The Talk

Delivered by Dr. John Dudley
April 4, 2013
Fisher More College
This evening’s topic would provide material for an entire book, and I can only hope in the limited time available to give an outline of some of the more striking features of the Faith in Europe. It seemed best to me to give an overall picture of the situation in the first place and then to attempt to provide an analysis of the causes of this situation.
In speaking of Faith in Europe the first question should probably be how many Europeans believe there is a God. The Eurobarometer poll of 2010 carried out by the European Union showed that 51% of Europeans believe there is a God. A further 26% believe there is some kind of spirit or life force, and 20% believe there is neither a God nor any kind of spirit or life force. In the Czech Republic only 16% of the population believes there is a God, in Estonia 18%, in England 37%. It is striking that of the ten countries where more than 50% of the population believes in God all are predominantly Catholic or Orthodox countries. Thus all formerly Protestant countries are now predominantly atheist countries. The three predominantly Orthodox countries, namely Roumania, Cyprus and Greece, have the highest rate of belief in God in Europe with the exception of Catholic Malta.
According to the Eurobarometer survey of 2006 46% of Europeans believe that “the place of religion in our society is too great.”
In 2010 Eurobarometer found that, when asked to pick up to three from a list of twelve ‘values’, only 6% put religion in their top three personal values. The most important values in order of importance for Europeans are peace, human rights, respect for human life, democracy, the rule of law, individual freedom, equality, tolerance, solidarity, self-fulfilment, respect for other cultures, and in the last place, religion.
If we wish to speak about the Faith in Europe, another of the more obvious indicators must surely be Sunday Mass attendance. Here the figures speak for themselves. There has been a dramatic decline in attendance at Sunday Mass in European countries in the past fifty years. Thus in Spain the numbers of those who call themselves Catholics and who attend Sunday Mass dropped from 44% in 1980 to 34% in 1990, 30% in 1995 and 19% in 2005. In Germany 35% of Catholics said they attended Sunday Mass in 1980, in 1990 30%, in 1995 27%, and in 2005 22%. In the Netherlands 36% of Catholics said they attended Sunday Mass in 1980, in 1990 30%, in 1995 19% and in 2005 7%. In addition the number of people who call themselves Catholics has also declined dramatically.
There is no country where Sunday Mass attendance has increased.
Another reflection of faith might possibly be the number of priests who have left the ministry.
In 2008, 49,631 parishes in the world had no resident priest. While the number of Catholics in the world nearly doubled between 1970 and 2008, growing from 653 million to 1.166 billion, the total number of priests declined from 419,728 to 409,166. This means that the ratio of laity to priests has nearly doubled in the last 40 years.
On the basis of statistics sent to the Vatican from the dioceses, from 1964 to 2004, 69,063 priests left the ministry. From 1970 to 2004, 11,213 priests returned to the ministry, making a total of 57,850 priests who left the ministry and did not return, thus a yearly average of 1701. The numbers of priests leaving the priesthood is still running at over 1000 a year. On average priests leave the ministry after 13 years and wait on average for another ten years before applying to the Vatican for laicisation. Of those who ask for a dispensation from priestly duties 50.2% are already in a civil marriage, 14.5% are in a situation of cohabitation, and 35.2% live alone.
Quite a number of ex-priests are accepted by bishops to fulfil ecclesiastical roles, such as teaching religion classes or as teachers in seminaries. There are also associations of married priests who offer priestly services to members of the faithful who are in an irregular situation and cannot use the services of a regular priest. A number of married priests also offer their services to Protestant groups or other sects.
If we compare the situation before the Second Vatican Council we can note a great change. From 1914 until 1962 a total of 810 priests applied to the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith for laicisation, that is an average of 17 per year, and 61% of these applications were rejected. But from 1964 to 1988 a total of 44,890 priests applied for laicisation, that is an average of 1870 per year, and only 8% were rejected.
The total number of Catholics in Europe is around 280 million, compared to only 77 million in North America. But in the fifteen year period from 1985 to 2001 the number of Catholics in North America increased by 20%, whereas the number of Catholics in Europe increased by only 1%. The percentage of priests in this period dropped in North America by 16% and in Europe by 11%.
Apart from the numbers of priests who have left the priesthood, there have been quite a number of priests who have led scandalous lives in Europe, as elsewhere in the world. Some have been pedophiles, some homosexuals, some have fathered children. One of the more famous cases in Europe is that of bishop Casey of Galway in Ireland who fathered a child by a divorced woman in 1974. This was made known to the press in 1992 and marks the beginning of the big decline in the Catholic church in Ireland. A famous case in Belgium is that of Roger Vangheluwe, the bishop of Bruges, whose resignation was accepted by Rome in 2010, when it came to light that he was a pedophile and had abused two of his nephews over a period of 13 years. On 25th February this year the Scottish cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned and did not attend the conclave in Rome after he had been accused of ‘inappropriate acts’ with priests. Needless to say, it is important to see these cases in perspective. Immorality among priests is not something new in the Catholic church. One example that springs to mind is that of Cardinal Wolsey, the famous cardinal at the time of King Henry VIII, who had two illegitimate children. The most famous example is that of Pope Alexander VI who was pope from 1492 to 1503 and fathered 12 children by numerous mistresses. Thus while immorality is not new, what is certainly new is the greatly increased scale of immorality among priests, particularly in comparison with the period from the Council of Trent until the 1960’s.
My thesis in this paper is that the decline in Faith in Europe and indeed elsewhere has led to a decline in moral standards, and that this is clearest of all if we look at the family. Vice versa, of course, the decline in moral standards has led to a corresponding decline in faith.
Let us therefore take a look at the family. When it comes to the family, it seems to me that Christianity has the highest standard of any religion. Thus Christianity is the only religion to prohibit divorce. In fact Christ went so far as to say that any man who so much as looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Even the apostles were surprised at the stringency of Jesus in regard to divorce. Every other religion permits divorce under certain circumstances and thus does not afford the level of protection of the family afforded by Christianity. Let us, therefore, start our examination of family morals with an examination of divorce.
Today the only two countries in the world where divorce is still prohibited are the Philippines and Vatican City. However, that is a very recent development. The origin of modern divorce goes back to the Reformation and begins in Calvinist areas. Thus it was introduced in Calvinist parts of Switzerland in 1547, and Scotland accepted adultery as a ground for divorce in the 1560’s. Divorce was recognised as legal by the US state of Maryland in 1701. However, the first major introduction of divorce in the western world was brought about by the atheist French Revolution in 1792. It was later made illegal again at the restoration of the monarchy in 1816. It was introduced in Prussia in 1794. In England divorce was granted only by an act of Parliament until 1857 and therefore was restricted to wealthy persons, mainly men. In most Catholic countries divorce was not legalised until after the Second Vatican Council. Thus it was legalised in Italy in 1970, in Portugal in 1975, in Spain in 1981, in Ireland in 1996, and in Malta in 2011.
The availability of divorce always leads to greatly increased rates of marital breakdown and finally leads, as we see today, to the decline of the institution of marriage. In 2001 for the first time the annual number of divorces in Brussels for the first time exceeded the number of marriages. I grew up in Ireland, and when I was a child the word divorce was never mentioned except in a whisper as a terrible evil that existed in England. When divorce is not available, then people obviously do not think about it and set about solving their marital difficulties in other ways. It must be difficult for an American audience to even imagine a civilised country where divorce does not exist, as people have become so ingrained with the idea that divorce is a human right. But in reality the reverse is the truth. Each spouse has a right to the love promised by the other, and children have a right to the love of parents for each other. Anyone who gets married with the idea that if it does not work out they can get divorced is in fact not getting married at all, and thus a very large number of marriages are not valid for that very reason.
We may say then that the failure of marriages followed by divorce has led to the decline of faith in Europe and elsewhere, since one cannot be divorced and remarried in the Catholic church (at least without an annulment), and hence those who remarry civilly are excluded from Holy Communion and gradually lose the Faith in many cases.
The existence of divorce is thus the first factor that undermines the Faith. Historically abortion laws have always come after the liberalisation of divorce, and never the reverse. It always surprises me for this reason that in the USA, where there is such a strong campaign for the prohibition of abortion, there is no campaign that I am aware of for the abolition of divorce. Yet the availability of divorce is the root of the liberal mentality that leads to abortion and numerous other evils.
I would like to speak next about adultery, since from time immemorial it has been understood that adultery is the primary cause of the breakdown of marriage. It was understood from the earliest times that marriage needs to be protected by means of a law against adultery. If society abolishes the
law against adultery, then it no longer values marriage. For this reason it is very striking that adultery, which was a criminal offence in every European country, is now no longer a crime in any country. It is not even taken into account in so-called no-fault divorces, so that the party that has been wronged receives no compensation of any kind from the party that has caused the wrong. It is no longer accepted that there is anything wrong with committing adultery and with breaking up a marriage. Clearly in such an atmosphere we are very far from religious Faith.
Thus in Europe adultery has been decriminalised, whereas at the start of 2013 adultery was still a criminal offence in 23 US states. This is a very big difference between Europe and the US. If we look at other continents, adultery is still considered a major crime in numerous African and Asian countries, and is punishable by stoning under Islamic sharia law. In India a man can be sentenced to up to five years in jail, although strangely a woman cannot be punished.
I cannot speak of adultery, the primary and most obvious cause of divorce, without speaking at the same time of contraception. Probably nothing has done more to destroy the family than contraception. In the days before contraception a woman had to be very careful to avoid contacts with men outside of marriage because she could become pregnant. Men likewise had to fear the consequences of fathering an illegitimate child. More than anything else the fear of unwanted pregnancy kept men and women moral. At the same time the Church taught clearly that sex outside marriage is a mortal sin.
The ready availability of contraception has led to a promiscuous society and has led to adultery on the grand scale, thereby destroying numerous marriages. It has made it possible for men to use women as mere objects and for women to use men to gain power. Contraception has led to the dissociation of sex and pregnancy. It has led to the idea that motherhood is something of secondary importance for a woman to be given second place after her career. It has taken love out of marriage by placing a barrier between husband and wife and by making the wife available at any time. Pregnancy is viewed as a threat and a danger. Finally, when contraception does not work, as happens regularly, it leads to the idea that abortion is a right, as a backup to failed contraception. Pope Paul VI in his famous encyclical Humani Vitae in 1967 upheld the Church’s traditional teaching against contraception in the most unequivocal terms. Contraception is a great danger to Faith.
Having talked about contraception, let us move on then to abortion.
Abortion without any restrictions is available in numerous European countries, including Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Denmark, England, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden. It is also available in all other European countries with some restrictions except for Malta. In Ireland it is available only if the life of the mother is in danger, but a considerable number of Irish women seek abortion in England.
The figures for the termination of pregnancies in Europe are lowest in Malta at 1.3% and in Ireland at 5.6%. The figures are much higher in those countries where abortion is readily available. About 12% of all pregnancies are terminated by abortion in Belgium, around 14% in Germany, around 16% in Portugal, 17% in Italy, 19% in Spain, over 20% in France and the UK, over 30% in Hungary, in Roumania 32% down from 76% in 1990 and 1991, the year in which the Iron Curtain fell, in Russia around 45%, down from over 60% in the period from 1960 to 2001.
One needs to bear in mind that the apparent stability in the number of abortions in recent years is falsified by the increase in the availability of the morning-after pill and various means of so-called contraception that in reality cause abortions.
The percentage of pregnancies that are terminated by abortion is clearly influenced by how easy it is to obtain an abortion. It is very clear that in the year in which abortion laws were introduced or liberalised in each European country the number of abortions rose very dramatically. For example, in Italy abortion was illegal until 1978. But as soon as it was introduced the abortion rate rose in one year from almost zero to over 20%. This is an enormous increase even taking into account a certain number of clandestine abortions before legalisation.
