31 October 2014


But, in a Council whose convoking Pontiff expected it to end by Christmas, Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces soon disappeared from the agenda. Even stranger is the question of the dog which barked in the night (But, Holmes, the dog did not bark in the night! Exactly, Watson). Vatican II was supposed to be a Council about the world of Today and the problems of its own day. And there is no doubt that, at the heart of the Cold War, in the decade when the Cuban crisis nearly precipitated a holocaust, Communism, a militant ideology claiming to be the end of all religion, was the great Question of the Day. Previous Councils had condemned the errors of their own day; Vatican II failed even to mention Communism, either in practical terms or by addressing its errors. This was not for want of attempts by Council Fathers to raise the question in the aula; Fathers who had themselves physically suffered at the hands of the oppressors (pre-Constantinian Christians termed them confessores) addressed their Venerable Brethren movingly ... good quotations are given in Mattei. But any and every such initiative mysteriously disappeared.

The reason seems to be twofold. S John XXIII wished the Council to be positive rather than negative; to discern what is good in the World rather than to condemn its errors. And, under B Paul VI, the Ostpolitik made it impossible to mention the enemies of the Church behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, there seems to have been an agreement with Moskow that, in return for the Vatican's silence on Communism, observers would be allowed to travel from Russia to the Council.

The final part of this review should follow below.


rick allen said...

"Communism, a militant ideology claiming to be the end of all religion, was the great Question of the Day. Previous Councils had condemned the errors of their own day; Vatican II failed even to mention Communism, either in practical terms or by addressing its errors."

Father, I think this is just plain wrong. This, for example, is from Gaudium et Spes:

"20. Modern atheism often takes on a systematic expression which, in addition to other causes, stretches the desires for human independence to such a point that it poses difficulties against any kind of dependence on God. Those who profess atheism of this sort maintain that it gives man freedom to be an end unto himself, the sole artisan and creator of his own history. They claim that this freedom cannot be reconciled with the affirmation of a Lord Who is author and purpose of all things, or at least that this freedom makes such an affirmation altogether superfluous. Favoring this doctrine can be the sense of power which modern technical progress generates in man.

Not to be overlooked among the forms of modern atheism is that which anticipates the liberation of man especially through his economic and social emancipation. This form argues that by its nature religion thwarts this liberation by arousing man's hope for a deceptive future life, thereby diverting him from the constructing of the earthly city. Consequently when the proponents of this doctrine gain governmental power they vigorously fight against religion, and promote atheism by using, especially in the education of youth, those means of pressure which public power has at its disposal.

21. In her loyal devotion to God and men, the Church has already repudiated(16) and cannot cease repudiating, sorrowfully but as firmly as possible, those poisonous doctrines and actions which contradict reason and the common experience of humanity, and dethrone man from his native excellence."

The footnote is important: 16. Cf. Pius XI, encyclical letter Divini Redemptoris, March 19, 1937: AAS 29 (1937), pp. 65-106; Pius XII, encyclical letter Ad Apostolorum Principis, June 29, 1958: AAS 50 (1958) pp. 601-614; John XXIII, encyclical letter Mater et Magistra May 15, 1961: AAS 53 (1961), pp. 451-453; Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, Aug. 6, 1964: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 651-653.


The Church's position on Marxism, and the form of atheistic communism that took root in Russia had been a matter of plain public record for the better part of the century, if not longer. What was on the front burner in the 1960's was not so much the error of Communism, but how a third world war could be prevented with the world divided into two hostile camps, each armed with thermonuclear weapons. There is not a document produced by Vatican II that doesn't presuppose the contradiction between Communism and Catholicism. The great question was how to resolve that religious and ideological conflict short of the conflagrations that convulsed the world in 1914 and 1939. I think it's a serious misreading of the Council to suggest that it was some sort of "sell-out." Many good Christians suffered under the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is gone; the Church remains.

Jacobi said...

The impact of Vatican II has not been grasped by the Church, which intuitively is just not yet ready to face up to it. Personally I think it was a disaster as great as any in the history of the Church.

Two opposites brought this about, naivety and deviousness, the naivety of St John XXIII and the deviousness of the Modernist heretics who seized their opportunity.

Having said that, I will certainly read de Mattei’s book. I wonder if Angelus press would send me a free copy to review. I am a poor old age pensioner after all!

Sadie Vacantist said...

I have no problem with Papa Montini's politeness towards the Soviets. The issue was his decision to visit New York in 1965. Was this wise? It's not clear that either he or his predecessor understood the Anglo-Saxon World. In fact Heenan made this very point in his autobiography. When "Jackie" visited the USA in the 1950's, he found America's obsession with communism puerile.

The Rad Trad said...

@ rick allen:

Could not that passage from GS be directed at any 20th century political ideology that took power in Europe?

Michael Ortiz said...

I am reading de Mattei's book, and with certain reservations, enjoying it. However, the copyediting is terrible. In fact, in an early chapter, he has Pius XII buried several days before he dies!

Typos make for funny miracles!

Ben Trovato said...

Father, Have you read Cardinal Mindszenty's Memoirs? If anything shows the errors of colluding with Communism in that period, it is the treatment he received.

rick allen said...

"Could not that passage from GS be directed at any 20th century political ideology that took power in Europe?"

It arguably could, and should.

The Church exists to proclaim the gospel, to bring us to salvation, and to help us live the love of God and neighbor that Jesus proclaims the sum of the Law and the Prophets.

The Church does not primarily exist to promulgate any political or economic program. It must, however, speak against any action that suppresses its mission or which is built upon hatred of God or neighbor. So, in that limited sense, it must get involved in all economics or politics.

Christians, of course, have their own views of how congruent their own economic and political views are with the faith. I'm no different from anyone else on that score. But I recognize that the Church cannot, and should not, be the bearer of any economic or political program.

For that reason it was proper for the council to keep its teaching at the level of the Church's competence and mission--the futility and injustice of the arrogation of godlike powers to atheistic regimes which could have no concept of the true end of man. You don't have to be Communist to do that--but it helps.