Dr. Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture has an excellent series of short commentaries on Vatican II going. So far, it includes:
- A funny thing about Vatican II . . .
- The English Editions of the Documents of Vatican II
- Vatican II on the Liturgy: Introduction
- Vatican II on the Liturgy: Overview & General Norms
- Vatican II on the Liturgy: Particular Norms & the Eucharist
- Vatican II on the Liturgy: Related Concerns
- Vatican II on Social Communication
- Vatican II on the Church: Introduction
- Vatican II on the Church: The Mystery
Mirus’ point is painstakingly clear. Vatican II was, and is, great. The problem isn’t with the texts themselves, or even with the Council’s intent in promulgating the texts. The problem is with the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Frequently, and this is what I found so surprising, those who claim to be adhering to the “Spirit of Vatican II” brazenly violate the letter of Vatican II. To take the obvious example: those who long for Latin in Mass are derided as having a “pre-conciliar” attitude, yet Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, says, “Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”
In other words, Vatican II’s vision of the Mass is one in which elements (such as the readings) were in the vernacular, but other elements (such as some of the prayers) should remain in Latin, and people should just be taught what they mean. St. Mary’s, my own parish, actually does this, and it’s quite nice. The Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) and Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy”) are usually sung in Latin, but because most Catholics today have heard them both in Latin and English, there’s no real confusion about what they mean. People aren’t just mumbling meaningless Latin (the problem Vatican II sought to remedy). They’re praying a Latin prayer which they understand (even those who can’t translate word-for-word grasp the gist of the prayer).
So Mirus is using the texts of Vatican II to show that:
- The Second Vatican Council is an authentic magisterial Catholic Council worthy of respect.
- The Council didn’t “sing a new church into being,” or any such nonsense. It is another in a series of Catholic Councils which reformulated the Faith, without altering it in any way.
In showing these two points, Mirus affirms what Pope Benedict calls the “hermenutic of continuity.” The Vatican Council didn’t create a new Church: it swept out some cobwebs in the One Church we’ve got. There are certain traditionalists who imagine that Vatican II created some new and evil Church, and Modernists who imagine that Vatican II replaced some old and evil Church, but they’re both wrong. The Church, before and after the Council, is the Bride of Christ.