Over the past fifty years since the II Vatican Council abortion has been introduced into one European country after another, and Malta and Ireland are the only two countries left where abortion is not available except where the life of the mother is endangered.
By comparison there is no abortion in many Islamic countries, such as Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, in a number of poor Catholic countries, such as the Philippines, El Salvador, Colombia and Chile and a number of black African countries.
One of the outstanding features of American life to a European visitor is the strength of the pro-life movement. Certainly there are pro-life movements in various European countries. But these are nothing like as strong as in the USA. However, I have to say that the abortion rate in the USA is nonetheless comparable to that in most western European countries. Hence I would suggest that the fundamental solution is for society to start leading a more moral way of life.
I would argue that the liberal mentality first shows itself in the demand for the availability of divorce and then in the demand for abortion.
I now turn to ILLEGITIMACY
The liberalisation of divorce and the resulting increase in the breakdown of marriage has led to another phenomenon, namely the gradual disappearance of marriage itself. This is clear from the extraordinary rise in the rate of illegitimacy worldwide. The number of children born outside marriage has risen dramatically in recent years. In developed countries the countries with the lowest numbers are Korea, Japan and Greece with under 10%. Between 10% and 20% of all children born in Switzerland and Italy are born outside of marriage. The figure is between 20 and 30% in Poland, Canada, Malta and Lithuania, between 30 and 40% in Slovakia, Luxemburg, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Australia, Portugal, the Czech Republic, the USA, Austria and Hungary, between 40% and 50% in Finland, the Netherlands, Latvia, Belgium, the UK, Denmark, New Zealand, between 50 and 60% in Bulgaria, France, Slovenia, Sweden, Norway, Mexico and Estonia, and the world leader in illegitimate children is Iceland with 65% of all children born outside of marriage. The average is 38% in all developed countries. It should be noted that couples living in so-called civil partnerships are considered for these statistics to be married. Thus 38% of all children are born to parents with no official commitment to one another. This means that marriage is no longer considered by a very sizeable percentage of the population in developed countries to be necessary for bringing children into the world. Clearly this attitude is incompatible with Faith, since Faith requires total commitment between spouses.
The most recent attack on the family has been the introduction of same-sex marriage. The sin against nature was first of all made acceptable and popularised in the latter decades of the 20th century. It is now becoming more and more difficult to say anything in public against it. Thus in 2003 a pastor in Sweden was condemned to a jail sentence for a sermon in which he referred to the Bible passages in which the practice is condemned as sodomy, the sin which led God to destroy the city of Sodom.
The time came after the start of the new millenium for homosexuals to claim that their relationship was a marriage, although it is precisely the opposite of a marriage, since the essential complementarity of man and woman is missing. Today even in Catholic schools in Europe children are being taught that they must respect the practice of homosexuality. However, a little over 100 years ago the famous playwright Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labour in England for gross indecency. Today the Prime Minister of Belgium is a practising homosexual. Not that his morality is less than that of the President of France, who openly lives in the Elysee Palace with a concubine, and the former Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, who lived the lifestyle of the most decadent of the Roman emperors. As far as I am aware, there has not yet been a President of the USA who was a homosexual or publicly living with a concubine.
Gay marriage has so far been legalised in 11 countries, of which 8 are in Europe. The first country to do so was the Netherlands in 2001. It has also been legalised in parts of another 3 countries including the USA. Another 11 countries are in the process of passing legislation permitting gay marriage. There can be little doubt that many other countries will follow. However, a number of black African countries, such as Nigeria and Kenya, have reacted strongly against it, as it is entirely contrary to their culture, as indeed it was contrary to the culture of western countries until recent times. In Uganda homosexual practices are punishable by the death penalty for repeat offenders. Similarly if we turn to Islamic countries we find that homosexual practices are punishable by the death penalty in Afghanistan and by prison sentences in Egypt, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Malaysia, where the former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was imprisoned on this basis.
It seems to me ironic that the demand for marriage by homosexuals is continuing to grow, while at the same time the percentage of heterosexual couples still wanting to get married is continually declining. Same-sex couples seem to want the respectability of marriage, while more and more heterosexual couples prefer to avoid the level of commitment involved in marriage. What these two phenomena have in common is that marriage and the family are gradually being eroded.
If I was asked, then, to characterise the change in morality that has taken place over the past fifty years I would say in the first place that it was the destruction of the family as the basic unit of society.
But the family is not the only area in which morals have declined in the past fifty years. I would argue that standards have declined in every area of morality. I will mention just one example; namely that of euthanasia. The Netherlands and Belgium (since 2002) and Luxemburg (since 2008) are the only countries so far to have legalised euthanasia, meaning the deliberate killing of a patient at his request. In Switzerland and in the US states of Oregon, Washington and Montana assisted suicide is permitted. This development is also one that is quite clearly incompatible with Faith.
I turn now to the second part of my paper, in which I attempt to analyse the reasons for the extraordinary decline in faith and morals that I have described.
Now if we ask ourselves what is the cause of the decline in faith and morality worldwide in the past fifty years, I would argue that there is not one single cause. There are many causes. Life has become too comfortable and secure. Television, the internet and pornography are another reason. The
scientific mentality which claims to supersede faith is another reason. And one could give a full-length paper about each of these reasons. But in this paper I would like to concentrate on one cause which more than any other has caused the decline in faith, namely the Second Vatican Council.
[Note: The following paragraph was added by the author during the lecture and later added to the text]
The view I will be putting forward is undoubtedly controversial, as there are many who still believe that the Council was a good thing, and that it was good to open up the Church to the world, regardless of the situation I described above. There are also many others who believe there could not be anything wrong with the Council, as they believe that a Council is inspired by the Holy Ghost, and I will address this point. I might add that I remember well how my father, who was a devout Catholic, continued to believe for many years that some good must come of the Council, and I could only reply to him with the gospel phrase that it is by their fruits that you shall know them. The paradox is, then, that the Council, which should have been a good thing, if one were to judge by most previous Councils, turned out to be exactly the opposite.
The Second Vatican Council was opened on 11th October 1962. I remember this event very well. I think I can say that I am the very last of the old generation who remember what life was like under Pope Pius XII and before the Council. I compare Pope Pius XII to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was the last Roman emperor who maintained the empire intact before the barbarian hordes from the East gradually broke down the empire. Marcus Aurelius was a great emperor, but made the mistake of not appointing anyone suitable to be his successor, and Pius XII made the same mistake. [Author’s Note: It is widely believed that Cardinal Siri was the candidate successor favoured by Pius XII, but possibly Pius XII had not appointed sufficient cardinals of similar calibre. Alternatively there is a measure of evidence that some irregularity took place at the conclave of 1958. It certainly came as a surprise that John XIII was elected because of his advanced age.] Although he was pope for 20 years from 1939 to 1959 he only twice held a consistory to appoint new cardinals, one in 1946 and the other in 1953.
Let us examine now what took place at the II Vatican Council. The crucial question at the start of the Council was the composition of the ten conciliar commissions. The Roman Curia prepared its list of candidates who supported the traditional teaching of the Church. In return the liberal bishops from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and France and their allies around the world prepared a counter-list of liberal candidates. The organiser of the liberal group was Cardinal Frings, archbishop of Cologne. I would have liked to meet him, but was unfortunately unable to do so, although I lived in the same house as he did from 1975 to 1978, just a five-minute walk from Cologne cathedral which you can see on the advertisement for this evening’s talk. But he had had a stroke and so was not accessible. However, I did meet the liberal Belgian cardinal Suenens in 1975 and would like to tell you the conversation so as to give you an idea of his mentality. I said to him: “Your Eminence, I am very concerned that there are so few vocations to the priesthood at the present time.” He looked at me and understood exactly what I meant, as he was a highly intelligent man, and he replied: “I will put you in contact with a very good pentecostalist house.” I too understood exactly what he meant. Not only was he not concerned at the lack of vocations, but actually did not want any vocations. After the Vatican Council the 11 bishops of Belgium all closed their seminaries and left just one study-house, where for many years the number of new seminarians each year has been under ten. In 2010 and 2011 there were five new candidates, although before the council there had been hundreds of new seminarians each year in Belgium. From 1988 onwards a considerable number of young men who wanted to become priests came to Holland to be trained, because they were actively discouraged in Belgium. The result is that within a very short time there will be almost no priests left. When I arrived at the Catholic University of Louvain in 1972 every religious order had a study-house in the town. The Jesuits had two houses and the Franciscans had three. In a town of
60,000 inhabitants one had a choice of over a hundred masses one could go to on a Sunday and many priests said mass privately. Today there are about ten masses left in the entire town.
Now at the Vatican Council, of the candidates elected to the Council commissions well over 50% belonged to the liberal group. This is something that had never happened before in the history of the Church. At the First Vatican Council in 1870 there had been a group that opposed the declaration of papal infallibility. But this group amounted to only about 20%. The dominance of liberal bishops in the commissions at the II Vatican Council led to documents that are filled with liberal ideas and brought about the tidal wave of destruction that followed the Council, as I now aim to show. The young Fr. Ratzinger had been the liberal adviser of Cardinal Frings at the Council. But in 1969 he declared in a radio interview that the Church was going through an era similar to the French Revolution and that it was fighting against a force that intended to annihilate it definitively. On 29th June 1972, on the 9th anniversary of his coronation, Pope Paul VI declared that through a crack the smoke of Satan had entered into the Church.
Now if one wishes to destroy the Catholic church from within, clearly the first and best way to do so is to destroy the heart of the Church, namely the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and that is precisely what took place at the Second Vatican Council. Let us see what happened.
The task of the Council was to examine the texts of constitutions and decrees that had been prepared in advance, to amend these texts and then to vote on them. These texts or schemas had been prepared for 3 years and 5 months before the Council. 20 texts were prepared. In July 1962 seven of these were sent to the bishops of the world. The 17 bishops of Holland met in ‘s Hertogenbosch (incidentally in the building where I later taught philosophy for 10 years) and they decided they did not like the first 4 texts. But they liked the 5th one on the liturgy and suggested it should be dealt with first at the Council. They then asked the Belgian Dominican Fr. Schillebeeckx to draw up a commentary on the text. Fr. Schillebeeckx (born 1914 and d. 2009) was the official theologian of the Dutch hierarchy and professor of theology at the Catholic University of Nymegen, where I taught philosophy for five years. I remember seeing Fr. Schillebeeckx cycling on his bicycle through the streets. Fr. Schillebeeckx came strongly under the influence of phenomenology, and notably under the influence of the atheist Heidegger, born 1889, d. 1976, probably the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. Schillebeeckx had studied in Paris where he met representatives of the New Theology movement, including Marie-Dominique Chenu and Yves Congar. He also studied the Protestant theologian Karl Barth. Schillebeeckx was very influential at the Council, as he drafted speeches for Cardinal Alfrink of Holland, and had a major influence on chapter III of Lumen Gentium, on the collegiality of bishops, which restricts the authority of the Pope. In the postconciliar period he supported the abolition of the obligation of celibacy for the clergy. In 1974 he published Jesus An Experiment in Christology, in which he effectively denied the resurrection as a historical fact. In later works he defended the view that ordination to the Catholic priesthood is not derived from the apostolic succession. This Fr. Schillebeeckx, then, proposed that the first four texts to be examined at the Council should be completely rewritten, and he wrote an anonymous commentary supporting the fifth one on the liturgy which had been prepared by a large number of German, Dutch and Austrian bishops. The commentary of Fr. Schillebeeckx was translated into Latin, French and English and distributed to the Council Fathers as they arrived in Rome. The outcome was that the text or schema on the Liturgy was dealt with first at the Council.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was finally approved at the second session of the Council. Let us see now what it said. I cannot quote the full text and so have chosen significant passages:
§25 “the liturgical books are to be revised as soon as possible…”
§30 “…the people should be encouraged to take part [in the liturgy] by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes.”
§31 “In the revision of liturgical books, it should be carefully provided that the rubrics take the role of the people into account.”
§33 mentions that the priest “presides over the assembly”.
§34 In the revision of the liturgy “the rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension.”
§35 (1)“There is to be more reading from holy Scripture, and it is to be more varied and suitable.”
(2) The character of the sermon “should be that of a proclamation of God’s wonderful works in the history of salvation…”, which I might paraphrase as meaning that there are to be no sermons about sin or hell.
§35 (4) “Bible services should be encouraged…on Sundays and feast days. They are particularly to be commended in places where no priest is available; when this is so, a deacon or some other person authorized by the bishop should preside over the celebration.”
§36 “Since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy may frequently be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended…It is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority…to decide whether and to what extent the vernacular language is to be used…”
§37 “Even in the liturgy the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity…Rather she respects and fosters the spiritual adornments and gifts of the various races and peoples. Anything in their way of life that is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself…”
§38 “…the revision of liturgical books should allow for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions and peoples, especially in mission lands.”
§40 “In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed…The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority…must…carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and genius of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship…”
§50 “Elements [of the Mass] which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are to be discarded…”
§53 “Especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation there is to be restored…’the prayer of the faithful’. By this prayer, in which the people are to take part, intercession will be made for holy Church, for the civil authorities, for those oppressed by various needs, for all mankind, and for the salvation of the whole world.”
§57 “It has seemed good to the Council to extend permission for concelebration…”
§58 “A new rite of concelebration is to be drawn up…”
I might also add that on 7th November 1962 Pope John XXIII also made a speech in which he favoured the use of the vernacular language in the Mass. Among other things he said: “Christian life is not a collection of ancient customs.”
Based on the texts I have quoted it is not surprising that experiments in the liturgy took place, as they are expressly authorised by the Second Vatican Council. I remember a photo in the newspaper around 1966 of a Jesuit priest in Holland who decided to say Mass without any vestments at an office desk. All of the experiments and adaptations of the modern Mass that have taken place and continue to take place have a firm foundation in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
We need to be aware that the modern Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 is simply an implementation of the instructions laid down by the Second Vatican Council. It is also important to know that this modern Mass is identical with the Anglican Communion Service word for word except for the words of the consecration. In other words the Vatican Council laid down norms that made it possible to draw up an ecumenical Mass that could be said by a Protestant minister except for the words of the consecration. This modern Mass is said facing the people and is open to a long series of other abuses. At best it is a watering down of the traditional Mass, and the essence of the Mass, namely the Sacrifice, has been completely toned down. At very best the modern Mass is a pale shadow of the traditional Mass and does not provide the same level of graces that Catholics in the modern world so badly need. [Author’s Note: Some changes are merely stated implicitly. For example, the Council did not prescribe that the Latin language was to be abolished worldwide in the Mass. But it prescribed that “the prayer of the faithful” was to be introduced, which could hardly be said in Latin and therefore inevitably led to the abolition of Latin.]
I might add as a personal note. As a teenager I remember thinking, when the Constitution on the Liturgy was published, that instead of lowering standards by having Mass in the vernacular, it would be better to improve educational standards, so that everyone could follow the Mass in Latin. There is nothing utopian in that, as up to less than 200 years ago the ordinary people of Ireland had quite a good mastery of Latin.
When the proposal was made at the Council that people should be allowed freedom to go to Mass on a different day than Sunday, I remember thinking that it would be good if people were obliged to go to Mass on Sunday and also on another day of their choice during the week to counteract the influences of the modern world. But all of the proposals made at the Council led to a lowering of standards.
We may be very grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for having restored to honour the Tridentine Mass. However, it needs to be pointed out that the way this was done shows a reversal of the correct scale of values. The Tridentine Mass in the motu proprio is referred to as the extraordinary form of the liturgy and the Mass of Paul VI is referred to as the ordinary form. In reality the Tridentine Mass should be referred to as the ordinary form of the Mass, as it is the age-old form of the Mass with parts going back to the early Church.
With the motu proprio we are therefore very far from a restoration of the Tridentine Mass. The reason is because any restoration of the Tridentine Mass, the traditional Mass of the Church, would involve a rejection of the Second Vatican Council, and in fact all traditional Catholics of the present time de facto reject the Second Vatican Council, since they reject the norms for the Mass laid down by the Council.
The question therefore arises whether Catholics should reject the Second Vatican Council. This is a question that traditionalists shy away from, and I think wrongly so. The first answer to that question is to point out that the II Vatican Council was not a dogmatic Council. In his opening address on
11th October 1962 Pope John XXIII stated clearly that the Council was to be pastoral in character with the intention of using new methods to propagate the Catholic Faith. There is therefore nothing binding in the documents of the Council. As we have seen, the Council was taken over by the liberal bishops and its documents have been rightly described as time bombs that exploded as soon as the Council was over. Secondly, there is the question whether the Holy Spirit guided the II Vatican Council. On 25th November 1962, on his 81st birthday, Pope John XXIII spoke to the students of the Propaganda Fide College in Rome and told them that he was convinced that God was guiding the Council. That means, of course, that he did not consider it to be a dogma that the Holy Spirit was in fact guiding the Council. My personal reflection is that the Holy Spirit is after all holy, and therefore only present when a Council is seeking holiness. But the clearly stated purpose of the Council was not holiness but aggiornamento, the Italian word for modernisation, bringing the Church into line with the modern world, which is not the same as holiness. It cannot be the case that documents filled with liberal ideas could be binding on Catholics. Pope Benedict XVI was deeply conscious of the problem of harmonising the II Vatican Council with Church teaching prior to the Council. As Cardinal he admitted that Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, was an anti-syllabus, meaning a direct contradiction of the syllabus of errors published by Pope Pius IX in 1864. I would argue that it is an dangerous standpoint for Catholics to say that they accept the II Vatican Council with the exception of those passages that contradict traditional Catholic teaching. There are so many passages that contradict traditional teaching that I would argue that it is of the greatest importance to entirely reject the II Vatican Council and to consider it comparable to the Second Council of Ephesus in 449AD which was rejected by the Council of Calcedon in 451. [Editor’s Note: The author later corrected this statement by acknowledging that the better analogy is to use the Second Council of Constantinople, which was a valid ecumenical council but was so deleterious to the life of the Church that it was eventually ignored and forgotten.] Catholics are in general ignorant of what the Second Vatican Council actually said. They need to know what the Council said and to know what is wrong with it and why it is incompatible with their Faith, and this is an important task of education.
We have now examined briefly how the Second Vatican Council laid down norms for watering down the most important part of Catholic life, namely the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In this paper I will restrict myself to just one other, but vital vice of the II Vatican Council, namely its clear implication that it is not necessary to be a Catholic to achieve salvation. Let us examine the Decree on Ecumenism. I quote:
§3 “The differences that exist between them [meaning other Christians] and the Catholic Church do indeed create many and sometimes serious obstacles to full ecclesiastical communion. These the ecumenical movement is striving to overcome.”…”Moreover some, even very many, of the most significant elements or endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church herself can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church.” …”The brethren divided from us also carry out many of the sacred actions of the Christian religion…these actions..can be rightly described as capable of providing access to the community of salvation.”…” These separated Churches and Communities…have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ [whatever that may be] has not refrained from using them as means of salvation…”
“The ‘ecumenical movement’ means those activities and enterprises which…are started and organised for the fostering of unity among Christians. These are…’dialogue’ between competent experts from different Churches and Communities…through such dialogue everyone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the teaching and religious life of both Communions…””…They also come together for common prayer…””…little by little, as the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion are overcome, all Christians will be gathered in a common celebration of the Eucharist into that unity of the one and only church.” “In certain special
circumstances, such as in prayer services ‘for unity’ and during ecumenical gatherings, it is allowable, indeed desirable, that Catholics should join in prayer with their separated brethren…””…As for common worship, however, it may not be regarded as a means to be used indiscriminately for the restoration of unity among Christians. Such worship depends chiefly on two principles: it should signify the unity of the Church; it should provide a sharing in the means of grace.”
The first thing one notices about the decree on ecumenism is that the various Christian denominations are to hold dialogue on a basis of equality. There is no longer any question of conversion. That was certainly not the attitude of Christ to the Pharisees. He did not dialogue with them but called them a brood of vipers. St. Paul did not set out to hold ecumenical dialogue in order to come to a better understanding of the Jews in Greece and Asia Minor. The outcome of 50 years of ecumenism has not been the utopian unity proposed by the Council. On the contrary, the outcome of ecumenical dialogue has been that many Catholics have lost the faith. I remember one boy in my class at school who decided to become a Protestant. I remember very well in 1966 when my parents decided they should attend an ecumenical open air meeting very much against their wishes but because it had been decided by the Vatican Council. There was heavy rain and we stood outside with umbrellas and prayed the Our Father with the Protestants. There was also a sermon by the Catholic priest and the Protestant clergyman and at the end my sister said she thought the Protestant clergyman had given a much better sermon than the Catholic priest.
I just mention these anecdotes to give an idea of the entirely changed atmosphere after the Council. But the really important point, the revolution consists in the fact that the Second Vatican Council openly declares that one can remain outside the Catholic Church and still achieve salvation. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in several books that it was unnecessary for the Jews to convert to the Church in order to achieve salvation. John Paul II kissed the Koran, which denies that God has a son and denies that Christ died on the cross. Pope Benedict took part in a Jewish service in the synagogue in Cologne and prayed in the direction of Mecca with a muslim cleric in the blue mosque in Istanbul. On 27th October 1986 John Paul II prayed with over 100 representatives of different religions in Assisi. These are all fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which declares contrary to all previous Church teaching that salvation is to be found outside the Catholic Church, not just by way of exception, but as a general rule. This is blasphemy and the greatest of all heresies, because it means that it was entirely unnecessary for Christ to die on the cross.
This point was well understood by the German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner, who invented a theory to solve the problem. I was fortunate enough to see Karl Rahner in 1971 at University College Dublin where I was a student. He understood English, but would only speak German and, as far as I could see, considered himself to be enormously important. He had a Jesuit secretary who translated his speech into English. After his conference he answered questions and I remember that a nun asked a question and he replied in German: “I wrote a letter in Latin to the pope about that question last week.”
Karl Rahner was born in Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany in 1904 and died in Innsbruck, Austria in 1984. His doctorate was rejected because he came too much under the influence of Heidegger, who had also been a Jesuit for a time before leaving the Catholic Church. Rahner used to speak of Heidegger as his teacher and Heidegger in his old age used to visit Rahner regularly in Freiburg. Before the Second Vatican Council Rahner worked with Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac and Marie-Dominique Chenu, who were associated with the New Theology movement, parts of which had been condemned by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Humani Generis. In 1962 Rahner was informed by his superiors that he was under precensorship because his views were not orthodox. Rahner, like Schillebeeckx, denied that the Resurrection is a historical event in time and place like the death of Jesus. Rahner also rejected the concept of transsubstantiation in the Blessed Eucharist and proposed
to replace it with “transfinalization”, a theory that was condemned by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Mysterium Fidei. However, a few months after this condemnation by Rome, Pope John XXIII decided to appoint Rahner as an expert to the Second Vatican Council. Rahner was one of seven theologians who worked on Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the Church. The Council’s receptiveness towards other religious traditions may be linked to Rahner’s notions of the renovation of the church, God’s universal salvific revelation and his desire to support and encourage the ecumenical movement. Rahner did not believe there is such a thing as a human being without grace. Grace is a constitutive element of human existence. Rahner is famous for his theory of anonymous Christianity, which is the theory that people who have never heard of the gospel could be saved through Christ. He even held that Christians can learn from other religions and from atheistic humanism because God’s grace is operative in them. The presence of Christ in other religions operates in and through his spirit. Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar also held the view that hell is empty. Now it is thanks to his theory of anonymous Christianity that Rahner could maintain that it did make sense for Christ to die on the cross, since Christ earned the grace for everyone to be saved, since everyone has this grace, even people who never heard of Christ or who rejected him, and thus one can be saved outside the Church without any difficulty and without any need of conversion.
One might ask the question why Pope John XXIII invited well-known unorthodox theologians to be experts at the II Vatican Council. It is clear that as far back as 1925 Pope Pius XI considered it desirable to have Fr. Roncalli removed from Rome. The precise reasons are not clear. But he was sent as a visitor and then as apostolic delegate to Bulgaria where it was thought that he could do no harm. In 1935 he became apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece, again countries where there are almost no Catholics. His great promotion came in 1944 when Pope Pius XII appointed him to the senior diplomatic post of nuncio to Paris. John XXIII unquestionably suffered from naïve optimism. At the opening session of the Council he made a speech in which he said:
“We consider that we should dissociate ourselves entirely from the prophets of doom who continually predict the worst…in their view contemporary society is nothing but ruins and calamities; compared to past centures our era shows nothing but deterioration…”
He announced in regard to the errors of the modern world that he considered it more opportune to apply mercy rather than rigour, and that the Church should show the strength of its doctrine rather than condemn errors. In this regard he went against the tradition of the Church which from the beginning had always condemned heresies and excommunicated those who professed them.
However, the naïve optimism of John XXIII was typical of his time. This optimism began with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, when material and scientific progress led unthinking people to overlook the fact that material progress does not lead to moral progress. The optimism of the era is best reflected in the philosophy of the German philosopher Hegel (born 1769, died1831), the greatest philosopher of the 19th century who believed that the march of history is the march of mankind towards God. It is reflected in the philosophy of Auguste Comte (bron 1798, died 1857), who believed that the third and final era, the positivist or scientific era in human history was beginning in his time. It is reflected in the utopian philosophy of Karl Marx (born 1818 d. 1883) who also believed that the final era in history had arrived when capitalism would finally be overthrown and we would all live in a communist paradise. It is reflected in the naïve philosophy of the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin (b. 1881, d. 1955) who denied original sin and who believed that mankind was evolving towards God whom he called the omega point. This is the era when President Kennedy announced “We go to the moon”. Nowadays it is hard to convey the extraordinary optimism of the 1960’s. Many people believed that the Vatican Council would usher in a new era of the Holy Spirit, when there would be no more talk of sin, but only of love. There was nothing new in this naïve optimism. In the early 13th century Amalric of Bena had already taught at the university of Paris that anyone who remained in the love of God could commit no sin, and his followers taught that he was
the founder of the new era of the Holy Ghost and that there was no hell and everyone sooner or later would go to heaven.
John XXIII seems to have suffered from this naïve optimism. He believed like Socrates that to know what is right is to do what is right. A few days before the closure of the first session of the Vatican Council the Swiss theologian Hans Küng (b. 1928) was invited to speak at the US Bishops’ Press Panel. In his speech he mentioned that John XXIII, when he was asked in private why he had called the Council had gone to his window, had opened it and had said: “Let us let in some fresh air into the Church.”
Like various other followers of the New Theology, Hans Küng was called by John XIII personally to be an expert at Vatican II. It was this action that launched the Swiss Germany theologian into the great winds of world publicity. After he was chosen, Hans Küng would become one of the great, if not the most symbolic, stars of conciliar thinking. It was John XXIII’s vote of confidence that propelled forward the theological career of Küng at the university of Tübingen. Thus the fame of Küng is due largely to John XXIII. Küng wrote his doctorate about the Swiss Protestant theologian Karl Barth. He was the first Catholic theologian in the 20th century to deny papal infallibility, and as a result he was stripped of his right to teach Catholic theology. In 1998 he published a book entitled Dying with Dignity in which he supported euthanasia. However, Küng was never excommunicated and on 26th September 2005 Pope Benedict invited him for a friendly talk at the Vatican, not surprisingly, because it was at Küng’s instigation that Joseph Ratzinger was appointed professor of dogmatic theology also at Tübingen university.
The immediate aftermath of the II Vatican Council saw many priests and nuns opting not to wear distinctive dress, contrary to canon 669 §1 of the code of canon law. Very soon large numbers of them abandoned their vows of celibacy. The Council had stated that the Church needed to be modernised and to adapt itself to the modern world, that the Mass urgently needed to be modernised, and that salvation was to be found outside the Catholic Church. Very soon people drew their own conclusions, namely that Catholic moral teaching was no longer as strict as it had been. The number of people going to Confession and to Sunday Mass began to decline. The big change came in 1968. Up to then the Church had taught that sex outside of marriage was a mortal sin, and the vast majority of young Catholics had tried hard to remain chaste before marriage. But in 1968 this attitude changed entirely. The revolt against authority that swept through the universities of Europe in that year was not so much a revolt against authority as a sexual revolution. From that time it became broadly accepted that premarital sex was natural and even desirable. At the time it was called premarital sex, but since then only sometimes leads to marriage and has very frequently become the rejection of marriage and the acceptance of cohabitation. It was considered unrealistic for young people not to have sex, and the Church was to blame for this, as the Church abolished abstinence on Fridays, fasting before Holy Communion, fasting during Lent and the whole concept of penance and taking up the Cross, all in the name of the II Vatican Council. The abolition of penance and discipline also undoubtedly led to the difficulties that many priests experienced in keeping their vows of celibacy.
