Thursday, June 06, 2013

'Vatican II' priest group: forward or back?

Note to readers: when I posted this on June 6, it got a lot of attention, pro and con, which is gratifying. Some folks were critical, which is reflected in the comments; others were offered at a blog called PrayTell. (And welcome PrayTell readers as well as Fr. Z readers!) 

Much of that criticism was, I think, over the top; however some was fair. In any case, it occurred to me that too much discussion was about my writing style and aspects of my original post that weren't really very important to what I wanted to say. What's more, some--particularly some priests--said they were offended.

So, I decided to recast the article. But it could seem underhanded to have the original disappear, so I saved it as an "archived post" and it can be found here.

Note to priests: my purpose in posting this was not, and is not, to dismiss anyone. The news item I discuss is just that: a new item; and it's about a course of action, on the part of the group of priests, that affects all priests. I think it's entirely fair to discuss their proposals and to offer a critique.

But when a couple of priests said, elsewhere, they were offended--that concerns me. So, to them, and any others, I am sorry, and I'm glad to recast this in hopes my points and concerns are clearer.

Last week an item in the National (so called) Catholic Reporter caught my eye:

Fledgling national priests' group to tackle broad agenda.

Reinstating general absolution in the United States, consultation in the selection process for bishops, studying the ordination of women and married men, and collegial exercise of church authority are among topics of 15 resolutions on the agenda of the second annual assembly of the fledgling Association of U.S. Catholic Priests June 24-27. 

To be held at Seattle University, the gathering's theme -- "Lumen Gentium: God's Pilgrim People" -- is based on the Second Vatican Council's 1964 document, also known as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. 

The association was formed following an Aug. 25, 2011, meeting of 27 self-described "Vatican II priests" from 15 dioceses and 11 states at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, notes the group's website.

The organization's inaugural assembly in June 2012 drew 240 delegates from 55 dioceses to St. Leo University northeast of Tampa, Fla. 

Among its actions was approval of a letter of support to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. LCWR remains under controversial Vatican control and directives for reform. The association's board chair, Fr. Dave Cooper, said about the same number of attendees are expected at the Seattle conference. 

Let me come back to that agenda in a moment; but first, let me skip down to something later that is the most striking:

Father Cooper "said the organization is 'growing slowly' and that 'many priests do not know we even exist.' Confirming that the average age of members is about 70";

And then there's this:

"Cooper said there has been resistance from younger, more recently ordained priests, some of whom 'see us as disloyal if not downright dissenting.'

Here's the striking thing: I think the reasons why he's getting "resistance" might lie both in the agenda the group is pursuing, as well as in statements like this:

Alluding to recent studies that have pointed to differing views of church and authority between older and younger generations of Catholic clergy, Cooper described "Vatican II priests" as viewing the priesthood in terms of "service, of washing the feet of others" in contrast to clerics who hold a "priest as ruler" model. 

Father Cooper, that kind of sorting of priests is pretty unfortunate and off-putting. Describing your own group as being particularly devoted and faithful to Vatican II--strongly implying that's not true of priests who come after you--and then characterizing oneself rather favorably as about "service," and labeling other priests as "rulers," isn't a great way to win those priests.

And then there's this:

Asked how he might respond to those who would say the 15 resolutions sound like a party platform for the progressive wing of the Catholic church, [Father Dave] Cooper said, "Well, that's what Vatican Council II embraced." 

And there it is. No, Father, that is not "what Vatican Council II embraced." But that is the sort of claim too often made, whether by priests or laity, who often do seem to see themselves as the Vatican II faithful. And it's part of a problem that needs to be aired out: the fact that quite a lot of things have been wrongly credentialed as "from Vatican II," turning the content and message of Vatican II into something it wasn't, and thus appropriating Vatican II for one group within the Church--as if to say that others aren't faithful to it or are even hostile to it.

This is as good a time to address this point. This is not--not--about who loves, respects and adheres to the teachings of Vatican II more. This is where I find a maddening irony.

We have Catholics who have pointedly claimed the mantle of Vatican II. They are the true adherents. They express sadness, if not anger, that a newer generation does not revere the Council, does not embrace its teachings. And this naturally includes priests.

But here's the true irony: this is absolutely not true; and in many cases (not all), almost precisely the opposite of the truth.

