Falling Mass attendance

Cincinnati.com reports on falling Mass attendance in Ohio and Kentucky – which no doubt reflects trends elsewhere as well.

As an aside, this article is stronger on sociology than theology. Get this:

Catholics are taught that this is not a symbolic gesture – as it is in some Protestant faiths – but that Christ is physically present.

Physical? Not symbolic? By whom are they taught this?? Time to read some Aquinas and Rahner.

Back to the sociology. Researcher William D’Antonio says this:

There are serious problems, structural problems, all up and down the line. If you’re asking what are the future trends, they’re bleak.




  1. Overall the article is well written and very balanced as it highlights the numerous factors that have led to this decline. I’m not sure what the solution is although my own perspective is that a smaller but more faithful Church is what we are becoming. But then that makes us more like a country club rather than the drag net we are and have been in the past, with a variety of people attending Mass as at least the minimal expectation for everyone, no matter what their spiritual or moral lives may be like apart from Sunday Mass.

      1. What do you mean by “bring on Vatican II?”

        I don’t mean to be snarky, but I was under the impression that that was what has been going on the last forty years or so. Most of the people leaving now were formed entirely within the post-Vatican II period.

      2. In the old “Act of Contrition” we pray, “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because these offend thee my God who art all good…” Somewhere in the past 40 years, a goodly number of Catholics have lost the sense of offending God and others. This could be part of the problem which was not in the article as I recall. But I suspect the biggest problem is a loss of the gift of faith and the personal assent to this gift that is so necessary. In other words, it is free will.

      3. So, are you saying people aren’t going to Mass like they used to because they choose not to? Okay. I agree with that.

        As Church ministers, you and I are charged with figuring out why, getting off our duffs and doing something about it. If we’re not able to do that, we should be in another line of work. As for me, I refuse to sit back and wring my hands over the loss of a past I can’t admit was an improvement. The only comparison that matters is the people who are in our pastoral care today.

      4. So you think Vatican II is the problem? I find it really depressing that anyone thinks that. Could we distinguish between the inspired teachings of the Council and the fact that they haven’t yet been received by many or most of us? I hope we’re not blaming the Council for everything (or anything) that happened the past 45 years.

        As for “Bring on Vatican II” – I agree! And if you haven’t started yet, start now!

      5. It’s not Vatican II that caused this, but the chaos that ensued after Vatican II and the confusion about so many things, catechetics, liturgy, “new” morality, anti-law, only the law of love, non-judgmental God, no personal accountability, and on and on. I don’t think one who reads any of the documents of Vatican II could say that Vatican II caused this, but certainly misrepresenting Vatican II did in no small way. Vatican II certainly didn’t throw out heaven, hell, purgatory, love of God and neighbor and commitment to the faith, morals and canon law of the Church. But our faith does touch us on the most intimate levels of our life and if one doesn’t like what that feels like, then one simply uses one’s will and leaves blaming what they don’t like as the reason for not going.

      6. Count me a doubter on leveling the blame exclusively on the “misinterpreters” of Vatican II. We’re speaking of flawed human beings, and my sense is that people made mistakes before the council just as readily as they did after it.

        Again, it’s useless to compare 2010 with 1960. If we want to hold ourselves to a high standard–and a useful one–compare how 2010 is with what it could be tomorrow.

  2. Bring on the “smaller but more faithful [Faithful To What?] Church”!!!

    As a famous Australian bishop said fairly recently “If everyone except me stops going to Mass in Australia, then at least I’ll know all the Masses will be said properly.”

      1. Not that I want to go into personalities here, Kimberly, but by a wonderful coincidence, it’s not the first time I’ve seen those words (“dum-bum”) used of the Australian bishop in question! And on a more serious note, the Mass is about him and God – laity are spectators.

  3. I’m pretty conservative about a lot of things, but I don’t see that any sort of changes in the mass are going to bring people back to the pews, no matter how traditional or progressive those changes are. I think that more important to turning the trend around is how deeply we give witness to our faith to one another, and I don’t think that this is the same as how perfectly we adhere to dogma. I hope that the church is big enough to include those hanging onto their Catholic faith by the thinnest of threads. I hope I have something to offer them according to whatever timeline God has in mind for them, knowing that if I pull too quickly the thread will break.

