Today was celebrated the funeral Mass for Pope Benedict XVI, a loving and gentle father whose concern for the spiritual good of all the faithful was most deeply manifested through his encyclical Sumorum Pontificum. The Ecclesial career of Fr. and later Cardinal Ratzinger, who would succeed St. John Paul II in the Petrine office as Benedict XVI, showed a commendable willingness to adapt his views from the abstract notions of the young intellectual to the concrete realities and challenges facing the Church. What I mean is that Benedict, like his predecessor, made valiant efforts to reconcile the novel teachings of Vatican II with longstanding Church tradition. History remains to judge whether their attempts to “square the circle” known as Vatican II succeeded or failed.
At this time we can only give both Pontiffs credit for making the effort, an effort which cost Benedict a great deal of opposition, criticism, and mental anguish. Although himself a progressive young periti or theological expert at the Council, time began to reveal that much of the Second Vatican Council was in fact a substantial miscalculation. I mean that instead of healing the rift between the Church and the modern world which the young, idealistic Fr. Ratzinger undoubtedly imagined to be possible, i.e., that the Church would finally convert the world through the means of modern social communications, in fact just the opposite occurred: secular values quickly invaded the Church.
Rather than the Church acting as a leaven in the world, the leaven of the world began to act within the Church through the power of those same means of social communication which flooded both clergy and faihful with its own secular messaging. Within the Church itself “pastoral” became the new catchword for “anything goes” while moral theology became hopelessly confused with sociology. The Council inadvertently opened those floodgates by allowing an admixture of true, long held doctrine to be sprinkled with subtle errors. This occurred when the former clarity in Church pronouncements was replaced by a verbal ambiguity in which, if one carefully reads the documents produced at Vatican II, one can sense the parsing of terms and even internal contradictions throughout many of those same documents. One consequence of the new “pastoral” guidelines being that a whole generation of clerics was trained to believe that the Catholic Church is no longer essential to salvation, therefore one can use means outside the Church to be saved. From this it is but a short step to the belief that all men, at least those of reasonably good will, are to be saved. The problem is that this teaching is not a part of the Apostolic tradition.Continue reading