The examples are too many to cite--yet facts are facts. During the past 40-plus years of "implementing Vatican II," we have all endured a revolution in the understanding of the Church, much of which has had to be corrected, and is still being corrected, precisely because what folks were told--"this is what Vatican II said"--was flatly false.

Vatican II never said:

> We're birthing a new Church. Vatican II was about re-presenting the wholeness of the Faith in a new way. Got that?  Not new doctrine; no new doctrine; just a new way of presenting what we always held.

> Overhaul our parish churches, destroying altar rails, smashing altars, removing artwork, and building churches that no longer look Catholic.

> Throw out catechisms and no longer teach doctrine. Yet this happened for quite awhile. When Pope  John Paul II proposed a new catechism, remember who resisted it? Yep--the same crowd.

> Turn the altars around. Not a word.

> Downplaying devotions, particularly adoration of the Holy Eucharist.

> Removing tabernacles from the central point in a parish church.

> No more Latin and chant. Instead, it said, add the vernacular to the menu of choices, keeping Latin on the menu, and using it.

> It's no longer important to celebrate the liturgy faithfully according to the norms set by the Church, but now priests and the faithful can improvise and reinvent the liturgy "for pastoral reasons."

Now, as I said, these things are being corrected. But when the faithful join with priests in correcting these things, guess what they're accused of? "You're against Vatican II."

So let's come back to the question I posed in my headline. Which way forward?

The agenda that the group proposes seems to me to be not very forward-looking. In some cases--such as a "study" of women's ordination or pursuing "general absolution," I think these very ill advised, to say the least.

By "general absolution," what they mean is the provision in the rules for the Sacrament of Penance for a priest to give absolution to an entire group of people. Currently, this can only be done (a) in an extreme emergency (i.e., the priest is on a sinking ship or falling airplane), or (b) with express, specific permission of the bishop.

But to what purpose? You might say, to save penitents the trouble of actually confessing any sins--they just get absolved and that's it. However, this is not true. The actual norms of the Church are that when someone receives absolution without confession, s/he is bound to go to confession when the opportunity arises. I suspect that what the group intends is to bring back the practice of giving general absolution, with no followup confession ever happening.

I think this is a bad idea--and I can explain that in the comments if desired. But in any case, it's going nowhere. There is next-to-zero chance either Pope Francis or the bishops would agree with this. The one argument that someone could offer--that priests don't have enough time to hear confessions--is simply not true.

> "Studying the ordination of women and married men..."

Another pointless exercise. Pope Blessed John Paul II closed the door on ordaining women and at the time, then-Cardinal Ratzinger said the teaching is irreformable. What point is served by calling for a "study," other than to make trouble for the bishops and the pope, and to feed the false notion that this is an open question? Honestly, this is mischief-making and serves to mislead the faithful on this part of the Church's Deposit, and I don't see that as the role of priests.

As far as "studying" ordaining married men--to the priesthood, they mean, as we already ordain married men as deacons--well...OK, but to what end? This is about changing the Church's discipline on this. And while that's not an irreformable teaching, again I ask, what's the point? The notion that allowing for married priests to be ordained as priests will mean any great increase in the number of priests is without foundation--which if anyone wants to know why, ask in the comments and I'll go into it.

Then there's some talk about "consultation" and "collegial exercise of church authority."

Well, that's pretty vague and doesn't sound bad; but as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. I suspect this is mainly about a dissatisfaction with how the bishops and the Holy Father have been trending in their decisions. And the implication is--and it's been claimed outright elsewhere--that we don't have "consultation" and collegiality now.

But I don't think that's true.

The bishops in the U.S. are collegial to a fault. For example: there is an ongoing scandal--yes, scandal--of public officials who take deliberate stances and actions contrary to the Faith--and yet very little is done to enforce existing Church law and hold them accountable. Why is this? I don't know, but I am pretty sure one reason is because few bishops want to stand out on this issue; they would like all the bishops to be a united front. Meanwhile, the credibility of the Church's teaching is undermined.

And in any case, back to the question of this group building; I'm not sure those are the sorts of questions that are going to engage a lot of the priests they say aren't responding so far.

In my first iteration of this commentary, I pointed out something that the article itself highlights: this isn't a youth movement. My point was not, and is not, to diminish the value of our older priests. On the contrary; I'm grateful to them.

