On January 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII announced his intention to call a Church Council. This is a good time to consider the results of Vatican II.
As a practical matter, I believe the Church as an earthly institution has been in decline by most measurements, mass attendance, ordinations, numbers of nuns, sisters and brothers, since 1965. The ever-reticent Gerald Warner, expresses himself on this point in the Daily Telegraph. Hattip to the Lair of the Catholic Cavemen. I think the decline is undeniable, but is it fair to blame Vatican II? Would the Church have experienced the same turbulence, or even worse, without Vatican II? I doubt it. The Church had thriven in the hostile environment of the first half of the Twentieth Century, when malevolent atheist ideologies, such as Nazism and Communism, had launched unceasing assaults on the Church. Odd that the Church could so well weather this storm and then encounter such difficulties in the relatively calm seas of the latter Twentieth Century. Plus, the collapse came on so rapidly after the Council that it is hard to resist the temptation to believe that there has to be some link. It also didn’t help that Paul VI was a very good man, but also a very weak pope.
Of course much, although not all, of the difficulties of Vatican II are caused by misinterpretations of what the Council did and what the Council actually stated. Father Z, of the always worth reading What Does the Prayer Say, recently fisked, in his usual robust style, a newspaper column that repeated the common foolishness that Vatican II “liberated” Catholics from superstitious and medieval observances. The “spirit of Vatican II” is often responsible for idiocies within the contemporary Church that most of the participants in Vatican II never, in their wildest nightmares, intended.
Those of course who decry Vatican II as a false Council and/or Blessed Pope John as a false pope are completely wrong. Also wrong are those who believe the Church truly started only in 1965 at the end of the Council. The Church is an earthly and a sacred institution with an eventful history of 2000 years during which the Church, as an earthly institution, has had its ups and its downs. Recently the Church, at least in the Western world, has been very much in a down period. The fiftieth anniversary of the calling of Vatican II is a good opportunity for Catholics to ponder why this has been the case and what each one of us can do to reverse this.