Rorate Caeli

Don Pietro Leone: The Council and the Eclipse of God PART II: A Historical Perspective





Beatissimae Vergini Mariae humillime dedicatum,

Quae cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo

A.    Historical Introduction


The 20 Councils prior to the Second Vatican Council had all been convened in order to extinguish  the chief heresy or evil of the time: through an ever deeper and clearer enunciation of Church doctrine. This Council was different on two counts: first, in that it was not occasioned by any contemporary heresy or evil, and second (as we have already noted above), in that it was not dogmatic. It nowhere used the formula by which dogma is infallibly defined, and moreover did not present itself as a dogmatic, but rather as a ‘pastoral’ council, understanding pastorality as a matter of action and reform. Pope Paul VI stated in a General Audience that: ‘differing from other Councils, this one was not directly dogmatic, but doctrinal and pastoral’[1]. One might say that it was dogmatic indirectly inasmuch as it contained dogmatic statements which had been declared in previous Councils, but that it did not define, and did not intend to define, any new dogma. 


Sufficient doctrinal grounds for convening a Council would in fact have existed in the expansion of Modernism, ‘the sum total of all heresy’, or even sufficient pastoral grounds in the growth of Communism and of the spirit of impurity of the 1960’s, and yet the Council was not minded to combat these evils, but rather to implement a program of reform both ad intra and ad extra: both within the Church and in the relations of the Church to the outside world.


The fact that the Council defined its own character in contradistinction to the previous, dogmatic Councils is manifest in its avoidance of dogmatic definitions and its use of discursive language [2], as we shall presently see, but on a deeper level, in its skepticism towards the Truth[3]. This fact also recalls Marx’s primacy of ‘praxis’ over Truth: ‘It is in praxis that man must demonstrate truth, that is reality and power, the world-orientedness of his thought’. As Professor de Mattei explains: ‘Praxis, that is the historical outcome of political action, is for Marx the supreme criterion of the truth of ideas, because action implicitly contains doctrine, even without enunciating it’ [4]. Am Anfang war die Tat [5].

The two future Popes of the Second Vatican Council: Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini

The idea of a General (or ‘Ecumenical’) Council was presented by Pope John XXIII as ‘an impulse of Divine Providence’[6], ‘like a flash of heavenly light, shedding sweetness in eyes and hearts’ [7] at which the ashes of St. Peter and his other holy predecessors thrilled ‘in mystic exultation’; by Pope Paul VI it was similarly described as the effect of ‘divine inspiration’ [8], but the consequences that it was to have for the Church and the World tell another story.


The inception of Council proceedings was marked by three victories for what Father Wiltgen calls ‘the Rhine Group’ [9]. The first was the postponement of the elections of candidates to the Council commissions; the second was the placing of hand-picked men in these posts; and the third was the rejection of all the work done preparatory to the Council.

Cardinal Josef Frings

The first victory was achieved after a meeting of the German Bishops in the house of Cardinal Frings, where it was decided that the intervention to frustrate the election process should be made by the non-German Cardinal Liénart of Lille [10]. The text was prepared by Monsignori Garrone and Ancel on the night before the first session of the Council. On the following day, Cardinal Liénart duly asked Cardinal Tisserant, who was acting as President, if he could intervene, and when the latter informed him that it was against the rules, he took the microphone and spoke nonetheless; his proposition was seconded by Cardinal Frings in the name of other German Bishops, to the accompaniment of applause from the floor, with the result that the election process was effectively interrupted and the first session closed after less than 50 minutes. ‘That was our first victory’, called a Dutch Bishop to a friend as he left St. Peter’s [11]. ‘A happy and dramatic turn of events’ commented Cardinal Suenens in his diary, ‘and audacious violation of the rule! The destiny of the Council was largely decided at that moment, and Pope John was happy with it.’   


Cardinal Lienart

As to the second victory, the Rhine group drew up a list of candidates in the Anima College, the German House of Studies, under the presidency of the same Cardinal Frings, and began a process of lobbying on the 19th October, the day following the first session. Cardinal Heenan explained that many Fathers relied on this list, there being insufficient time to investigate the suitability of the various candidates for the Commission work, Monsignor Lefebvre noting that all the candidates were of the same (liberal) tendency. In the end 79 of the 109 candidates presented by the Rhine group were elected, and the Pope added a further 8 of these candidates to the Commissions. Meanwhile the Rhine group expanded, eventually to include the Bishops of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, and France. ‘After this election’, writes Father Wiltgen, ‘it was not too hard to foresee which group was well enough organized to take over the leadership of the Second Vatican Council. The Rhine had begun to flow into the Tiber… the alliance [12] was able to operate effectively because it knew beforehand what it wanted and what it did not want’ [13].