But if this group is going to have a future, it sure needs to offer something to priests that, as I see it, it doesn't seem to know or understand, and thus far, hasn't shown signs of wanting to.

Cooper said the association is working hard to "build bridges" and to "hold hands with the laity and at the same time with the bishops." 

Father Cooper, here's a suggestion that would actually make a difference. Would you like to "build bridges" to the priests who you're not recruiting very successfully?

How about this? Avoid any suggestion that you and your group are the true embracers of Vatican II, not to mention being more humble than your fellow priests.


> Seek out laity and clergy who disagree with you, and seek to learn from them?

> Acknowledge openly that a lot of what happened after the Council was misguided.

> Show respect for the fact that those Catholics (lay and clergy) who disagree with you, love Vatican II as well.

After posting this, I made some comments on the story at the NCR website.

Here's something I wrote there that, honestly, I wish I'd thought of when I first wrote this. After someone asked me to clarify a point I was making, I said:

A growing number of ordinary Catholics simply don't see Vatican II the way its seen by the generation of priests here described, and the laity who share their perspective (and usually age). 

For a growing number of Catholics, Vatican II is simply another part of Catholic history, they're not passionate for or against, it's just "there." So when some try to rally the troops with, "we must save Vatican II," more and more of the faithful aren't buying it. And rightly so. 

What's coming, not too far in the future now, is a re-appraisal. That will be deeply painful for the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd, as what will happen is a more sober assessment of Vatican II's strengths and weaknesses, and a rediscovery of what Vatican II really says. This is already happening, but it hasn't taken center stage yet. 

When that happens, I think the old, V2 pro or con dialectic will be as gone as the dinosaurs. Then it will be more about a true appreciation and application of Vatican II, as well as a recognition that Vatican II isn't the first or last word on what it means to be Catholic. Vatican II will take its place as part of the Church's treasures, not as the sole treasure, nor as the sole lens through which everything we believe is viewed.


Lawoski said...

The closest english word I could think of is tragicomic / tragicomical. If the events described in the article were in a play, I think it would qualify as dramatic irony (irony that occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play).

McCall1981 said...

Fr. Fox,
I found your blog through Fr. Z, and I wanted to say that it's fantastic! I have a question too, for you or anyone else that might know. You mention how the younger generation of Priests is more orthodox than the older Vat II era generation. Is this phenomenon specific to the US, or is it happening all over the Church?

gramps said...

Father Fox, you should get with local priest and have a debate series on Vatican II.

I think it would be very informative.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I don't believe I ever said any group of priests is not orthodox. The group in the article describes itself as "progressive."

My real argument with this group is not--repeat, not--that it's not orthodox enough (that is for others to judge), but--pay attention--they deem other priests to be less faithful than they are.

See that? When this group claims itself to be the true keepers of the Vatican II flame, when the head of it describes his group as about "service," but not other priests...

That's what I'm talking about.

And so I took issue with that; but it's just not my style to say this person or that is "more orthodox."

OK, so let's rework your question: is there a difference in approach and outlook between generations of priests? No doubt. Is it happening outside the U.S.? I suspect so, but I really don't know.

McCall1981 said...

Thank you Father, sorry for miswording my question

Unknown said...

> "Studying the ordination of women and married men..."...which if anyone wants to know why, ask in the comments and I'll go into it.

Father, I read the article at NCR and read some of the “dialogue” between the combox posters and yourself. For an unrelated reason, I have been thinking about this aspect of your post recently myself. I was studying the Eastern Orthodox understanding of salvation as “theosis” and St. Irenaeus’s understanding of “recapitulation” when I became curious about other EO teachings. I discovered that priest’s in the EO churches are able to marry with the understanding that doing so makes them ineligible to become bishops. In light of the normalization of Anglican priests who are entering into full communion with the Church under the Ordinariate, I began to muse about the feasibility of the EO’s discipline regarding holy orders in the Catholic Church. Its strengths, to my mind, are that it provides, in the Roman rite, a discipline that was valid for the first millenium of its existence (the Bible mentions St. Peter’s mother-in-law’s cure from a serious illness), and something still in existence not only in Eastern Orthodox churches, but those Eastern rite Catholic Churches in communion with Rome, and so there is no doctrinal ‘discontinuity’ issue - in fact, it would be seen, much as ‘evangelical catholicism’ is in relation to Tridentine catholicism, a return to an older tradition. With the medieval Church exploding into Europe there was no dearth of candidates to the priesthood and hence the ‘reactionary’ change to only celibacy, in the same way that Tridentine Catholicism was a reaction to the Protestant Reformation (I am fully aware that one reaction is to a positive and the other to a negative). With the situation changed now in Europe and North America, with marriage and the family in disarray, fatherlessness, widespread contraceptive use and divorce amongst Catholics tracking with seculars, the pool of integral humanly developed candidates from intact loving families that haven’t succumbed to the prevailing cultures secular influence, it seems the pool of ‘healthy’ or integrally developed humans that would consider the priesthood to be diminishing; in fact, in the United States, where I reside, priests are being imported from the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, Mexico, et al to stem the tide. Let me say, that I have nothing against mandatory celibacy, but it just seems a curious possibility, given the current situation (a dearth of healthy Catholic families and of priestly vocations - although I am encouraged by homeschooling and the classical/Catholic education movements, and the lay ecclesial movements such as Opus Dei and Communion and Liberation). I welcome and anxiously await your response.

Unknown said...

My apologies Father, but I also thought of something else as a corollary to my previous scatterbrained response. The founding fathers of the U. S. Constitution wrote into the requirements for federal Representatives that they could not be younger than 25, and federal Senators could not be younger than 35, presumably for the reason of human maturity, discretion of judgement and a tried/stable character. In consideration that 20/30 something adults are often still deciding on paths or ways in their lives and either confirming them by staying on the path or changing course, and in light of the consideration that that was a time when people were classically educated, and in a prevailing culture that largely incorporated biblical norms and not yet troubled by the Industrial Revolution, much less the atomic or the virtual ones nor fraught with nearly 24/7 in your face instant media putting more and problematic filters between us and reality those ages could easily be adjusted up 5 to 10 years each (I have in mind here the recent pejorative 'adult-escent'). I understand the strain that the demands of ministry may place on husbands/wives, parents/children, but in light of the priestly sex abuse scandal, I wonder how a Catholic couple with/without a family would go toward modeling vibrant Catholic family life (I'm thinking here of the Holy Family of Nazareth), and the value of creating a family friendly atmosphere in the parish in light of the priestly sex abuse scandal that continues to unfold, albeit at a diminished rate. If families that are healthy create vocations, wouldn't healthy ministerial families promote a reinvigorated family culture to prevail in the Church? Please consider both posts as one, however shotgun or scatterbrained.

Unknown said...

As a member of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, I know more than my share of married formerly Episcopalian priests who are now Catholic priests. I have not done a formal survey, but my impression is that most of them consider a celibate priesthood to be the better option. The leading reason is that Catholics in this country have little understanding of what it takes to support a married priest both materially and spiritually and, if they knew, would be resistant to providing that support.

Father Fox, would it be reasonable to have a prayer that laity could recite for the "exorcism" of the Spirit of Vatican II? I am serious in this inquiry. Not a true exorcism, of course, but a prayer for the intercession, say, of St Pius X, that dissent and the perversion of the Second Council of the Vatican be extirpated by the power of God.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Quis ut Deus:

Here's what I said in the original post that I would go into further if asked:

"The notion that allowing for married priests to be ordained as priests will mean any great increase in the number of priests is without foundation."

So, note: I'm not even addressing the various theological reasons at issue, just the idea -- so often repeated on the pitiable N"C"R site -- that allowing married priests will be some sort of boon for the church.

Here's why I say that.

> Candidates for holy orders will have to be married before ordained as deacons.

This is something the NCR crowd doesn't get. They think it means bringing back all the priests who left to get married. That. Won't. Happen.

As far as I know, the universal, unbroken practice for married clergy was, marriage first, then ordination; and if their wife died, no subsequent marriage.

So if you have married clergy, it means married seminarians. Imagine that: married men in the seminary.

That won't work. So you'll have to have a training track for married men that differs from single men.

Which will mean a division in the priesthood--and that will be reinforced in other ways, see below.

> You'll have seminarians dropping out to get married.

What I've had people in ecclesial communities with married pastors say is that many men who enter seminary, and then get married along the way, end up dropping out anyway.

Being a pastor is a tough job, and sometimes the conversation with the spouse, and the consideration of children and starting a career, leads the candidate for orders to drop out.

