jump to navigation

Was there a “great, silent majority” of Catholics opposed to the conciliar “reforms?” January 8, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, disaster, episcopate, error, foolishness, General Catholic, Holy suffering, Latin Mass, paganism, Papa, scandals, secularism, shocking, Society.

My good friend SB lent me a copy of his book A Bitter Trial, which contains the famous British author Evelyn Waugh’s reaction to the developments of Vatican II.  This book is very interesting and has much I would like to pull from it, because it has great relevance today.  For one thing, it is a time capsule, if you will, of the opinions and fears of at least some concerned Catholics at the time of the Council.  I can say, a good number of faithful souls had strong concerns and misgivings even before the Council began, because the progressive party had waged an open war in the press advocating for their revolution in the Church dating back to the pronouncement of the Council in 1958, and growing more and more extreme and shrill as the event neared.  Secondly, the book reveals the hierarchy reassuring these concerned souls that nothing of any substance would change, and indeed, could not change.  Whether these statements from the hierarchy were something the individual bishops believed, or just double-talk, is known only to God, but I have my suspicions.  Thirdly, the book raises serious questions about the dominant opinions in the Church, especially regarding the changes made to the Mass, that this was something the laity had been clamoring for.  The book plainly shows up that at least a very sizable minority wanted no such changes, and quite possibly the large majority were opposed.

Waugh voiced his first public opposition to the trend that was obvious even from the Council’s earliest days – that the progressive faction would very nearly have it all their way – within weeks of the start of the Council’s first session in a long article published in the Spectator in early November 1962.  That article is long and involved, and I shall not quote from it, but I shall quote from two letter’s Waugh received in response to that article, one from Cardinal Heenan, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and Primate of England and Wales, and another from Bishop Dwyer of Leeds.  First, Cardinal Heenan’s letter with my comments and emphasis:

Venerablis Frater – as we say in the Council – I was delighted to see your article.  There is nothing in there with which I don’t agree. But what a pity that the voice of the faithful was not heard sooner. The enthusiasts who write in The Tablet and Catholic Herald are so easily mistaken for the intelligent and alive Catholics.

The real difficulty (I think) is that Continentals are twisting themselves inside out to make us look as like as possible to the protestants. How I wish we could persuade them (a large majority, I fear) that to be at home with our Mass and ceremonies is far more important than being right according to the books of liturgical antiquities….. [Apparently, +Heenan had fallen for the arguments that the Mass as then offered differed wildly from the earliest Christian practice, many of which claims from modernist/progressives at the Council having since been shown to be false, or at least dramatic exaggerations.  Also, it was a formal error, decried by Pope Pius XII, to assert that somehow the “earliest” Christian practice was magically also the “holiest,” or “truest” (the error being antiquariansim). The right response was to reject both the claims of the modernists and to assert the validity and sanctity of the Mass.  One thing is for certain, the “product” that resulted from the Council was even more distant from ancient practice than was the TLM.  I have no argument with his claim that the Germanic minority at the Council sought to protestantize the Church as much as possible, and were sadly quite successful in this]

In my Cathedral, by the way, nobody will be looking in anybody else’s face………..The High Altar is off center and there will be no people behind it.  The road will be clear for priests to bring the Blessed Sacrament at the Communion of the Mass……..[Waugh’s response, after the event: “He went back on all this.”]

——–End Quote——–

The other response to Waugh came from Bishop Dwyer, as already mentioned:

Optime! Optime!, as we conciliar Latinists say.  But why oh why didn’t you write it twelve months ago in the Catholic press so that the inarticulate faithful could be encouraged to roar in support against the articulate few who want to dragoon every unfortunate congregation into a PSA service?  I did my best in the Council with an amendment to keep the damage to the pre-offertory part of the Mass and on Sunday’s only.  This a concession for the poor priests behind the Iron Curtain who are allowed neither to preach or teach but can still say Mass.  Thus with the vernacular in the Mass of Catechumens they will be able to put some Christian doctrine to the people.  [Meh. If the intervention was limited to allow Mass in the vernacular in only those situations of oppression it would have been one thing, but I don’t know if that was the case or not.  Having said that, the way the modernist-progressives operate is such that they will take any foot in the door like that and extend it into a gaping maw.  The rare extraordinary situation soon becomes the norm, as in the case of the “extraordinary” minister of Holy Communion.  But really, was this the best Dwyer could do? I know nothing of him, he may be a Saint, but what about screaming on the floor of the Vatican that what was being discussed simply could not happen? What about trying to organize a response from the laity yourself, good bishop, rather than waiting on them to do so?  What about any of 500 other things that could have been done?  This reminds me of people saying that the only possible response to Obama or some law they don’t like is to vote.  B as in B!  Is that all the left does?!?  Not by a looong shot.]  I’m pretty confident we shan’t have to suffer too much change. [Whatever +Dwyers virtues, predicting the future was not one of them] As for the Sacraments – the thought of some cleric pouring out his soul in the vernacular whilst administering Extreme Unction adds a formerly unknown terror to death! [Yes, but all that came to pass, and “extreme unction” as witnessed by most Catholics is a strange group experience repeated even every week or so, for even the most mild of maladies]

———–End Quote———-

Several things jump out at me: it seems that at least two bishops were of the opinion that by the time the Council even began, many important matters were already more or less decided, and at best all that was left was a rear-guard action to protect as much as possible. They lament that the laity, of all groups in the Church, did not express their dismay at the direction of the Council sooner, as in well before it even began.  Did these prelates really expect some substantial portion of the laity to rise up in opposition to the direction their leaders seemed bent on pursuing, after 100 years or more of ultra-montanism and a long notion that the laity were best seen but not heard?  Was such to be the salvation of orthodoxy and Tradition at the Council?  If so, what a forlorn hope.

