What, in Yves Congar’s eyes, was so dangerous about consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary? As we can discern from the devastation he expressed following Paul VI’s declaration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mater Ecclesiae” (Mother of the Church), he worried that any “excessive devotion” to Our Lady would jeopardize what he viewed as the Council’s primary aim, promoting ecumenism:
“The [non-Catholic] Observers have a very bad impression of these last two days and of this final act. They saw, and we saw with them, that no account had been taken of them, that the demands of a true ecumenical sensibility had not been observed. Cullmann said: ‘It will take two generations to efface this and cause it to be forgotten.’” (Congar, My Journal of the Council, entry for November 22, 1964)
It is stunning to realize that Congar — who would later be made Cardinal by John Paul II, and who was an inspiration for the Synod on Synodality — was crushed to see Paul VI declare that Our Lady is Mother of the Church.
It is stunning to realize that Congar — who would later be made Cardinal by John Paul II, and who was an inspiration for the Synod on Synodality — was crushed to see Paul VI declare that Our Lady is Mother of the Church. He agreed with Professor Oscar Cullmann, a Lutheran, that the declaration would upset Protestants.
What did Professor Cullmann think about the Blessed Virgin Mary? First, we can consider what he accepted about our Catholic beliefs:
“As for the elements in the Roman Catholic doctrine and piety concerning Mary which are acceptable or unacceptable, I can accept Catholics speaking of the election of Mary as ‘blessed among women,’ of her humility, of her faith, of her grief before the cross.” (Oscar Cullmann, Vatican II: The New Direction, p. 51)
Of course it was presumptuous and arrogant on his part to speak of what he could accept about the Church’s truths regarding Our Lady but, in fairness to Cullmann, John XXIII had granted him and the other non-Catholic observers positions of influence at the Council. If, in the eyes of John XXIII, the primary purpose of the Council was to achieve Christian unity, it made sense to discover what the non-Catholic observers could accept about Catholicism.
Regarding those things that Cullmann could not accept about Mariology, we can distill his various objections to Catholic devotion to Our Lady into one broad argument:
“It seems certain to me that the recognition of Mary as an elected instrument of God cannot justify a ‘Mariology’ or a ‘Marian’ cult. It is not possible to have a Mariology alongside a Christology any more than it is possible to have a ‘Petrology,’ in spite of the important place which Peter occupies in the history of salvation . . . ” (Cullmann, Vatican II: The New Direction, pp. 51-52)
Cullmann could accept the good things spoken about Our Lady in the Gospels, but anything beyond that needed to be rejected. Hence, he and Congar were devastated that Paul VI had declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Mother of the Church.
In the name of promoting ecumenical interests, the majority of Council Fathers decided against honoring Our Lady with a separate schema.
But the Council was not entirely full of defeats for Cullmann and those who wanted to make Catholicism appear more acceptable to Protestants. For instance, he praised the majority of Council Fathers who voted against a separate schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary:
“The Conciliar discussion up to the present has proved rather that a majority of the fathers of the Council is committed to prevent all elaboration on Mariology and the cult of Mary. By demanding that Mary be spoken of only in the text ‘On the Church’ and not, as the opposition would have desired, in an independent text, the majority has clearly demonstrated its intention to refrain from continuing to speak of Mary except in direct dependence on Christ.” (Cullmann, Vatican II: The New Direction, p. 52)
This was one of the most significant wagers against the Blessed Virgin Mary: in the name of promoting ecumenical interests, the majority of Council Fathers decided against honoring Our Lady with a separate schema. Here is how Congar described an important skirmish of that battle, when the great hero of Catholic tradition, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, lost the vote for a separate schema (“extra schema”) by a narrow margin in the Theological Commission:
“Cardinal Ottaviani said: If Fr. General (Fernandez) had remained to the end and had voted, we would have had one more vote in factor of ‘extra schema’. I said: ‘Was it Providence, or was it the devil?’ It was a great and important meeting from the point of view of the future orientation of things. What has been played out this evening was, partly, the opening towards human beings (De populo Dei) and the soundness of a mariology cured of its maximalist canker.” (Congar, My Journal of the Council, entry for October 10, 1963)
Thus, the recommendation of the Theological Commission was to include the text about Our Lady within the schema on the Church (instead of having a separate schema). It was a vote in favor of ecumenism, and in favor of “curing Mariology of its maximalist canker”; and Congar pondered whether it was decided by Providence or the devil.
Those pushing for a masking of Catholic truth to advance ecumenism were also successful in opposing the efforts to declare Our Lady the “Mediatrix of all graces.”
By the end of October 1963, the question was brought before the entire body of Council Fathers (General Congregation) for a vote. In his classic The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II, Fr. Ralph M. Wiltgen quoted Servite Bishop Giocondo Grotti’s argument in favor of a separate schema:
“Bishop Grotti then asked: ‘Does ecumenism consist in confessing or in hiding the truth? Ought the Council to explain Catholic doctrine, or the doctrine of our separated brethren . . . Hiding the truth hurts both us and those separated from us. It hurts us, because we appear as hypocrites. It hurts those who are separated from us because it makes them appear weak and capable of being offended by the truth.’ Bishop Grotti concluded his rebuttal with the plea, ‘Let the schemas be separated. Let us profess our faith openly. Let us be the teachers we are in the Church by teaching with clarity, and not hiding what is true.’”