Look, if someone wants to see how married priests will work out, just look at what happens with deacons. So many men I've asked to consider it will say, they'd like to, but they want to wait until their children are older.

So I'm thinking the married men who would enter the priesthood, would enter training around late 40s or 50s. And if they are going to seminary part-time (as opposed to full time for current seminarians), a current six-year program (two years philosophy, four of theology) becomes, what? Eight, nine years?

So we'll have a flood of priests being ordained in their 60s!

Great; glad to have them. But...they'll be in their 60s.

> Think of the new problems you'll have in parish life. Married priests means priests with children. That means priests with problem children, problem families. Married priests means priests who get separated and divorced.

Consider this: a lot of our Catholic couples have division between husband and wife over contraception--even when both are Catholic. Imagine having your priest in a marriage where contraception is practiced.

Imagine having priests who are in mixed marriages. Or else will that not be allowed?

(And I'm not saying anything against a mixed marriage. But it creates stresses, particularly on religious practice for both parties.)

Consider the question of the exact role of a priest's wife. What will her authority be?

> Division between the married and celibate priests.

A phone call comes at 2 am; Father Brown picks up the phone. "I'd love to come to the hospital; however, I have two young children at home, and my wife is away. I'm sorry but I can't leave them."

It won't take long before folks start going to the married priests for some things, and the celibate priests for other things. I'm not sure the celibate priests will appreciate all the extra work. But maybe it will work out. Meanwhile, the married priests, because of other concerns, or their age, may not be as active as people imagine.

I think you'll still have priests leaving the priesthood, even if they are married.

In short, I think allowing married men to be ordained as a priest just trades new problems for old.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I think few bishops or priests would want to propose such a prayer, because it would be too easily misunderstood at this point.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a matter of being "unfair," but more the sarcasm.

There are a lot of clergy who disagree with you on form III Penance. I'd love to get into an involved discussion on it with you--a pastoral and theological give-and-take.

As for much of the rest, you present caricature, rather than sound points underscoring your preferences in ministerial practice.

I don't agree that you are "terrible." But I'm not sure what the point of this blog post is, other than indulge a sense of smug superiority over your brother priests.

job said...

On the training of married men in a seminary situation, I suggest that you contact the people who hold your position -- or something like it -- at the Greek Orthodox Seminary in Boston MA and at the Seminary of the OCA at Saint Vladimir's in Crestwood NY. It should be an interesting and enlightening conversation!

Fr Martin Fox said...


"Sarcasm" is a matter of taste--just as food can be too salty for some, not for others, so commentary can be too sharp or too soft--so I can't really argue with you on that one.

But "caricature"? No, I don't agree; I think I was careful to qualify my descriptions of the people involved, and their purposes--based on their own words and actions.

"Smug superiority"? No, my point is precisely to puncture such "smug superiority."

You really don't see any "smug superiority" in this group claiming to be superior devotees of Vatican II, to be distinctive--from other priests--in how they serve and wash others' feet?

If not, then of course you don't see the point of my post, which was to challenge that mindset.

Anonymous said...

This is the caricature list:
> We're birthing a new Church.
> Overhaul our parish churches, destroying, smashing, removing ...
> Throw out catechisms
> Turn the altars around
> Downplaying devotions
> Removing tabernacles
> No more Latin and chant.
> It's no longer important to celebrate the liturgy faithfully ...

None of which I've ever heard in the context of authentic reform.

Granted, I may, from time to time, hear a catechist make silly suggestions about music, or a priest silly suggestions about liturgy. But by and large, one is hard-pressed to say post-conciliar Catholicism was usurped by puppets and canvas and greasepaint.

Your readership likely lacks the "mindset" you set out to challenge. Hence my suggestion for a real dialogue with a real person who can keep you on track.

Father Z has made a cottage industry, literally, by conducting conversations with himself. You can do better. You are grounded in a diocesan priesthood, in a parish, and with a bishop.


Fr Martin Fox said...


Look, I can accept the suggestion that I offered acerbic commentary; I'm not convinced that's a big deal, but...OK.

But no, that is definitely not a "caricature list."

Every single thing I described happened--to a very great degree--in the life of the Church in the years after Vatican II; and, more to the point, were presented to the faithful, and the clergy, as expressions of, or demanded by, Vatican II.

