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October 13, 1962: The Day
It All Went Wrong

by Christopher A. Ferrara
October 19, 2012

In an important article in The Washington Post (thanks to The Remnant newspaper for the lead), Catholic journalist Kenneth Wolfe remarks the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council by recalling that during the opening days of the Council the conservative pro-Prefect of the soon-to-be-abolished Holy Office, Cardinal Ottaviani, was "'pleading for the bishops to consider the texts the curia has spent three years preparing [when] suddenly his microphone was shut off. He kept speaking, but no one could hear a word. Then, puzzled and flustered, he stopped speaking, in confusion. And the assembled fathers began to laugh, and then to cheer...' This was on day three."

Day three of the Council was October 13, 1962 — the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. And the man who shut off Cardinal Ottaviani's microphone was none other than "Cardinal Achille Liénart, a leading liberal from France serving on Vatican II's board of presidency..."

But Liénart did something else on that fateful day. As I recount in my book The Great Façade, under the Council's rules of procedure

the October 13 meeting was to be limited to a vote on the candidates the curia had proposed for the conciliar commissions, although each Father was free to write in his own choices. In violation of the procedural rules, Cardinal Achille Liénart seized the microphone and began reading a declaration demanding consultations among the electors and national bishops conferences before any vote. The vote was postponed and Pope John was cowed into allowing entirely new slates of candidates to be proposed, after a suitable period for politicking by the conciliar liberals. The liberal bishops of the Rhine countries ultimately succeeded in packing the commissions with their candidates, achieving majorities or near-majorities on all the key commissions once the election was held. As Fr. Ralph Wiltgen observed: "After this election, it was not hard to see which group was well organized enough to take over leadership at the Second Vatican Council. The Rhine had begun to flow into the Tiber."

Romano Amerio, whose work of genius Iota Unum also recounts the incident, observed that it was "one of those points at which history is concentrated for a moment, and whence great consequences flow." (Iota Unum, p. 85) Liénart's impudence opened the way to the junking of three years of traditional preparatory work for the Council, which was literally tossed in the garbage to be replaced by the newly written texts whose ambiguities have bedeviled the Church to this day.

October 13, 1962. Remember that date. It is the date that everything began to go wrong at the Council, and thus for the Church that has been convulsed ever since by the Council's results, and thus for the world, whose state reflects the state of a Church in crisis.

It is no coincidence that Liénart's arrant usurpation took place on the very anniversary of the day a crowd of 70,000 souls at the Cova da Iria thought the world was coming to an end as the sun descended from its place in the heavens and plummeted to earth — a warning of the great crisis to come for the Church and mankind if the Message of Fatima were ignored by the Church's leaders, as indeed it has been.