Appendix II, Part A: Fruits of the
Both the Holy See and national hierarchies deny emphatically that a disastrous liturgical revolution has taken place in the Catholic Church, especially in the liturgy, since the Second Vatican Council, and they insist that the Catholic faithful are the fortunate beneficiaries of a fruitful renewal. This official viewpoint was expressed by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus of December 4, 1988, commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The Pope explained, quoting the Constitution itself, that the objectives of the reform were "To impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions that are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of humanity into the household of the Church." (Par. 1). The Pope continued, "The vast majority of the pastors and the Christian people have accepted the liturgical reform in a spirit of obedience and indeed joyful fervor. For this we should give thanks to God for that movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church which the liturgical renewal represents . . . ." (Par. 12).
In his sermon for Pentecost 2001, Pope John Paul II rendered homage to John XXIII on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of his death: 1
The Second Vatican Council, announced, convoked, and opened by Pope John XXIII, was conscious of this vocation of the Church. One can well say that the Holy Spirit was the protagonist of the Council from the moment the Pope convoked it, declaring that he had welcomed as coming from above an interior voice that imposed itself upon his spirit. This "gentle breeze" became a "violent wind" and the conciliar event took the form of a new Pentecost. "It is, indeed, in the doctrine and spirit of Pentecost," affirmed Pope John, "that the great event which is an ecumenical council draws its substance and its life." (Discorsi, p. 398). 2
With all the respect that is due to the Holy Father, the fact that there has been no renewal cannot be changed simply because he would like a renewal to have taken place. 3 If the fruits of the Vatican II liturgical reform are to be compared to a tree, Matthew Chapter 7, verses 16-19, comes to mind immediately: A fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos-----"By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit."
In his Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia of April 17, 2003, Pope John Paul II once more insisted that the Vatican II liturgical reform has been followed by a renewal rather than a revolution, by good fruits rather than bad fruits:
The Magisterium's commitment to proclaiming the Eucharistic mystery has been matched by interior growth , within the Christian community. Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful. In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it. Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned. (Emphasis added).
Then, in what seems to be a volte face, the Holy Father admits that, in some places at least, Eucharistic discipline and even faith are suffering very serious problems, and he provides a list of the liturgical deviations and abuses concerning which traditional Catholics have been protesting since the first changes were imposed upon the faithful. These abuses take place, the Holy Father tells us, alongside the lights to which he has referred, but he nowhere tells us where these lights are shining:
Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church, abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured, and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation. It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery. (Emphasis added.)
As we survey the Catholic scene we see no change whatsoever. In the parishes where those abuses occurred last year, they are still occurring today . . . These and other liturgical abuses have been condemned again. The condemnations have no practical effect . . . In an ordinary household when children misbehave, does the father issue a statement of policy-----and then when they ignore his words, another new statement in response to each repeated transgression . . . There is a time for action.
The malformations born in the first years of the application still endure, and gradually, as new generations follow one another, could almost become the rule (esse potrebbero diventare quasi una regola). Thus, the letter and the spirit of the liturgical reform remain in some cases in the shadows,
and customs are created which certainly originated after the liturgical reform, but not in its genuine sense, and with consequences more negative for liturgical formation than those customs connected to praxes before VatIcan II. 4
Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, stated bluntly in January 2000: "The dechristianization of Europe is a reality." 5 This is hardly an ' indication of "interior growth within the Christian community." Cardinal Daneels of Brussels, Belgium, stated in an interview with the London Catholic Times on May 12, 2000 that the Church in Europe is facing extinction. He lamented the vocations crisis in the West and remarked that "Without priests the sacramental life of the Church will disappear. We will become a Protestant Church without sacraments. We will be another type of Church, not Catholic." 6 During the Synod of European Bishops in October 1999, Archbishop Fernando Sebastian Aguilar of Pamplona gave the following gloomy but realistic assessment of Spanish Catholicism:
For 40 or 50 years, Spanish society has moved far away from the Church and the explicit acknowledgment of the treasures of the Kingdom of God. Cultural and spiritual secularization has affected many members of the Church. The result of this has been the weakening of the faith and Divine revelation, the theoretical and practical questioning of Christian moral teaching, the massive abandonment of attending Sunday Mass, the non-acceptance of the Magisterium of the Church in those points that do not coincide with the trends of the dominant culture. The cultural convictions on which social life is based are undermined and are more atheistic than Christian.
