September 2007 Print

Catechism of the Crisis in the Church, Pt. 5

Fr. Matthias Gaudron

The Angelus continues the installments of Fr. Gaudron's Catechism of the Crisis in the Church. This chapter studies what was so different about the Second Vatican Council compared to other Councils and why it is blamed for so much of the crisis in the Church.

25) When did the Second Vatican Council take place?

Vatican Council II was opened by Pope John XXIII on October 11, 1962. John XXIII died the following year, but his successor, Paul VI, continued the Council and brought it to a close on December 8, 1965.


Did the Council last more than three years without interruption? The Vatican Council II comprised four sessions lasting fewer than three months, between which the bishops returned to their dioceses. The first session (October 11 to December 3, 1962), the only one to occur during the pontificate of John XXIII, promulgated no document; it was essentially used to discard the documents prepared by the Preparatory Commission.


  • How does Vatican II rank among the other Councils? The Second Vatican Council was the twenty-first ecumenical council. It was the biggest in terms of the number of participants: 2,000 bishops attended.

26) How does Vatican II differ from previous Councils?

Vatican Council II was declared to be no more than a "pastoral" council, one that does not resolve questions of faith, but which gives pastoral directives for the life of the Church. The authorities renounced defining dogmas, and so they renounced the infallibility which appertains to a council. Thus its documents are not infallible.


  • What are the usual ends of a council? In his letter convoking the First Vatican Council, Pius IX indicates that general councils were especially convoked "during epochs of great perturbations, when calamities of every sort befell the Church and nations." All the ecumenical councils of the past were convoked to rout heresy (this is notably the case of the first seven), or to correct a prevailing evil (simony, schism, corruption of the clergy, etc.). Pius IX summarizes the principle aims of a council: "To decide with prudence and wisdom all that might contribute to define dogmas of faith; to condemn the errors being insidiously spread; to defend, clarify, and explain Catholic doctrine; to preserve and restore ecclesiastical discipline; and to strengthen the lax mores of the people."1


  • Was there never, then, a "pastoral" council before Vatican II? All the Church's councils have been pastoral, but they were so by defining dogmas, by exposing errors, by defending Catholic doctrine, by fighting against disciplinary and moral disorders. The originality of Vatican II was to seek to be "pastoral" in a new way, by refusing to define dogmas, to condemn errors, and even to present Catholic dogma defensively


  • Didn't Vatican II promulgate dogmatic documents? Vatican II promulgated 16 texts: nine decrees, three declarations, and four constitutions. Among these, two are called "dogmatic constitutions": Lumen Gentium (on the Church) and Dei Verbum (on Revelation). That does not mean that they proclaimed dogmas or that they were infallible, but only that they treat of a matter bearing on dogma. Vatican II refused to define anything infallibly; Paul VI explicitly stated this on January 12, 1966, a few weeks after the Council's cloture: "Given the Council's pastoral character, it avoided pronouncing, in an extraordinary manner, dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility."2


  • Is the "pastorality" of Vatican II characterized by the adaptation of the Church to our time? All the councils have adapted the Church to their time, but they did it by anathematizing the errors of the day, by sanctioning the disciplinary or moral deviations of their time, by arming the Church against its enemies. The adaptation did not aim at conforming the Church to the world, but in resisting it. It was not question of pleasing the world, but of confronting it and vanquishing it so as to please God. John XXIII and Paul VI, on the contrary, sought to make the Church appealing to modern man.


  • Did John XXIII and Paul VI express this intention? On February 14, 1960, John XXIII declared: "The main goal of the Council is to present to the world the Church of God in its perpetual vigor of life and truth, and with its legislation adapted to the present circumstances in such a way as to be ever more in keeping with its divine mission and ready for the needs of today and tomorrow."


Cardinal Montini, the future Paul VI, declared in April 1962: "By means of the next council, the Church proposes to enter into contact with the world....It will try to be...amiable in its language and conduct." And during the Council, Paul VI affirmed in the Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam:

The Church...might content itself with conducting an inquiry into the evils current in secular society, condemning them publicly, and fighting a crusade against them....But it seems to Us that the sort of relationship for the Church to establish with the world should be more in the nature of a dialogue. (§78)


  • Then Vatican II was meant to be from the beginning a council of opening and dialogue? Actually, the members of the preparatory commission established by John XXIII thought that they were supposed to organize a normal council. They did an enormous amount of work to draft schemata that could serve as the basis for the conciliar debates. But, meanwhile, the Secretariat for the Unity of Christians, also established by John XXIII (in June 1960), was working at cross-purposes. Finally, John XXIII’s real intention prevailed: at the beginning of the Council, the preparatory schemata were discarded, being adjudged too "doctrinal," and the Council set off in the direction prepared by the Secretariat for Unity.


