The Subversion of Vatican II?

De LaSalle Brother Louis DeThomasis, president of Christian Brothers Investment Services, is a former president of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and the author of Flying in the Face of Tradition: Listening to the Lived Experience of the Faithful, published by ACTA Publications. In a column at Huffington Post he writes:

In more than 30 years serving in Catholic education, both on the secondary and university levels, I have seen the Catholic Church lose many generous and spiritual young people because the institutional leaders do not give them the “spiritual space” to question, to dialogue, to doubt, to challenge. In fact, some of these institutional leaders contend (often behind closed doors) that the church is better off without these querulous youth and instead shower their attention on young people who accept the church with docility and are supposedly “flocking” into the church. It is not the young people (and many of their parents) who are leaving the church that are the supposed “cafeteria Catholics.” It is those who are picking and choosing from the teachings of Vatican II, which first convened exactly 50 years ago this October, as if it were not as “legitimate” a Council of the entire church as, say, Vatican I or even the Council of Trent.

Read the entire column, “The Subversion of Vatican II,” here.



  1. Each of us have our own experiences with young people and these experiences vary from geographical location to location. In the Protestant south we have to contend with the active proselytizing of our Catholic youth, high school and college, by the various Protestant denominations in town. The paradox is that most Catholics here admire them for their pro-active evangelism and many of our parents do send their children to Protestant youth ministries and Bible studies because our Catholic kids have friends there and quite frankly Protestants have a wonderful tradition of good youth ministry and put mega bucks into it.
    But the biggest problem I see with our young people who don’t come to Church anymore is that their parents don’t either. There isn’t a tradition of regular Sunday Mass attendance, even though these parents use our Catholic schools. For us I think it has more to do with free time on the weekend, ambivalence and even ignorance of the faith and a pathetic lack of faith formation. There is “disinterest” not an active “dislike” of the Church. I would say though that the majority of Catholics who don’t come to Mass aren’t joining other denominations, they just don’t practice the faith in any disciplined public way.
    As far as change goes, I can see where those my age and little young and a little older are having a hard time with the “hermeneutic of continuity” that Pope Benedict and many, many others are now using to interpret Vatican II. Those who appreciate this intentional change and the tightening of the screws if you will, see this in a positive light. Others who have a difficult time with change in general and what they thought would be the Church of today and the future (just as those caught off guard by the actual changes in the aftermath of Vatican II) certainly are feeling angst and wondering if the Church hasn’t left them–I heard that from disaffected traditional Catholics throughout the 1960’s and 70’s and later too.

    1. Father, with all due respect, consider whether by “lack of faith formation” what you really mean is that “those people don’t agree with the way I want to worship” and/or “those people don’t agree with everything I believe”. My impression is that you do have an active and appreciative group of people who prefer a Latinate style. But why should you expect people who don’t respond to a Latinate style to be equally enthusiastic?
      There is a disconnect here. People respond to and like and engage in activities that make them feel good. People should be eager to celebrate God with us. We can console ourselves with the conclusion that people prefer to wallow in sin and/or ignore God, and go on as we have. Or we can look at people seeking to connect with God, and ask why we can’t or don’t help them make that connection.
      Change is hard. Asking ourselves if we are the ones who need to change is even harder.
      Have I changed during my life? Yes, but I don’t think you would approve of the changes I’ve made.
      I would ask you to consider how much of your understanding of Christ and His Church is based on the concept of hierarchy. In that hierarchy, are some closer to God not because of their actions but because of who they are? If, in that hierarchy, priests mediate between God and the rest of us, what does that mean for those of us who are barred from the priesthood forever because of gender? What does it mean when Stalin could study for the priesthood, but the Virgin Mary would be automatically rejected?

      1. Actually, the vast majority of my parishioners prefer the Ordinary Form of the Mass although our parish is decidedly more high church even there, but extremely participative. But there are two other parishes in town which have very contemporary music and many people attend Mass in these parishes, but by far ours is the largest parish in town.
        Our Church is a hierarchy, but that doesn’t mean that the laity are considered inferior (although I recognize that some clerics/bishops might feel that way). I believe to equate hierarchy and denigration of others automatically by virtue of it is a straw man. And God and the Church call people to Holy Orders, both are necessary (the feeling of being called, but also the Bishop calling the person specifically, if either are lacking, that person does not have a call). We are a sacramental Church and thus a Church that mediates the present of Christ in word and worship unlike most Protestant Churches which have rejected that mediation and specifically by rejecting the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
        It’s not up to me to approve or disapprove of you and you haven’t asked for my opinion on your specific nuances and a blog isn’t the appropriate place to counsel about specific people as it is a bit too exhibitionist, some things are best dealt with privately.

  2. Br Thomasis’ observations are remarkably lucid and even-tempered. Still, I think that many overlook (conveniently or otherwise) that VII did not call for much liturgically that has been done in its name; also, it did call for much that has been (conveniently or otherwise) ignored with impunity. One often cannot escape drawing the conclusion that what a great number of people mean by ‘the spirit of Vatican II’ consists of those things that are their own pet wishes for the Church, whether or not those wishes or visions are consistent with what the council actually enjoined – in spirit or letter. If today our Holy Father Benedict would surprise us all and call for this or that which has up until now been ‘taboo’, the ecstatic cry would go up from some: ‘Ohhhhhhh, at LAST the Holy Spirit has spoken’. But until they hear what they wish to hear they do not consider that the Holy Spirit HAS spoken already. Br Thomasis is quite right! The Holy Spirit is, as always, with the Church, and is/has spoken through it. So, the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ is always ipso facto alive, present, and well… whether we agree with it or not. Accepting that this spirit is not necessarily consonant with any changes we wish to see, any ‘evidence’ pleasing to us, is a good place to start being in tune with it.
    Much of the greatest ‘subversion’ of the spirit of Vatican II is done by those who fondly dream that they are its chiefest proponents.

    1. So, you believe that the Holy Spirit was active in the composition of SC, but not in its implementation? Everything in the norms was approved by “legitimate authority.” I agree, no one would have thought at the time that the use of the vernacular would become the norm (one of my parish priests told me that the canon would *never* be in the vernacular). But that doesn’t render it invalid, or illegitimate, or contrary to the documents.

  3. By and large Vatican II was successful. Both the Liturgy and the Bible have become more accessible to the laity. Ecumenically and interfaith wise, Catholics are understanding other groups and collaborating better with them. More Catholics experience their families, work and communities as places where they are called to holiness.

    What has not worked well has been collegiality: collegiality among bishops with the pope, collegiality among priests with their bishop; collegiality among people with their pastor. In all cases persons in charge have tended to be dissatisfied with “democracy.” While having formal processes of “consultation,” these do not influence decision making.

    A Commentary On Decrees From The Congregation For Clergy Upholding Petition For Recourse Made By Thirteen Parishes Of The Cleveland Diocese available for download from suggests “pro forma consultation” may have played a large role in the Congregation of the Clergy’s invalidating the suppression and closures of parishes in Cleveland.

    Specifically there was little evidence the long term planning process was related to the Bishop’s decisions or the one time consultation with the Priests Council about a month before the closures. The Priests’ Council would not have had time to study the issues, come up with suggestions, and for the bishop to have modified his decisions. Decision making and “consultation” processes were parallel rather than related.

    One of the important concepts of Vatican II contributed by Paul VI was “dialogue.” We have become frightened of the process of dialogue. Even our processes of consultation seem to be a series of monologues, where people are divided up into small groups where they are encouraged to express their opinions, and to respect the opinions of others. Then finally, we hear the monologues of the leadership. And everyone leaves without having dialogued or changed much.

    1. All you write is true, but the failure of Vatican II is that today only 20% of Catholics attend Mass. False expectation about future reforms or the stifling of VaticanII By restorationists will be two sources of blame. My opinion is that those who no longer attend and don’t go any where else are practicing agnostics with one foot remaining in the Church but caring less about personal salvation and even less about the successes of Vatican II you indicate.

      1. I think Fr Allan has a good point, though. Vatican II is often considered a success liturgically, even though there doesn’t seem to be much to show for it statistically. Even the minority of Catholics who attend Mass are not uniformly satisfied with the reformed liturgy.

        Cultural change, lack of dialogue, and scandal can rightly be blamed for low Church attendance, but those factors are too often used to defend the liturgical renewal in the face of low attendance and polls that frequently show dissatisfaction with the liturgy. If anything, it makes it seem as though a lot of deck chairs were rearranged in the 60s and 70s with little benefit. I’m not saying things would be better had nothing changed, but I don’t see any real evidence that they would be much worse, which makes it hard for me to not view most of the liturgical renewal as a huge waste of time, talent, and treasure.

        Your average 1960s Catholic probably wanted permission to use birth control more than a Mass with four penetential rites and communion in the hand.

      2. Sounds like your monologue hasn’t changed a bit.

        I think that’s incredibly unfair to Fr. McDonald. Did you miss the part where he wrote “All you write is true”?

        He really seems to be listening to what you have to say. Your response is a mocking dismissal? That’s an unusual way to promote dialogue.

      3. Mr. Howard – actually, your comment (“mocking dismissal”) is uncalled for. Fr. Allan clearly states his opinion and he has stated and restated the same opinion over and over – read his blog. It is both sad and embarrassing and clearly represents an “alternative universe”. Would suggest that folks such as Jack, Jordan, others have tried to provide documentation, studies, etc. that poke holes in his “monologue” and yet nothing changes. Typing “All you say is true” followed by a series of “buts” that dismisses, twists, or rejects the “all you say is true” makes any effort at dialogue difficult. Who is really “mocking”?

      4. Fr. Allan,
        I find your assessment part of the problem. I don’t agree with it at all. For me there are no failures of Vatican II. There are however problems in liturgical understanding, improper understandings of the reforms of Vatican II, and most importantly a failure to implement the ecclesiology defined by the council. By the way there are three reasons only 20% attend Mass: poor homilies, poor music, poor hospitality. I suppose you would blame these on Vatican II?

  4. Where to start – let’s see…..MOJ, picking up on “…..many overlook (conveniently or otherwise) that VII did not call for much liturgically that has been done in its name; also, it did call for much that has been (conveniently or otherwise) ignored with impunity.”

    Did not call for much liturgically – not sure I have ever read something so ballantly inaccurate; misrepresenting history of VII and the 75 years of liturgical study leading up to it (think biblical study alone influencing liturgy, scripture, etc.); or your biased opinion that flows from a complete misreading of Vatican II (would suggest applying your own statement to yourself – “One often cannot escape drawing the conclusion that what a great number of people mean by ‘the spirit of Vatican II’ consists of those things that are their own pet wishes for the Church, whether or not those wishes or visions are consistent with what the council actually enjoined – in spirit or letter”)

    Have you studied any of the liturgical giants that initiated and developed the “reformed” liturgy from Vatican II onwards – can imagine Pius XII, Bugnini, Jungmann, Walsh, Chupungco, Trautman, Hellreigl, Galineau, etc. turning over in their graves.

    Read Pecklers:

    At least, you have brought the conversation back to the post. Not sure how Fr. Allan managed to divert from one phrase into his topic?

    Fr. Allan – the post title was “subversion of VII” but then your other blog is a good example of that:

    Per Fr. Allan: “…..Let’s be clear. Those who propose that women be ordained deacons, priests and bishops have an agenda that goes beyond just ordaining women deacons, priests and bishops. They wish to reconstruct sexual and marital morality according to a genderless pattern, neutered of the power of pro-creation and the symbolism of Jesus Christ as a Man who is also God and as such the Bridegroom of the Church which is called she, mother, bride, etc.


    “Liberal, progressive “Catholics” either intentionally or unintentionally are a part of this post-Christian phenomenon. Some are quite intentional about it, others are so out of ignorance of what the historic Catholic Faith teaches having been seduced by current fad and trends within secularism and politics. In other words, they are gnostics who don’t know any better.”

    With a response to Jack stating that – “…..20% of catholics attending today is because of Vatican II”….when just about any respected study indicates that it was Humanae Vita, sexual abuse, societal changes, and more recently the conservatism of Rome and bishops that created this crisis.

    Now, that is REAL Vatican II subversion. Gnosticism anyone??