  4. “Church leaders and researchers say the trend is driven by a combination of cultural and social forces, as well as the church’s failure to prepare its people for the elimination of the Latin Mass and other changes following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.”

    It seems their sources are telling them that Vatican II and it’s implementation DID have a little something to do with the decline in mass attendance. That’s contrary to what many believe here at this site. Where do you think the discrepancy lies?

  5. “Physical? Not symbolic? By whom are they taught this?? Time to read some Aquinas and Rahner.”

    Rahner was very influential in regards to the Second Vatican Council, but he also created the theory of transfinalization (to replace transubstantiation), and this theory was rejected as heretical by Pope Paul VI.

  6. Brad,

    I think you got the wrong theologian there. I bet you’re thinking of a Dutch Dominican.

    Paul VI didn’t use the words “heresy” or “heretical” in Mysterium fidei. He mentions transfinalization once and states a way of using this term which is not permitted. But note that Rahner and Schillebeeckx aren’t replacing one term with another, they’re exploring additional dimensions of an unfathomable mystery.

    I think your comment is an example – and a shocking one at that – of how some people in the Catholic Church today carelessly throw around charges of heresy, based on misinformation and misunderstanding. Schillebeeckx was investigated more than once by the Holy See and he was never once condemned as a heretic. Nor was Rahner.

    There is something deeply wrong in the quality of discussion in the Catholic Church today, and I just don’t know how we can try to heal what needs healing. It’s not just an information problem, it’s an attitude problem. It’s a lack of charity, and it runs deep.


    1. As you’ve mentioned many times on this blog, my posting is not intended to be an attribution of my personal convictions. I am simply posting information that I have read. I am not accusing anyone of heresy.

      I will say, though, that your comment about the physical vs. symbolic nature of the eucharist can be misleading to folks who aren’t well-versed on theologians and their theories. The average Catholic will say the eucharist is physically the body and blood of Jesus. They will say it is NOT symbolic. Your comment makes it sound like it is symbolic and not physical. Which is precisely why I researched Rahner to begin with, since I am one of those theologically illiterate types. This is an example of when pastoral care is essential in carefully explaining the different theories surrounding the eucharist without making those who ascribe simply to “Jesus is physically present in the eucharist” seem uneducated.

      1. Unfortunately, many conservative Catholics have adopted a new definition of heresy, now meaning, “something theological I don’t like.”

        Ioannes, I second that Amen.

      2. Brad,

        With all due respect, average Catholics aren’t theologians, and they misunderstand much of their own tradition, but this blog will not be the venue to promote misunderstandings.

        If I make it sound like it’s symbolic and not physical, it’s probably because it is symbolic and not physical.

        I don’t know how else to state this: if someone says the eucharist is not a symbol, they are uneducated, and they need education in what Real Presence is and the manner in which symbols are real. If someone says that the presence is physical, they are uneducated, and they need educating in what bodily presence means. I don’t think there’s any way to state this any gentler with accuracy.

        Your first paragraph doesn’t wash. There is no indication that you’re quoting someone else in your comment, and every indication that you believe what you wrote. You’re the author of the comment, for Pete’s sake, and you aren’t giving a link to anything else. You’re the one quoting the Pope – or, in fact, misquoting him.

        And you did accuse Rahner of heresy. You wrote that he believed X, and that X is heresy according to the Pope. We call people who hold heretical beliefs heretics. That is precisely what you did – unless if words have no meanings.


      3. Hint for the future: Don’t simply post information you have read until you are ready to argue about it. Start to understand that a lot of information you read is incomplete; learn to be much more skeptical of information that comes from people who agree with you (not because they are necessarily wrong, but because the risk of cognitive biases – like selection bias and confirmation bias – is much, much higher when the your reading is dominated by sources you like or tend to agree with, which means you are much more vulnerable to being blind to the weaknesses of the information and also to being credulous).

        I might add that being careless with charges of heresy involves the risk of slander, libel and defamation: which are grave matter under the commandment against false witness. (I am not saying you committed a mortal sin here; I am merely trying to underscore why heresy is not lightly thrown around by people who treat it seriously).