  • How did the Secretariat for Unity prepare the Council? Under the presidency of Cardinal Bea, the Secretariat for Unity prepared the Council by asking non-Catholics what they expected from the Church. They established contacts with the Orthodox, the Protestants, the Jews, the Communists, and the Freemasons, and even went so far as to assure them that certain of their desiderata would be satisfied.


  • What were the demands of the Orthodox and the Communists? To obtain the presence of Orthodox observers at the Council, John XXIII promised that Communism would not be condemned there. Msgr. Roche, a friend and confidant of Cardinal Tisserant, testified:

Cardinal Tisserant received formal orders both to negotiate the agreement and to supervise its exact execution during the Council. That is why each time a bishop wanted to broach the question of Communism, the Cardinal, from his table as adviser to the Council moderators, intervened.3


  • What were the Jews' demands? In No.1001 of the Tribune Juive (December 25-31, 1987), Lazare Landau recounted:

On a foggy, frigid winter's evening 1962-63, I attended an extraordinary event at the Strasbourg Community Center for Peace. The Jewish directors secretly received a papal delegate in the basement. At the conclusion of the Sabbath, we were about a dozen to welcome a Dominican dressed in white, the Reverend Fr. Yves Congar, tasked by Cardinal Bea, in John XXIII's name, with asking us, at the threshold of the Council, what we expected of the Catholic Church....

The Jews, for nearly 20 centuries kept on the margin of Christian society, often treated as inferiors, enemies, and deicides, asked for their complete rehabilitation. As direct descendants of Abraham, whence came Christianity, they asked to be considered as brothers, partners of equal dignity, of the Christian Church....

The white-robed messenger, not wearing any symbol or ornament, returned to Rome the bearer of the innumerable requests that reinforced our own people. After difficult debates..., the Council did justice to our wishes. The Declaration Nostra Aetate No. 4 constituted–Fr. Congar and the three drafters of the text confirmed it to me–a veritable revolution in the Church's doctrine on the Jews....

Within a few years, sermons and catechisms had changed....Since the secret visit of Fr. Congar to a hidden room of the synagogue on a cold winter's night, the doctrine of the Church had indeed undergone a total mutation.4


  • What were the demands of the Protestants and Freemasons? In September 1961 at Milan, Cardinal Bea secretly met the Pastor William A. Visser't Hooft, secretary general of the Ecumenical Council of Churches (an organization of Protestant origin and Masonic tendencies). Religious liberty was one of the major themes of the meeting. Later, on July 22, 1965, on the eve of the last conciliar session, the same Ecumenical Council of Churches published the list of its seven fundamental exigencies regarding religious liberty. All were satisfied by the Council in the document Dignitatis Humanae.5


  • What conclusions can be drawn from the politics of openness followed by Vatican Council II? It becomes clear that Vatican II was not a council like the others. The documents it promulgated, fruit of a "dialogue" with the world, are more in the nature of diplomatic or "public relations" communications (destined to foster a good image of the Church) than magisterial texts (teaching clearly and authoritatively the truths of faith). None of these documents is, of itself, infallible.

27) What was the influence of the Council on the crisis in the Church?

The liberal and modernist forces that were already undermining the Church succeeded in taking control of the Council. Thus one can say that Vatican II was the spark that ignited a crisis that had been building for a long time in the Church.


  • How far back do the origins of this crisis go? St. Pius X already observed in his Encyclical Pascendi that modernism was no longer an enemy outside the Church, but that it had penetrated within, although its adepts still hid their real intentions.


  • Didn't Pope St. Pius X vigorously combat these modernists? St. Pius X energetically combatted modernism; his successors up to Pius XII did likewise, more or less energetically; but they were not really able to vanquish it. The Encyclical Humani Generis of Pius XII condemning what was called the "new theology" (in 1950) was outwardly accepted, but in reality it was despised by many. They continued to be interested in the condemned theses, and in houses of formation, future priests were encouraged to do likewise.