Do I have to make a post six times longer, citing chapter-and-verse, in order show the truth of what I said? That is a bit much.

That said, we can take them one-by-one. Let me know which.

I'm not sure what this has to do with Fr. Z, other than that I acknowledged a large number of his readers here, which I think is polite.

Unknown said...

Father Fox speaks of the Second Vatican Council as if it was a museum piece rather than a dynamic continuing process of understanding, dialogue, and pastoral implementation. I am a member of AUSCP because it has provided vision and energy and solidarity to live and embody who we are as Church.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Thanks for visiting.

Actually, I said I looked forward to:

...a true appreciation and application of Vatican II, as well as a recognition that Vatican II isn't the first or last word on what it means to be Catholic.

Vatican II will take its place as part of the Church's treasures, not as the sole treasure, nor as the sole lens through which everything we believe is viewed.

May I ask you some things, since you identify yourself as a member of AUSCP: Do you agree with Father Cooper characterizing your group as especially devoted to Vatican II--implying rather strongly that priests coming after you, are not?

Do you agree with the comparison of your group as being about "service" and priests coming after you seeing themselves as "rulers"?

Do you really think that's fair? And is it really how you hope to unite and build up priests?

Can you see why priests who do come after you might not appreciate that kind of characterization?

Anonymous said...

"But no, that is definitely not a 'caricature list.'"

On the point of the uniformity of front-and-center tabernacles, it certainly seems so. That practice has never quite been universal, and it was presented to the Church in Eucharisticum Mysterium that a uniformity in that architectural piece is not particularly desirable. If you don't like it, you have to pin it on Rome.

I appreciate your concession that your commentary was acerbic. And no, longer posts are unnecessary. Why not just make your case without engaging the flashpoints? As for Fr Z: you brought him up in a post that seems to have little or nothing to do with him. Not I. Again, if it doesn't fit, why use it?


Fr Martin Fox said...

On the point of the uniformity of front-and-center tabernacles, it certainly seems so. That practice has never quite been universal, and it was presented to the Church in Eucharisticum Mysterium that a uniformity in that architectural piece is not particularly desirable. If you don't like it, you have to pin it on Rome.

Who claimed that a front-and-center tabernacle was a universal practice? Not I.

What did I say: I said: "Removing tabernacles from the central point in a parish church."

See that? Very different.

As for Fr Z: you brought him up in a post that seems to have little or nothing to do with him. Not I. Again, if it doesn't fit, why use it?

Heh. I "brought him up" to acknowledge that he kindly linked this article, and bunch of people from his site showed up. It's a fairly common custom to acknowledge and welcome such visitors.

How would you have suggested I do it?

Anonymous said...

"What did I say: I said: 'Removing tabernacles from the central point in a parish church.'"

Accurately, as part of a laundry list of the perceived sins of others. Part of a caricature of a situation in Catholic culture that is quite a bit more complicated.

"How would you have suggested I do it?"

Not mention it at all. Keep to the focus of your criticism. Avoid the tartness of the commentary.

Comments taken our of context are innocent enough. It's the pile on that your critics found lacking.


Fr Martin Fox said...


I'm sorry, but I think you're being a little shifty. You fault me--on the tabernacle business--not for what I said, but for a straw-man argument you posed.

When I set it straight, you offer nothing of substance. I renew my invitation to point to any of my points and show how it's a caricature. On the tabernacle question, you've so far offered nothing.

But OK, it's your view that I should not welcome a flood of visitors to my site.

I disagree; I welcomed the Fr. Z readers, and the PrayTell readers. If a bunch of readers come from your blog, or any other site, I'll welcome them too.

Anonymous said...

It's heartening to see the re-cast post.

It wasn't my intention to be "shifty," but merely to respond to your questions and doubts about the matter of caricature and the tone of the original essay.

I think it's a good thing that people from outside our trusted circles can influence and be influenced by us. And on that note, time, perhaps, to move on.


Fr Martin Fox said...


OK, thanks for your thoughts.

Again, to be clear: I don't accept the charge that how I described the misfires associated with implementing Vatican II as "caricatures." That's why I left that part of my post as it was.

Liz H. said...

I'm a pray tell reader and read all the posts. You took a lot of flack from some readers but remained civil throughout. I'm glad you re-cast your post. I'm 56 and love the liturgy of the NO.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Don and Liz:

Thanks for visiting and for your kind words.

