Turn on the "closed caption" feature to read the pope's comments in English.
There was a time, not so long ago, when some people would have accused me of being a schismatic for saying such things. Indeed, I know some people here in my own diocese who would have taken a very harsh tone with me for even suggesting this. It's not true. If anything, my fervent desire to be in full communion with the Holy Father leads me to say this. Now however, in the last week of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate, he has spoken very plainly and openly about what he has alluded to many times over the last eight years. So Catholics such as myself now have some cover. For it is not our words, but the message of the Holy Father himself.
The reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council (not the Council itself, but the reforms that followed it) were essentially hijacked by the mainstream news media of the 1960s and 70s. They were misreported and misinterpreted, so as to spread a false image, of what the Council really was, and what the conciliar fathers really intended to do. Consequently, the majority of Catholics around the world, but most especially in Europe and North America, got a message of Vatican II that was distorted and warped. Many of the "reforms" that were implemented in the 1970s were the result of this distorted and warped image. Now to be clear, I am not blaming anyone in the Church for this. There may have been some who had their own agendas, but the overwhelming vast majority of people were simply doing what they mistakenly believed was the right thing to do. Their intentions were pure. Unfortunately, their actions were misplaced. It would appear that the Holy Father is laying the majority of the blame for this at the feet of the mainstream news media, who's irresponsible reporting, sometimes with ulterior motives, led many well-meaning Catholics astray.
As a result of this, radical "reforms" (changes) were implemented, which the Second Vatican Council never called for. These included everything from radical changes in Church architecture and liturgical restructuring, to significant changes in the way the Catholic Christian faith is taught and communicated. The Holy Father, in the final week of his pontificate, has classified many of these changes as nothing short of "calamities" and "misfortunes" that have resulted in the closing of seminaries and a liturgy that has become "banal." These words will come as shocking to many readers in the West, but they are not my words. They come from the lips of the Holy Father himself.
Mixed with these words is a message of hope, that in spite of the temporary triumph of the "Virtual Council" created by the mainstream press, the true Council of the conciliar fathers is starting to break through, and will ultimately vanquish the "Virtual Council" of the media.
We know what the results of the "Virtual Council" were. They are all around us. What, however, does the Holy Father mean when he speaks of the real Council, and the real reforms, that are beginning to take shape in the Church today? For starters, let's look at the world of Blessed Pope John Paul II. During his reign, he came under many pressures to "change" the Catholic faith, to make it more "accommodating" to the modern world. Many wanted him to approve artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and completely eradicate all vestiges of the old liturgy. He did none of these things, but quite the opposite actually. He affirmed Pope Paul VI's teachings on artificial contraception, infallibly declared that the Church has no authority to ordain women, and created the Pontifical Commission of Ecclesia Dei, which would insure not only the survival, but the continued propagation of the traditional pre-conciliar liturgy. Blessed John Paul II was followed by the current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who continued to build on John Paul II's legacy, adding his own reforms that expanded them. Pope Benedict XVI also began reintroducing more traditional elements to the new liturgy, the Missal of Pope Paul VI, and affirmed in every way a message of continuity between the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church.
At the heart of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate is the "Hermeneutic of Continuity" which trumps the "Hermeneutic of Rupture" created by the mainstream news media's "Virtual Council." What does this mean in plain English? It means quite simply this. The 1960s and 70s mainstream news media attempted to hijack and influence the reforms of Vatican II. In essence, they tried to "redefine" Catholicism, or create a "new Church" that had more in common with their own worldly vision, rather than the holy vision of the conciliar fathers. Sadly, because of the mainstream news media's influence and power, they were (for a time) able to produce many of their desired results. Fortunately, thanks to the protection of the Holy Spirit, they could not achieve the full measure of the "rupture" they sought.