The Australian Catholic monthly, AD 2000, in its January 2003 issue, reported a speech made by Professor Denis McLaughlin of the Australian Catholic University (ACU) to the national conference of Australian secondary school principals in October 2002. His audience would certainly not have been pleased with what he had to say. His speech reported the findings of a survey that he had conducted into the beliefs, values and practices of Catholic student teachers. The survey found that most student teachers did not accept the Church's teaching in such areas as the Eucharist, abortion, contraception and women's ordination, and there were no significant differences between the views of first year and final year students. This kind of thinking, according to Professor McLaughlin, is also to be found among practicing Catholic school teachers, indicating that the downward spiral of belief and practice in the general Catholic population shows no sign of leveling out:
The cult of individualism and subjectivism, so prevalent in modern Western culture, has also had its impact on religious education. This has led to the present widespread ignorance of the basics of the Faith and their intellectual and historical underpinnings, making an already difficult situation for any religious faith commitment close to impossible. It is no wonder so many Catholics have made their peace with secularism and materialism under a thin veneer of cultural Catholicity. Their views on "gay" rights, divorce, abortion or women priests are indistinguishable from those of the rest of the population.
Data obtained by ACU researchers in Sydney found that 97 per cent of young Catholics abandoned the practice of their faith within 12 months of completing high school . . . In other words, despite up to 13 years of religious education, most young Catholics reject the very foundations of the
Statistics relating to England and Wales and the United States are appended [Part B] to demonstrate that what we are witnessing is not a new Pentecost but a disastrous and apparently terminal decline. These statistics are paralleled in every country of what is known as the First World. It is true that there has been an increase in the overall number of seminarians and ordinations since Vatican II, but this increase has taken place primarily in Third World areas, such as Africa and Asia and, when examined carefully, cannot be attributed to the influence of the Council, but to sociological factors, which will not be examined in this appendix, which is concerned only with the First World. I will give just one example derived from a visit to an Indian seminary in 1988. The seminary was completely full and could have been filled four times over; but in India, Ordination gives a man a certain social status and a guaranteed income, coming largely from abroad, which enables him to give financial support to his family. The doctrinal formation given in the seminary was of very dubious orthodoxy. I asked the rector, who wore no priestly attire, if the seminarians studied St. Thomas Aquinas, and he burst out laughing. The walls of his office were decorated with pictures of scantily clad American female country singers. I asked the reason, and the rector replied that it enabled the seminarians to relate to him.
1. It was on this occasion that
mortal remains of the deceased Pope were exposed in St. Peter's square
and, after the ceremony, were escorted in procession before the Altar
the Confession in the Vatican basilica to be exposed for the veneration
of the faithful.
2. Documentation Catholique, July 1,2001, No. 2251.
3. A Catholic is in no way disloyal to the Church if he feels bound to disagree with the Pope on a question of fact. Many devout Catholics tend to accept every statement by a pope as if it were an infallible pronouncement. That this is not the case was made clear by Cardinal Newman in his book Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching. (London: Pickering, 1876, p. 325). Newman explains: "He speaks ex cathedra, or infallibly, when he speaks, first, as the Universal Teacher; secondly, in the name and with the authority of the Apostles; thirdly, on a point of faith or morals; fourthly, with the purpose of binding every member of the Church to accept and believe his decision. These conditions of course contract the range of his infallibility most materially. Hence Billuart speaking of the Pope says, 'Neither in conversation, nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the Fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the Pope infallible.' "
4. Notitiae, 315, vol. 28 (1992), pp. 625-628.
5. Le Spectacle du Monde, January 2000.
6. Catholic Times, May 12, 2000.
7. Christian Order, April 1977, p. 205.
8. Fr. Francis Ripley, This Is The Faith (Rockford, IL: TAN edition, 1951/2002).
BACK | NEXT