  • Can it be said that Vatican II was a revolution in the Church? Some of its own defenders themselves proclaim loud and clear that the Council was a revolution in the Church. For instance, Cardinal Suenens made a parallel between the Council and the French Revolution, saying that Vatican II was 1789 in the Church; Fr. Yves Congar, a conciliar theologian, compared the Council to the Bolshevik Revolution: "The Church has peacefully undergone its October Revolution."6

28) How did the liberals take over the Council?

Thanks to the support of John XXIII and Paul VI, the liberal and neo-modernist forces were able to introduce their own ideas into the conciliar texts, to a degree beyond their initial expectations. Before the Council, the preparatory commission had carefully prepared the schemata, which were the echo of the Church's faith. The discussion and voting should have been about these schemata, but they were rejected during the first session of the Council and replaced by new schemata prepared by the liberals.


  • Were there no defenders of the traditional doctrine at the Council? There was at the Council a group of about 250 to 270 bishops determined to defend the Church's Tradition. They eventually formed the Coetus Internationalis Patrum. But they were opposed by an already existing and perfectly organized group of cardinals and bishops that has been called the Rhine alliance.


  • Where does the name "the Rhine alliance" come from? The name comes from the fact that the leaders of this liberal group were almost all bishops from dioceses bordering on the Rhine River. Every day this group inundated the Council with typed sheets, in which they told the bishops how they should vote. That is why one journalist, Fr. Ralph Wiltgen, entitled his book on the Council The Rhine Flows into the Tiber.


  • Were the innovators in the majority? Like every revolution, Vatican II was not led by the majority, but by an active, well-organized minority. The majority of bishops were undecided and equally ready to follow the conservatives. But when they saw that the leaders of the Rhine alliance were the personal friends of the Pope, and that some of them (the Cardinals Doepfner, Suenens, and Lercaro) had even been appointed the moderators of the Council, they followed them.


  • The texts of Vatican II, then, are not representative of the thinking of the majority of the bishops at the Council's opening? A theologian of the progressivist party, Hans Küng, jubilantly asserted that the dream of a small minority had prevailed at the Council: "No one who was here for the Council will go back home as he came. I myself never expected so many bold and explicit statements from the bishops on the Council floor."7


  • Who is this theologian Hans Küng? Since the Council, Hans Küng has shown his true colors. This churchman denies most Catholic dogmas, including papal infallibility and the divinity of Christ, to such an extent that even conciliar Rome had to withdraw his authorization to teach.


  • Did other heretical theologians exercise an influence at Vatican II? The Jesuit Karl Rahner (1904-84), while being more prudent and less explicit, spread analogous theses in his works. As early as 1949, the Holy Office had to impose silence on him regarding certain questions. Yet he enjoyed an immense influence at the Council; Fr. Wiltgen even goes so far as to name him the Council's most influential theologian:

Since the position of the German-language bishops was regularly adopted by the European [Rhine] alliance, and since the alliance position was generally adopted by the Council, a single theologian might have his views accepted by the whole Council if they had been accepted by the German-speaking bishops. There was such a theologian: Father Karl Rahner, S.J.8


  • Is there any other testimony on Rahner's influence at the Council? Fr. Congar related:

The atmosphere became: "Rahner dixit, ergo verum est."9 I will give you an example. The Doctrinal Commission was made up of bishops, each with his own expert at his side, but also included certain superior generals (of the Dominicans or the Carmelites, for instance). Now, there were two microphones on the table of the Commission, but Rahner practically had one of them to himself alone. Rahner was a little invasive and, in addition, very often the cardinal from Vienna, Franz Koenig, of whom Rahner was the expert, turned toward him and invited him to intervene by saying: "Rahner, quid?" Naturally, Rahner intervened....10


  • What was Karl Rahner's line of thinking? Karl Rahner completely rebelled against the Church's traditional teaching, which was for him nothing but "monolithism" and "School theology." A letter he wrote dated February 22, 1962, on the occasion of the publication of the Italian version of his dictionary of theology enlightens us about his feelings toward the magisterium of the Church:

"An Italian version certainly poses a special problem because of the presence at Rome of the bonzes and guardians of orthodoxy. On the other hand, I am more than ever fortified in my positions. One might also say that this little lexicon has been written in such a way that these people can understand nothing, and hence will not see what is written against their narrow-mindedness."11


  • Did Karl Rahner let his rebellion against the Church's Tradition and the Magisterium show during the Council? One day during the Council, Cardinal Ottaviani, the prefect of the Holy Office, was expressing in a speech his disquietude about some innovations. He was speaking without notes since he was nearly blind, and he exceeded the allotted time. The microphone was simply switched off. Rahner commented on the event in a letter written to Vorgrimler on November 5, 1962: "Undoubtedly you have already heard that Alfrink once again cut off Ottaviani because he was talking too long. Everyone began to clap (which wasn't usual). Motto: There's no pleasure like another man's pain."12


