This year is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, so here are some worthwhile readings on the topic. First, Fr. Z. asks if another ecumenical council was really necessary, and Fr. Bede Rowe relates an interesting anecdote:
There was a world wide consultation of Bishops before the initial preparation of the Council began.
It has to be said, that the response was not rip roaring excitement. After all, once you have the Pope being able to solve the problems, why do you need a Council? You can’t second guess what was in someone’s mind or heart, but could Blessed John XXIII really have meant to call a Council like the ones in the past? I very much doubt it. So in a spirit of enthusiasm and exuberance Blessed John asked them all what they wanted to talk about. And what do you think the answer was? Liturgical reform? Religious liberty? The theology of being a Bishop?
No. They wanted a tighter adherence to the rules and discipline of the Church and a new Marian Dogma. That’s right – more Our Lady and more obedience. Think of what happened in the aftermath and then again at what the collective mind of the Council Fathers was on the eve after the consultation.
On the other hand, this seems belied by the story related by Archbishop Lefebvre about the intentions of the Council:
This work was carried out very conscientiously and meticulously. I still possess the seventy-two preparatory schemas; in them the Church’s doctrine is absolutely orthodox. They were adapted in a certain manner to our times, but with great moderation and discretion.
Everything was ready for the date announced and on 11th October, 1962, the Fathers took their places in the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. But then an occurrence took place which had not been foreseen by the Holy See. From the very first days, the Council was besieged by the progressive forces. We experienced it, felt it; and when I say we, I mean the majority of the Council Fathers at that moment.
We had the impression that something abnormal was happening and this impression was rapidly confirmed; fifteen days after the opening session not one of the seventy-two schemas remained. All had been sent back, rejected, thrown into the waste-paper basket. This happened in the following way. It had been laid down in the Council rules that two-thirds of the votes would be needed to reject a preparatory schema. Now when it was put to the vote there were 60% against the schemas and 40% in favor. Consequently the opposition had not obtained the two-thirds, and normally the Council would have proceeded on the basis of the preparations made.
It was then that a powerful, a very powerful organization showed its hand, set up by the Cardinals from those countries bordering the Rhine, complete with a well-organized secretariat. They went to find the Pope, John XXIII, and said to him: “This is inadmissible, Most Holy Father; they want us to consider schemas which do not have the majority,” and their plea was accepted. The immense work that had been found accomplished was scrapped and the assembly found itself empty-handed, with nothing ready. What chairman of a board meeting, however small the company, would agree to carry on without an agenda and without documents? Yet that is how the Council commenced.
One of Fr. Z.’s commenters suggests that, if nothing else, Vatican II usefully exposed the rot that was slowly eating the Church from the inside out:
Yes, it was needed. The response to Humanae Vitae and Eastern Orthodox caving on on contraception shows that liturgy is no protection on doctrine. VII exposed the rot that was slowly creeping in to the seminaries and universities and Church and would have overtaken the Church in the same way that a frog is overtaken by the heat of a slowly heated pot of water.VII exposed the crisis and woke up the complacent and lukewarm. But it also provided for some tools (e.g. Laity now read encyclicals/catechism/Bible/LOTH as a reference tools for daily living. Lay apostolates now flourish) for combating the crisis as well as a renewed love of Tradition and a clear demonstration that that modernism ultimately leads to the destruction of the Church. It may take a generation or two more to recover from the VII vaccination, but the Church will be better for VII.
Already, momentum seems to be shifting, ever so slightly, against the renegades. Possibly too little, too late. But could we have expected a reaction at all if the triumph of the renegades had been Fabian and incremental?