      4. “…or to exaggerate the element of sacramental sign as if the symbolism, which all certainly admit in the Eucharist, expresses fully and exhausts completely the mode of Christ’s presence in this sacrament. Nor is it allowable to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation without mentioning what the Council of Trent stated about the marvelous conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ, speaking rather only of what is called “transignification” and “transfinalization,” or finally to propose and act upon the opinion according to which, in the Consecrated Hosts which remain after the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass, Christ Our Lord is no longer present.” –Mysterium Fidei, Pope Paul VI.

        If you are claiming that Rahner adhered to the teaching of transubstatiation AS WELL AS transfinalization (with each being enriched by the other), then your point is made. If history indicated that Rahner altered the teaching of transubstantiation into what he termed “transfinalization,” it seems very evident from Mysterium Fidei that this is not permitted. You cannot speak of transfinalization if you reject the dogma of transubstantiation.

        I do hope you are doing your part in educating the majority of uneducated Catholics. I have a feeling that this blog, however, is intended for the “well-educated” in this respect, with little charity (the charity you speak of) being shown to those who may not be as well-versed as yourself. Basically, keep up or go home. So I’ll take your advice.

      5. Brad,

        Ignoring the snear in your last line, I’ll agree with everything you wrote. The quote from Paul VI is great, but I don’t see any proof from you that anyone was guilty of what he condemned.

        If you have evidence that Rahner rejected transubstantiation and was condemned as a heretic, bring it on. Otherwise, stop calling people heretics. The burden is on you to prove your heresy charge, and I don’t have the inclination right now to explain or defend Rahner’s teachings.

        Fine if you don’t buy the theory of transfinalization – or, I gather, wish to understand it, learn from it, or perhaps expand your eucharistic spirituality. No one here said it’s a dogma.


      6. http://www.ewtn.com/library/DOCTRINE/REALLY.TXT

        If we are to assume that people are free to have their opinions, then the above opinion (with sources) illustrates why Rahner raises questions for some. If it appeared I was calling Rahner a heretic, my apologies. That is not my view. The quote was based on a quick wikipedia search (which I know is not always accruate…but can be more unbiased than many other sources).

      7. Brad,

        Before you go off on a pity party about being treated uncharitably, please consider the gravity of throwing around accusations of heresy. The fact that Karl Rahner is dead does not mean his reputation is to be treated with less charity than you believe you have been due here….

      8. Brad,

        I read the article the link to which you posted. My impression is that the issue at stake is philosophical, not theological. Nothing binds anyone to accept the Thomistic interpretation of the Aristotelian categories of substance and accident, even if transubstantiation — which describes only the mode of the change itself, and not the resultant real presence — remains the “most apt” way of speaking about the Eucharist.

        Those of us who study, write and teach within a postmodern philosophical context have largely abandoned substance and accidents in our discourse. Transubstantiation in this context makes no sense; indeed it is impossible because there is no underlying substance to undergo change. Other terms need to be harnessed; new ways of describing the wonder of bread-become-body need to be tapped. None of this is heresy, except perhaps for those who reject the possibility of speaking in terms other than Thomistic — and even at the highest echelons of doctrinal authority, the possibility of exploring new modes of expression is not verboten.

      9. Rejecting the distinction between substance and accident is certainly not heresy, but I suspect it is a philosophical mistake. Unless, of course, postmodern philosophy wants to affirm Heraclitus’s silly aphorism about not stepping into the same river twice.

      10. Not simply rejecting the distinction within the Scholastic synthesis — there, it makes perfect sense, as does transubstantiation — but rejecting the whole Scholastic framework.

      11. I think too if I were a lay person hearing that the Eucharist is symbolic but not physical, in terms of real presence, then I’d be a bit confused. I think most Catholics who are serious about Holy Communion simply believe they are receiving our Lord in Holy Communion, that it is a “real presence” not a symbolic one. Now obviously, we don’t receive Christ in a physical way, for most of us that would be displeasing to our sensibilities when it comes to appetite. Our Lord has made it possible to be in “communion” with Him through the sacramental principle He establishes which indeed is pleasing to the sensibilities of our appetite and the manner in which we physically eat and drink the physical signs and symbols. The physicality of Bread and Wine that are signs, symbols and metaphors for the “real presence” of Christ are powerful physical symbols and signs of the real presence. The sacramental principle is that after the consecration the bread is not Jesus, but Jesus is Bread and all that this means as it concerns the life-giving qualities of real bread and real eating in community and the physicality of it all. The same for the Consecrated Wine; wine is not Jesus, Jesus is Wine and all that wine is in reality and physicality. Transubstantiation makes perfect sense in this context and does not obfuscate the reality as other philosophical terms often do. The “substance” changes, but the “accidents” remain is a marvelous way of speaking about metaphor and focusing on Christ who is substantially present through the sacramental metaphors (accidents) we receive.