As to the third victory, it must first be explained that 2-3 years work prior to the Council had been invested in preparatory schema containing some 2,000 pages and composed by 871 scholars. Their content was orthodox, as may already be seen in the titles of the first four ‘dogmatic constitutions’: ‘Of the Sources of Revelation’ [14]; ‘Preserving Pure the Deposit of the Faith’; ‘Christian Moral Order’; ‘Chastity, Matrimony, the Family, and Virginity’ - ‘titles alone... sufficient to send any self-respecting liberal screaming to his psychiatrist’ [15].


Father Marie Dominique Chenu

 Father Chenu had written to Father Rahner before the Council to express his sense of ‘affliction and sorrow’ at the ‘strictly intellectualist’ tenor of the schemas which limited itself to denouncing ‘inter-theological errors… without reference to the dramatic questions which men ask themselves, be they Christians or not, by reason of a change of the human condition, external or internal, which has never recorded by history… the Council is becoming a sort of intellectual clean-up operation within the walls of scholasticism.’


Father Karl Rahner 

Father Rahner exposed to Monsignor Volk, Bishop of Mainz, his strategy of substituting the schemas already prepared with a new one. The Prelate invited a number of German and French Bishops and theologians to the house ‘Mater Dei’ on the same 19th October on which the lobbying began, to determine how to put this strategy into action. The meeting was animated and lasted over three hours. Bishop Volk convoked a further meeting on the same premises a month later. The capital importance of the second meeting was the introduction into the new schemes of a different style of language. Cardinal Siri described it as a discursive criterion: ‘… there was an exclusion of the method of simple, concise propositions for the affirmation of truths or for the precise condemnation of errors.’ Professor de Mattei remarks: ‘the choice of a discursive method had as its principal consequence the lack of clarity, the cause, in its turn, of that ambiguity which was the dominant note of the conciliar texts’ [16].


Monsignor Volk, Bishop of Mainz

The outcome of the two meetings was that the Dutch hierarchy issued a commentary in three languages, the work of just one man, Father Schillebeeckx OP, which was presented to all the Fathers as they arrived at the Council. It violently attacked the first four schemas and proposed the fifth, the schema on the liturgy, for immediate consideration. This schema, described by Father Schillebeeckx as ‘a true masterpiece’ [17], was the fruit of the only liberal-controlled Commission, that for Liturgical Reform [18]. Two thirds of the Fathers, convinced by the Dominican’s stringent argumentation, unsuspectingly accepted it. Such a majority would not in fact have been sufficient to reject the preparatory schemes, but the European Alliance succeeded in convincing the Pope to reject them notwithstanding [19]. Cardinal Ottaviani complained that the first scheme to be considered was not doctrinal, as has been foreseen, but liturgical, but his remonstration went unheeded [20].


Father Schillebeeckx

The First Session of the Council, which was to comprise a mere six weeks of doctrinal discussion, closed on December 8th 1962. Before the Second Session in September of the following year under a new Pope, Bishops of various countries met for discussions. While Bishops from other countries held their own meetings, the Rhine group planned its strategy in Munich and in Fulda, on the initiative of Cardinals Döpfner, Frings and König. Four Cardinals and 70 Archbishops and Bishops took part, and were to arrive at the Second Session each with a 480-page plan in the hand. The theological expert who contributed most to the work done at this meeting, on the documents on Revelation, The Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Church, was Father Rahner, described by Cardinal Frings as ‘the greatest theologian of this century’ [21].


Cardinal Konig 

The press labeled the meeting as ‘a conspiracy against the Roman Curia’ [22], and in the course of the same summer, Cardinals Suenens, Döpfner, and Lercaro elaborated a project for taking away the supervision of the Council from the Curia and giving it to four Cardinal ‘Moderators’. Pope Paul agreed, and appointed to these rôles the three Cardinals just mentioned ‘universally known for their reformist ardor’ [23], as well as the conservative, but ‘not very forceful’ [24], Cardinal Agagianian.