  5. I have seen the Catholic Church lose many generous and spiritual young people because the institutional leaders do not give them the “spiritual space” to question, to dialogue, to doubt, to challenge.

    I’m not sure entirely what Br. DeThomasis means by “spiritual space”, but I think I understand what he’s driving at. The problem is what does he see this questioning leading towards?

    You can “dialogue” all you like about transubstantiation, for example, but the faith of the Church is very clear on this (and other) points of doctrine. You can encourage young people to “question” the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, but unless it leads towards a greater understanding of the truth of her teaching, what’s the point? What’s the aim?

    As far as I see it, “dialogue” and other such words, in the context of Br. DeThomasis’s article, are code for “dissent”. And if you wish to dissent, then fine; it’s sad, but ultimately, it’s up to you. But to then turn around and expect the Church to change her teachings to accommodate your doubt, pride and vainglory? That surely is the subversion of not just ecumenical councils, but of the faith itself!

    And, with reference to his book, which “lived experience” of which “faithful” would he choose to impose on everyone? That which, “flying in the face of tradition”, says (e.g.) women’s ordination is okay? Or that which, in line with the tradition of East and West, says Holy Orders is restricted to men only?

    1. “…the faith of the Church is very clear on [transubstantiation]” ?? Good heavens, Thomas Aquinas would vigorouly dispute your claim! The Blessed Eucharist is a mystery, Matthew. It is beyond the human intellect to understand exhaustively. Aquinas attempted (and did very well, I don’t mean to downplay) to use human reason to try to point to what can’t ever be entirely clear to us.

      “You can encourage young people to ‘question’ the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, but unless it leads towards a greater understanding of the truth of her teaching, what’s the point?” The point, Matthew, is that Church teachings have changed on any number of issues, and we don’t yet know whether any of our teachings on sexuality wil change. I am not saying that they should change, nor am I claiming to know whether they will change in the future. But they could change, because other teachings have, and the church has been wrong before.

      “…to … expect the Church to change her teachings to accommodate your doubt, pride and vainglory?” Matthew, this sounds very much like pride and vainglory on your part. Even the word “accommodate” is insulting and derisive. Other devout Christians in our Church sincerely hold, in good faith, positions different from your own. Could you please respect them? If you disagree with others, that’s fine, but please don’t act as if others’ position arises only from weakness of faith or moral failure.

      I believe the Church taught until relatively recently that women can’t be ordained because they are unsuited to leadership and naturally inferior to men. I’m glad the Church changed its teaching. You write as if the Church’s teachings on the non-ordination of women haven’t changed – but they have, and significantly.


      1. The Blessed Eucharist is a mystery, Matthew… Aquinas attempted (and did very well, I don’t mean to downplay) to use human reason to try to point to what can’t ever be entirely clear to us.

        Yet it is clear enough for an ecumenical council (Trent) to teach us that transubstantiation is true! Mystery does not exclude the concepts of truth or error.

        I am not saying that they should change, nor am I claiming to know whether they will change in the future. But they could change…

        Well, we can agree to disagree on that. From my perspective, both Tradition and Scripture are clear enough on what constitutes the fundamentals of Christian doctrine about sexuality. And your historicist refusal to tie yourself down, as it were, in this and other regards speaks volumes. I imagine St. Pius X, for example, is not one of your favourite popes. 🙂

        I believe the Church taught until relatively recently that women can’t be ordained because they are unsuited to leadership and naturally inferior to men.


        You write as if the Church’s teachings on the non-ordination of women haven’t changed – but they have, and significantly.

        Yet the Church still teaches that women cannot be ordained, yes? How then is this “change” that you see in any way “significant”?

      2. AWR: I believe the Church taught until relatively recently that women can’t be ordained because they are unsuited to leadership and naturally inferior to men.

        MH: Citations?

        “Since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order” (Thomas Aquinas, ST Suppl., q. 39, a. 1).

        It is not clear to me whether Thomas is saying that the subjection of “natural” or a result of the post-lapsarian state, but I think Anthony’s point about the shift in rationale concerning the non-ordination of women is correct.

      3. Certainly both Fritz and AWR are right in their historical analysis of earlier pastoral theology, but what was explained by Aquinas and other academics used the “pastoral theology” shaped by the culture of the day, not dogmatic theology. We would need to be more explicit about how “dogmatic theology” has changed which I would suspect hasn’t that much, but the pastoral theology that explains dogmatic theology does change, as it should, especially in the case as to why women aren’t ordained priests, but in other areas too such as what constitutes a sacramental marriage, what constitutes a pastoral reason to separate in a sacramental marriage and the proper understanding of the Most Holy Eucharist and our reception of our Lord for our salvation and the Church’s unity in Christ.

  6. BdH –
    There is nothing blatantly inaccurate or otherwise off course in my remarks; and, I think, I should be far from alone in asserting them. One may search the documents of VII in vain for mention of guitar music, bongo drums, & cet., & cet., for pop-inspired and faux folk music at mass: yet, a great host of persons seem certain that these things were mandated by the council. There is nothing at all conciliar in this music or the folksy and chatty styles of celebrating mass which go hand in hand with them. What the council actually did enjoin and mention specifically, namely, the cultivation of choirs, the preservation of our musical heritage, English and Latin chant, and a (pardon the word) sacral manner of observing the eucharist have been dismissed out of hand in insouciant disregard for was expected. Numbers of bishops, not to mention countless priests, have actually PRESUMED to forbid these things in their dioceses and parishes. I say ‘presumed’ because the pretence of forbidding them is utterly without authority, while what there was authority given for has been meanly refused.
    I suspect that I would lean to some-to-considerable sympathy with those here who are frustrated at many of the results of an overly self-indulgent hierarchy and its enablers, but celebrating the eucharist without the least awestruck awareness of the ineffable Presence in which we have brought ourselves is not comprehensible – nor is it in the ‘spirit of Vatican II’… quite the opposite.
    And, what I said was ‘did not call for much liturgically That Was Done in its Name’. What I said and what you read are, it seems, two different things. Sorry.. it wasn’t a very well constructed sentence.

  7. Just saw this evening on the national news where I believe the diocese of Ft. Wayne Ind. fired a catholic school literature teacher because she tried to become pregnant using IVF (in vitro fertilization), they called it “evil”. She never discussed it w/ her students, was private, used her own egg and husbands sperm etc. Now she is suing because she was fired and the diocese called it an intrinsic evil. She took great offense at her offspring being fertilized in an “intrinsically evil” way. Also Herx says the school’s priest called her a “grave, immoral sinner”.
    There is a good possibility she will win and I hope she does.
    It is foolishness like this that makes intelligent thinking Catholics walk away and not want to go to church anymore.
    Any bishops fired for transferring sexually abusive priests?
    No, I didn’t think so.

    1. CCC 2376-77, which cites Donum vitae: IVF is “gravely immoral” if a couple is using sperm or ovum donated from a third party, and “remain[s] morally unacceptable” even if the couple is using their own sperm and ovum. See also Dignitas personae.

      When I’m wrong, I don’t like being informed of it, but it doesn’t stop me being wrong. And whether this women wins her case or not makes no difference to whether she and her husband were wrong to use IVF.

      1. Oh, but it’s not wrong to fire her and throw her out into the street unemployed.
        To the medical community that has to deal w/ and alleviate suffering couples who have infertility issues, the ivory tower of out of touch bishops who haven’t a clue is a …joke.
        Just another reason for reasonable thinking catholics to not go to Mass.
        I wonder if Jesus has left the church too.
        Btw, to my knowledge no infertility couples were asked to contribute to Donum Vitae or Dignital personae. May be “wrong” to some celibate, out of touch, chancery dwelling bishops but not to the experts who are trying to alleviate suffering. How ironic.

      2. Oh, but it’s not wrong to fire her and throw her out into the street unemployed.

        I never commented on whether that was right or wrong. To my mind, that largely depends on her contract of employment. You are conflating the issues here. The civil court is not ruling on whether or not she has sinned!

        Btw, to my knowledge no infertility couples were asked to contribute to Donum Vitae or Dignital personae.

        But I don’t see what that has to do with whether the teaching in those documents is true or not.

      3. That’s because the teaching is wrong. The church also taught the earth is flat too, just as wrong.
        The Church overextends itself by making scientific judgements using moral arguments similar to secular scientists trying to make moral judgements based on scientific principals.

      4. Dale, you think the teaching is wrong.

        I disagree with you that the Church is necessarily overstepping her bounds in “making scientific judgements using moral arguments.” That presupposes that IVF does not take place within the dimension of morality, i.e., that IVF is amoral (rather than moral or immoral). On the contrary, IVF concerns the creation (and possible destruction) of human life, which seems to me to be a moral issue. On top of that is the matter of separating the procreative component of sex from the physical act of sex.

        Should not the Church be permitted to deliberate and make pronouncements on the morality of a given act? Firing a gun involves physics and chemistry; is the Church not permitted to judge the morality of the unprovoked firing of a gun at another person? That’s simplifying things a lot, I admit, but I think you’ve simplified things too.

        (Were biotechnological scientists consulted on the matter of IVF? I don’t know; I’m curious.)

        I understand that infertility (or having extreme difficulty in conceiving) is a painful subject for the people it affects, but just because science can produce a solution to that problem does not mean that solution is necessarily the right one, or the best one.

      5. Jeff you state:
        “”Dale, “you” think the teaching is wrong.””
        Sorry Jeff, that is just your opinion.
        I believe it is wrong as do tens of thousands of fellow physicians. You want to get an “eye roll” and a chuckle just mention the Church’s teaching on sex.
        You also state: “VF concerns the creation (and possible destruction) of human life, which seems to me to be a moral issue.”
        Apples and oranges. Let the scientific community, with its expertise in science determine when life begins, not the Church. Then the Church, with its expertise in morality, make moral judgements which are outside the expertise of the scientific community.
        You also state:
        “just because science can produce a solution to that problem does not mean that solution is necessarily the right one, or the best one.”
        but you’ve proven my point because:
        just because the Church can produce a solution (no IVF) to that problem (infertility) does not mean that solution is necessarily the right one, or the best one.

        The Church can think what it wants but when it begins to “act” upon it then everyone perks up especially when it labels specific people “grave immoral sinners” and “cooperating with intrinsic evil” then harms people by publicly firing them when they were undergoing the procedure privately without using church insurance money.

        We all know too well the lessons of history.
        From Fordham:
        Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei, of Florence, aged seventy years, were denounced in 1615, to this Holy Office, for holding as true a false doctrine that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical. “And thus We say, pronounce, declare, order, condemn, and reserve in this and in any other better way and form which by right We can and ought.

        Ita pronunciamus nos Cardinalis infrascripti.

        F. Cardinalis de Asculo.
        G. Cardinalis Bentivolius
        D. Cardinalis de Cremona.
        A. Cardinalis S. Honuphri.
        B. Cardinalis Gypsius.
        F. Cardinalis Verospius.
        M. Cardinalis Ginettus.

      6. Dale, you said first: “The teaching is wrong.”

        I said, “You think [that] the teaching is wrong.”

        You reply: “Sorry, that is your opinion. I believe [the teaching] is wrong.”

        I don’t see what the “sorry” was for. I didn’t mean “you” in an exclusive, “you and only you think…”. I didn’t even say you were wrong in what you thought. There’s a lot of difference between saying “X is wrong” and “I (and others) think X is wrong”. So my opinion (that you think it’s wrong) also happens to be true (you do think it’s wrong). But… I assume from your response now that you’re saying the teaching is truly and objectively wrong, which is why you believe it to be wrong. (As opposed to: the teaching is questionable, and you believe it to be wrong.)

        Many physicians and scientists believe that human life begins at conception/fertilization. But perhaps this is not the place to discuss when human life begins. And I’m not a doctor.

        Concerning “what is the right one or the best one”, you have an excellent point.

