Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Fruits of the Council and the Reform of the Reform
I am not exactly one of those who would like to excise Vatican II from the history books, but I long to see it properly implemented. Since the vast majority of the Bishops at Vatican II signed the Council documents we can take it for granted that they saw them as faithful to and continuous with the Deposit of Faith guarded over the centuries. As such, dissent from traditional doctrines such as ‘no’ to artificial contraception and ‘yes’ to the male-only priesthood and to the Catholic Church as the one means of salvation etc, is nothing to do with Vatican II. The only alternatives to the Bishops signing the documents if they saw them as discontinuous with the received Faith are that the Fathers were either too afraid to challenge them, too wicked to correct them, or too dim to understand them. We surely cannot hold to such alternatives.
Yet something has gone badly wrong since the Council. Its true fruits have not yet surfaced. Rather, dissent (which divides) is widespread, and dissenters include Bishops and priests as well as laity. Lapsation has gone from around 20% prior to the Council to around 75% since the Council; convents are closing and seminaries shutting down by the handful while Catholic marriages and families are becoming fewer. Only a fool or a renegade could see this erosion of Mass attendance, vocations and family life as good and healthy.
I thus wonder...In our necessary concern for those in need, have we clergy become more like social workers than doctors of souls? Have we become entertainers in the sacred liturgy by eradicating Latin and Gregorian Chant (in direct disobedience to Vatican II) while allowing the adoption of dances, dramas, puppets and comedic homilies in order to keep the people engaged? Have our laity come to see their mission to the world (wonderfully undertaken by the Legion of Mary, SVP, SPUC and ACN.) as inferior to being on committees and standing on the sanctuary, so that only work in the office, the lecture room or standing in the sanctuary are seen as ‘empowerment’? Have bishops and priests, by holding the same idea of empowerment, thus allowed the authentic lay vocation of being leaven in the world seem like disempowerment -or worse, as subservience? Perhaps. At any rate, the remedy is to recover the true reform; to bring ourselves back onto the road proposed by Vatican II. This is not about turning back, but about recovering our right direction. Surely only a fool, a stubborn man or a proud man would be unwilling to admit that a wrong turn has been made somewhere? And no one of sound mind or good heart could look at the condition of the Church today and see it as good and healthy, so it seems highly likely that we have taken a wrong road after the Council. Without doubt the Church has its healthy attributes: people are dedicated to charity and do want to take some responsibility for the life of the Church and her worship, but if a physician focuses on how wonderfully well one’s digestive tract is operating while allowing a failing heart to saturate the lungs with fluid, he is positively unhelpful to the person as a whole. Similarly, ignoring the wounds within certain aspects of the Church’s life is unhelpful to the Church as a whole. I pray that the reform of the reform to keep us in continuity with our past continues...