The Flying Buttress: What Inquisitors' Minds Want to Know

An archive for issues of The Flying Buttress newswire, whose purpose is to comment satirically on dissent within and relating to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Disclaimer: These publications are works of satirical fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, but it all depends on what you mean by the word "is." May the Lord bless you and keep you!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Flying Buttress, 12/4/05

+Dissecting dissent in the Cincinnati Archdiocese+

Book Review: Vatican II: The Crisis and the Promise” (Part I)

+With this and at least one more issue, The Flying Buttress offers our readers some expository relief for the Advent Season. That is, we will review and analyze without satire Dr. Alan Schreck’s new book, “Vatican II: The Crisis and the Promise." Schreck is Chair of the Theology Department at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH. He is also a member of the charismatic “Community of God's Love."

+Since reviled Buttress publisher Tomas de Torquemada is a poorly formed, poorly acculturated Catholic (the result of a liberal Cincinnati RCIA whose instructor was more attentive to avoiding “triumphalism" than to teaching Catholic tradition and devotion), we do not pretend that our review is authoritative. Therefore, we invite our readers to respond, either via e-mail or at the new Flying Buttress archive, This symbol is inserted, [R.], where we would be especially interested in your comments.

+Our review is written in the same question-and-answer format employed by Schreck.

Q: Who is the target audience?

A: The layman appears to be the target audience, though this is not explicitly stated. However, in the unlikely event that there are priests or religious unfamiliar with the actual contents of the Vatican II documents, this book would be helpful to them, and perhaps to first-year seminarians as well. Overall, it is a useful corrective measure against the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II,” which has not only done such harm to the Church, but ultimately, to the souls of the laity. Unfortunately, since Schreck limits himself to explaining the Council documents rather than critiquing them, he handicaps himself with the same flaws, lack of consistency, and even theological absurdity exhibited by some of those documents. Thus, the layman who wishes to study the Council documents and their implications in depth will find this book to be no more than an introduction, the first step on a long staircase.

Q: What is Schreck’s attitude toward critics of the Council?

A: Schreck’s apparent determination to be positive about the Council documents, no matter what, results in an extremely negative overview of the Council’s critics, to whom he applies the unorthodox label of “dissenters." People such as Michael Davies, Archbishop Lefebvre, Robert Sungenis, Christopher Ferrara and Thomas Woods are held up to subtle ridicule for their thorough research, usually by the use of quotation marks (e.g. “villains," “modernists," “ambiguous."). Even James Hitchcock, at first labeled a “moderate critic of the Council," (thus implying that all the authors previously cited are extremists) eventually receives a whack across the hand via quotation marks. Oddly enough, Dietrich von Hildebrand, who knew full well what had happened at the Council and was so devastatingly critical of its mistakes and its cabals, is not mentioned at all.

(Ed. note: Ridicule alone, Dr. Schreck, is not refutation. In fact, it is a tacit admission that one cannot refute, and so must resort to ad hominem attacks, propaganda devices or histrionics.)

While trashing these critics of the Council as radicals, Schreck suddenly asks for consideration of movements like the Neo-Catechumenical Way and charismatic renewal with “justice and charity" – having just failed to exercise those virtues himself! One wonders whether the source of his disdain is these critics’ disapproval of the charismatic movement, in which Schreck himself participates. At any rate, the bias of the first chapter is so pervasive and so irrational that is tempting to just throw the book away. However, having bottomed out in Chapter One, Schreck begins the long climb uphill in Chapter Two.

Q: How does Schreck define the crisis in the Church?

A: Schreck uses the Ratzinger Report and the public statements of Paul VI about the “smoke of Satan" to establish this, thus contradicting himself: many of the extremist statements of the Council’s supposedly radical critics – ridiculed in Chapter One - are, in fact, accurate! He concedes that certain distortions may have been intentional, after all – though this possibility was previously scorned as mere conspiracy theory. Why is it acceptable for a Pope and a Cardinal to point out the causes of the Church’s disintegration, but not Davies et al?

Be that as it may, Chapter Two summarizes in nine bullet points the deterioration of the Faith since the Council closed. One of these points (plummeting Mass attendance) overlaps the indicators of Kenneth Jones’ “Index of Leading Catholic Indicators" which demonstrate the decline of the Church since Vatican II (the exodus from Confession, seminaries, religious orders, and Catholic schools; the decline in infant and adult baptisms). Both lists are necessary: Schreck describes a qualitative decline; Jones a quantitative. Once both these lists are digested, it is difficult to greet claims of “renewal" with a straight face - though Schreck would never permit himself to say that. Nor does he mention Jones.

Q: Does Schreck succeed in placing the Council documents in the context of tradition?

A: Yes, he does an admirable job of refuting those liberals who insist that, or act as though, Vatican II reinvented the Church. His derivation of the authority of the Council and its documents also refutes those who claim that neither is licit [R.]. He cites Cardinal Avery Dulles’ principles for interpreting the Council’s documents, and clears up the confusion over whether the Council was “pastoral" or “doctrinal" (while missing the opportunity to point out the obvious: if the Council was merely pastoral, why do two of its major documents begin with the word “Dogmatic"?). He quotes but fails to comment on this excerpt from Pope John XXIII’s speech which opened the Council:

“The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously."

Again, Dr. Schreck would never allow himself to say this from his persistently positive pulpit, but, judging from the developments of the past 40 years, the Church has thus far failed miserably at the task which Pope John set before it. Nevertheless, we applaud Dr. Schreck for his efforts to reverse this.

Q: Closing thoughts for Part I?

A: We wondered, frankly, which Alan Schreck wrote this book: the liberal-sounding attack dog of Chapter One, or the reasonable exegete of the rest of the book. Chapter One is disgraceful and ought to be revised by Schreck the Reasonable, and the book reissued in a second edition. His appeal for the charismatics is both irrelevant and inappropriate and should be omitted, and the positions of the numerous critics of the Council should be reviewed respectfully.

Respect for said criticism might lead Schreck to a more balanced perspective on the crisis in the Church. For example, as if to prophecy the Church’s 40-year wandering in the wilderness, Pope Paul VI had this to say in 1965 about the early stages of Council implementation by the Consilium:

“Some have allowed themselves to fall into error over the new directives and have shown themselves more ready to destroy than to preserve and develop. But no: the Council is not to be considered as a kind of cyclone, a revolution upsetting ideas and traditions and permitting rash and unthinkable novelties. No, the Council is not a revolution: it is a renewal."

As Paul VI hints, the situation is far more serious than one would guess from reading Schreck. The reader will note that Dr. Schreck repeatedly lifts his hand as if to point a finger, but always fails to complete the gesture. Perhaps he defined his task by refusing to dwell on who caused what, but only on how to remedy the situation. All well and good, but this approach does not allow the student to pair the intended Conciliar teaching with the distortions of it which have since been institutionalized (the prime example, the Novus Ordo Mass)1. It also tends to parrot the Pollyannaish outlook which repeatedly issues from Rome in the face of disaster.

We close with a far more realistic (i.e. considerably less rosy) assessment of Vatican II and its atmosphere, that of Msgr. Camille Perl:

“Perl traced the source of this tragic situation [division and decline in the Church] to tensions at the Second Vatican Council, where two interest groups confronted one another: progressives, in favour of radical “reforms," and conservatives, not against true reforms but against radical, untraditional reforms. In between was the larger middle group of undecided Bishops. The archbishop noted that the end of the Council, especially its immediate aftermath, marked the victory of the progressives, and confirmed the fears of conservatives. The Council’s intention of “opening the Church to the world," especially to “separated Christians," according to Perl, “was good in itself and a sign of the will to restore the lost unity. But this caused also a new breakaway, which can only be described as a tragedy." (Inside the Vatican, May 2000, ed. by Alberto Carosa)

NEXT ISSUE: The Vatican II/Schreck scheme of salvation.

Notes: 1. The Novus Ordo Mass, the creation of Annibale Bugnini – the man dismissed by two Popes under suspicion of being a Freemason – was soundly rejected by vote of the Bishops. However, it was promulgated anyway by the Hamlet-like Paul VI, who apparently thought it more important to avoid embarrassment than to preserve Tradition.

Instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education (Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations With Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies…)


Blogger OrthodoxWarrior said...

Well, I think the Vatican II is going to hopefully get put to rest tommorow when Pope Benedict XVI addresses it in his homily. I'm sure there are a bunch of clowns like McBrien who will have something stupid to say. Hopefully McBrien will same something outragous that will get back to Rome, so he can go join Hans Kuhn! By the way I got an Overberg article for you on Antiquus Bellator.

10:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home