Pope’s address to Congress expresses determination to stop distortions of Vatican II

In his address to pilgrims at the Statio Orbis Mass concluding the International Eucharistic Congress Pope Benedict expressed his determination to stop the distortions of Vatican II that have plagued the Church for the past fifty years:

“The Congress also occurs at a time when the Church throughout the world is preparing to celebrate the Year of Faith to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council, an event which launched the most extensive renewal of the Roman Rite ever known. Based upon a deepening appreciation of the sources of the liturgy, the Council promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice.

At our distance today from the Council Fathers’ expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church’s experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities.

The renewal of external forms, desired by the Council Fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery. Its true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and thus with the living God, so that through this contact with Christ’s love, the love of his brothers and sisters for one another might also grow. Yet not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and “active participation” has been confused with external activity. Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal. In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognize anew the mysterious presence of the Risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.

Pope Benedict also expressed the insight that Vatican II sought to overcome Christianity being reduced to an external habit that stopped any real relationship with Jesus Christ. He proposed that this impoverished distortion of Christianity may be behind the appalling crimes of clergy child abuse:

Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care. Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church’s message. How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way? It remains a mystery. Yet evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit. The work of the Council was really meant to overcome this form of Christianity and to rediscover the faith as a deep personal friendship with the goodness of Jesus Christ.

Protect the Pope comment: The printed words of Pope Benedict’s speech do not convey the determination with which he delivered his address to the pilgrims at the International Eucharistic Congress.  It appears that we are at a turning point in the pontificate of Pope Benedict. Up till now the Holy Father had exhorted and appealed to dissenters within the Church to come back to the truth, but there are signs that in the face of such defiant disobedience that Pope Benedict realizes that he must take stern measures to stop the distortions of Vatican II.

Hopefully the Year of Faith will be a watershed for the Church, particularly if the Holy Father is prepared to challenge the passive aggression and private contempt of certain Bishops’ Conferences.


10 comments to Pope’s address to Congress expresses determination to stop distortions of Vatican II

  • amator Dei

    But the Pope’s only remedy seems to be to replace one set of external forms, those he calls misunderstandings and irregularities, by reinstating the older set (ad orientem, communion kneeling on the tongue, etc.). It was precisely because these were perceived as no longer fostering a deep personal relationship with the goodness of Jesus Christ that the Council Fathers called for reform and renewal of the liturgy. We should perhaps remind ourselves that a General Ecumenical Council such as Vatican II is the highest form of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, to which the Pope and his curia are subject and to which they should be obedient. If the Pope intends to adopt stern measures to force acceptance of his “truth,” i.e. his personal agenda, he can only expect more challenges to his aggression and contempt – if there is anyone left to challenge him, that is, after he has purged the Church of those who dare to question his disobedience.

    • Deacon Nick

      I’ve allowed this comment as an example of how prejudiced people are against Pope Benedict and their gross misunderstanding of Vatican II. For example, Sacrosanctum Concilium did not prohibit ad orientem, or communion on the tongue, kneeling. This is a myth spread by the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ dissidents. Deacon Nick

  • Veritas


    Deacon Nick is absolutely right.

    What “amator Dei” also forgets is that Pope Benedict was one of the theological periti present throughout Vatican II. So as well as being in possession of the written record of the documents of Vatican II (which are readily available for anyone who has the intellectual honesty to spend some time reading what Vatican II actually said rather than what they think Vatican II should have said) Pope Benedict is also a living witness of all the discussions that took place throughout the Council.

    In fact Communion in the hand first took place in England and Wales in the early 1970′s in defiance of Church Law. I remember that it was only some years later in the mid 1970′s that the Bishops of England and Wales obtained permission from Pope Paul VI to officially permit it. The booklet that was produced for the Bishops introducing the practise performed intellectual summersaults trying to justify it. The argument was something like: “The reason we are permitting Communion in the hand is that some people have already been doing it without permission.”

    It was noticable that Pope Paul VI never gave permission for Communion in the hand to take place in his own diocese of Rome. Not did Pope John Paul II. In fact I remember that when Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass both inside and outside Rome, it was made clear that people should not expect to receive Communion on the hand from him.

    Yet amazingly some people imagine that they have the right to tell the Pope what to do – despite the fact that any diocese (or group of dioceses) in which Communion in the hand is permitted has had to ask permission from the Pope for this!

    I remember that those in favour of Communion in the hand argued that this prectise was a return to a more ancient custom. (Strange that they never used the same argument for restoring Greek as the language for the Mass for the whole Church!) But what they failed to add was the reason why Communion in the hand was discontinued by the Church – namely to prevent abuses and the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament.

    Sadly (despite hollow assurances to the contrary by those in favour of Communion in the hand) the reintroduction of Communion in the hand has to my certain knowledge led to cases of abuse.

    I do not claim to know what lies in the future, but I strongly suspect that history may well repeat itself and that the experiment of reintroducing Communion in the hand may at some time in the future be judged by the Church authorities to have been a failure.

  • Peter

    Oh dear. I do not read armator Dei’s message as one intended to cause offence. Indeed it is surely useful to get differing views if only so that a fair response can be given.
    The changes that the Pope is encouraging do seem to be restoring previous practice. It might be better to respond that the specific forms he mentions were not mandated by Sacrosanctum Concilium and I doubt that these were seen as the reasons why changes in the liturgy were deemed necessary.
    When the Pope calls for mutual enrichment between the two forms (EF and OF) I think that there is a gentle hint to the adherents of the 1962 missal that some adaptation was needed. Readings in the vernacular were suggested as one change. Another was greater use of Gregorian chant. How right is the Pope to suggest that we look again at the documents of the council.
    I fear that armator Dei’s prediction of greater opposition by those wedded to casual liturgy may be accurate. He may have some sympathy with that. Perhaps the section in SC calling for greater understanding of the liturgy is particularly pertinent. That might even reduce acrimony.
    As a minor point the suggestion (not a requirement though) that new altars be built away from the wall so as to permit the celebrant to offer mass from any position has the unfortunate effect that armator’s claim about ad orientam is not far fetched.

    • Deacon Nick

      Peter, you don’t find Armator Dei’s obvious disrespect towards Pope Benedict a cause of offense? Surely you don’t think its OK for him to write that the Holy Father is disobedient towards Vatican II? Personally I find his comments and tone offensive, spiteful, and manifestly wrong. Deacon Nick.

  • JamieG

    You’re quite right Deacon Nick.
    I didn’t understand why you hD authorised Amator’s spiteful wiley post
    but perhaps it is to serve as a reminder of the level of ignorance (often it must be said, wilfull)
    that exists sadly.
    Let us increase our prayers for the Vicar of Christ in his onerous duties.

  • Peter

    Thank you Deacon Nick
    I reread the comment and agree that, at least at the end, the choice of words is poor or worse. The words contempt and disobedience seem most inappropriate.
    I try to assume the best about fellow commenters. At least he took the trouble you read your excellent blog and try to understand what you write. It is important to try to engage with others who think we are wrong. Once in a while we may persuade.
    It occurs to me that part of the problem is that many struggle to express themselves clearly and politely, a failure of education. George Orwell warned us that poor education in English would undermine our ability to think clearly. Lack of education in the faith has the same effect.
    All the best

  • Karla

    Pope Benedict has realised more than anyone, the dissent can be taken no more. It must be dealt with.

  • Chris Roberts

    “many misunderstandings and irregularities”. Well these began during the Council itself and it might be obvious looking at the documents the implementation caused the distortions and rupture. That is why dissenters will often say they have moved “beyond” Vatican II or talk of the “spirit” of Vatican II. Which means the zeitgheist!
    It is obvious that the 1970 Missal was not in conformity with the Vatican II documents. As often happens authority will argue from a position of its own power. We are meant to go along! But really how can most of what we have in the way of worship and Faith be what Vatican II is about. Given that we also cannot interpret it but in conformity with the Councils and traditio before!cvatia

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