  • Do we find other aspects of Karl Rahner's sentiments in his correspondence during the Council? The publication, in 1994, of the correspondence exchanged between Fr. Karl Rahner and the Austrian poetess Luise Rinser (1911-2002) opened wide a scandal: at the very time he was holding sway at the Council, Karl Rahner was exchanging love letters with this woman, in his passion writing to her as many as three times a day (276 letters during the year 1964 alone).


  • Did other bad theologians influence Vatican II? One can name, among others, Fr. Congar and Fr. Henri de Lubac, previously introduced, Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, Fr. John Courtney Murray, etc.


  • What influence did Fr. Congar have at Vatican II? Archbishop Lefebvre related this incident:

At the beginning of Vatican II, I would go the the meetings [of the French bishops] at St-Louis-des-Français. But I was amazed to see how things went. The bishops literally behaved themselves like little boys before the Congars and the other experts who came. Fr. Congar would go up to the head table and without the least reticence would say: "Your Excellency So-and-so, you will make this intervention on this subject. Don't worry, we will prepare the text for you, and you will only need to read it." I couldn't believe my eyes or my ears! And I stopped going to these meetings....13


  • Are there any other testimonies on Fr. Congar's influence? Msgr. Desmazières, auxiliary bishop of Bordeaux, related:

...In the afternoon, the workshops continue. I go to mine, directed by Fr. Congar, on Scripture and Tradition. There are about a dozen of us. We have to prepare the interventions to be made the next day. I am asked to take the second. I do not refuse, provided that Fr. Congar prepare the text for me. That is agreed. He will pass it to me tomorrow in the bus. I get my first look at the text in the bus; I am decided to change nothing. Getting out at St. Peter's, I go to register: I am the twenty-first....14


  • What does Fr. Congar have to say about it? Fr. Congar rather minimized his influence at the Council. Nonetheless, he summarized his action thus: "The preparation of the Council was under the domination...of men from the Curia and the Holy Office....Everything consisted, practically speaking, in putting them in the minority."15 That was a victory for him. Ten years earlier, sanctioned by his superiors, he wrote in his private diary the following resolutions:

"Continue writing in the same vein, taking advantage of every opportunity. My combat is especially there. I know (and "they" know) that sooner or later, everything that I say and write is the negation of the system. Yes, that is my real combat: in my theological, historical, ecclesiological, and pastoral work. The class I am currently teaching, exactly as if nothing had happened, is a true response; it is my real dynamite under the scribes' armchair."16

After the Council, he declared:

"The Council liquidated what I would call the 'unconditionality' of the system. I mean by system the very coherent ensemble of ideas communicated by the teaching of the Roman universities, codified by Canon Law, and protected by a close, fairly effective surveillance under Pius XII, with reports, warnings, submission of writings to Roman censors, etc.17


  • Who is Fr. Courtney Murray? Fr. John Courtney Murray, an American Jesuit (1904-67), had been condemned in 1957 by the Holy Office for his study The Problem of Religious Freedom. He was nonetheless invited to the Council as an expert in 1963. During the debates on religious liberty, he offered to draft the interventions of some bishops, and thus exercised considerable influence. At the end of his life, he tried to prove that the Church's teaching on contraception could evolve as it had evolved on religious freedom.


  • What can be concluded from all this? That men like Küng, Rahner, Congar, Lubac, Murray, etc., could have influenced the Council does not speak in its favor, nor in favor of its reforms. Unfortunately, certain declarations of Pope John Paul II are not to its advantage either, like one that he made in 1963 (while he was still a simple bishop):

Never before had a Council known such a broad preparation, never before had Catholic opinion been so amply sounded. Not only the bishops, the Catholic universities, and the superior generals of congregations expressed their opinions on the problems examined by the Council, but also a great percentage of Catholic laymen and non-Catholics. Theologians as eminent as Henri de Lubac, J. Danielou, Yves Congar, H. Küng, R. Lombardi, Karl Rahner, and others played an extraordinary role in the preparatory work.18


Translated exclusively for Angelus Press from Katholischer Katechismus zur kirchlichen Kriese by Fr. Matthias Gaudron, professor at the Herz Jesu Seminary of the Society of St. Pius X in Zaitzkofen, Germany. The original was published in 1997 by Rex Regum Press, with a preface by the District Superior of Germany, Fr. Franz Schmidberger. This translation is based on the second edition published in 1999 by Rex Regum Verlag, Schloss Jaidhof, Austria. Subdivisions and slight revisions made by the Dominican Fathers of Avrillé have been incorporated into the translation.