      12. Thank you, Fr. Allan, for your words. This is exactly what I was getting at (but not as eloquently). To me, this further validates my earlier claim that you have a great pastoral sense of how the laity relate to certain things (such as their traditional view on the eucharist, in this case) and can explain them in a way that becomes clear to almost anybody.

      13. Cody,

        you would have to tell me what you mean by “the scholastic synthesis,” since in general I think this is a fictional beast, like a unicorn. the theologians of the “schools” were engaged in a rather diverse set of intellectual projects and, in particular, had widely varying attitudes toward Aristotle. If there ever was a “Scholastic synthesis” it was created by Leo XIII in 1879.

    2. +JMJ+

      I think this boils down to people (Catholic and non-Catholic) not knowing what the Catholic meanings of “sign” and “symbol” are, and thus mis-using or mis-understanding the words. There is also a world of difference between saying “the Eucharist is a symbol” and “the Eucharist is JUST a symbol,” because the second statement implies a very reductive and non-Catholic meaning of the word “symbol”.

      There is indeed symbolism in the Eucharist, as Paul VI says in MF 11; but it is wrong to limit the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to symbolism, as he goes on to say in MF 39.

      Maybe this is beyond the scope of this thread, or assumed prior knowledge to certain conversations here, but a common definition of “sign” and “symbol” here — at least for us Catholics — might prevent a great amount of mis-communication.

    3. (ad F.C. in 32 super)

      Let me come at this another way: Thomas took Aristotle’s categories and bent and broke them to articulate what couldn’t be articulated in them any other way: the instantaneous and absolute change of one underlying substance into another, without a concurrent change in the accidents = transubstantiation.

      This is all well and good if you accept that things have accidents — identifiable characteristics that both inhere in and betray the underlying substance, which is the real reality of a given thing (whether that be a body or a table). Postmodern philosophy simply does not use those categories to speak about reality. So you have bread — not breadness plus bready smell, bready appearance, bready taste. How does bread become body in such a philosophical setting? Well, strangely enough it’s the scholastics who clue us in on this one: sacramentum semper et solus in genere symboli est, a sacrament is always and only a symbol. Bread becomes body because bread is set apart to become the meaning of body — not just any body, but this body: hoc corpus, which is a personal, living body, and therefore a matrix of relationship extending itself to and for another. The setting apart is cooperative, of course, the work of the Holy Spirit through the church; and the end result is accepted as no less a real change, resulting in a real presence of Jesus Christ than, in the effect of transubstantiation, because a symbol always makes really present the reality toward which it points. If it did not, than transubstantiation itself would be an ineffective manner of describing the real change that takes place in the eucharist, because the meaning of “body” is still rendered through the sacramentum tantum, the symbol itself.

      Nevermind the fact that, for Thomas at least, the symbol and reality (res sacramenti) — the body and blood of of Christ — was a second-level thing, of which there was one greater — the true reality (res tantum) the body of Christ as Church in glory.

      I make the point above about the relational self-extension of Christ in the eucharist because I believe the biggest popular problem with eucharistic theology is the belief that what’s really present is a hunk of flesh, a bite of Jesus as it were — living or dead, does it really matter? — and not a person coming to receive and be received in a relationship established through the reception of communion. The real presence is of the risen, glorified Lord, who freely gives himself to be received as a person. Too often the eucharist is treated like a thing — and more often than not so through our attempts to show reverence to the sacrament.

  7. As Vatican II and Pope John XXIII said well: dogmas are the continued truth of the church but how they are expressed may change with the times (not a direct quote).