Cardinal Döpfner

Father Wiltgen sums up: ‘With the Munich and Fulda conferences, the drastic changes that Pope Paul had made in the Rules of Procedure, and the promotion of Cardinals Döpfner, Suenens, and Lercaro to the position of Moderators, domination by the European Alliance (the Rhine group) was assured.’[25] When Pope Paul agreed to allow additional members to the commissions, the European Alliance set about ‘drawing up an unbeatable list. This work was greatly facilitated since … the European alliance had expanded into a world alliance’ [26]. They met every Friday evening and were ‘able to determine the policy of the controlling liberal majority’ [27]. Their power was to be re-inforced when they succeeded in having all their own candidates elected as additional commission members. Consequently ‘there was no need for any-one to doubt the direction in which the Council was headed’ [28].

Cardinal Suenens 

It would exceed the limits of a critical book of this nature to recount much more of the history of the Council. Let this brief introduction, together with those to subsequent sections, suffice to present the context, and to shed light on the motives, for the doctrines that we shall be examining.


Cardinal Lecaro

This first sketch already evokes some of the most important protagonists in the drama: on the one side those that we may call ‘the children of light’, amongst whom we have seen Cardinal Ottaviani, the very symbol of the Roman Curia and Prefect of the Congregation of the Holy Office [29], the Vatican organ responsible for the purity and the integrity of the Faith; on the other side, ‘the children of the World’, a Freemason-studded cast: the liberal (or ‘progressive’) theological experts and Bishops, principally of French and German origin, well prepared and organized, and not shrinking from unconstitutionality, or even from deceit, in their zeal to attain their ends; in the center a Pope not endorsing the former group but acting as mediator and conciliator between both. And so the scene is set for a drama that will bring untold damage to the Hoy Church of God, the dynamics of which, like some vast and infernal wheel, continue to thresh and to winnow humankind to this very day.



C.   The Council’s Opposition to the Catholic Faith


We have said above that the aim of this book is to show how the Council teaching opposes the Catholic Faith. We use the neutral word ‘opposition’ not wishing to commit ourselves as yet to  describing the texts in question as ‘errors’, ‘ambiguities’, or ‘attacks.’ We shall commit ourselves later after having examined a sufficient number of such texts to make this assessment. We shall proceed briefly to show:


  1. How the Council opposes the Faith;
  2. How the traditional World has responded;
  3. How the present book responds;
  4. How the book is structured in consequence.


  1. How the Council Opposes the Faith


The Council’s opposes the Faith in two ways, verbally or tacitly: by what it says and by what it leaves unsaid. The verbal opposition may be explicit or implicit. Explicit opposition occurs when for instance the Council speaks of ‘churches’, which contradicts Catholic teaching that there is only one church; implicit opposition occurs when for instance the Council says that man is ‘the beginning … of every social organization’[30] insinuating that State authority derives from the people. In the latter type of instance interpretations may vary, but should always take account of the context. The Council’s opposition to the Faith is tacit when it passes over a Catholic doctrine in silence, as when it fails explicitly to condemn contraception.



  1. How the Traditional World has Responded


Relatively little criticism has been levelled against the Council in postconciliar times. Reaction to conciliar heterodoxy from the side of canonically regular Traditionalist institutes has typically been of a Neo-Conservative bent. Canonically irregular institutes, by contrast, such as that of the Society of St. Pius X and of the Sedevacantists, as well as the traditionalist laity, have been more forthright and outspoken [31], in the footsteps of Monsignor Lefebvre and of renowned lay commentators of the past, such as Professor de Oliveira and Jean Madiran. The only Prelate in good standing with Rome who has opposed the Council as a whole, and that in vigorous terms, is, to date, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò - ad multos annos! 



  1. How the Present Book Responds


To show up the deficiencies of the Council we shall respond by rebutting them with Traditional Catholic teaching, since Tradition, together with the Holy Scriptures, constitutes one of the two sources of the Faith. When such a doctrine is defined as dogma, we shall often quote that dogma itself, since Faith consists in its dogmas. Clearly this is not to play off one magisterial document against another, like bringing up a white knight to a red knight on a chess-board; but rather to show in the light of Tradition and dogma, in other words in the light of Church doctrine, which has remained unaltered for 2,000 years and has progressed only in the depth and clarity of its expression, that the latter text is false.



  1. How the Book is Structured in Consequence


Now since the heterodox texts are spread out over all the Council documents, the material on which we must work are the Council documents as a whole. How should a work of this type be structured? The most effective way to evaluate the texts in question will clearly be to examine them according to their themes: not chronologically, then, document by document, but rather thematically. Our criterion for establishing the themes of the Council texts will be what we understand to be the underlying intent of the Council, namely the desire to adapt the Church to the World. We shall, however, begin our study with another issue, which, as we shall see in the course of the book, is in fact the most fundamental issue at stake in the whole Council, and that is the question of Truth.


