Vatican II Necessary – Kidding, Right?

Vatican II Necessary – Kidding, Right?

Vatican IIBy Russell Shaw…

Why did we need the Second Vatican Council? Did we need it at all? Hearing those questions, most Catholics who’ve thought about Vatican II would probably cite renewing and updating of the Church as solid reasons for the ecumenical council.

That answer isn’t wrong. But a half-century after Vatican II (it took place between 1962 and 1965) it’s clear that a much larger purpose was at work, with Church renewal and updating its handmaids.

You start to see that when you consider a common objection to the council:

“Other ecumenical councils were convened to handle particular problems. Early councils dealt with heresies about Christ. In the 16th century Trent had to respond to the Reformation. Vatican I in the 19th century faced the challenge to the authority of the pope and the bishops—but it was interrupted and didn’t say much about bishops.

“By contrast, there was no crisis requiring Vatican II. By the middle of the last century, the Church was strong and united in the faith. So this was a council that wasn’t needed. Wouldn’t it have been better to leave things alone?”

No, it wouldn’t. The Church faced a grave problem then—indeed, it still does—and an ecumenical council was required to address it. What problem? No less than the crisis of modernity itself, especially the comprehensive undermining of humankind’s self-understanding and its disastrous consequences for faith, underway in the West for at least a century or more before the council.

This process had many sources, but three especially stand out:

Darwinism—popularized evolutionary theory reducing the human person to no more than a higher animal; Marxism, whose deterministic account of history eliminated free choice; and Freudianism, no less deterministic, which explained human behavior as the acting out of  sublimated impulses from libidinous realms of the psyche.

Capping it off was Friedrich Nietzsche, who boldly announced the death of God—the bourgeois deity of 19th century Christianity, that is—and predicted that a new morality of power vested in a superman (ubermensch) would soon emerge. Hitler apparently took that to heart.

Ordinary people were understandably slow in absorbing all this, but it was gospel for the Western cultural elites of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In due course it filtered down to the masses—a process speeded by the horrors of two world wars. Here, then, was the crisis of modernity that Vatican II needed to confront.

Pope St. John XXIII put it clearly in his opening address to the council on October 11, 1962. The “greatest concern” of Vatican II, he declared, was to guard Christian doctrine and teach it “more efficaciously.” That included the truth about “the whole of man, composed as he is of body and soul” and created by God not only for life on earth but for eternal life in heaven.

The council did its best, and that was pretty good. Central to its teaching was the Christocentric affirmation that it’s Christ who “fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes 22). The Church has been developing that exalted vision of human dignity ever since, most notably via the personalism of Pope St. John Paul II.

Yes, an enormous amount remains to be done to recapture lost ground. But don’t tell me Vatican II wasn’t needed. It was, urgently. The problem hasn’t been the council but the lack of focus in its implementation— including the constant, distracting bickering about liturgy. And saying Vatican II wasn’t necessary is surely no help.

Russell Shaw is the author of more than twenty books, including three novels and volumes on ethics and moral theology, the Catholic laity, clericalism, the abuse of secrecy in the Church, and other topics. He has also published thousands of articles in periodicals, among them The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, L’Osservatore Romano, America, Crisis, Catholic World Report, The National Catholic Reporter, and many others. From 1967-1987 he served as communications director for the U.S. Catholic bishops and from 1987-1997 was information director for the Knights of Columbus. He lives in Washington, D.C.  Source


I consider the above article to be taking “delusion on a grand scale” to  new heights.  If you agree, please explain why… I’m still trying to find my bottle of smelling salts…

Comments (33)

  • No one you know... Reply

    ‘By the middle of the last century, the Church was strong and united in the Faith’.

