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Pope John's Council Hardcover – June 1, 2008
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Revised and Expanded Edition
2007 Angelus Press Hardcover 480 p
This is the second book in late author Michael Davies' three-part "Liturgical Revolution" series. The first volume, Cranmer's Godly Order, introduced the concept of "lex orandi, lex credendi" (the law of prayer is the law of belief) and showed how that principle was used to subvert the Catholic faith in 16th Century England through changes in its liturgy. In "Pope John's Council", Mr. Davies documents the events of Vatican II and analyzes the effects the Council has had on the Church. The most visible manifestation was the introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass, which made many of the same changes Cranmer enacted for the new Anglican religion nearly 500 years ago.
Mr. Davies' sources are plentiful and unimpeachable, as they are a matter of public record. They include statements from clerics directly involved in the Council, experts or "piriti" that assisted and influenced the clerics in the background, Protestant observers (who actively campaigned for a more "open" Catholic Church), and media accounts of the events as they unfolded. The author mostly steps out of the way and lets the material speak for itself, and the story it tells is distressing: a group of well-organized, agenda-driven Rhine bishops maneuvered themselves into positions that allowed equivocal language to be fitted into Councilar documents, obfuscating Church teaching. Most of the damage from these strategically placed ambiguities would occur long after the closing of the Council, hence the name Davies gives them: "language time-bombs". Stacked pontifical commissions, revolutionary priests, and wayward theologians would use the squishy language to disfigure both the Mass and the Magisterium in the years following the Council, relying on an obedient, docile laity as a shield and the 1960's "spirit of change" as their hammer. The result was a Church made over into something that would confuse Catholics in any age before the 1960s; it's worship, architecture, institutions, schools, and fidelity were compromised. These leaders abrogated their chief responsibility, which was to preserve and to transmit to the next generation what was handed down to them. They will have to answer for that.
For the faithful who recognize all around them the damage that has been done, this is one of the most heartbreaking books they may ever read: it is the Church laying the groundwork for its own suicide by "ecumania" - the irrational desire for a false ecumenism above and beyond all other concerns. The Fathers of Vatican II were blind-sided by those Rhine bishops who came to what was supposed to be a "modest", "pastoral" council, with a plan for seizing control of all the commissions and packing all the deliberating bodies with like-minded modernists. The original schemas that took years to draw up by a large body of prelates were tossed out in the first meetings of the council, and hastily drawn, ambiguously worded schemas were adopted in their place. Pressure was placed on bishops and cardinals with behind-the-scenes lobbying, and sober, experienced mostly older prelates were belittled in that rush to sweep aside stabilizing traditions and institutions so characteristic of the "decade of change". What took place was a radical Protestant-izing of Catholicism and it has gutted the Faith. You don't have to accept Mr. Davies' analysis; the words of Paul VI on April 3, 1968 - the pope who presided over the last part of the Council and the transformation that followed in its wake - will suffice:
"The word of Christ is no longer the truth which never changes, ever living, ever radiant and fruitful, even though at times beyond our understanding. It becomes a partial truth...and is thus deprived of all objective validity and transcendent authority. It will be said that the Council authorized such treatment of traditional teaching. Nothing is more false, if we are to accept the word of Pope John who launched the aggiornamento in whose name some dare to impose on Catholic dogma dangerous and sometimes reckless interpretations." The Council was never meant to wipe away tradition and start from scratch, but that is what the supporters of the "spirit of Vatican II" have done.
Lest one come away from this book - or this review - with a feeling of lost hope, it is imperative to keep in mind what Mr. Davies tells us in his introduction: "The duty of faithful Catholics in these times is to avoid despair and at all costs remain within the barque of Peter." Amen. Below is the contents of this work that shows its topics and organization, and following that a note to prospective readers on some things that they might want to research before reading this book:
I. Pope John Is Inspired
II. The Church Before the Council
IV. Mopping Up
V. Liberal Shock Troops
VI. Time Bombs
VII. The Prefabricators
VIII. The Background to Protestantism
XI. Protestant Pressures
X. Mother of the Church
XI. The Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation - Dei Verbum
XII. The Status of the Documents
XIII. Left Turn
XIV. Pernicious Adversaries
XV. The Enigma of Pope Paul
XVI. Planting the Time Bombs
XVII. Unearthing the Time Bombs
XVIII. Counting the Cost
I - The General Councils of the Church
II - Chronology of the Council
III - The Press and the First Vatican Council
IV - Liberal Mythology
V - The Declaration Dominus Jesus Regarding the Term Subsitit
VI - Sillonism
VII - Salleron on Maritain
VIII - The Anti-Liturgical Heresy
IX - The Fruits of Vatican II
*** Note ***
For a more complete perspective of exactly what author Michael Davies covers in this work, I recommend investigating the history of the development of dogma and of worship in the Catholic Church beforehand. When one reads the Gospels, we regularly find Christ "going up to Jerusalem", to the Temple, for one feast or another multiple times a year; Jewish life revolved around these Temple feasts. In the Old testament, we find out what Temple worship consisted of: priests (in vestments), incense, sacrifice, chanting of the psalms, candles, and so forth. In the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse of St. John, we find all the elements of the Catholic Mass - the altar, the saints, the lamb and so on.
The natural growth of this "mustard seed" resulted in the Mass as it came down to us until 1962; minor changes accrued slowly over the centuries, first as political circumstances allowed the early Church to worship in the open without persecution, and then in response to heresies, where the teaching of the Church had deepened in the process of warding off error. These teachings and this greater clarity would sometimes manifest in slight changes to the Mass over time to emphasize and bring out the orthodox meaning and remove all doubt about heresy. One can, in some respects, think of it as the writing of a great poem where each line and each punctuation is painstakingly placed to convey a specific meaning without changing the essence of the poem; or, less elegantly, one can think of it as stones placed in the wall where the enemy has tried to breach a rampart, with the purpose of strengthening and protecting those inside. A great book to read on this topic is John Henry Newman's An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.
The changes to the liturgy and to Catholic teaching in the wake of Vatican II were not a growth in the manner described above; in practical terms, Vatican II was a revolution and a throwing off of everything that came before. Cranmer, with his "Godly Order", didn't contemplate making the abrupt changes that have taken place since 1965. Sadly, the damage will take decades, if not centuries, to repair.
Pope John's Council is the second book in Davies' trilogy and is the most accessible of the three. Anyone curious about what has happened to either Roman Catholicism or Western Civilization over the past 30 years needs to read this book.
Mr. Davies cogently argues that it is the ambiguity in the conciliar documents themselves, not the "Spirit of Vatican II" alone, that has lead to so much confusion. Pope John's Council goes a long way towards explaining causes of the devastation in the Catholic Church that Cardinal Ratziger has commented on extensively the last few years.
But unlike Davies' fine logic in his Pope Paul's New Mass, this book, Pope John's Council - despite the usual finely detailed presentation - is a mess of pottage. Why the difference? Because here Davies indulges in spectacularly dicey theological reasoning over and over and over again. Davies here will stare heresy and apostasy straight in the face and call it orthodoxy - as much as he obviously dislikes so doing. Why does Davies engage in this Alice in Wonderland thinking? Because he inevitably skirts the issue of whether John XXIII and Paul VI were true popes or antipopes who lost their office due to their heretical conduct. Davies dicey reasoning is founded on his implicit insistence that heresy - error - CAN be taught by the Church and that heretics CAN be members of the Church: the inevitable consequence of Davies' assumption that John 23rd and Paul 6th were valid popes. Valid *heretical* popes is an oxymoron, a contradictio in adjecto. See for example canon 188.4. Hence, Davies here is being consistently inconsistent and illogically logical. So I tepidly recommend this book with reservations because some of the information herein certainly is very much worth having. And as always, I salute Michael Davies for sincerely and heroically trying.
A far more accurate assessment of John 23's council is The Truth about What Really Happened to the Catholic Church after Vatican II.