. The focus, whether conscious or subconscious, seemed to be doing the bare minimum while letting the priests and religious handle the “big stuff” like the Divine Office and Bible study, apologetics, ministry, charity work, and spreading the Gospel (mostly by example). Knowledge of the Faith meant little more than memorizing grade school catechisms. We abstained from meat on Fridays because the nuns told us we would go to hell if we didn’t. Legalism and laziness were strange bedfellows.

I know there are those who will say that it’s better than what we have now; I might agree, but that’s still not a sufficient response or a solution to what was becoming for many Catholics a stale religion, especially in Europe. It was this staleness that caused Pope John to open the windows to let some “fresh air” into the Church. He wasn’t the first to express concern. Jesus warned the Jews of His time that going through the outward motions of religion, putting the letter of the law before the spirit of the law, and equating “faith” with heritage was doing irreparable damage to their relationship with God and their neighbor. John the Baptist told the Pharisees that God could raise children of Abraham from mere stones. We all need to be shaken up from time to time.

- Lisa
(07-23-2009, 01:59 PM)StrictCatholicGirl Wrote: [ -> ]I think 1950s Catholicism looked good census-wise. There were more priests in the seminaries, more nuns in the convents, and more heads in the pews on Sundays. But so many of these were the same people who left the Church in droves in the 1960s, or stayed and became part of the problem (the liberal mess we have now) instead of part of the solution.

The issues of Vatican II were old by the time the Council was convened. Part of the Council’s professed purpose was to remind the Faithful that they were to be pursuing holiness. There had developed an over-clericization over the centuries that left the laity to think solely in pedestrian ways and to basically be spectators in the Mass and in the Faith. Such spectatorship was never the intent of the Church Christ founded. As a result the liturgy had grown moribund and was taken for granted. Heroic virtue was for priests, religious and nuns, not lay people.

There had to be renewal (imo), just as there had to be renewal in the 1500s. The counter-reformation not only attacked Protestant error, but also reformed the Church from within (mainly clerics and religious orders) of moral and spiritual laxity. Then the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction when along came Jansen. The reform had its roots in holiness, and Jansenism, to a degree, corrupted it. 

Today we have a similar problem with Vatican II and liberalism. By the second half of the 20th century, Catholics needed renewal and I have no doubt Pope John had the good of the Church in mind. When I say “renewal” I mean “restoring” all things in Christ and maintaining Tradition in the world and times we live in (not necessarily a return to the forms and norms of 1950 or the 1st century). The Church (in her human element) is like a garden that needs constant maintenance and pruning. Weeds (abuses) creep in that need to be uprooted and burned. What is demanded of us now has been demanded since the day of Pentecost: a genuine conversion and ever-deepening conversion. Now, whether we needed to call a Council to achieve that goal is debatable. But one thing is certain: The Holy Spirit is in the business of setting the world on fire. Either the Holy Spirit inspired and ordained Vatican II, or He allowed Vatican II to happen.. Either way, we got the “wake-up call” we deserved.


End of editorial. Let me turn it into a question and ask if traditional Catholics will admit that renewal (restoration) in the 20th century Church was needed?

- Lisa

Interesting thoughts...

My thoughts are that no, the Church did not need renewal, especially not the disunification of Catholic dogma, belief, teaching, prayer, and faith either through uncorrected ambiguity or explicit contradiction. There is no reason to deface the Mystical Body of Christ with rash plastic surgery - She is how God made His Spouse to be. If the faithful did not like the way She looked, they will have to answer to God for their impudence at their death.
My father tells me that many Catholics back in the 50s didn't really understand or engage in the mass.  This is hard for most traditional Catholics to understand today because the Latin Mass has become a rallying point for a return to all traditional practices and an active faith that extends beyond Sundays.  We look at the Latin Mass, its sense of grandeur and ceremony, its reverence, and its beauty as a means of bringing back not just reverence in general but the cultural practices that made Catholicism extraordinary and different.  We all want a time when morals are not considered relative and there are clear boundaries that define goodness and truth.  According to my understanding, (based on Dad) few actually received communion back in the 50s because of their overwhelming sense of sin and lack of a desire to go to confession.  Faith seemed formulaic and stagnant.  So, Vatican II was supposed to change that.  Did it?  No, it confused Catholics and allowed moral relativism in infiltrate into our culture and practice.  We went to an extreme that became frightening and downright disrespectful in some cases.

The upshot of all this:  I'm not sure the 50s were idyllic.  The period had its own problems.  That doesn't mean we can't look backward for inspiration; we just need to be careful about romanticizing the past.

Well, my two cents. . .
(07-23-2009, 07:09 PM)INPEFESS Wrote: [ -> ]There is no reason to deface the Mystical Body of Christ with rash plastic surgery - She is how God made His Spouse to be. If the faithful did not like the way She looked, they will have to answer to God for their impudence at their death.

INP, I didn't mean the Church as a divine institution, but the human element. There can obviously be abuses by humans in the Church, past and present.

- Lisa
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