    Any Trentan formulation works from an Thomistic philosophy and theology. Some of these formulations need to be restated using more modern philosophical and theological language e.g. Rahner, Schillebecckx, etc.

    Transubstantiation conveys a truth/dogma but is time limited in terms of its philosophical/theological roots.

  8. As you’ve mentioned many times on this blog, my posting is not intended to be an attribution of my personal convictions. I am simply posting information that I have read.

    It seems to me that this articulates one of the major problems this blog, and with others too. People take opinions they have read elsewhere and post them as if they were the Gospel truth. In fact they are frequently no more than someone’s personal view, often based on wishful thinking or incomplete or inaccurate knowledge. One of our most frequent posters has even published a book whose derivation is more than somewhat as I have described — second- or third-hand knowledge, half-baked, undigested and frequently completely wrong. Worse still, that book is now being promoted as a textbook by a theological institute that ought to know better.

    It would be wonderful if we could get away from all this. Comments based on proper scholarship would be very refreshing.

    Karl has also commented on this above, and I agree with him totally.

    1. +JMJ+

      My spider sense is tingling, so if I’m the unfortunate unnamed poster to whom you are referring, I apologize for writing such a shoddy book. I will happily give you a refund, and I would greatly appreciate constructive feedback as to how to produce a better edition of the text. Knowing where I’m completely wrong, for example, would be of immediate interest. I just wish I’d been told sooner.

  9. Fr. Ruff, you write:

    “We call people who hold heretical beliefs heretics. … unless if words have no meanings.”

    You also write:

    “Schillebeeckx was investigated more than once by the Holy See and he was never once condemned as a heretic.”

    This is, as far as I can tell by a quick investigation strictly true. He was never condemned as a heretic, canonical trial and all that. However, the 1986 notification of the CDF on his book The Church with a Human Face: A New and Expanded Theology of Ministry apparently called his theology in that book “in disagreement with the teaching of the church” according to this article from U.S. Catholic.

    It seems fairly uncontroversial to say that heretical beliefs are those held, by the baptized, contrary to the teaching of the Church. An additional premise: that Schillebeeckx held the positions in his book.

    Can you explain why, by your own criteria we shouldn’t then call Schillebeeckx at least (and perhaps only for a time) a material heretic, since he held, as a Catholic, positions contrary to Catholic teaching?

      1. Well, he’s dead, for one thing. Unless he died a certifiable heretic, it’s calumny to simply call him that without a ton of qualification. Confessional matter. Immorality in the service of Truth is not morality….

        But you’ve not answered my question.

  10. While the author of the linked article was probably wrong to write that the Eucharist is a physical presence (if by physical we mean locative that is “being in a place”, we could mean other things by “physical”, like “having an effect in a place” which might be physical without being locative), but I don’t think it’s wrong to say “Catholics are taught that this is not a symbolic gesture – as it is in some Protestant faiths”. The phrase “not a symbolic gesture” doesn’t mean “without meaning”, it means “only possessing abstract meaning and not a direct action”. When a judge sentences a criminal to a prison term for a crime, it has meaning (society’s dissapproval of crime, the value of life, etc.) but we wouldn’t ordinarily write that it was “a symbolic gesture” (unless the gravity of the sentence somehow mismatched with gravity of the offense, the sentence was suspended, etc.), because it has actual and direct effect.

  11. “Well, he’s dead, for one thing. Unless he died a certifiable heretic, it’s calumny to simply call him that without a ton of qualification. Confessional matter. Immorality in the service of Truth is not morality….”

    Which is why I qualified it, “for a time” and “material”. Given those qualifications, my position is that it’s not calumny because it’s true. Do you dispute that it’s true or are you merely asserting that it would be calumny if it wasn’t true?

    If his teaching contrary to Church teaching was secret, it could be detraction, despite being true, but having been published in a book and been the subject of a notification by the CDF, it’s not secret.

    Certainly some level of imprecision and uncertainty though is allowed. We can label Henry VIII as a schismatic even though we hope that in the moment before death he repented of his schismatic attitutes and we can’t know for certain that he didn’t.

    Do you disagree with the CDF that he taught false doctrine? That of course is the reason to call him a heretic, so that people are cautious about his teachings.