In my somewhat extensive reading on the Council, I have gotten the notion that once the prepared schemata were thrown out (a judgment made directly by Pope John XXIII), the more orthodox bishops were thrown on their heels and basically made little or no effective response for the remainder of the first, and decisive, session.  By the time a response did start to form well into the second session, it was already much too late, and those orthodox bishops (the “international” fathers) were in damage-limiting mode, at best. But with both conciliar pontiffs firmly backing the progressive faction, there wasn’t much they could do.  Was there really much hope, then, that even mass opposition by the laity – as unlikely as that was – would have resulted in any real changes?

I do think the progressive meme since the Council that the laity were bored with the Mass, didn’t understand it or get anything out of it, and were clamoring for radical change, has always been false. But I have long been uncertain how much true opposition existed to the changes as they actually occurred. I do know by the time the NO was finally unleashed, at least some folks were just glad the changes were “over” (even though, as every good revolutionary knows, the revolution can never end, there must always be more changes, and there have been, as we experienced with the most recent English translation in 2011).  As far as the broader changes, I am really uncertain what percentage of Catholics eagerly accepted them, what percentage was blithely indifferent, and what percentage was strongly (if silently) opposed.

But having read this book, I am now more convinced that it makes no difference. Given how much elite opinion inside and outside the Church was weighted in favor of major changes at the Council, and how much expectation had been built up that there would be major changes, I cannot really imagine any realistic response from the laity that would have substantially affected the course the Council eventually took.  We can fabricate fantasies of a mass uprising that, given the dominant conditioning to be unquestioningly loyal and obedient to the hierarchy in all cases no matter what, would never have happened, but even then, before the internet, could such have even been organized on an international scale?  Unlikely.

Eh.  Maybe boring to you, but interesting to me.  We shall likely not know in this life the whys or wherefores of how the devastation in the Church was permitted to come about.  But I think it is interesting to note that there was opposition, that there were faithful souls who were broken-hearted over the changes that were unleashed, and that these souls, while perhaps a minority, were not an inconsiderable number.  Many of those most upset by the post-conciliar changes were some of the best, most devoted Catholics around, people of high education and aesthetic understanding.  That fact eventually resulted in the “Agatha Christie” indult permitting the TLM (it was actually supposed to be the balderdized 1965 mishmash Mass, but it was the TLM that wound up being offered in every case) in certain places in England and Wales. Fortunately for those souls, Paul VI was a big fan of Agatha Christie………


1. JABV - January 8, 2015

Tantum, I am intrigued by your reference to the 2011 translations. Obviously a fairly prominent priestly blogger sees them as a significant improvement over the 1973 versions. Have you commented on that matter before? Would you comment briefly now?

Tantumblogo - January 8, 2015

Sure, they’re better, but they’re also revolutionary. The very idea that substantive changes could be made to the Mass on an ongoing, continuing basis is entirely novel and to me, revolutionary. And that was the third round of translations released since 1970, and certainly not the last. In addition, there are other regular changes, usually quite small, but still, changes.

The Mass prior to the Council did evolve, but very gradually, almost imperceptibly, at least in the vast majority of cases. So while the 2011 translations are more cogent, more literal, and better convey an orthodox understanding of the Mass, they are still part of an underlying problem, which is the idea of liturgical revolution, a literal revolt against Liturgy as it was understood and practiced at least from ~AD 400-1965.

2. steve - January 8, 2015

My memory of that time is as follows:

— Vernacularization — not total, however — of the Mass was desired.

The retention of the Pater Noster, Preface, Agnus Dei and Ite Missa est in Latin would have been acceptable to the laity. Some Gregorian Chant would have been acceptable to the laity.

— Mass versus populum was popular among the laity. There was discount among the laity with priests who “turned their backs turned to us as they mumbled” prayers in Latin that nobody heard/understood.

— Communion in the hand was accepted widely among the laity.

— The wreckovation of beautiful churches was incomprehensible and extremely hurtful to the laity.

— The switch to ugly vestments was incomprehensible to the laity.

In short, less Latin, Mass facing the people, lay readers and retention of beauty and traditional devotions/precessions pretty much would have pleased Latin Church Catholics.


3. steve - January 8, 2015

I had meant to say that there was “discontent” among the laity with priests who “turned their backs to us as they mumbled” prayers in Latin that nobody heard/understood.

4. c matt - January 9, 2015

Aahhhh…for the days when the laity would run a heterodox/heteropraxis bishop out of town on a rail !!

5. Camper - January 9, 2015

Cmatt, I’m dreaming. Can you give any examples?

Sorry comments are closed for this entry

%d bloggers like this: