The question which poses the title of this post was posed back in August by a blog I have, alas, only recently become aware of Fully Christian: the random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks. I have been to the Ozarks, which may have been what attracted me to the title, but it is the content of it which has made me stay. The author, Shane Schaetzel passed through a number of Protestant denominations (including, interestingly, Bosco’s favourite, Calvary Chapel) before coming to the Catholic Church via Anglicanism. It is interesting that he came in via the American Ordinariate of St Peter, which may well explain why I find his approach so familiar; there was no Ordinariate when I converted, but in many ways it is my spiritual home. In a blog post from last August, Shane argues the case for seeing the Second Vatican Council as helping save the Church. Before anyone here has apoplexy, I recommend they read the full piece, which is very thoughtful and well-documented.
The basic argument is one I have mounted here before, which is that there was a general modernist assault on Christianity across the western world which was well underway by the 1950s and which broke out into the open in the 1960s. What Shane does is to provide, via some interesting graphs, figures which show that only the Catholic Church and the Pentecostals did not begin to fall off the edge of a cliff. A phenomenon which hit all churches cannot be attributable to Vatican II. To those who might be tempted to argue that the Catholic Church could somehow have insulted itself from this phenomenon without harm, Shane provided an interesting riposte which is worth a long quotation:
Had Vatican II never happened at all, the implosion of Western Catholicism would have been worse not better. I say this because, prior to the Council, most Catholics generally ignored the Scriptures, and saw Catholicism as a list of rules and traditions, not a living and breathing Church organism. As we have seen in recent decades, Catholics with this mindset cannot withstand the onslaught of Modernism on one hand (which tells them that tradition is obsolete), and Protestant Fundamentalism on the other hand (which tells them that Catholicism contradicts Scripture). On a personal note; as a former Protestant fundamentalist, I can attest that these are the easiest Catholics to convert. They have no concept of what Scripture teaches. They simply follow the rules of the Church. Once you break through that edifice, and show them that what they’re doing ‘appears’ to contradict Scripture, the whole Catholic edifice comes crumbling down rather quickly
He goes on to argue that it was the Catholic modernists who did their best to prevent the proper implementation of Vatican II, and who pushed things that were not there at all, such as the vernacular Mass as replacing the Latin Mass. Interesting, he speculates that had there been no Vatican II, what we should have ended up with
would have been corrupted translations of the old Latin mass, instead of the new vernacular mass, a slower (more complete) infiltration of Modernist ideas into the Catholic Church, resulting in a much bigger and more damaging collapse that would have happened later, and the Church would have less tools at hand to deal with it
That, of course, cannot be tested as it is a counter-factual, but it is worth pondering.
Shane also makes the interesting point which has been made here before, namely that in Africa and Asia Vatican II has had no bad effects – indeed on both Continents, the period since has seen a huge rise in the numbers of Catholics:
They simply implement what the Council said, with no more and no less. They understand it in a pastoral way, not a doctrinal way, and that’s that. In other words, they’re implementing Vatican II correctly, within a hermeneutic of continuity. Where the letter of Vatican II seems to break with established doctrine, they just ignore Vatican II, or at least relegate it to a lesser place, because nothing in Vatican II was given a note of infallibility anyway. That’s what a hermeneutic of continuity is all about.
That, of course, throws the responsibility for what has gone wrong back onto us in the West. It is here that modernism first took root, it is here that it has flourished, and it is here that the Shepherds of the Church have failed to deal with it. We should perhaps stop blaming the Council and examine the failings of our leaders, and ourselves.
Do read the whole piece, and indeed others on what is a most interesting blog.