Both Pope Paul VI, and Pope Benedict XVI, pointed out that the conciliar fathers took deliberate care not to attach a note of infallibility to any document produced by the Council. Now that's not to say the conciliar fathers didn't teach infallible things through the Council. They most certainly did. However, by not directly exercising their chrism of infallibility, they sent a very clear message that Vatican II was a "lesser council" of a more "pastoral nature," compared to the doctrinal councils of Vatican I and Trent. In other words, while the conciliar fathers took care to further clarify and apply Church teaching, they did not apply anything "new" or "change" what the Church previously taught. In other words, the doctrine and mission of the Catholic Church is the same today as it was before Vatican II. This is what Pope Benedict XVI refers to as the "Hermeneutic of Continuity."
At the heart of the mainstream news media's "Virtual Council" was a "Hermeneutic of Rupture" with the pre-conciliar Catholic Church. They wanted to make a clean break with Catholic history and tradition. Instead, they hoped to create a "new Church" that conformed more to worldly ideas and values. To do this, they had to reinvent Vatican II in the way they reported it. Instead of recognising the "lesser pastoral nature" of the Council, they turned that on its head, reporting as if it were a "Super Council" which trumped and cancelled all previous Church councils. The idea here was to get Catholics to interpret Vatican II in a vacuum, so as to imagine that everything prior to Vatican II had been swept away. They wanted Catholics to believe Vatican II was a fresh new starting point, a "clean slate," wherein everything prior to the Council should be forgotten and tossed into the ash heap of history. In doing this, the mainstream news media hoped they could get Catholicism to completely reinvent itself into something more worldly. They failed. However, the damage they created was substantial. Nowhere is this more evident than in the religious vocation crisis that emerged almost immediately after the close of Vatican II. Over the course of the following two decades, the number of priests declined. Seminaries were closed. Convents were closed. Monasteries were closed. A crisis in catechises and religious formation emerged. Scandals erupted everywhere. Mass attendance plummeted. Now, on the eve of the papal conclave, rumours of corruption within the Catholic hierarchy are circulating throughout Rome, while one English cardinal has resigned and another American cardinal is under tremendous pressure to do the same.
The next pope, whoever he may be, is going to have a very big job to do. Fortunately, he has the benefit of standing on the shoulders of giants. Both popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have paved a clear path for him, but it won't be an easy path. The new pope will have to build upon the "Hermeneutic of Continuity" to fully vanquish the "Virtual Church" created by false media reporting of Vatican II. He will encounter resistance to this, both inside and outside the Church. It will be the resistance inside the Church that may perhaps prove to be the most challenging.
There is a certain continuity in the messages of Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI about the Second Vatican Council. That message is a simple one. It is one of which the mainstream news media will never report, but it is simultaneously one we Catholics must pay very close attention to. What is that message? It is simply that the Catholic Church is the same now as she was before Vatican II. It's the same Church, with the same doctrine, the same message, and the same mission. Vatican II clarified some issues, pastorally, but it changed nothing. It opened the door to some liturgical reforms as well, most especially vernacular translations, but it never envisioned radical changes to the mass. The changes the conciliar fathers envisioned were to be subtle, but what spontaneously resulted (thanks to the media) took everyone by surprise. As the real Vatican II slowly emerges, we are going to discover a new Catholic Church that looks strikingly similar to the old Catholic Church. The vernacular mass is here to stay, of course, but the way we celebrate it in the near future might strike some senior citizens as "familiar." We can expect a more clarified way of teaching the faith as well, less nuanced, and striking a stronger chord against modernity and moral relativism. What Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI preserved of traditional teaching and practice, will become the foundation of the 21st century Catholic Church. This is the real Second Vatican Council emerging, as opposed to the "Virtual Council" created by the mainstream news media of the 1960s and 70s. This is the "Hermeneutic of Continuity" with the pre-conciliar Church, as opposed to the artificial break with the pre-conciliar Church, the "Hermeneutic of Rupture," that the 1960s and 70s news media tried to create. This is the message of the last three popes. The Catholic Church will soon become exactly what it once was -- only better.