FYI, I love the liturgy of the newer Mass too. If you only recently visited, you may have seen several items on the older form, which is something "new" to me.

Tony said...

Todd said:

This is the caricature list:
> We're birthing a new Church.

"Summoned by the god who made us, rich in our "diversity"...

Many believe the Church began after Vatican II. There are also those who believe the Church ended at Vatican II.

I used to be the latter, I'm getting better at a more "balanced" approach to Catholicism

> Overhaul our parish churches, destroying, smashing, removing ...

We called that "renovation" in our Church. They removed the altar rail, they took the crucifix out of the sanctuary, and replaced it with a huge gold seated Jesus holding a host and a cup. (Many referred to Him irreverantly as "the golden calf")

The crucifix was left in the dark and the end of one of the side aisles. The tabernacle was placed in a "eucharistic chapel" which was one of the least visited parts of the church.

> Throw out catechisms

In some 20 years, I never heard doctrine preached from the ambo. Oh, I heard a lot of anti-war stuff, and assorted "social justice" themes. Oh, the associatet spent a number of nights in jail for protesting at a military base.

> Turn the altars around

It wasn't so much turning the altars around as turning the priest around. No longer were we worshiping in the same direction. He could now see our experssions and there was a temptation to "Johnny Carson" the mass. One pastor liked to come off the ambo and mingle with "the audience".

> Downplaying devotions

What's a devotion?

> Removing tabernacles

See above. re: Wrecktovation.

> No more Latin and chant.

What's Latin and chant?

> It's no longer important to celebrate the liturgy faithfully ...

Out current visiting priest starts out the mass with "The Lord is with you." He also ad-libs during the consecration giving a number of us concerns as to whether communion is valid. To his credit, our current pastor is spot on (though our deacon is a little "age of Aquarius"; He reiterates that 99% of people are going to heaven, and the Concil of Trent said that the Eucharist has the power to forgive serious sin.)

But I am learning not to be angry about having my right to the Mass done right violated. I just kind of go with the flow and pick serious hills on which to "die".

I teach RCIA, and I use that as an outlet for my traditional bent. :)

Tony said...

Fr. Fox,

You are correct about the duties of a deacon clashing with duties to family.

I am currently in the application process for admission to the formation program. It has been made clear to me that my marriage and family will come second (after God) and my diaconal duties would come after.

I have even been asked to go with my wife to the diocese marriage counselor to clarify our relationship with our adult daughters and whether a diaconal vocation would affect them adversely.

The diocese takes this stuff really seriously.

Unknown said...

Truth be told, I don't know why you even bothered to argue with those pray tell folks. They were itching for a fight and you gave them one. As with all things, consider the source....

Fr Martin Fox said...


You have a point.

As it is, when they put up a post raking me over the coals, without bothering to quote anything I said except an innocuous welcome to visitors from another site, I thought it was important to challenge the narrative they were trying to shape.

And to the extent that interaction helped me refine my thoughts, that is to the good.

Tancred said...

I haven't had a chance to look at the reworded post, but this is the same kind of rhetoric they employed during the Council in the first place.

Avoid substance at all costs, attack and isolate those who want to address it.

If there's an end to priestly solidarity and we can now expect more clergy in positions of authority calling out these ne'er do wells, thank God, it's precisely what the embattled but stalwart faithful Catholic needs to hear.

He knows people like Pray, Tell are less than honest, but it's encouraging to hear it from one's superiors as well.

Tom said...

caricature: exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of parts or characteristics.

Whatever can or cannot be said about Fr Fox's list given above, it is not accurate to characterize it as "ludicrous distortion."

Anonymous said...

I found your commentary - in both forms - to be accurate and reasonable. That some seem to have a tremendous sensitivity towards the pointing out of the grave problems that have occurred in the Church in the past several decades, and are still occurring, I think points to something very significant but I shall not engage in speculation. I found some commentary at Pray Tell positively laughable - young, orthodox priests "hold the whip hand." Please! Tell me one diocese where that is true from top to bottom, and I'll move there! Not even in Lincoln is such a characterization wholly true.