1 "...Ea omnia provide sapienterque constituerent quae ad fidei potissimum dogmata definienda, ad grassantes errores profligandos, ad catholicam propugnandam, illustrandam et evolvendam doctrinam, ad ecclesiasticam tuendam ac reparandam disciplinam, ad corruptos populorum mores corrigendos possent conducere." Pius IX, Bull of Convocation of the First Vatican Council, June 29, 1868, A.A.S., IV, 5.

2 Paul VI, General Audience of January 12, 1966, in Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, IV, 700.

3 Itinéraires, No. 285, p.157. Concerning this agreement, see also France Nouvelle (the French Communist party weekly), No. 900, January 16-22, 1963, p.15; La Croix, February 15, 1963, p.5; Itinéraires, No. 280, pp.1-15; P. Floridi, S.J., Moscow and the Vatican [French] (Paris: France-Empire, 1979), pp.142-48; etc.

4 See also on this subject Le Sel de la Terre, No. 34, pp. 196-217 (and, notably, the account of the secret visit Cardinal Bea made to the American Jewish Committee on March 31, 1963).–Note of the Dominican Fathers.

5 "During the last conciliar session, the bishop of Monaco, Msgr. Rupp, in a widely listened to speech, asked the Council to content itself with adopting these seven requests and to confirm them by its own authority....In reality, the Council did more. Not only did it adopt, in equivalent terms, the seven demands, but it solidly established them...." Msgr. Willebrands, Vatican II: Religious Liberty, collection Unam Sanctam (Paris: Cerf, 1967), pp.241-42.

6 Yves Congar, The Council Day by Day: Second Session [French] (Paris: 1964), p.215.

7 Quoted by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber (1967; Rockford, Ill.: TAN Books & Publishers, 1985), p.60.

8 Ibid., p.80.

9 "Rahner has spoken, therefore it is true."

10 Yves Congar, Thirty Days [French], No. 3, 1993, p.26. [English version: Fr. Dominic Bourmaud, One Hundred Years of Modernism (Kansas City: Angelus Press, 2003), pp. 268-69.]

11 Herbert Vorgrimler, Karl Rahner Verstehen (Fribourg: Herder, 1995), p. 175.

12 Deutsche Tagespost, October 10, 1992, p.2. In German: "Schadenfreude ist die reinste Freude."

13 Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Fideliter, No. 59, p. 53.

14 Msgr. Desmazières, L'Aquitaine (the Bordeaux diocesan weekly), December 1962, p. 580.

15 Yves Congar, O.P., Une vie pour la vérité: Jean Puyo interroge le père Congar (Paris: Centurion, 1975), p. 140.

16 Yves Congar, O.P., manuscript notes from February 1954, quoted by François Leprieur, O.P., Quand Rome condamne (Paris: Plon/Cerf, 1989), p. 259.

17 Congar, Une vie pour la vérité, p. 220.

18 Cited by M. Malinski, My Friend Karol Wojtyla [French] (Paris: Le Centurion, 1980), p. 189.

Footnotes accidentally omitted from Part 3 of "Catechism of the Crisis in the Church," published in The Angelus, July 2007

7 Quoted by Dr. Georg May, Gefahren, die der Kirche drohen (St. Andrä-Woerden: Mediatrix, 1990), p.27.

8 Most Reverend Joseph Doré, Address to the Jewish lodge René Hirschler of B'nai B'rith and published in the diocesan bulletin, July-August 2003, pp.1-3. [Archbishop Doré's address as well as an open letter to him from Fr. Stephen Abraham, SSPX, were published in The Angelus, February 2004.]

9 Acts 2:36-38.

10 "The first Christians are more interested in the Christ of faith than in the Jesus of history" (p. 2988). See Sel de la Terre, No.39, pp.6-26.

11 Most Reverend Dufour, Confirmation homily, published in the Courrier Français, Limoges edition, July 25, 2003, p. 4.

12 "If anyone shall have said that the one true God, our Creator and our Lord, cannot be known with certitude by those things which have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema." Vatican Council I, Constitution Dei Filius (Dz. 1806).