Why Vatican II?


It seems that Vatican II created at least a lot of confusion and at worst a huge chasm of controversy and lost souls. My question is, why did the church feel it necessary to call the council in the first place and why such a radical departure (apparently) from previous teachings of the church?


Vatican II reaffirmed every single teaching of the Church from the time of Christ to the present. It is not true that the Council departed from previous teachings of the Church. It reworded some teachings, added more theology and scripture to others, but changed none.

The changes that the Council proposed were not to teachings, they were to pastoral practices. There is a big misunderstanding among many Catholics that everything the Church ever taught was an official teaching, especially regarding the form of the mass. These were official because they came from the Church, but they were not dogmas. No dogma was touched by the Council.

Of course there were misunderstandings. But those who like to believe that every other council the Church has had went without a glitch are living in a fantasy land. The Council of Trent took more than 100 years to be correctly implemented and understood. The Councils of Chalcedon and Alexandria both had to take place to address the same questions, because the answers were not clear the first time around. Even after that, there were still debates and still are to this day.

Vatican I is still in discussion and there are still unanswered questions about it among scholars and bishops.

Every Council stirs up a great deal of dust. With each one, there is always a group of people who rebel or throw in the towel and leave the Church. It is very human to become frustrated and to run whn frustration strikes instead of riding the storm. That’s the greatest difference between a saint and a demon. Satan is a coward.

JR :slight_smile:


I have to echo JReduction’s reply to this question. In some ways, Vatican II was a continuation of Vatican I in that it continued some of the reforms of the Church to administrative practices such as further integration of our Venerable Sister Churches of the East. Following Vatican II, for instance, the Eastern Churches had their own Code of Canon Law dealing mainly with the liturgical practices thereof, and the relationship between the Holy See and the East.

Vatican II also fleshed out in more easily understood language many of the ancient doctrines of the Church, but it neither disturbed, modified nor changed any of them.


[Well said both of you]… thank you both for posting so well what many agree with but can’t write in such easily and understood terms

Blessings of Peace and All That is Good!**


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And yet in away Vatican II played right into the hands of the people of the 60’s giving them "what they wanted. Soon folk masses became the vogue and the high mass was avoided like the plaque. When the mass became customizable, the Vatican lost some of it’s Authority with people, as they thought the mass was about them and their likes, instead of service to God.
I am basing all of this ONLY on my observation with MY church. But when the celebration of mass became "optional’ in the mind set of those going from child to adult, the attendance also became optional


I see Vatican II like the Council of Trent. You are right about reaffirming every single teaching, just as Trent did in the reformation era


Everyone I talk with says the church is a better place due to Vatican II. This is asking a wide range of people at my church. I read the traditional posts on here but I have yet to talk with a traditional follower yet.

Thanks JReducation, I really enjoy your posts.


Did Second Vatican Council cause confusion and controversy?

Absolutely. There’s no question that the changes in the Church since V2 have been disruptive and controversial; even traumatic. And, it’s certainly not only conservatives or traditionalists who say so. E.g., Fr. Andrew Greeley, usually considered quite liberal I think, titled a recent book: : New Wine, Old Wineskins, and the Second Vatican CouncilCatholic Revolution.

Did Second Vatican Council cause lost souls?

You know, it sure would be nice to have accountability for that kind of thing, wouldn’t it? Hard to get past anecdotes, personal impressions, etc.

Why did John XXIII call the council in 1959?

Good question. From American perspective, it’s hard to figure out. I believe that in 1950s in USA seminaries were full, there were lots of teaching orders, etc. Garry Wills et al notwithstanding, I just don’t understand: What was the more or less sudden need for “renewal” in 1959?

I can point to a few factors, but it’s all pretty vague and confusing:

*]Cold War: J23 thought he could set a good example, send an important message during tense Cold War years. Very naive, I think. In my opinion, Pius XII had a much more realistic understanding of Soviets. In any event, although I have read that J23 thought he could influence Cold War antagonists, I have never read of a situation in which that actually happened. So, Goal #1: Total Failure.
*]European Disarray and Ecumenism: I think there was a very strong sense at the time in Europe, erstwhile Christendom, that a Christianity that had failed to prevent the disasters of the 20th century needed to fall back and regroup. Hence ecumenism as an animating spirit throughout council years. See, e.g., Vatican II: A Sociological Analysis of Religious Change. Look, I simply don’t understand ecumenism. I don’t understand its goals; I’m not able to see any good effects arising from it. So, Goal #2: Confusion. No idea what to think. Is that failure?
*]Emerging Nations, Mission Lands: The old European colonial dominance was dissolving very quickly in the 1950s. I think the Church wanted to take a new stance towards those Catholics, and potential Catholics. Goal #3: I don’t know.