    Clearly not the case. If you look there were already signs of heresies creeping in, and indeed all the modernist theologians were taught in pre Vatican II seminaries and took the oath against modernism, and the results of the council tell us the opposite. Would all those nuns have left their convents, priests their priesthood, monks their monestaries, as soon as there seemed to be a chance they could without gaining social stigma if the Faith was really that strong? The conclusion we must reach is that exteriorly the Faith was strong (and even interiorly clearly stronger than it is now), but there were problems under the surface. If the post Vatican II crisis has done one thing it has been to cause these problems to become clear. It is very clear now who is a heretic and who isn’t. Let’s take the case of Fr Karl Rahner, his pre Council stuff is actually rather sound, and I know there are traditional priests who think highly of it. His post council stuff is heretical (and actually just plain stupid if you read some of it). Now, this change didn’t just happen overnight, it suggests that these ideas were festering under the surface, and would have influenced his works regardless of whether the Council took place or no, and all that happened was that the Council gave him certain false impressions and it became clear his theology was unsavoury.

    July 28, 2014 at 12:27 pm
    • Confitebor Domino Reply

      No One You Know

      It is very clear now who is a heretic and who isn’t.

      You’re having a laugh aren’t you? You would be forgiven for thinking that there is now no such thing as an heretic. Any idea is just fine, no matter how wacky.

      Of course heresy was around prior to V2, it always has been. (Indeed, there’s a sense in which the Church’s development of doctrine depends crucially on the existence of heresy.) But the point is that, for the most part, these heresies were infecting only those few who held them – because there were severe consequences for anyone who dared to express them publicly. The wider Church was, to a large extent, shielded from them.

      Take your own example, Rahner. As you say he can’t have gone from being a model of orthodoxy to a rampant heretic overnight. If his early work seems orthodox that’s only because he knew where the lines were drawn back then and what the consequences were for crossing them. So he simply didn’t publish his more outrageous ideas until it was safe to do so.

      What changed? The council happened. And it allowed – whether intentionally or unintentionally is beside the point – all these previously contained heresies out into the wild, where they could infect millions who would never otherwise have ever entertained such crazy ideas.

      Now look at the post-V2 situation. Where are the lines drawn? Actually, are there any lines? It certainly doesn’t look like it. The only heresy that seems to be recognized now is that of criticizing V2.

      Yes, it may be obvious who is a heretic to those with a tolerably correct understanding of the traditional faith – but that was always the case. The difference is that prior to V2 that was most Catholics whereas today it is, sadly, a rather small minority of the already rather small minority who actually practise the Faith at all.

      The council did nothing to improve the situation (which is what it was supposed to do!).but made things much, much worse. Unless, of course, you think rampant heresy is a good thing?

      July 28, 2014 at 2:37 pm
      • Janet Smyer

        Excellent! Thank you for this crystal clear reply.

        July 28, 2014 at 4:35 pm
  • immortaledei Reply

    In a limited sense, yes. There was a real problem with modernism that needed to be addressed. That doesn’t necessarily entail an ecumenical council. And it certainly doesn’t entail the disastrous council that befell us.

    The author’s cloudy mindset is akin to proclaiming “We have a real problem with Jews being accorded their rights and dignity. That’s why we need to the bring in the Nazis ASAP to get the problem solved.”

    July 28, 2014 at 1:56 pm
  • gabriel syme Reply

    I agree that the article is deluded, I think it is an attempt to re-invent and “dress up” the Council.

    From what I have read about it, John XXIII hit upon the idea quite suddenly, out of the blue – and the Cardinals were hardly joyous upon hearing the news (apparently John’s first announcement of his idea was met with silence by the group of Cardinals he was addressing). It was not a measured and welcomed response to growing issues of the time.

    The descriptions of how the idea came about suggest to me that the Council idea was latched onto by an elderly Pope who was widely seen as being a short-term interim Pope. Perhaps John XXIII didn’t like the idea of being a brief caretaker and saw a Council as a means of forging a personal legacy – his age meant he lacked the time to do this conventionally – or to allow his influence to continue after his own death.

    Mr Shaw quotes John XXIII in his opening Council address in 1962, claiming that the Pope saw the Councils main goal as being the guarding of Christian doctrine. Yet, in 1959, a clearly excited John XXIII himself said the Council had two specific goals:

    the enlightenment, edification, and joy of the entire Christian people,” and “a renewed cordial invitation to the faithful of the separated Churches to participate with us in this feast of grace and brotherhood [sic], for which so many souls long in all parts of the world.”

