Rorate Caeli

Pope Francis and the Death of the "Spirit" of Vatican II

 No other Ecumenical Council in the history of the Church has been declared to have a “Spirit” of its own.  There is no “Spirit” of Nicaea, nor of Lateran II nor of Vatican I.  The “Spirit” of Vatican II was invented and validated by theologians, liturgists and clergy who believed, or at least proclaimed, that the actual text of the Documents of the Second Vatican Council was merely a jumping off place to begin a radical re-understanding of the Catholic faith and practice to fit the needs of “modern man”. 

The iconoclasm that marked the decade after Vatican II, when so many churches were ransacked—altars ripped apart and replaced by tables, statues either removed or destroyed, tabernacles moved to places in the church where they could not be seen, the disappearance of chant and polyphony and their replacement by sentimental songs that were imitations of the worst popular music of the 1970s, the surprising appearance of altar girls and eucharistic ministers—none of these can be directly inferred from Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.  The fact of the matter is that the liturgical revolution after the Council was the product of those who invented the “Spirit” of Vatican II in order to impose their understanding of “aggiornamento” on the Church, bringing the Church up to date.  The problem with aggiornamento is that its application is always too late.  The giorno of the 1960’s was already past by the time of the “fruits of the ‘Spirit’” of Vatican II were implemented. 

The sanctity of St. Pope Paul VI was forged not in his embrace of the “Spirit” of Vatican II and his imposition of the Novus Ordo form of the Mass on the Church, which form has little to do with Sacrosanctum Concilium but much more with those liturgical “experts” who despised the Traditional Roman Mass.  Paul VI’s sanctity was forged after he discovered the “smoke of Satan” within the post-Conciliar Church, and he accepted the suffering that that discovery entailed. God indeed works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

The papacy of Pope Francis has been marked by a radical enforcement of the “Spirit” of Vatican II, quite unlike his two predecessors.  He has especially tried to enforce this "Spirit" in the Church in the United States.  Pope Francis’ dislike of the United States is quite obvious.  That dislike is not merely because he sees Americans as grossly materialistic and callous in their understanding of their real obligations to the poor (which is not entirely false); but also because the United States clearly, for the most part, does not seem to be very much caught up in the “Spirit” of Vatican II. They seem to have accepted what was significant in that Council and moved on.  There are exceptions to this of course, and these are rewarded with red hats.   But even worse, in Pope Francis’ eyes, is that the young American seminarians and recently ordained priests are for the most part Traditional, some going so far as to come to love the Traditional Roman Mass.  For the Pope, this is a most unwelcome development, for this does not conform to the “Spirit” of Vatican II. 

The clumsy and incoherent Motu Proprio, Traditionis Custodes, and the recent Apostolic Letter, Desiderio Desideravi, the latter of which shows that Pope Francis is at least aware of widespread liturgical abuses in the Church today: both are examples of his irrational enmity towards the Church’s liturgical Tradition. Both documents are examples of how the “Spirit” of Vatican II enables one to say things that confound reality and truth.  For that “Spirit” always points to a future that already is the past, forever locked in the 1960s and 1970s, mired in flower power and facile optimism and a view of the “world” that is a contrast to the “world” in the Gospel of St. John.  

There is a photograph that captures the essence of the “Spirit” of Vatican II.  It is best viewed when accompanied by a voice-over of the missionary priest of the Amazon region boasting that he never baptized a single indigenous person of that area.  The photo is that of a group of important clerics including Pope Francis seated in the Vatican Gardens watching an indigenous Pachamama ceremony.  That one or two of the prelates look as if they are uncomfortable at this event shows the non-infallibility of the “Spirit” of Vatican II. The “Spirit” of Vatican II has blinded many, but there are some who still have enough sight left to be at least momentarily disquieted by being present at this ceremony.

Some of these with some sight left are of the generation that breathed the “Spirit” of Vatican II in their seminary training right after the Council and who know existentially little of what came before Vatican II, both the good and the bad. They are for the most part in charge of the Church today. It is true that they still breathe the “Spirit” of Vatican II, but not in its original purity, but as like “second hand smoke”.  Many are fine men who love Christ and the Church.  But they now are finding themselves confronting a movement within the Church that perplexes and confounds them  And they are finding out that they are no match for the young people, clergy and lay, who have discovered Catholic Tradition, discovered it as something new and wonderful that is the source of great happiness and delight, and they have often discovered this within the context of the Traditional Roman Mass.  These young people have not found a “spirit” of their own age. They have found the Pearl of Great Price, whose Beauty shines forth in radiant splendor.  And that Pearl-- no one can or will take it away from them.

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla