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Fifty Years is Nothing?

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller on Vatican II

Stephen Dupuy POSTED: 8/28/12

Today Vatican Insider published an interview with Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, a Church historian and scholar of the Second Vatican Council, on the Golden Jubilee of Vatican II.   

A few points to consider:

1.) Cardinal Brandmüller compares the confusion after Vatican II to the period after the Council of Nicea as evidence that what we are experiencing is not without precedent. However, the Council of Nicea, unlike Vatican II, defined dogma. Thus one either accepted the dogma defined at Nicea or one was a heretic. Any arguments in the period following the Council of Nicea were between heretics and Catholics, not Catholics arguing amongst themselves about ambiguous pastoral language used by the Council.

2.) The Cardinal claims that the Council of Trent took fifty years to bear fruit and thus, we should allow more “breathing space” in waiting for the fruits of Vatican II.  However, what Cardinal Brandmüller does not point out is that the Council of Trent took place in the 1500's after years of Magisterial neglect allowing the Protestant heresy to ravage Europe.  Thus the Council of Trent’s task to revive the Church was a daunting one. In contrast, Vatican II occurred in a time of great success for the Church to the point where many questioned the very need for a Council.  In addition, the Council of Trent took place in a time before wide-spread access to books, when there was no faster transportation than horseback, and there was snail's pace communication.  Despite this, Cardinal Brandmüller admits that the Council of Trent needed a mere fifty years to bear fruit! This admission, far from absolving the amount of fruitless time since Vatican II, only serves as a further indictment of Vatican II. For the Vatican Council has borne no substantial fruit since 1965: a period which enjoyed widespread access to information, instantaneous communication, and access to rapid travel.

3.) Cardinal Brandmüller states, "The language that was used during [VCII] and the completeness of the texts show that the Council fathers were not as much motivated by the need to pass judgment on controversial new ecclesiastical and theological issues, but rather by the wish to turn their attention to public opinion within the Church and the entire world, in the spirit of the annunciation."  This is precisely the problem.  The Council of Trent was clear. It condemned error. It produced a clear Catechism and canonized a clear Catholic Mass for all time.  There was no "spirit of Trent," there was the Council of Trent. All that was needed to "implement” Trent was to more or less do what it said to do.  Vatican II is incapable of being implemented precisely because nobody knows what it is they are supposed to implement. Vatican II is a mish mash of pastoral ambiguous language which is left to the interpretation of the implementers.

4.) Cardinal Brandmüller was asked what fruits the Second Vatican Council produced.  But instead of listing fruits of the Council (tangible results from the Council which benefitted the Church) the Cardinal lists two documents which resulted from the Council: the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the New Code of Canon Law.  Thus we must look to the fruits of these two resulting documents.  The purpose of a Catechism is to teach Catholic doctrine to the faithful. Has the knowledge of Catholic doctrine among the faithful increased or decreased since Vatican II? As for the Code of Canon Law, its primary purpose is to enforce discipline in the Church. Has ecclesiastical discipline of dissenting clergy or bishops increased or decreased after Vatican II? Thus, it appears the two results of the Council the Cardinal names have themselves borne no recognizable fruit for the Church.

5.) Finally, to his credit, Cardinal Brandmüller does not list the post-conciliar liturgy as a fruit of Vatican II, but instead criticizes it as not coming from the Council. He states, “I must emphasise that the form of the post-conciliar liturgy with all its distortions, is not attributable to the Council or to the Liturgy Constitution established during Vatican II which by the way has not really been implemented even to this day. The indiscriminate removal of Latin and Gregorian Chants from liturgical celebrations and the erection of numerous altars were absolutely not acts prescribed by the Council.” Although the Cardinal is correct in stating that certain distorted liturgical practices were not explicitly prescribed by Vatican II, the ambiguous and at times seemingly contradictory language of Sacrosanctum Concilium allowed for these distortions. What is more, the post-conciliar papal approval given to novel practices like Communion in the hand, female altar servers, and Mass facing the people served to reinforce the idea that these practices are a legitimate implementation of the Vatican II liturgy.

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