I think one might accurately describe the collapse of obedience to the 6th commandment in 1968 as comparable to the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989. Once the 6th commandment was no longer considered binding under pain of mortal sin, the whole edifice of the Church gradually collapsed. Once the self-control required to observe the 6th commandment has been lost, the life of grace is lost, and the whole capacity to live a life of love of God and of one’s neighbour is lost. I will quote just two out of numerous passages in St. Paul:
1 Cor. 6:9: Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals will enter into the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:5: For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a person is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
I think it may be said that the practical abolition of the 6th Commandment has led to the destruction of the family in Europe, as elsewhere, and has led to the collapse of the Faith. But the Second Vatican Council is entirely responsible for this situation. If I was asked to sum up the Second Vatican Council in a single sentence I think I would say that it was an attempt to take the cross out of Christianity, in other words to remove the very essence of Christianity, an attempt to produce a comfortable modern form of Christianity, not the Christianity of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, but a Christianity of the resurrection without the passion and death on the cross.
Another aspect of the same reality was brought about by the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (born 1882, d. 1973). Maritain was born into a liberal Protestant family. He studied at the Sorbonne in Paris where he met his future wife Raïssa who was a Russian Jewess. They were so pessimistic about life that in 1901 they made a vow to commit suicide together if they could not find the meaning of life within one year. However, within one year they did find the meaning of life by attending the lectures of the great French Jewish philosopher, Henri Bergson (b. 1859, d. 1941). Now Bergson has a theory which was to have a major impact on Maritain. He believes there are two kinds of religion, which he calls static religion and dynamic religion. Static religion is what he considers to be primitive religion. In primitive religion there is a god who forbids certain actions and who punishes those who disobey. Life after death is invented so as to enable the primitive god to punish those who disobey. The primitive god is also there so that man can pray to him and get help for what he needs. Bergson did not like this kind of religion. Instead he believed in dynamic religion. The essence of dynamic religion is mysticism. Mysticism is not just a movement towards the life of God but a movement by which the divine life is communicated to mankind, such as the mysticism of the great Christian mystics. God is love and the object of love and desires the transformation of man through love. In 1907 Maritain discovered the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas and went on to become one of the leading Thomists of the 20th century. But he never lost the attitude to religion which he had learned from Bergson. He had a very distinguished career. From 1945 to 1948 he was French ambassador to the Holy See and afterwards taught at Princeton. He defended natural rights, as upheld by the English philosopher Locke, the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution. He is the author of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Maritain was a liberal thinker who favoured a pluralist democratic state and supported the communists in the Spanish civil war from 1936-9. He argued that authority comes from the people, not from God, contrary to Christ’s words to Pontius Pilate. In 1936 Maritain published a book entitled Integral Humanism in which he argued for liberal democracy and opposed the idea of any religion having a privileged position in society. He also gives a naturalistic theory of what is good and bad, that is, a theory that omits God. During the 1950’s Maritain came close to being condemned for naturalism, but avoided condemnation thanks to the support of his long-standing friend Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, who was then substitute secretary of state. While Maritain was ambassador to the Vatican, he used to see Montini on average twice a week, and they frequently dined together. At the second and last consistory he held in 1953, Pope Pius XII refused to create Montini a cardinal, as he had been the unofficial leader of the liberal Catholic faction under Mussolini and had based his ideas on Maritain’s Integral Humanism. Ironically, although Montini was a moderate liberal, if Pius XII had created him a cardinal, the II Vatican Council would probably never have taken place. But after he had become pope, Paul VI dedicated to Maritain his “Address to Men of Thought and Science” delivered on 8th December 1965 at the close of the Vatican Council. He also publicly embraced him in St. Peter’s Square. He openly declared: “I am a disciple of Maritain. I call him my teacher.” In his encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967) Paul VI defended “true humanism” and quoted Maritain as his source. On 30th June 1968 Pope Paul VI read out his solemn profession of the “Creed of the People of God” in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The
author of that profession of faith was Maritain. Paul VI made only minimal changes to the draft prepared by Maritain.
This is the background to the revolution in the presentation of the Catholic Faith since the II Vatican Council. Until then it had been perfectly understood that God rewards the good and punishes the wicked, as clearly stated in the New Testament. We must therefore fear the punishment of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” , as stated in Psalm 111, verse 10, and the same verse is found in the Book of Wisdom: 9: 10. St. Augustine had clearly stated that one of the reasons why there must be a life after death is so that God can reward the good and punish the evil, and this view had even been taken over by the great German non-Christian philosopher Kant. Yet from the time of the II Vatican Council the view of Bergson was propagated, that we must not consider God as a punishing God, and must speak only of love. I quoted above §35 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which says the sermon at Mass “should be that of a proclamation of God’s wonderful works in the history of salvation…”. This new approach to proclaiming the gospel is underpinned by a totally false new vision of man, namely that of the French philosopher Rousseau b. 1712 d. 1778, who inspired modern communism. Rousseau put forward the view that human nature is essentially good, and it was only the introduction of private property that caused it to turn bad. But Aristotle pointed out in the final chapter of his Nicomachean Ethics, thus at the end of ten books about ethics, that ethical treatises are well and good for a few noble-minded young men, but the vast majority of mankind need laws which are backed up by sanctions, precisely because human nature is not naturally good. In fact a law without a sanction is not a law at all. But it is precisely the view of man as having a fallen nature and the need for moral laws backed up by sanctions that is implicitly denied by the Vatican Council.
I might attempt to sum up by saying that the decimation of the Faith in Europe and the destruction of morality that has gone with it over the past fifty years has many causes, as I mentioned above. In fact it has never been easy to be a Catholic, and the forces of opposition in society today are greater than ever. Unless we are well prepared by means of a good education such as that provided by Fisher More College we will find it difficult to survive. But the greatest difficulty we are faced with, and which previous generations did not have to face, is opposition from within the Catholic Church. Until the Vatican Council the enemy was mainly outside the Church, not inside it. Now the enemy is well established inside the Church and I might sum up this enemy as the temptation to take the cross out of Christianity. “Unless a man take up his cross daily and follow me he cannot be my disciple”, says Christ. And so we must say with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane: “If this cup cannot pass, then I must drink it”, and “not my will, but thy will be done.”
Dr. John Dudley
Professor of Philosophy and Classics
The College of SS. Thomas More and John Fisher
Public lecture given on April 4, 2013, slightly modified.
The author welcomes comments of all kinds at

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