    1. Calling him a heretic is a big category jump from saying a book is disagreement with the teachings of the Church. Your little syllogism is not how the Church approaches defining a person as guilty of heresy (that is, the Church exercises *far* more caution in making that determination).

      You don’t need to call him a heretic to issue caution about the teachings of his that merit caution. It’s overbroad and uncharitable. It also calls your credibility into question. You then become the obstacle to the cause you ostensibly support. If I were to sum you up by this behavior, it would be unjust to you, wouldn’t it?….

      1. The Church is cautious in its legal proceedings. But reality is not a legal proceeding. Ken Lay was judged by the courts not guilty of fraud, because he died before his appeals were exhausted and as a result his conviction was vacated. This doesn’t mean we’re obliged to maintain out of charity that he comitted no crime.

        If my “little syllogism” is wrong, you should be able to describe how it is wrong, not just assert it.

        “If I were to sum you up by this behavior, it would be unjust to you, wouldn’t it?….”

        Umm, no. If I’ve publicly committed a sin, it’s not unjust in itself to call me on it. However, if you believe it would be unjust to do this and you do it anyway, that’s wrong, even if you mask your ad hominem with paralipsis.

  12. Back to the subject at hand. And a cross-post from a similar discussion on the Deacon’s Bench weblog.

    Just four words form the complete prescription for the problem.

    Better music. Better preaching.

    When I say “better music,” I don’t mean an immediate switch to all chant and attainting the composers whose work you happen to hate. Instead, the quality of what the people are expected to sing and hear — as music — has been ignored since the apparent decision of the US bishops to let the marketplace rule. If you want to see how music can form and unify a spiritual community, provided that it’s good music, find the movie “100 Voices” about the group of Jewish cantors and their visit to Poland last year.

    When I say “better preaching,” I don’t mean catechetical sessions or policy lectures from the pulpit. Instead, homilies should be something for us lay folks to take out into the world, and should help form us rather than inform us. The world should be able to see us as Catholics without needing to see rosary beads dangling from our pockets or crucifixes around our necks. They should know us by seeing how we act. That would energize us, and bring us back for more.

  13. Amen on better acoustical design. But essentially music and preaching are what draw people and keep them coming. RP didn’t say that being “better” equated with being more congruent to one’s personal tastes.

    Above it was suggested that people have already been formed in “Vatican II,” and I would disagree–unless they have been the beneficiaries of better music and preaching along with an active engagement of their faith in the everyday world.

    I appreciate Archbishop Dolan’s recent vigorous defense of Catholic schools, for example. But … it’s not going to put butts in the Sunday pews as such. There is no connection between Catholic school attendance and an expression of adult Catholicism–including Mass attendance in life.

  14. Todd – we used to say: “it’s not that we tried Christianity and it failed; it’s that we never tried.” and then we would add: “it’s not that we tried Vatican II and it failed; it’s that we never tried.”

  15. Then what have been trying the last forty years? It’s not traditionalism by any stretch of the imagination, and if it’s got little to do with implementing Vatican II, then what is it? Just a few years ago it was rather difficult to find authors who didn’t think Vatican II’s implementation was a resounding success, yet now the line is that we haven’t even tried? I find that confusing and contradictory.

    Again, I’m not being snarky or purposely obtuse – I’m honestly asking. I also find it very difficult to figure out what an “authentic” interpretation of Vatican II even is – judging from many comments here it seems to be either keeping the status quo or going in an even more “progressive” direction, yet “Reform of the Reform” folks have a totally different idea that seems to make just as much (if not more) sense.

  16. “Then what have been trying the last forty years?”

    The lukewarm gospel?

    In all seriousness, I can’t say my progressive colleagues have ever thought the implementation was an unqualified success. Sure, there have been many good points: permanent deacons, RCIA, lay ministry, etc..

    On the other hand, we’ve thought all along the 1974 translation was temporary and flawed. Penance is going backward. Divine Office too. Too many unanswered questions about holy orders. We need an end to careerism in the episcopacy, more transparency in church governance, and some sort of renewed credibility in leadership.

    If it’s not traditionalism, it’s sure not a progressive vision of the Church.