The below is strictly my take. I am a convert to the Faith. As I studied the Faith after my conversion, I became more and more unsettled at the wide gulf I found between what the Church really believed, had constantly believed, and what I saw practiced and taught in every parish I was exposed to. It seemed like there were two different religions - the true, "offiical" religion, and the "practical" religion that was evident in all those parishes I attended or visited. The "practical" seemed awash in very liberal sensibilities and with an inordinate concern for this world, with our life in the next almost an afterthought. I heard much talk that salvation was assured, and that all those stuffy old beliefs had been officially disowned and we were in on the beginning of a radical new enterprise, a much more human enterprise. And when I read the great Church Fathers, or Aquinas, or Garrigou-LaGrange, I thought, how can they teach this, which is something so very different to what the Church believed and practiced for its entire history? And how can they continue to tout all these same practices they've carried on for the past several decades, when the result has been mass desertion of the Faith, closed parishes, shuttered schools, millions gone from the Sacraments, etc, etc? By every measurable statistic, the Church has declined tremendously in developed countries in the past 40 years. How can those involved in this auto-demolition, as Pope Paul VI called it, ignore all the signs of destruction? How can they continue to pursue the same failed heterodoxy and heteropraxis?

I have been led to conclude, whether by the Spirit or my own fallen nature, I know not (I pray the former!), that there was a revolution in the Church in the mid-20th century that wreaked untold havoc on the Faith. I think the reaction to this post, which I think a rather moderate one, is quite telling.

The revolution has to be successful, it has to be the will of God and the Council, or else what these people have perpetrated in the past 50 years is of another source entirely.

I thank you for this post. I thank God that more and more souls are seeing the light, when it comes to the errors that have shaken the Church to its very foundations in the past 50 years.

Larry Denninger said...

This was an excellent post, Fr Fox. You're to be commended for your civility, precision, and grace. God bless.

Terry Nelson said...

Fr. Fox is your second version is better than the first - and pretty much substantiates the first as well. I believe you have presented the more objective, and accurate understanding regarding Vatican II. My post on the response from Pray Tell was originally intended to point out the irony of the pendulum swing and the response of progressives - who now apparently feel threatened.

It's too much for me to get into, but it is good to see Vatican II rehabilitated by priests such as yourself.

As for acerbic - it's a tough call.

You do a fine job. Prayers for you and the good work you do.


Dr. Aaron Rose-Milavec said...

Fr. Fox,

I agree with you that no group of priests should characterize another group as "unfaithful." Yet, in a church that is too often bent upon silencing all discussion of the tender issues, it would appear that everyone has much to gain by recapturing the practice of open and charitable exchanges.

With the renewal of the Church following Vatican II, many priests had anticipated a relaxation of the rule of celibacy. The adamant position taken by Paul VI in his encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus killed any hope for compassionate change. Many Spirit-filled priests, facing a crisis of conscience between their call to ministry and their call to marriage, decided to apply for laicization. All told, 200,000 priests worldwide left their ministry in order to marry. Those who stayed called for more collegiality and more discussion on this matter. In 1970, nine German theologians, including Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), signed a letter publically calling for a fresh discussion of the rule of celibacy.

In 1971, an open discussion on obligatory priestly celibacy erupted at the Synod of Bishops at Rome that was devoted to the growing problems confronting priests. After days of deliberation, a vote was taken on a proposal for ordaining married men "if the needs of the faithful warranted it and the pope approved." The proposal was defeated by a vote of 107 to 87. If the curial bishops had been removed from the voting, then the vote of the bishops-pastors would have carried the day. Nonetheless, when Paul VI closed the Synod, he said, "From your discussions, it emerges that the bishops from the entire Catholic world want to keep integrally this absolute gift [of celibacy] by which the priest consecrates himself to God." This, of course, was a lie. He should have said, "From your discussions, it emerges that more than half of the bishops from the entire Catholic world favor returning to the earlier practice of ordaining married men while the curial bishops here in the Vatican are almost unanimously opposed to this course of action." Here again one can gauge how Paul VI manipulated the Synod and conspired with the curia to maintain the illusion that clerical celibacy was universally approved by the bishops.

Today bishops and priests from every continent are again speaking openly about married priests. Would you encourage such discussion if it is done openly and charitably? Why so?

Anonymous said...


I think both you and the AUSCP smack of smug superiority.

There - now everyone has been chided.


Fr Martin Fox said...


Where and when did I claim any superiority?