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The “Springtime” that Never Was

by Christopher A. Ferrara

soon we may see the Church the Council envisioned.”, a journal of neo-Catholic thought, Janet E. Smith declares “There is a new springtime, a new awakening, begun with a Council that was nearly hijacked . . . Those of us who have labored in the trenches are most grateful for and appreciative of the reinforcements and new troops the Holy Spirit is raising up for DossierAfter nearly forty years of post-conciliar winter, the neo-Catholics are still proclaiming the “springtime” of Vatican II. In the November-December issue of

The Church the Council “envisioned”? What Church would that be, exactly? And what does she mean by “soon”? Smith herself notes that the post-conciliar landscape is nothing less than a disaster area:

We have been participating in a prolonged wake for the losses in beauty, dignity, and reverence that have characterized the liturgy and church architecture since the Council and for the mangling of doctrine. I know of devout Catholics who for years have gone to the earliest Sunday morning Mass possible since there is unlikely to be any music and thus any barbaric music at that hour. Or those who travel significant distances each Sunday to find a liturgy that can raise their souls to God. Some of us have resolutely refused to learn anything about the rubrics for the Mass, or vestments, or appointments around the altar because of concern for our blood pressure and fear of losing the power of recollection needed to worship properly. There are those who have even learned to blot out the homilies and other wayward remarks by the celebrant. Those who have desired to learn what the Church teaches about something rather than what the reigning dissenting theologian teaches have, unfortunately but wisely, learned to trust little that comes from most pulpits and from the chancery office.

How in heaven’s name can anyone who recognizes the situation described above speak of a “springtime” that began with Vatican II? One can only be amused by Smith’s observation that “It is a good sign that at the University of Dallas, the students have spontaneously begun to sing the ordinary of the Mass in Latin at some of the liturgies. It is now a truism to say that the more traditional orders and dioceses are attracting by far the greater number of vocations.” So, the “springtime” of Vatican II seems to be a return to the traditions left behind after Vatican II. But if a return to what was left behind is the “springtime”, then why did we need a “springtime” in the first place? Why did we not stay just where we were in terms of Catholic tradition?

Smith has even more puzzling things to say: “The big tugboat of the Catechism has perhaps finally launched the boat of Vatican II and set it on a proper course.” Come again? How can a catechism issued some 30 years after Vatican II set Vatican II on its proper course? Didn’t Vatican II set its own course? If, not, then what was the point of the Council?

Here we come to the heart of the matter: Vatican II has become one of those things that is all things to all people. Its unprecedentedly ambiguous documents could mean almost anything, or nothing. That is why no one can really describe the mythical “Church envisioned by Vatican II.” But one certainly can describe the ruinous aftermath of the Council. Even Smith does that well enough. By their fruits ye shall know them.