        Concerning Galileo, for all that they got wrong in his condemnation, at least it turns out the sun is not immovable. 😉

      7. Jeff, I get angry when I see my beloved church slammed in the media. It makes me even angrier when the issue involves something that appears to most reasonable thinking people as unfair and wrongheaded by the church. This lady didn’t involve the church in her private medical dealings. But yet they went “over the top”. I do not believe IVF is immoral. Selective laser destruction of fetuses is INDEED immoral in my opinion. But we have no evidence she did this. So now we have a problem on our hands, the media is slamming the Church for something this bishop did. What is scary is that the Church somehow feels justified in doing this because the bishops have suddenly discovered if they couch it under “religious liberty” they think they can run roughshod over anyone. But I’ve got news for them. The general public understands the federal government cannot interfere with religions and force them to pay for contraception. As much as I disagree w/ the Church’s stance on “artificial” contraception I support them and agree they shouldn’t be forced to pay. HOWEVER, there is something called the rule of law. When the church deliberately causes harm to someone that didn’t directly involve them then that is where I draw the line and recent polls say that when the Church “stretches” religious liberty to include Taco Bell and other corporations who do not want to provide contraception coverage 80%, including Catholics, do NOT agree. (mind you, I deal w/ insurance companies on behalf of my patients, they don’t give a hoot about the moral aspect only that they can use religious liberty as a cover to not PAY for something)
        Now Olmsted et al, is calling for “civil disobedience” in June. I have read on trad sites that the hope is that bishops and priests will be arrested, on television, and garner sympathy in order to defeat Obama.

        As far as Galileo goes, we don’t seem to get enough of that sun 🙂

  8. While Br. DeThomasis rightly illustrates many of the fault lines which course through American Catholicism, I am not convinced that sociocultural and political divide the “orthodox” from the “heterodox”.

    The term “Jansenism” has been quite abused in our age. Nevertheless, I must return to Cornelius. While his doorstopping magnum opus Augustinus will induce headaches with its early modern orthography (omnipresent eszett) and eight-point type, one of his very broad points is useful.

    The “orthodox” display a “perseverance of the saints”. Interestingly Jansen, unlike Calvin, did not teach that an assurance of election could be discerned in this life. I do wonder if those who advocate for “morally or theologically correct” ways for Catholics to vote, to conceive and raise children, to write about the faith, and to worship, believe that they are being led in this conviction rather than actively creating ways in which to express magisterial truths. Those who doubt or struggle with any aspect of ecclesiology, liturgy, moral theology, or gender and belief are not being guided to truth and thus implicitly unelected.

    The inversion of Br. DeThomasis’s “sacred space” might be seen in the desire of some Catholics to fence the communion line. The reservation of Holy Communion to the right believers again could be viewed as a distinction between election and reprobation. Similarly, Jansenist clergy often restricted access to the Eucharist based on the perceived worthiness of the penitent even after sacramental confession. Even more audacious are clergy and laity who presume the sinfulness of public officials and render judgment on their fitness to receive from afar.

    The “new elect” persevere, despite the indelible promise that Christ has shed himself for the worst publican. What will be the new Sacred Heart to remedy this situation?

  9. After reading comments above and as it references the original article of this post, I still contend that the greatest negative affect upon Catholics in the post-Vatican II period is the raising of false expectations by the more questioning, liberalizing wing of the Church and usually within academia. They will cite polls, what Catholics thought they wanted and hoped for democratizing principles in the Church based on a ubiquitous perception of the “sensus fidelium.” There certainly was the false expectation that the spirit of Vatican II would bring about a release from natural law and easing of restrictions on artificial contraception–how many in the late 1960’s were disappointed by that false expectation and just who generated it in the first place? Then there is the false expectation that the Church will ordain women, but who is generating this false expectation? Then there is the false expectation that the church will embrace homosexual sex on an equal par with heterosexual sex and even endorse same sex marriage and endorse pro-choice politics. Who is generating these false expectations? Then there is the false expectation that the Church should become a democracy and abandon any hint of monarchy or hierarchy. Who is generating this false expectation? When allowing people to question their faith, think outside of the box and even promote expectations about future change that more than likely won’t happen (but who really knows but God) isn’t it the false expectations this raises that disappoint people when what they thought would happen doesn’t? Like the child who thinks he’s getting an iPad for Christmas because his brother thought he heard his parents say they were buying one, when in reality they were only talking about it, is most disappointed to open the package on Christmas Day and find underwear and socks instead of his iPad.
    We have 80% of Catholics today who don’t go to Mass but still consider themselves Catholic. I don’t think they are not coming because of our ancestors in the 1960’s who stopped attending because of Humanae Vitae–most of the 80% not attending don’t even know or care about what Humanae Vitae is. It’s a non-issue. Maybe the 2% of the 20% coming to Mass do care about women priests, artificial birth control and same sex marriage. The Church’s new evangelism has to help the 18% to 20% coming to Mass to remain engaged for the sake of their personal salvation (anything else is just periferal) and reaching out to our 80% of “unchurched” Catholics and for the sake of their salvation. We can’t rely upon 1960’s data and attitudes of Catholics way back then to determine why 80% of Catholics today are “unchurched” in 2012 and think that all they care about is collegiality and institutional change. The paradigm has shifted and dramatically so.

    1. I wonder if most of the things you mention would have happened without Vatican II. I am too young to really remember much from the 1950s, but as I read, there were at least the beginnings of questions that lead to Vatican II and many other changes that took place in the 1960s.

      1. Maybe in heaven we’ll be able to see history in parallel time, but without it now we really don’t know. But we do know that there was very clearly in the 1960’s anarchy in most institutions and an anti-authority attitude in many places and even high places in the Church and in society in general, no one was immune for some odd reason. I contend that it wasn’t Vatican II but its various interpreters, some less faithful to our tradition than others, who aggravated and became like steroids for those who bought into the cultural fads and trends and anarchy of the 1960’s in our Church communities. Keep in mind, my generation of Catholics who did this for the most, were baby-boomers who back then were the most important group in society, bar none and we still are today, so take that! We are the “me” generation! We know best! 🙂

      2. I think the parents of the baby boomers were partly responsible for what happened in the 1960s.

      3. Very true and some of them are still living, like my mother at 93, but not her but some in her generation certainly were the catalysts. For better or for worse, we baby boomers were formed or malformed by them! 🙂

    2. The Church is like getting underwear and socks for Christmas. What a great image.

      Most of the expectations you cite are rooted in our belief in human dignity. The use of contraception, for example, is a sign of our ability to make choices that shape the world we live in. Movements from the Reformation to the American, French and even the Russian revolutions expressed and established that power rested in “we, the people.”