  17. I must admit I find your comments more discouraging than anything else. If the total upheaval of Catholic culture in the last forty years, billions spent on Church re-orderings and new Missals, the complete marginalization of the Church’s treasury of sacred music*, total upheaval of Catholic education/catechism, etc constitutes “not even trying” Vatican II and a “Lukewarm Gospel,” than I must wonder what the whole point of such a huge undertaking was and if the broad scope of it was truly necessary. Even the gains you list are things that could have been achieved without so much being lost and so much expense being made.

    And I’m sure I’ll be accused of thinking the pre-Concilliar Church I never knew was perfect, but I don’t – I think it very much needed reform, but not the total upheaval that almost comes across as being an obsession with change in a mid 20th Century sort of way. I actually am a “believer” in Vatican II, as the council itself had a lot of good things to say, but have reservations about a lot of things as well.

    *And yes I know the pre-Concilliar Church wasn’t a Gregorian chant paradise, but I know that people back then experienced more chant than I ever did growing up.

    1. Jack, it really isn’t my intent to render discouragement to my believing Catholic brothers and sisters. I share your implied wish for a stronger and more vibrant Catholic culture. I tend to think the upheaval is due more to influences outside the Church: television, cars, modern consumerism, suburbs, feminism, civil rights, ethnic blending, and the particular incompetence of European leadership since the mid-19th century, to name a few. Mind you, I think these aspects present the Church with opportunities as well as dangers. My take is that our bishops and popes have been spectacularly unimaginative in dealing with almost all of these. It’s going to take more than getting prelates on facebook and twitter to fix it.

      My opinion is that many things done in the name of Vatican II were not authentic. Some might well have been a waste of money and energy.

      1. One problem I find is figuring out what actually is “authentic,” and perhaps what is more based on certain interpretations – and are thus up for being reinterpreted as the needs of the Church change or when something turned out to not have the desired effect.

        For instance – I know I differ from you in my view of the EF. I think even though the Missal is “unreformed” in text and rubrics (at the moment – I really would like to see a careful EF reform), that it can be infused with principals from Vatican II. I feel it has a genuine place in the Church alongside the OF and not just in “special” out-of-the-way traditionalist parishes where people are to be pitied for their backwardness. Conversely, there are a lot of things about the OF that don’t really seem to be of Vatican II, even though such practices might have come about in an attempt at being faithful to the council – I would question things like “Mass facing the people,” the rather drastic textual and calendar revisions that disconnected the Mass rather extensively from its immediate predecessor, and the almost total elimination of Latin and Chant. These practices might have been well intentioned and grounded in trying to realize Vatican II principals like “active participation,” but don’t strike me as being so intimately tied to the council that they can’t be criticized.

  18. The historical pattern indicates that it does take 50-100 years to implement a council. Unfortunately, when you drill down on this statement, the actual facts, etc. present enormous issues and questions.

    Vatican I – basically declared infallibility within a very hierarchical church understanding and in a very, less educated church. Not sure that even this one dogma is an unqualified success after more than 100 years.

    Trent – different time period that, in fact, set a pattern in concrete as a reaction to the Protest. Vatican II, in its own way, took the truths of Trent and attempted to re-express them but also added understandings that were never before contemplated by the church.

    So, you get a context defined by O’Malley in his VII study that VII was our first pastoral council and yes, in many ways, it was a disruption. Will this pattern apply to this council? what about the adverse impact of over-centralization of the curia; canon law of 1983 that seems to have ignored VII’s approach; etc. What do you do when today’s world and church operate within the 24 hour news cycle; operate with powerful groups both within (Opus Dei, etc. in some ways replacing the traditional religious orders) and without?

    Basically we have seen liturgical change since 1970 – if it had not been “disrupted”; that evolution would have been continued and enhanced in 1998 – instead as we now know, from before 1970, powerful curial folks have worked to undermine VII culminating in…

  19. Samuel – you do recall that even Thomas Aquinas was in the doghouse of the catholic church for parts of his life. Was he also a heretic?

    1. No, I don’t recall that. Some of his propositions were condemned by a French bishop after his death though.

      Aquinas, did repeatedly made his submission to the authority of the Church clear, including, reportedly, on his death bed.

      As far as I know, those things that we see as false in Aquinas today (like the denial of the Immaculate Conception) are doctrines that developed in their modern form after his death and were not definitively taught by the Church when he was alive.

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