Thursday, November 12, 2015

Enthusiasm, V: The Spirit of Vatican II


As we’ve seen in this series, one of the most striking characteristics of the shift in the basis of the natural law from the Intellect to the Will is the necessity of rejecting reason itself — even among individuals and groups who claim to base their respective positions on reason and common sense.  The “inner light” Chesterton disparaged is their only guide and lamp unto their feet.  As Knox explained,

Knox: "The enthusiast descries reason."
“[The enthusiast] decries the use of human reason as a guide to any sort of religious truth.  A direct indication of the Divine will is communicated to him at every turn, if only he will consent to abandon the ‘arm of flesh’ — Man’s miserable intellect, fatally obscured by the Fall.  If no oracle from heaven is forthcoming, he will take refuge in sortilege; anything, to make sure that he is leaving the decision in God’s hands.  That God speaks to us through the intellect is a notion which he may accept on paper, but fears, in practice, to apply.”  (Knox, Enthusiasm, op. cit., 3.)

Especially in the United States, where Msgr. Ryan ruled the interpretation of Catholic social teaching, there was a strange reluctance to question the validity of the assumptions underlying that interpretation.  Part of this, of course, was due to Ryan’s skill in evading questions, and in denigrating or attacking anyone who dared to challenge what he regarded as his rightful preeminence.

Ryan: Ask no questions.
As Franz Mueller related, “Ryan anticipated the accusation that his program was socialistic or paternalistic, but this, he felt would be an attempt at refutation by name-calling, not deserving serious attention.” (Mueller, The Church and the Social Question, op. cit., 106.)  Father Charles Owen Rice, chief spokesman for the “Catholic Radical Alliance,” an organization founded to promote Ryan’s ideas, in a barb that may have been directed at Fulton Sheen, declared in a pamphlet in the 1930s that those who opposed their implementation were “traitors to Christ.” (Pamphlet, Catholic University of America Archives, CIO central office papers, 1937-1941, quoted in Neil Betten, “Charles Owen Rice,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 94, 524.)

Benedict XV: "Old things, but in a new way."
Consequently modernism remained “underground” (so to speak) until the Second Vatican Council seemed to give carte blanche to those who wanted to reinterpret the Church’s mission in the world as purely material.  This, they believed (or claimed to believe) would bring the Church into the modern world (hence the name “modernist”), addressing the “new things” by completely jettisoning the old, ignoring Pope Benedict XV’s “Old things, but in a new way” (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, § 25).  “Aggiornamento” (“bringing up to date”) seemed to validate modernism as applied in the Church’s social teaching, especially the New Deal that Ryan promoted so assiduously.

Of course, anyone who has actually taken the time to read the documents of Vatican II knows full well that nothing doctrinal was changed, and there was no basis for the demands of the new modernists, any more than there had been for those of the old adherents of “the Third Dispensation” superseding both the Old and the New Testaments with the doctrines of the New Age (cf. Knox, Enthusiasm, op. cit., 583-584).  There was to be a greater emphasis on the work of social justice, but that was nothing more than the popes had been saying since at least the days of Leo XIII.

Baffling liturgical innovation as well as philosophical shifts.
Many of the changes, however, were a flat contradiction and repudiation of everything that had gone before — except for the aberrations that, thanks to Ryan, had become embedded as the new orthodoxy in Catholic social teaching for the past half-century.  Ryan’s innovations were taken as validating the changes that many people thought were consistent with the presumed “Spirit of Vatican II.”

As a case in point, it seems that virtually every “second generation” solidarist — those of the generation following that of Pesch’s students — rejected Aristotelian-Thomism.  At the same time, they labored under the delusion that they were being consistent with it.  They reverted solidarism to the principles articulated by Durkheim . . . all the while seemingly unaware that there was any difference!

Aquinas overthrown.
The innovations of Ryan and the modernists were now to be extended to the whole of Church teaching and practice.  This effectively overthrew Aristotelian-Thomism and confirmed the shift from reason to faith as the basis of the natural law.  The fact that there was absolutely no basis in fact for any of this was ignored.

We do not, of course, refer to changes in applications of Catholic teaching, or externals of worship.  Changing the language of the mass from Latin to the vernacular annoyed, even outraged many people, but changed nothing substantive.  Claiming that charity now eliminated the need for justice and common sense in accordance with the demands of “social justice” and similar declarations, however, did involve changes in doctrine and fundamental beliefs.

Naturally, this did not happen in a vacuum.  The modern world to which the modernists wanted to conform was and remains a world badly in need of itself conforming back to the principles of natural law found in authentic Catholic social teaching.  Nowhere was this more evident than in the United States.

William Marbury (left) and James Madison (right).
According to William Crosskey, possibly the premier American constitutional scholar of the twentieth century, the whole thing started in the United States by including a contradiction in the Constitution: slavery.  In order to preserve and extend slavery, the Supreme Court gradually used a perfectly correct decision, Marbury v. Madison (1803), to expand judicial review and thus the power of the Court.

This, by the way, also illustrates in the most graphic manner possible the fact that contradictions are always disastrous, one way or another.  In any event, there is a clear line of descent from Scott v. Sandford (the notorious Dred Scott case) in 1857, to Roe v. Wade in 1973.  The development of and descent into moral relativism in religious society parallels (and, in fact, relies on) the shift from Aristotelian-Thomist natural law theory, to legal positivism as the prevailing philosophy in domestic, religious, and civil society.

The question remains, however, How did such an anti-human and irrational philosophy ever take hold in the Catholic Church, presumed by Chesterton, Knox, and Sheen to be the last bulwark of reason and common sense on earth?

#30#

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