      The decisive years were not the ’69s but the ’40s, when the forces of democracy defeated dictatorial powers. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church was seen as the ally of the ancien regime with its ethos of monarchy, and an opponent of victorious democracy. The positions you describe reinforced that image, and made the Church irrelevant to people who knew themselves as people dignified by their responsibility to shape the world.

      I doubt that concern about personal salvation will bring many back to the Church. Solidarity with Christ, who created our world despite the opposition of powers and principalities, seems like it would appeal more to people fighting against entrenched powers in order to live freely.

    3. re: Fr. Allan J. McDonald on April 27, 2012 – 3:28 am

      My previous post in this thread is entirely inane and bizarre. Let me ask a simpler question.

      Father, when you say “the Lord be with you” at Mass, who do you think the ‘you’ are?

      Does the greeting refer to you*, as if the asterisk connotes “certain exceptions apply”? Does you* exclude those who are divorced and remarried outside the church, persons suspected of using birth control, gay and lesbian people regardless of their sexual activity or partnership, and politicians who belong to the American center-left party, among many others? Would you turn you* away because you might consider your pastoral office sufficient to discern worthiness for communion?

      Some take another view of “the Lord be with you”: the ‘you’ is you. Everyone present in the congregation is you. The corporate Church, with all its scandals, indiscretions, crimes, and misgivings, is you. The Christ who poured himself out on Calvary and pours himself out on the very same altar of Mass breaks himself for you, all humanity throughout time and space.

      Where, then, is the clerical prerogative to determine the worthiness? Paul teaches (1 Cor. 11:27) that the discernment of worthiness rests with the communicant, and not the clergy.

  10. As Jack said, Fr. Allan, same old, same old monologue….dribble based upon your own biases. (you need to expand your horizons beyond Fr. Z and EWTN)

    Suggest reading these thoughts and questions from dotCommonweal:

    These question those who constantly use phrases such as – “false expectations” (geez – used 10 times – what a biased mantra); 1960’s data (geez – could have sworn that CARA, Vibrant Parish Life Study, Kennedy’s work in the 70’s, hundreds of other studies since the 1960’s – wonder if any of these have ever been read or do we just knee-jerk to the “usual meme”); new evangelism (geez – as you stated earlier – this seems to be defined differently depending upon whose ox is being gored).

    Examples of cultic catholic behavior:

    – any change is a mark of “liberalizing, democratizing, use of monarchy, etc. (your view of adult catholics is best described by your example and to quote – “Like the child who thinks he’s getting an iPad for Christmas because his brother thought he heard his parents say they were buying one, when in reality they were only talking about it, is most disappointed to open the package on Christmas Day and find underwear and socks instead of his iPad.” – sort of infantile approach to faith or even the institutional church?

    – questions from “is catholicism becoming a sect?”

    “Let’s try a few of these. If you have married couples using contraception, does St. Vincent check their medical cabinets? They wouldn’t think of doing that. If some people aren’t paying their taxes fairly, does the Church fire them? I don’t think anyone ever does. What if they’re pro-capital punishment? No.”

    “if you hire a gay teacher who doesn’t have a partner, is that okay? What if he does have one? Should he get fired? What if he doesn’t have partner, but once in a while he goes to gay bars? Should he get fired then? If there’s a Jewish teacher who doesn’t believe in Jesus, can she be thrown out? For that matter, what about a Tea Party Republican who doesn’t seem to care much about the poor? Do you fire this person?”

    1. Bill, I sense you don’t like me or my posts! 🙁
      But in terms of your straw men in the last paragraph, those in our school have contracts which stipulates that they abide by the faith and morals of the Church and our other work agreements with others in the Church do too. So in these cases, we need to rely upon contracts and diocesan expectations codified in diocesan policy and how we write our contracts. And yes, I’ve had to release from employment at our school, those who enter into illicit relationships that are quite public and a breach of their contractual agreements i.e. leaving the Church to marry outside of the Church.

      1. leaving the Church to marry outside of the Church.

        Does this mean you fired people for having a wedding in front of a Baptist preacher?

      2. Fr Allan, those listed by Bill are not strawmen. They are actual people and as such are valid questions.
        As I mentioned earlier, the lawsuit in Fr. Wayne is moving forward as well as another in Ohio.
        The church can list requirements but there is a fine line between requirements and rights. As an old law saying goes: one can never sign away their constitutional rights.

      3. Our school’s teaching faculty is very diverse, many practicing Protestants, one Jew and others of no affiliation. We would hold the Catholics to a different standard when it comes to official moral teachings of the Church and their contract which they sign and clearly specifies what would be grounds for dismissal and usually it is a public not a private act of what we would consider immoral or teaching immorality as being moral. But while we would not expect a Protestant or Jew to avoid meat on Friday during Lent, in the school cafeteria or the teacher’s lounge we would expect them to refrain from eating such in our facilities. I’m sure orthodox Jews and Muslims would feel even more strongly that those they hire of different faiths not eat pork in their teaching and public facilities.

  11. Is not the ultimate subversion of Vatican II the call to silence and exclude those who disagree?

    I’m biased, but it seems to me that on the sites calling for reforms in the official teaching on sexuality, I see people expressing anger at the hurt caused to individuals. It seems to me that on the sites calling for support of official teachings, I see contempt for those who disagree, typically with a side order of misogyny (“Wymen”) and homophobia.

    1. The sites calling for reforms in the official teachings on sexuality do not just have people expressing anger at hurt, but also people (authors or commenters) expressing anger at the old, white, celibate men who are (ultimately) behind that hurt. Even with whatever bias you have, you can see that there’s contempt on both sides.

      I would presume that Fr. Z uses “womyn” not because he is misogynist, but to mock the serious use of such terms by, among others, feminists who prefer “womyn” over “woman”, and so forth. It may be contempt for a certain stripe of feminist, but I don’t think it is out-right misogyny.