    Nothing about the defence of Doctrine there (link below).

    And, far from a needed response to contemporary issues as Mr Shaw tries to suggest, there is evidence that many (most?) Catholics saw the Council as wholly unnecessary, being of the opinion that the 1st Vatican Council was sufficient and had ended the need for any future Councils:

    A personal anecdote: My own seminary professor of Ecclesiology urged us, soon after John XXIII’s announcement, to pray that the council never be held. For him, and for many other Catholics, the Vatican Council of 1869-70 had rendered all future councils unnecessary, given that council’s reaffirmation of the dogma of papal primacy and its formulation of the new dogma of papal infallibility.

    I wonder if he was a naive man, John XXIII. He genuinely seems to have had high hopes for the Council:

    With unbounded optimism, he prophesied that the council would bring the church to “all her splendor, without spot or wrinkle”

    Yet precisely the opposite outcome has come to pass.

    Ultimately, the damaging fall out of the Council is perhaps the best indicator of the act that it was an unnecessary gamble.

    July 28, 2014 at 2:25 pm
    • Theresa Rose Reply

      Gabriel Syme,

      I agree with you.

      Whether Pope John XXIII was naive or not, I do not know. Whatever his expectations for this Council they were never realised. I have read that on his death bed he begged –
      “Stop the Council – Stop the Council”. Vatican II launched the Catholic Church on a slippery road.

      July 28, 2014 at 5:54 pm
      • Nicky

        Theresa Rose,

        I don’t think there is any substance to that claim about Pope John XXIII shouting to stop the council on his deathbed. I think that site you linked to is a sedevacantist site BTW. The rules of this blog ban sede sites, if you check the About Us page. It’s one of the things that keeps me on this blog. Other places you get caught up fighting with sedes and they just won’t be telt !

        July 29, 2014 at 7:58 pm
      • Theresa Rose


        Thanks for that information

        July 29, 2014 at 8:41 pm
    • Fidelis Reply

      Gabriel Syme,

      Some have tried to say that John XXIII was “inspired by the Holy Spirit” to call the second Vatican council but that’s not true. I read somewhere that the silence that greeted his announcement was due to the fact that the cardinals knew that there were liberals just waiting for a chance to make changes and Pius XII had said “no” when they tried to get him to call a council.

      I agree with your closing words. The fall out from the council says clearly that it was a big mistake. It will take a very long time for the Church to recover from the disastrous Vatican II.

      July 29, 2014 at 7:52 pm
    • catholicconvert1 Reply

      I often wonder if that’s why John XXIII called the Council. He wanted to go down in history, and not just be the old codger who took over from the great and holy Pius XII.

      July 30, 2014 at 11:43 am
  • jacobi Reply

    Vatican II was the wrong Council called at the wrong time by the wrong pope. It has provided the opportunity for the suppressed Modernist forces latent in the Church to completely outmanoeuvre, and manipulate naive and confused popes and bishops who in comparison with the Modernists are now seen to have been completely out of their depth.

    It has proved to have been a disaster and has triggered, almost certainly, a new Reformation, shall we call it a Relativist Reformation which is as damaging as the Arian or Protestant Reformations.
    t did not change Catholic doctrine however. That, as Benedict has made clear, was the same before as after the Council.

    But so much ignorance and confusion was created.

    Another Council is now certainly needed to sort out the mess, the shambles, the collapse. Bishop Schneider has called for this.

    And also at least one other pope, before such a Council can be called.

    In the meantime the Church will continue down the plug hole.

    July 28, 2014 at 10:05 pm
    • Fidelis Reply


      I agree that another council is needed to sort out the mess of Vatican II but not just now. We need a really tip top pope for that.

      July 29, 2014 at 7:53 pm
  • sixupman Reply

    There exist certain cancers better left alone. Once the incision is made, the cancer then spreads throughout the body at an exponential rate – Vat II was that incision.