Did the Council Change Church Teachings?

Sometimes people use “pastoral” as if they mean, “merely pastoral.” But I think that’s wrong-headed. I got a fascinating perspective on the question from Fr. O’Malley’s new book, What Happened at Vatican II? He notes that the primary point of insisting that the Council was pastoral rather than doctrinal was to avoid further development of, e.g., Marian doctrine. In other words, it was the conservatives who wanted a “doctrinal” Council; the liberals resisted that for the sake of Ecumenism.

Anyway, “pastoral” certainly doesn’t mean “not radical” or “not thoroughgoing.” The Council made enormous changes in the conceptual framework of the Church, so to speak. E.g., the Declaration on Religious Freedom. And, as the title of Fr. Greeley’s book suggests, their actual intentions and the specific actions they took have to be understood in terms of the effects, many unintended. New wine in old wineskins.

Another example: the Council’s decision to change the Mass was radical in the extreme. They took it upon themselves to appoint a committee to “improve” the central institution, so to speak, of Catholic religious culture. The, um, self-confidence involved is breathtaking. I realize that many people will respond that they like the Mass better now. IMHO, that’s beside the point.

Other factors disrupting the Church?

A pretty long list of more or less obvious changes. One that is particularly relevant in USA: At virtually the same moment that the Council made huge changes to the life of American Catholics, the old Catholic ethnic neighborhoods were dissolving into the post-war suburbs. As I’ve remarked before, sometimes I think the real question is: How did the Church survive two such blows simultaneously?


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar


It’s easy to take the wide road and abandon the Church than it is to stay on the narrow path during times of frustration. Vatican II was needed. Some of the “side effects” have not been pleasant
with some of the liturgical abuses but it takes time to work things out. But when the going gets tough…


If the council only re-affirmed teaching, why have it? I’m not trying to be a troll, I just don’t see what the point is.


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Let me begin by noting that the following is my commentary on Vatican II and not offered as an authoritative teaching of the Church.

No new dogma was pronounced and no previous teaching was renounced by the Second Vatican Council. Hence, with regard to the substance of the Faith nothing changed. However, two significant things did change: the way in which the Church speaks to the Faithful and the world and the level of sophistication and effort required of the laity.

The Holy Spirit convened the Second Vatican Council to address important changes in the world. The two worldly changes that demanded response were the emergence of instantaneous, global communications and the acquisition of the power to destroy life and civilization on a global scale. Consider these timelines:

Communications: The telegraph was first publicly demonstrated in Baltimore in 1844. The first telephone was rented for business use in 1877. The first commercially successful long distance line (45 miles) was opened in 1881. The first transatlantic radio signal, a letter “S,” was sent in 1901 and, a year later, the first radio message was sent. In 1917, during World War I, the first “radio telephone” was demonstrated allowing communication between an airplane and the ground. A public demonstration of television and the first wire transmission of color pictures occurred in 1927. The first telephone was installed on the desk of the President of the United States in 1929 (previously he had used a phone booth outside his office). The fist public demonstration of color television also occurred in 1929.

Plans for the first transatlantic telephone cable were announced in 1953 and the cable was completed in 1955. Application for approval of the first experiments with telecommunication satellites was made in 1960. The first international communications satellite, Telstar, was launched in 1962.

(See, webbconsult.com/hist-time.html.)

The Second Vatican Council opened that year, 1962, and continued until 1965.

Destructiveness: In 1941, a research study concluded that an atomic weapon was possible to build. The first and second atomic bombs were used in war in 1945, by the American army. The Soviet Union achieved its first nuclear chain reaction on the last day of 1946. The United Kingdom authorized its development of nuclear weapons in 1947. The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949. The first British atomic bomb was detonated in 1952.

The first “true” hydrogen bomb was detonated by Americans in 1954; the Soviets followed in 1955 and the British in 1957.

(See, atomicarchive.com/Timeline/Time1960.shtml.)

On 25 January 1959, Pope John XXIII announced his intention of calling the Second Vatican Council.