      Whether or not the sites in support of official teachings exhibit homophobia (and I’m sure some of them do, whether on the part of the sites’ authors or commenters), I would hope that most of the negative attitudes and feelings are directed toward the homosexual acts (which the people in question find sinful or otherwise offensive) rather than towards the homosexual persons themselves. After all, there’s a big difference between saying, for example, “people who kill their parents should burn in hell” and “killing your parents is a reprehensible act”.

      1. Brigid, I did no such thing. I presented an unrelated example of a situation where a person can be angry at a sinful act versus angry at a sinner; I did not compare homosexual acts to parricide, nor homosexuals to parent-killers. And, for the record, I do not think homosexuals are comparable to parent-killers. (Or should I be saying, people with a disposition towards killing their parents?)

        Is there anything else in my comment worthy of a response, or only my last sentence?

      2. Jeffrey, I see no relevant difference at all between “people who kill their parents should burn in hell” and “killing your parents is a reprehensible act.” Both statements proscribe an action; both communicate strongly negative attitudes or moral judgment aimed at anyone who might commit this act. In most cases, I believe, the notion that we can separate our disapproval of an action from our attitude toward the person who commits the action issues from wishful thinking or self-delusion. Whatever our judgment of the action or the person, however, we can deal with him or her as an equal, and this is the point that the USCCB campaign against homosexual rights and against women’s moral autonomy (the anti-contraceptive lobbying of the bishops) misses.

        In its well-funded campaign against same-sex marriage in NYS, for example, the USCCB claimed that the bishops were not advocating discrimination against homosexuals: the USCCB’s document conflates “discrimination” with “prejudice,” claims that Catholics reject prejudice (attitude), and concludes hastily that Catholics do not discriminate against gays! But denial of civil marriage obviously withholds material benefits that are available to others who have the right to marry. Thus it is undeniably a form of discrimination. Does it help the bishops’ case for us to think that none of them harbors any antipathy toward gays? Their personal feelings, homophobic or not, are irrelevant to the harm their very public opposition to equality causes.

        It’s possible to believe that sex with a person of the same sex is immoral, yet also to believe that it is immoral to discriminate against persons with same-sex partners, that it’s wrong to deprive them of benefits available to others. And if we truly believe in the equal human dignity of all (Dignitatis Humanis), we find discrimination “of every kind” wrong (Gaudium et Spes). The way we value human beings equally is to treat them as equals, regardless of our feelings.

  12. Sociological “Post Hoc, Propter Hoc” Warning Label

    Interpreting the history of American Catholicism since 1950 in terms of Vatican II rather than what was going on in American Society is very dubious. Interpreting the effects of Vatican II in terms of what happened since 1950 in America and Europe without taking into account what happened in Latin America, Africa and Asia is very dubious.

    On USA, see framework provided by my review of American Grace

    My conclusions about the USA:

    1. The fifties, after WWII and during the Cold War, were a time of exceptional religiosity in America, not the norm.

    2. The culture shock of the 1960s was greatly exaggerated. While many young people ceased to attend church, they kept their religious identity (the Nones did not increase) and most returned to practice once they established families.

    3. The rise of Conservative Protestants was greatly exaggerated; their larger numbers were caused by higher birth rates because of slower adoption of contraceptives.

    4. The rise of the Nones, mostly young people who say they are spiritual but not religious, has been caused by a reaction against a conservatives Christian alliance with the Republican party.

    5. American has been and likely will continue to be a very religious nation in comparison to others of our level of economic development.

    6. The greatest threat of American becoming secular comes from Conservative Christians (including Catholics) who might convince via the media the Nones that secularism offers the Nones more things of value than religion.

    7. The greatest threat of American becoming Non-Christian arises from Conservative Christians who may convince the Nones via the media that the Nones have more in common with Non- Christians religions than with Christianity.

  13. Father Allen – let me re-phrase my question: would you or have you fired Catholics who married a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic ceremony?

    1. Yes, and it would be very clear in the contract that this would be the case and of course they would be warned ahead of time so as to rectify the situation before it occurred. Now, in the south and my city in particular there are many instances when a Catholic marries a Protestant who has a close affinity to his or her church or minister that they have asked for a dispensation from the form of marriage and it is granted by the bishop. I’ve participated many, many times in those sorts of wedding ceremonies in the Protestant Church or simply attended by sitting in the pew if the Protestant Minister didn’t invite me to participate. To work in our parish or school, the Catholic’s marriage must be recognized by the Catholic Church.

      1. From the original article:

        Mean-spiritedness, hostility and acrimony flourish in a church that should be all about the peace and love that Jesus brought to our world.

        What makes the marriage immoral, apparently, isn’t that it was held in a Protestant Church, but that the Catholic didn’t ask permission beforehand from someone who was more than likely a total stranger.

      2. Brigid, I don’t get the “total stranger” part of your comment. Fr. Allan is talking about his parish’s school, no? Fr. Allan is the pastor of the parish, and as such I would imagine he has some sort of high-visibility relationship to the parish school. Under what circumstances would one of his teachers consider him a “total stranger”?

        From what I can see, he’s not talking about a person who was married outside the Church five years ago and is now seeking employment, or who was married (outside…) five years before being employed there and now the marriage situation has become known. He’s talking about a current (Catholic) employee of the school deciding to marry outside the Church. So how is Fr. Allan a “total stranger” in that scenario?

  14. Brigid – it’s like the episcopal argument on “religious liberty” as long as you are on the side of the catholic institution. Who cares about the religious liberty of the other side.

    Guess, John Courtney Murray’s works and thoughts on religious liberty only apply to “orthodox” catholics.

    1. Bill, can you explain the shortcomings of the “religious liberty” argument? By “catholic institution”, do you mean “institutional Catholic Church” or something else?

      (Not playing gotchya, just trying to understand your post better.)

      1. yep – coulda sworn that Jesus came to preach mercy and forgiveness (rather than the Law) and was a threat to the Roman Empire. Refer to Jordan’s excellent post above – well written and stated.

        What we see and hear are those who must protect the institutional church as if it is an “Empire”. Would suggest that working with your staff, school staff, etc. based upon a “contract that covers personal lives” indicates that you have “lost control” already. Things happen to folks (divorce, marriage outside the church, drug abuse, etc.) – would rather see a pastoral approach versus a “contract” approach. Now this “institution” that demands religious liberty is using “exclusiveness”, judgments, etc. to govern pastoral decisions. How sad. Yes, you can always so narrow and limit via contract who you hire, retain, etc. but what does that say about our faith, hope, and charity? (in the corporate world, we have learned that treating employees with alcohol/drug problems by immediately firing them does more harm than good. Rather, they are best treated as “medical” issues and an employee is given a chance to recover and return to work. How sad that the corporate world seems to have more “tolerance” than a church institution?)

        Religious liberty – it is a two way street. If you use this criteria to state your “rights”; you must also be willing to allow the “rights” of others that may be different from your own. Think ecumenism – if human dignity means that you have religious liberty and the right to form your own conscience; then, you must allow others to do the same. It put an end to “error has no rights” – in fact, the higher principle is that human dignity respects others’ consciences (even if we disagree). Thus, the higher moral stage of development is not “law” but the ability to build relationships that respect inherent human dignity. It means consistently living in a “gray” area; not something that is black and white. It withholds judgment in order to listen, respect, and engage in building a relationship. Only then can you both achieve “metanoia”. It is a way of living Paul’s Kenosis Hymn – “emptying yourself” rather than imposing law, rules, judgments.

        It places “identity” in a context rather than making it an end. The end (identity) does not justify the means – whether that be rules, judgments, litmus tests, etc.

      2. Bill, Jesus preached mercy and forgiveness as well as a law; if He preached outside the context of a law, what would people need forgiveness for? Forgiveness implies transgression, transgression implies a law. Why, just this past Sunday, I read from the ambo (in nearly the same breath as “He is expiation for our sins, and […] those of the whole world”) that “the way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.”

        Reading your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, I’m still not sure I see what the “religious liberty” problem is. Religious liberty, as Vatican II frames it, is a matter of a) the right to be “immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits” (DH 2), and b) the duty of government “to take account of the religious life of the citizenry and show it favor.”

        What is, as you called it earlier, “the episcopal argument on ‘religious liberty'” that is so flawed? Is this related to the “health insurance mandate / religious liberty” issue going on in the US right now, or something else?

        To put forth an example: if human dignity means that you have religious liberty and the right to form your own conscience; then, you must allow others to do the same. The Catholic Church teaches that adultery is sinful and wrong; as a Catholic I am expected by the Church to adhere to that teaching and to form my conscience accordingly. But religious liberty means I have the freedom and right to form my own conscience. If I discern that adultery is neither sinful nor wrong, what happens? How should the Catholic Church respond?

  15. Reply to Jeffrey Pinyan at 2:39 –

    Brigid, I don’t get the “total stranger” part of your comment.

    It is my understanding that the person involved wouldn’t have been fired had they previously obtained permission from the local bishop. I would submit that most people are total strangers to their local bishop. Indeed, I’m not sure if the priest who witnessed my marriage could have picked me out by name as the bride at our rehearsal before introductions were made. (This was in the parish I’d grown up in and faithfully attended Mass at for years.)

    I would suspect that no one in those circumstances decides to “marry outside the Church ” per se. Rather, I imagine that given a choice between taking their vows in front of someone who considers the faith of one partner to be second rate, they opt for the congregation that receives both of them with hospitality.

    Since this thread is about the Spirit of Vatican II, may I point out that John XXIII broke any number of commandments and regulations when he issued false baptismal certificates to save the lives of Jews during World War II. I don’t think he’d have greeted a newly married couple with a dismissal notice! (at least not in 2012!)

    1. I imagine that given a choice between taking their vows in front of someone who considers the faith of one partner to be second rate, they opt for the congregation that receives both of them with hospitality.

      What the priest (or deacon) happens to think of the other person’s faith shouldn’t enter into the equation at all, and if it does, it’s a mistake on his part to do so. The actual matter is that Catholics are bound by canon law to be married in the Catholic Church; priests and deacons should not create any obstacles to that.

      1. Jeffrey – who writes Canon Law? Who enforces Canon Law? We have some sort of circular argument here – Lay Catholics must obey laws written by clerics. Why do clerics write the law? Because clerics claim authority to write the law.

      2. Who wrote the commenting policy for Pray Tell Blog? Who enforces it? Is there a circular argument there, too? Have the moderators devised the commenting policy, because they claim the authority to write such policy?

        Quid est ius?

      3. Jeffrey –

        Blog comments are a big, wonderful mess everywhere, including here. Editorial Committee sets policy, revises it every so often, gives advice when asked to the moderator.

        I suppose the answer to your real question, though, would be that the circularity at a blog is different from that in the Church. In the first case, it’s our blog and the general public can come here or not, as they wish. The Church is also a voluntary association, but it claims to be the One True Church of Christ, the home for all peoples, the sacrament of the world’s salvation, and so forth. That puts a quite different set of expectations upon the Church, I think.

    1. Bill, that’s an excellent example of a “put them in a box” statement. The more stereotypes and generalities we have as baggage in our conversations with one another, the worse off we are.

    1. Cinderella was able to fit into the shoe in question.
      I am not sure that worrying about the size of the feet, relative to the shoe, helps us to understand each other.
      Bill’s point could perhaps be more clearly stated as “Traditionally minded Catholics find references to the Spirit of Vatican II as unhelpful as there is no agreed description or definition: they see it as too dependent on the whim of the modernist minded Catholic.”
      Part of the trouble we seem to have in discussing these things comes from the terms to use: I suspect that nobody would be entirely happy to be described as Traditionally minded or modernist minded.

  16. I keep reading about how people are leaving the Church or just not attending due to present-day hierarchical conservatism. Most of the people I encounter know very little about what goes on in Rome or the Catholic blogosphere. They do know that they haven’t heard a priest tell them that the Sunday obligation is STILL an obligation in some time. Priests are reluctant to preach about sin, fearing that folks will leave for the Pentecostal churches. Mostly people I talk to are bored by Mass, I think, because they don’t understand what it really is. They think they should get something out Mass attendance, but I think if they knew they were supposed to put something “in” and what that was, they would naturally get something out of it.

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