    July 29, 2014 at 8:52 am
    • Josephine Reply

      That’s a very good way of putting it. An incision that lets the cancer spread – I couldn’t agree more that this is exactly what happened at Vatican II.

      July 31, 2014 at 1:08 am
  • Frankier Reply

    The rot did start before Vatican 11, around the early fifties. It was first noticeable when the crowds, for want of a better word, started dwindling at devotions like Benediction, Stations of The Cross and Adoration of The Blessed Sacrament.

    I remember our parish priest tried having Benediction straight after Sunday morning Mass but it didn`t catch on. Communion used to be given even before Mass started properly on weekdays to help people receive before going to work in the mines.

    There was no need, however, for another Vatican Council. All that was needed was a return to the good old fashioned parish missions which always worked in the past.

    July 29, 2014 at 10:26 am
    • Josephine Reply

      I agree – parish missions were a great success and that’s all that was required in the sixties not an ecumenical council.

      July 31, 2014 at 1:07 am
  • editor Reply

    The sermon in the Glasgow and Edinburgh SSPX chapels on Sunday was absolutely brilliant. Father took the Gospel message “by their fruits shall ye know them” to demonstrate that the fruits of Vatican II have all but destroyed the Faith – dwindling Mass attendance, for example, and lack of vocations, signs of God’s disfavour.

    We had a new family at our Glasgow (SSPX) chapel, who were very impressed with everything, sermon included, and said they will be attending our chapel from now on.

    So, if Vatican II was “necessary” at all, I’d say it was to purge the Church of those who really didn’t have the Faith at all.

    July 29, 2014 at 10:33 am
  • Theresa Rose Reply

    Sister Lucia made it known that the Third Secret of Fatima was to be read either following her death, or, in 1960 whichever came first. Well 1960 came first and what did Pope John XXIII do upon reading it? He said that it was not for his time.

    Sister Lucia when asked about the Secret being made known in 1960, she said that it would become clearer then. The Council began in 1962 and continued under the auspices of Pope Paul VI.


    True, Father did give a brilliant sermon on Sunday, very apt “by their fruits you shall know them”. The loss of Faith, dwindling Mass attendance and everything else tha went with this Council has been an absolute disaster.

    July 29, 2014 at 4:26 pm
  • Fidelis Reply

    Vatican II was about as necessary as a sore head. I think that writer is way off the “deluded” scale. You just need to take a look at any parish to see the destruction of the past fifty years. I am sure that Vatican II will be publicly withdraw from the list of ecumenical councils at some point in the future.

    July 29, 2014 at 7:46 pm
  • catholicconvert1 Reply

    Absolutely definitely kidding. The Second Vatican Council was NOT needed. Prior to the Council, Churches were full, Monasteries, Convents and Seminaries were full and in Catholic schools, pupils were taught the full truth of our faith, usually by Brothers or Sisters. The Council documents, such as Lumen Gentium, Dignitatis Humanae, Nostra Aetate and Gaudium et Spes are extremely ambiguous and in some cases completely erroneous and contradictory to Church teaching, particularly when it comes to salvation and ecumenism etc. Likewise, I worry about the presence of Rahner, De Lubac, Kung and Chenu at the Council as they were on the Index of Forbidden Books. You don’t need a Council to ‘affirm’ doctrine. The Pope should write encyclicals or dogmatically define. Pius XII didn’t call a Council to pronounce on the Assumption, and nor did St. Pius X call a Council to denounce heretics, he issued Pascendi Dominici Gregis and Lamentabili Sane Exitu.

    If only Pius XII had lived for 10 more years.

    July 29, 2014 at 8:40 pm
    • editor Reply

      Well said, Catholic Convert. Well said.

      July 29, 2014 at 10:23 pm
    • Petrus Reply

      Excellent comment, Catholic Convert.

      July 29, 2014 at 10:30 pm
  • leprechaun Reply

    Madame Editor

    Vatican II WAS needed – but not by the Church!

    It was needed by the same group of people who organised the French Revolution, and whose descendents organised the Russian Revolution and the spread of Communism, as the next phase in the destruction of Christ’s Kingdom.

    As has been seen already, as a weapon of Mass destruction, it succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

    There are more weapons in their armory which are yet to be unleashed upon the hapless faithful. Scoffers have dismissed earlier warnings as the rantings of conspiracy theorists – but look at the track record and then ask whether or not the conspiracy theorists might have got it right after all.

    The forming of the European Union by the destruction of the separate cultures which were its original constituents, and the proposed amalgamation of Mexico, North America and Canada into a “North American Union” are signs of the progress being made towards a planned “New World Order”, with one World Government, one currency and one Religion (and it won’t be Christianity or Mohammedism), and nor will God be its centrepiece.

    The Arab Spring, and the fomenting of trouble in Syria and soon, Iran, are being stirred up to destabilise the rightful governments of those countries so that their Banking Systems and their oil revenues fall into the hands of those who are working to this very long-standing, generation-spanning agenda.

    Never was the need stronger than now for a pope who will bring the Vatican back to Tradition, who will motivate the Church Militant, and who will lead the fight against those who think they can depose the Catholic Church.

    Now is the time for Catholic Action, for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the faithful to enrol in supporting the Brown Scapula and saying their daily rosary.

    The gates of hell shall not prevail – but it could be a close call unless we open our eyes and get down on our knees.

    July 30, 2014 at 6:40 pm
    • Margaret Mary Reply


      Your post is very interesting indeed. I hadn’t heard anything about Mexico, North America and Canada being made into a “North American Union. Is there more information on this? None of my American friends have mentioned it, so I’m really curious about it.

      July 30, 2014 at 8:20 pm
      • leprechaun

        Margaret Mary,

        It would be off-topic to discuss the North American Union on this thread, but if you Google it, you will find that President Obama is totally in favour of it, and of extending the principle to embrace the remaining countries in the world.

        That in itself should be enough of a “Danger” sign.

        Only the Consecration can stop this New World Order juggernaut!

        July 31, 2014 at 7:22 am
  • Nicky Reply

    I found this website really helpful because it covers everything about Vatican II

    It’s got answers to the usual questions about “is Vatican II infallible” etc.

    July 31, 2014 at 1:15 am
    • Fidelis Reply


      That is an interesting link. I have noticed reading about Vatican II that its supporters now keep saying that there are always periods of confusion and disturbance after an ecumenical council and that’s what is happening just now, not that there is any crisis. For example, this article says that

      I’d not heard that about previous councils before but I’m guessing it’s not right to compare what happened after previous councils to what it happening now, but if anyone has answers to the above article, I would be grateful to read them.

      July 31, 2014 at 11:51 pm
      • editor


        The claim that the confusion caused by Vatican II is not a matter of concern because there was always confusion after Ecumenical Councils is a ruse. There has never been anything remotely LIKE the confusion and disturbance in the Church today. Not remotely. After previous Councils the only “confusion” felt or “disturbance” caused was that experienced by the heretics who were put in their place by the anathemas of those Councils.

        I took a quick skim at the link you posted and noted that there were no examples given of the periods of confusion and disturbance claimed after previous Councils. That’s always a clue. Muddying the waters and giving false impressions is a tactic of which we must beware. Previous Councils were called to settle a dispute; they did not mark the beginning of a “period of confusion and disturbance” (quite the opposite) so that claim is bogus.

        August 1, 2014 at 9:29 am
      • Confitebor Domino


        As Editor has quite rightly said those who point to disturbances after previous councils never cite any evidence. Funny thing that!

        The reason is that although there certainly were disturbances after earlier councils they were confined to just one or two points of doctrine and to a relatively small number of people. And they were generally resolved pretty quickly.

        Take the schism which followed the First Vatican Council. That’s about as extreme a disturbance as you can get. Well the fact is that the Old Catholics probably never numbered more than 100,000. Now the loss of that many souls is no small matter, but in terms of the overall size of the Church it’s a tiny fraction.

        If you compare that to what happened after V2 the comparison is clearly ludicrous.