The Council was pastoral, adjusting the Church’s practices and methods of speaking to such a changed world.

The Church’s form of speaking had to change, because for the first time in history her statements and declarations were no longer heard only by the Faithful and those experts outside of the Church familiar with her language and intensions. With instant, global communication, every statement made by the Church became liable to be communicated without context around the world within hours of its being verbalized. This in contrast to the previous situation where communication was by written statements published through the Church’s own network of communication and read primarily by those sympathetic to the Church and eager to understand her message. In the modern context, the Church must speak to her children, dissenters, friends, enemies, and members of other religions simultaneously and with the same words. This has required extreme changes in the tone and form of her speech, even though her message has not and cannot change.

Continued . . .


Continued . . .

Secondly, the expansion in communications made totalitarian control and coordinated evil much more practical. The suppression of the activities of the hierarchy became viciously effective in the 20th Century. As a consequence, under communist suppression in the USSR and China, the laity of the Church was called to maintain and propagate the Faith in ways that previously were more directly supported by and conducted by priests and other clergy. As a consequence, the demands placed on the laity by the Council resemble the requirements previously imposed by the Council of Trent on priests, demanding deep understanding of the Faith and the skills of autonomous practice of the Faith and evangelization. These demands were placed on the laity, in part, so that the Church’s mission could proceed even under modern methods of suppression.

Further, this heightened level of education and commitment in the laity was also required in less directly restrictive circumstances, because of the exposure to heretical and diabolical materials with which both the Faithful and those not yet evangelized are constantly bombarded by instantaneous communication and the “popular media.”

Finally, the Church’s efforts were turned to respond to the destructiveness of the secular powers and their demonstrated willingness to slaughter innocent, civilian populations. Though it was clear that secular powers were self-consciously resistant to the totality of the Gospel, it became clear that the efficiency and sheer destructiveness of modern military power made mass destruction a real possibility. Hence, the Church’s mission as peacemaker became urgent, so that she might preserve the lives of people whom she has not yet reached with the message of salvation.

The “changes” of Vatican II are therefore the pastoral initiatives forming the Church’s response to these changes in the nature of the secular and fallen world. They are changes in expression and approach demanded by the world, but they do not represent any substantive change in the doctrine or the content of the Faith.

Viewed in this light, and with careful attention to the Council’s own pronouncements that no previous teaching was changed or abrogated, one can see the value and the import of the Second Vatican Council.

The Second Vatican Council was the Holy Spirit acting through the Church to respond to the needs of a shrinking and more endangered world.

Spiritus Sapientiae nobiscum.

John Hiner


Hi, John. Thanks for thoughtful post. You have a very interesting perspective on the question. E.g., I have not read before that the role of the laity changed because of effective repression of hiearchy during 20th century. Is that a conclusion you have drawn on your own based on your knowledge of 20th century history, etc?

Also, it’s very hard for me to see that the laity do, in fact, have a higher “level of sophistication” or an “heightened level of education and commitment” in the post-conciliar Church. Do you see evidence of that?

As I wrote earlier, I don’t think the Cold War or atomic age motives make much sense. At least, if that was part of the motivation, the Council was singularly ineffectual in that regard. I don’t know of any international leader who ever did anything differently as a result of V2.

Please correct me about any of the above if I’m wrong.


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar


For what it’s worth, ASD, I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Hiner on this item. For the first time ever, our diocese is sponsoring a two year on-line, independent study program for the laity to earn a Certificate in Catechesis which is recognized by Rome. It’s being offered by the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, UK. There are about thirty students in the first class, ranging in age from about 25 to 70. Some of the folks are RCIA instructors in their parishs, some are DRE’s, and some are taking it for their own edification, perhaps to improve their personal apologetic skills. In any case, these folks are fired up, ready and willing to carry the message that previously has been carried almost exclusively by the clergy.

Holy Spirit at work?? Who knows for sure, but it sure looks good. :thumbsup:


I never knew the pre vatican 2 church. So many of these threads are lost to me. However I know that the youth masses w/ the harder music attract a lot of people. Personally I don’t care for that style because I like the traditional music, but if it attracts other people to God who might otherwise not go to mass, I think it’s a good thing.

Plus a lot of the old practices (like women wearing head coverings) aren’t frowned apon. It’s just optional. I know lots of people who still follow them of their own choice.