We begin, then, by speaking of Truth; thereafter we consider the Council’s teachings concerning the Church in Herself, then concerning the Church’s relations to realities outside Herself: first to the non-Catholic Christians, then to the other Religions, to the State, and finally to the World; we subsequently consider the Council’s teaching on man, as being that which colors its view of the Church and indeed its whole world-view: this study will focus on man in himself, in his realization by his life choice, and in relation to God, so furnishing us with the opportunity also to examine Council teaching on marriage, the priesthood, the consecrated life, and the Holy Mass; we conclude the book with an analysis of the whole Council from the theological and philosophical standpoints, and a brief summary of its dynamics and import on the most profound level.


The book is consequently structured according to the following scheme:


Introduction: Truth


Part I: the Church


I) The Church in Herself;

II) The Church in relation to the non-Catholic Christians;

III) The Church in relation to the other Religions;

IV) The Church and the State;

V) The Church and the World;


 Part II: Man


VI)  Man in himself;

VII) Man as realized in his choice of life;

VIII) Man in relation to God.




IX) Analysis of the Council;

X) Summary of findings.



[1]6th August 1975, MD pjc, p.208

[2] ‘The major part of the documents... consists... of vague generalizations, observations, exhortations, and speculations on the likely outcome of a recommended course of action.’ MD pjc, p.211

[3] see the section on Truth in chapter I below

[4] RdM p.19-20

[5] Goethe, Faust, l.1237. Here Goethe, with his customary brilliance and vigor, puts into the mouth of Faustus the principle of the primacy of the will which he has reached after rejecting the primacy of reason expressed in the prologue of St. John with the phrase: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’

[6] Humanae Salutis, 1961, MD pjc, p.2

[7] Opening Speech to First Session, MD pjc, p.2

[8] Opening Speech to Second Session, MD pjc, p.2

[9] The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, p.84, MD pjc, p.40. This is generally considered as one of the most objective of all eye-witness accounts (as confirmed by the author’s first spiritual director, a council peritus)

[10] Named in the ‘Pecorelli list’of Freemasonic prelates

[11] Father Wiltgen p.17, op cit., MD pjc, pp. 29-30

[12] ‘the European Alliance’

[13] MD pjc, p.31, see Father Wiltgen p.19 and p.63 recounts the story of the liberal take-over in pp. 17-19 of his book.

[14] De Fontibus – a title that expresses the dogma that there are two sources of Revelation: the Sacred Scriptures (or ‘Written Tradition’) and Oral Tradition. We shall later see how the Council, in a protestantizing move, was to place stress on the Scriptures at the cost of (Oral) Tradition.

[15] MD pjc, p.38

[16] Cardinal Siri, ‘Il post-concilium’ p.178, RdM III 7

[17] RdM p.238

[18] founded in 1948 and already responsible for the changes in all the liturgical books, most notably for Holy Week. The Secretary from 1948-1960 had been Monsignor Bugnini, reporting back to Cardinal Bea every week. There is little doubt that the former was a Freemason, and the latter appears as such in the ‘Pecorelli List’

[19] MD pjc, pp. 39-40

[20] RdM p.239

[21] RdM p.304. On Revelation he maintained that Tradition is not constitutive of Revelation but interpretative of it, and that the interpreter of the Scriptures was not the Church but exegetes and theologians (RdM p.256); on the Blessed Virgin Mary that the (classical and traditional) document concerning her would, if accepted, cause ‘unimaginable evil from the ecumenical point of view...’ (RdM p.321) and that the title ‘Mediatrix of all Graces’ was unacceptable; on the Church he was to collaborate on a text promoting the innovative ideas of Father Congar concerning  a ‘pneumatic’ Church. This text was elaborated in secret in parallel to the official one which represented the traditional doctrine of the Church as ‘Mystical Body of Christ.’ (RdM p.267 and p. 311) If this was the best theologian of the century, one might well ask oneself who was the worst.

[22] RdM p.305

[23] Henri Fesquet, cf. MD pjc, p. 34

[24] Fr. Wiltgen, cf. MD pjc, p. 34

[25] MD pjc, p. 35

[26] Father Wiltgen cf. MD pjc, p.35

[27] Father Wiltgen, cf. MD pjc, p.36

[28] ibid.

[29] La Suprema

[30] GS 22, see our discussion in chapter VI on the dignity of man

[31] as is of course facilitated by their ecclesiastical status