These holy words tell us so much, not only about the debates on Our Lady but also about the Council’s entire ill-fated effort to unite Christians by abandoning the Church’s immutable truths. His arguments were correct then, and they are correct now. Ultimately, though, the majority of Council Fathers saw matters differently: 1,114 voted in favor including the text on Our Lady within the schema on the Church, 1,074 voted in favor of a separate schema for Our Lady.
Those pushing for a masking of Catholic truth to advance ecumenism were also successful in opposing the efforts to declare Our Lady the “Mediatrix of all graces.” In his Theological Highlights of Vatican II, Cardinal Joesph Ratzinger discussed the decision on the separate schema, as well as the content of the text on Our Lady:
“It was without doubt an explicitly ecumenical decision when the Council decided in the fall of 1964 to incorporate the schema on Mary as a chapter in the schema on the Church. . . . In the text, which replaced an earlier draft, the old systematic Mariology was to a considerable extent (though not completely) supplanted by a positive and scriptural Mariology. Speculation was replaced by inquiry about the events of salvation history and these have been interpreted in the light of faith. The idea of Mary as ‘co-redemptrix’ is gone now, as is the idea of Mary as ‘mediatrix of all graces.’ The text still retains a vestige of the latter title when it says that the custom has developed in the Church of addressing Mary as mediatrix as well as with other titles, but this undoubtedly is very different from saying that she is mediatrix of all graces.”
As the future Benedict XVI described with approval, the majority of Council Fathers made “an explicitly ecumenical decision” to reject the idea of honoring Our Lady as “the Mediatrix of all graces.”
They were impious but prudent — they wanted to demolish Mariology as much as possible, but they knew that if they were too aggressive they would have jeopardized their entire program.
Why, we may ask, did the progressivist Council Fathers not try to do more to diminish Mariology to fit the desires of Professor Cullmann and other non-Catholics? In one of the most telling statements in his journal of the Council, Congar described the risk of pushing too far:
“I saw there a drama which I have experienced all my life. The need to fight, in the name of the Gospel and of apostolic faith, against a development, a Mediterranean and Irish proliferation, of a mariology which does not come from Revelation, but is backed up by pontifical texts. . . . We tell each other we must not be TOO antagonistic, for fear of bringing about worse than what we are anxious to avoid.” (Congar, My Journal of the Council, entry for September 22, 1961)
They were impious but prudent — they wanted to demolish Mariology as much as possible, but they knew that if they were too aggressive they would have jeopardized their entire program. We can apply this same admission from Congar to the entire progressivist assault on Catholic tradition at the Council.
For their efforts, the majority of Council Fathers who wagered against Our Lady won the praise and appreciation of Professor Cullmann:
“[W]e ought to rejoice sincerely both in the attitude of these fathers and in the fact that they have commanded a majority vote. If the majority has been very small in this case, smaller than in the votes on other questions, this proves not only the immense pressure exerted with the Council, but also the fact that it is not only a theological problem but a devotional problem in which emotional elements play a significant role.” (Cullmann, Vatican II: The New Direction, pp. 52-53)
As rewarding as it must have been to win the praise of a Lutheran professor, we are right to wonder what other “victories” these Council Fathers won for the Church through their efforts to diminish Mariology. Have we seen a great influx of Protestants into the Church? Have we seen a great increase in Catholic holiness? No — all we have seen is unprecedented apostasy, corruption, ugliness, and absurdity among those Catholics who have followed the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II. The majority of Council Fathers wagered against the Blessed Virgin Mary, and almost the entire world has lost.
The annual pilgrimage to Our Lady’s cathedral at Chartres has reached its full capacity of 25,000 souls for the first time in its history. Through prayer, sacrifice, and unmistakable joy, these pilgrims will show the world that Christ has not abandoned those who have not abandoned His Church and His Mother.
But not all Catholics abandoned Catholic Tradition and Our Lady. Those who have remained faithful continue to bear great fruits today. As Catholic churches all around the world continue to close, or fall into the hands of heretics, the Society of St. Pius X recently consecrated the glorious Immaculata Church in St. Marys, KS. Fr. David Nix described the new Immaculata as a representation of the hope we have for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, when the destruction wrought by Congar and his colleagues will finally be overcome:
“The glory and beauty of this Church represents . . . the hope we have of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the entire Catholic Church at-large to return to Jesus Christ in lieu of modernism. This has been prophesied by Our Lady of Good Success to be ‘the complete restoration’ of the Church. She exactly predicted a period of sacramental destruction in the 20th century, in fact. But after the fire, the Church would return with much greater glory than she ever had before that mutiny of modernism that tried to destroy her. Such, I believe, is already represented (and perhaps even predicted) in the glorious and new Immaculata Church of St. Mary’s, Kansas.”
This new Immaculata is a beacon for those who still seek God’s truth and grace in a world that increasingly feels the devastating consequences of Vatican II’s efforts to make the Church more approachable to non-Catholics.
And, as Michael Matt announced in his recent Remnant Underground, the annual pilgrimage to Our Lady’s cathedral at Chartres has reached its full capacity of 25,000 souls for the first time in its history. Through prayer, sacrifice, and unmistakable joy, these pilgrims will show the world that Christ has not abandoned those who have not abandoned His Church and His Mother. The graces they will win for themselves, the Church, and the entire world will bring us so many steps closer to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces, pray for us! Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!
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