Wednesday, 22 March 2023


 I strongly resent being lectured that I must 'accept Vatican II' by people who believe less of what that council teaches than I do. They don't, of course, mean that I must give assent of the mind and heart to the many doctrinal and disciplinary teachings of the council. They do not, for instance, think that Latin must be maintained in the liturgical rites; they don't think that the Church is of its nature hierarchical, many would not accept that abortion is an abominable crime, nor much else. What they really mean is that I must 'get with the programme' and sign up to what Pope Benedict called the hermeneutic of discontinuity. I must disavow the past and embrace the Brave New Church about which the Second Vatican Council said little or nothing, but which emerged in its shadow. Vatican II itself is not for these people a test of the new orthodoxy (for the council expresses more or less—though not entirely— the old, or timeless orthodoxy), but rather a shibboleth, a password for Those Who Are Acceptable to flash at one another.

I knew a priest whose literal password on the computer was VATICAN 2!!! and another was PEOPLE POWER!!! And never was there such a tyrant, who did bestride the narrow parish like a Colossus, governing it in splendid isolation and caring not a jot for what others thought.

Part of the point of being a Catholic is that Sacred Tradition is a law to which all, from Pope to Catechumen, must bend. Once you sever the link with Tradition, then all you have is power. Those in power can do what they like. Popes, bishops, parish priests, lay men and women who have read a book once can set themselves up and govern by decree, moderated by nothing by the latest trend or their latest notion and claiming 'the Council' as their mandate. That is tyranny. Vatican II means as little to these people as Trent. What they want is their own opinion to be enforced on others and taught as divine law.

For them, Vatican II means women priests, gay marriage and number of other things that would have amazed the fathers of the Council. But then, the Council is only a shibboleth to them.

Some of these people would not know the smell of the sheep if it came in a bottle marked 'Sheep Stink'. In my thirty years as a priest, my experience is that people simply want to be left to pray in the way that they are used to. If Father insists, they won't protest when he mixes things up, but when things are made more Catholic, there seems to be a sort of collective sigh of relief, of the sort that many of us experienced during the reign of Pope Benedict.

In the 1980s, with a friend I visited a little hamlet in the Black Forest, called Sägendobel I think. Each evening almost the entire population gathered in their little church to say the Rosary together. It was so beautiful, and no doubt they had done this for years, if not centuries. But on our second evening, a lady with a guitar announced that this was all to change. There was Mass instead, celebrated by a Monsignor from Cologne; they—or rather the lady with a few disconsolate children—sang hymns accompanied by the guitar to tunes that were all too familiar to me from the 1960s but set to German words. Nobody but they joined in; there was a sort of stunned silence. Returning the following year, there was no Rosary, and there was no Mass either. 

Do I think that if the Latin Mass were imposed once more on the Church that everyone would welcome it? No, of course not. People have got used to the English Mass, and broadly have come to like it. Any priest who knows the smell of his sheep knows that. And I think that this is a subject to which I should return.


Romulus said...


Longshore Drifter said...

I am delighted at your decison to resume blogging. Thank you.

Gregor said...

Spot on, Father! And the story you tell us (which has happened in a thousand places) from the Schwarzwald makes me so very angry. For shame!