        August 1, 2014 at 11:15 am
      • Fidelis

        Confitebor Domino

        I didn’t know much about the Old Catholics before reading your comment so I looked them up on Wikipedia and they are now in full communion with the Anglicans. That shows the danger of separating from the Church over disagreement about even one doctrine, in their case papal infallibility.

        My guess was right that it’s not accurate to speak of the same confusion after earlier councils as after Vatican II. I suppose if the supporters of V2 admitted that it was causing confusion as never before, they’d have to reject it.

        August 1, 2014 at 2:32 pm
      • Confitebor Domino


        I’ve just had a read through that essay you linked to (by the late Fr Robert J. Fox)

        He uses two other arguments that we’re also starting to see quite commonly.

        (1) “the majority of the Church remained loyal and adapted to the changes”

        Not really. Mass attendances plummeted, large numbers of clergy and religious abandoned their callings and vocations fell to a fraction of their pre-V2 numbers. Far from remaining loyal and adapting to the changes the majority (especially of the younger folks) did an Elvis – they left the building, never to return.

        (2) “The confusion and misunderstandings resulted not from the official documents of Vatican II but from those who misinterpreted and misrepresented the ecumenical council.”

        The fact is that today we see the Church split on many issues into factions that interpret the conciliar documents in radically – sometimes even mutually exclusive – ways. This can only happen because the documents are so loosely and/or carelessly worded that multiple interpretations are possible. Most reasonable people would consider that a major fault – and that fault is inherent in the documents themselves. And since the Council wrote the documents the fault lies fairly and squarely with the Council itself (and with Pope Paul VI who signed off on it). I’m sorry, but to deny this is simply disingenuous.

        Of course, the Pollyannas are determined not to let inconvenient facts like these stand between them and their increasingly bizarre fairy tale.

        August 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm
      • editor


        Absolutely spot on. Every word a jewel. I’m so glad YOU didn’t “do an Elvis” 😀

        You’re indisposable and I can say that without any fear of contraception as our Vianney puts it (when he’s here – where ARE you Vianney?)

        August 1, 2014 at 3:39 pm
  • gabriel syme Reply

    Its sometimes jaw-dropping to see how others regard Vatican II and its fall-out.

    Look at these strange quotes from Father Dwight Longenecker. (as summarised by Fr Martin Fox, who is a Longenecker fan it seems – he links to the relevant article).

    The battle over Vatican II is coming to an end. Before long, those who see things as “pre” or “post” Vatican II will have gone to their reward. Not only are the folks who see things that way “dying out, but their ideas are dying out. Their places are being taken by a younger generation of Catholics who do not remember the Vatican 2 wars.

    While the Kung-Kasper generation may be having its last hurrah, Fr is mistaken above. The SSPX continues to grow strongly and isn’t going anywhere. The SSPX don’t have “ideas” – they simply have the Catholic faith and it isn’t going to die out.

    He is right that today’s Catholics are largely ignorant of the Vatican 2 issues, but then is this really surprising given the widespread ignorance of every aspect of the faith? (I do not mean that to be condescending, as I was the exact same myself – and im still relatively ignorant, I would bet, by the standards of e.g. my grandmothers generation). I read a stat recently claiming most Caholics have not even heard of Summorum Pontificum, from 2007, so how could we expect them to know of Vatican II from decades previous?

    Kasper etc doesn’t have any grassroots support, as it is necessary for him (and modernists generally) to keep Catholics in a state of general ignorance about the Church and its teachings – such that he can get away with his various capers. So hopefully the liberal/modernist lines of quasi-thought will die out soon enough.

    This new generation isn’t necessarily more “conservative” or “traditional,” Father says, but are Catholic because that’s what they want to be. And they are filling traditional religious orders and seminaries.

    So the new generation isn’t more “traditional”, yet he admits the “traditional” orders and seminaries are booming? That doesn’t make a lot of sense!?

    I think Fr Longenecker here is trying to mould a cover story to explain away the current trends without having to admit to the resurgence of tradition.

    August 3, 2014 at 9:08 pm

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