There they were, a couple of Japanese students, sitting together at the back, sn****ring as they passed notes back and forth. Without interrupting the unvaried tedium of my didactic monologue, I nonchalantly strolled past them and looked down as I did so. Their communications were in ideograms, but I knew instinctively that it was in moi that the outrageous pair ... the very nerve of it ... saw a funny side.
Of course, I adjusted the seating arrangements.
That is how the English bishops, naughty little fellows, behaved at Vatican II. Did I say English? Well, include Bishop O'Loughlin of Darwin, down under. Except that what they passed to and from each other was not ideograms but ... limericks.
A fair number of these was collected and done into Latin by my fellow Essex Man, Bernard Wall, bishop of Brentwood. Archbishop Dwyer had the English and the Latin Versions typed up, and gave a copy to the Right Reverend Dame Felicitas Corrigan, OSB, Abbess of Stanbrook Abbey (why, O why, do modern misogynists not allow Benedictine women religious, especially superiors, to be given the style 'Dame', equivalent of the masculine 'Dom', and why are Lady Abbesses no longer accorded the same titular courtesies as bishops?) And Dom Hugh Knapman of Douai Abbey has done a service to us all by publishing these limericks: A Limerickal Commentary on the Second Vatican Council, Arouca Press ... a press, incidentally, which everybody ought to support enthusiastically.
So how do the 1960s 'English' bishops come out of this? One limerick dates itself: Of Rahner and Congar and Kueng/ the praises are everywhere sung;/ but one bello domani/ Lord Ottaviani/ will see all three of them hung. Clearly, this must date from the before the celebrated moment when, with a prescient prolepsis of Bergoglian praxis of Parrhesia, the Conciliar presidency switched off the mike while the almost-blind Cardinal Ottaviani was still speaking. But the limerick shows, surely, a sound underlying attitude. My own impression is that the English bishops were not among the heroes who stood with the Coetus Internationalis Patrum against the engineers of error; but neither were they among the plotters who kidnapped the Council and diverted the Rhine into the head-waters of the Tiber.
They were decent and honourable pastors whose hearts were in the right place during a period when having a properly placed heart was, sadly, not quite enough.
Anyway, you get the book and make up your own mind. If you want a guide through the Conciliar years, I commend The Second Vatican Council by Roberto de Mattei.