But out of curiousity, were there any changes in VII that took away the practice all together, as in no optional, you can’t do it at all?

I think I remember reading that it used to be that girls couldn’t be alter servers. I think that might apply to the above.


Interesting question. I can’t think of anything that was completely forbidden outright as result of V2. However,

*]I think the old Mass was virtually proscribed for about 15 years (1970 to 1984). I realize there were very narrow exceptions; but, practically speaking, it was forbidden.
*]The new Mass has effectively suppressed or ruled out the wonderful variety and permissiveness for laity in old Mass. E.g., some people used to like to use the Rosary to meditate on incarnation, passion, death, resurrection & ascension of Our Lord while Priest “re-enacted” those things at the altar. That sort of diversity and inclusiveness is completely banished from new Mass; it doesn’t really matter if one prefers stillness and silent meditation upon what’s actually happening at Mass; everybody is expected to “participate” by piping up with rote responses. Like everybody is an old-fashioned altar boy now.
*]As a practical matter, kneeling to receive communion at altar railing all but disappeared for very large majority of Catholics when railings were ripped out to make some kind of point about separation between nave and sanctuary.


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar


Well, sure. I see your point. Those are new programs, and they’re great.

However, consider: I guess that the people who attend those seminars now are the very people who, in the old days, would have

*]Learned their catechism well as children;
*]Participated in parish sodalities;
*]Dog-earred a Confraternity New Testament; etc


*]Is it really true that those people who study their catechism and Bible now are more knowledgeable and sophisticated than their grandparents?
*]Is that what Mr. Hiner was talking about?


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar


Not sure what “troll” means there. I gotta look it up to see if I need to mention something in Confession later this morning. :wink:

Anyway, I think that’s a very good question because this kind of thing can become a rhetorical football, used however people want to use it in a particular debate. E.g.,

*]B16 emphasizes continuity these days. That is, in a sense, he says the Council didn’t effect a huge rupture.
*]By the same token, many “progressive” people act as if pre-conciliar Church is virtually unrelated to their religion today. That is, they seem to take the line that V2 represents an enormous fault line in the history of the Church.
*]On the other hand, curiously, although I consider myself conservative, in this thread I have been insisting that V2 made big changes.

Although I might exceed number of repetitions allowed per thread here: I have never read any history of V2 that didn’t describe it as an enormously significant Council that made a real difference in the history of the Church. But, to be frank, being an ordinary Catholic layman in the pew, I didn’t need an historian to tell me that. :slight_smile:

Now, back to topic: Why was the Council called in 1959?


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar


Most of the people in this particular class are post-V2 Catholics, having grown up without the pre-conciliar, tridentine mass, etc. I happen to be the oldest person in the class and I am a post-V2 convert who mostly misses the pre-V2 guaranteed macaroni & cheese or tuna & noodles on Fridays. :wink:

In my observation, these folks will run rings around most of the older pre-V2 Catholics in terms of scripture and CCC knowledge. They also have the benefit of the new, post-V2 Universal Catechism, which I think is significant. They know why they’re Catholic as opposed to many pre-V2 Catholics who are Catholic by default.

My intent is not to cheap-shot the older, long time Catholics; however, one of my “evangelistic” pastimes is asking some of my older cradle-Catholic friends why they’re Catholic and not some other persuasion. In most cases, their response is that Catholicism is all they know and they just never thought too much about it. They make a point of never discussing religion with anyone, especially protestants because “those protestants always seem to know their Bible better than I do”. Better’n nothing, I reckon. :confused:

Personally, I lived through a process similar to Scott Hahn (although without the magnificent results), which certainly doesn’t make me a hero, by any means. After I accepted Christ and became a foam-at-the-mouth protestant who was determined to save my Catholic wife from the “Whore of Babylon”, the more I began to read about Church history. Of all the “churches” I was familiar with, the only one with roots any deeper than 500 years was the Catholic Church and I began to wonder why everyone, including me, wasn’t a Catholic. So, when I finally made the jump to Catholicism, it was very post-V2 and I missed much of the V2 “confusion”. :confused: (Sorry about my digression.)

Anyway, based on my own experience, there is much more Catholic laity involvement in evangelism than there was 30 or more years ago and it seems to be accelerating. Just my opinion. :cool:

I’m not sure if that’s what Mr. Hiner was talking about… or not. :shrug:

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