When someone justifies something by invoking “in the spirit of Vatican II,” orthodox Catholics tend to wince. The phrase was ubiquitous in the ’70s and ’80s.
It could be associated with something as minor as deviations from the Liturgy or something as major as the ordination of female priests in violation of eternal Catholic doctrine. Generally speaking, the phrase resulted from the kind of simplistic one-dimensional (but influential) thinking that dominates journalism in the US. Allegedly, someone is either moderate, liberal, conservative, or “far-right,” a pejorative reserved for the majority of Americans who hold some social conservative beliefs.
No nuance. Ideology can be found on a one-dimensional line.
There is no question that Vatican II was pastorally Populist. It emphasized the critical importance of the renewal of a zealous and authentic Catholicism as practiced by the laity. It restructured the Church to make it more pastorally suited to operate in a Populist world — emphasizing religious liberty, ecumenism, and collegiality. Because a Populist State professes ignorance on advanced theological matters, the Church was in essence pastorally forswearing the temporal power that came with Christendom, where the State looked to the Church to define the boundaries of Revealed Law and Natural Law under which the State could operate. The ability to define such boundaries of the State clearly comes with temporal power. At the same time, collegiality and ecumenism armed the Church with the tools necessary to build as wide as possible a consensus on the truths of Natural Law.
How does this look to the New York Times Editorial Board? (As the most influential and agenda-setting publication for the entire media industry, I will use them as a proxy).
Let’s imagine we were to operate under the assumption that ideology was a one-dimensional continuum between liberal and “far-right” as Progressives on the NYT Editorial Board simply love to assume. The Church forswearing its temporal authority looks “liberal.” The Catholic Church is seemingly taking steps to go from a “far right” theocracy (we are trying to be NYT-level simplistic here) towards something else. Therefore, the Church must be taking steps to become more Leftist. Accordingly, women priests, moderate proclamations on contraception must be merely a matter of time. Sadly, this view did not confine itself to the NYT or even the media.
Catholics began to think so too. Hence, various Leftist agenda items began to be classified as “the Spirit of Vatican II.” In other words, operating under the assumption of the progressives (history progressing Leftwards), these Catholics were presciently being obedient to the upcoming Leftist Vatican III (but more safely referred to as the “Spirit of Vatican II”). This is the essence of the Modernist heresy. Truths of the faith change in accordance with the age and the Catholic Church had better catch up with the times!
Most of the proponents of the “Spirit of Vatican II” have, of course, never read the Council documents, which boldly proclaim the eternal truths of the Faith.
Ironically, the Populist Catholicism that is emerging is creating a vibrant ecumenical, pro-religious liberty, collegial Church has launched an unprecedentedly pro-life movement. 60% of Americans now believe abortion should be illegal except in the cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother. 86% oppose the abortion-on-demand of Roe v. Wade. The majority of teenagers are breaking new barriers in a statistical Chastity Revolution.
After a longstanding post-Vatican II decline, there is a Diocesan Seminarian Boom in the United States. The Catholic Diocesan Seminarians situation hit rock bottom in the 2004-2005 academic year after the sex-abuse scandal broke. We are now in an explosive V-shaped recovery with more Diocesan Seminarians than we have had since 1984 – 1985.
Populism entails a belief in democracy.
However, it rejects the idea that Natural Law can be put to the vote. The vibrant lay-driven Catholicism emerging out of Vatican II has strengthened Populism.
The battle is far from over but the Left is reeling.
The one-dimensional Progressive thinkers of the New York Times Editorial Board must be bewildered. The Church liberalized, didn’t it?
The Church Populized. And there is a very, very big difference.