How was it for you?

“At the heart of this reform (as expressed by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium) are synodality (the entire Church walking, discerning and evangelizing together), episcopal collegiality (shared governing responsibility between pope and bishops) and subsidiarity (decentralization of decision-making authority) — to name just three core principles the exhortation says are needed in order to renew the church.“
Robert Mickens, NCR 31 August 2015.

I quote this because our current discussion On our way out? has, among several other suggestions, cited Vatican II as a factor in our current difficulties. Mickens goes on to say, and with some emphasis, that unless Pope Francis is able to achieve structural reform and in particular reform of the Curia, his objectives will be baulked – perhaps indefinitely. Some of our contributors may be delighted, others may not.

So here are two arguments to consider. They are deliberately polarised and simplified but I hope they will provide a useful start point for discussion.

The first view is that the Council was a response to the strong modernist culture which followed World War II. There were many voices within the Church calling for reforms which would make the Church relevant to these new conditions. Although the Curia sprang to the defence of tradition, the assembled bishops untypically resisted. The results were disastrous. Discipline became slack, many clergy went haywire, ‘conscience’ somehow justified everything, our great Latin liturgy became an anachronism, ecumenism led to a slackness of doctrine and endangered our understanding of the Church’s unique foundation by Christ.

Leaving aside the chaos of the immediate aftermath (which included explicit permission for Catholics to reject the grave teaching of Humanae Vitae) successive popes have attempted to keep the lid on the pot – with mixed results. They have had strong support from the Curia – which has only yielded to change in a minimalist way. The current situation is inevitably messy. The Church has largely lost its own identity and, not surprisingly, many Catholics have fallen away. While the world sees Pope Francis as a breath of fresh air, the truth is that he is pursuing goals which can only worsen outcomes.

The second view is that Vatican II was a recognition that an authoritarian, monarchical Church was an historical aberration. Circumstances in the Middle Ages (the schism of the Eastern Church, the poor quality of the clergy etc) called for a top down society – which was then common in the secular world. This was to be reinforced by the threats of the Reformation. Vatican I confirmed this by defining the ultimate powers of the pope.

Vatican II was a recognition that the world had changed. Its objectives are well defined by Pope Francis in the Mickens quote above. Yes, the upsets noted in the first view cannot be denied. But they are the upsets which often follow a revolution – peaceful or otherwise. So far, the outcomes of the Council have often been disappointing, but this is largely because the old guard have fought strenuously to maintain the medieval hegemony. The Curia, still unreformed despite the Council’s requirements, continues to rule the roost. The episcopal synods which were intended to broaden collegiate authority were deliberately muzzled from the start. The choice of new bishops is still exclusive to the Papacy. The Holy Office continues with a legal system which owes more to the Inquisition than any modern understanding of justice. Pope Francis shows every intention of leading the Church towards the Council’s objectives. But he may fail, or be succeeded by someone unsympathetic to these intentions. This would be the worst result of all. We would end up with a small, inward-looking collection of people – more like a sect than the Church of God.

Now you may lean to one side or the other, or indeed disagree with both. But I am suggesting that we consider particularly the history of the Church since John XXIII opened the window to let some light in. Vatican II was styled as a pastoral council. Its aim was not to define doctrine but to review how the Church was doing its work to bring people to salvation. Did it succeed or fail in that objective? How would the Church look today if it had not occurred? Is some of our messiness simply because it takes time for reform to work its way through? How will the Church look in future if we abandon the Council’s intentions and behave as if John XXIII had never opened the window without foreseeing what might be blown in by the wind of modernism?

About Quentin

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76 Responses to How was it for you?

  1. Nektarios says:

    Show me the pattern as laid out in Acts 2. That is the template for what the Church is and should be.
    Where is the Holy Spirit in all this planning?
    Where is the RCC heading in all of this? It has lost so much ground. Left so many souls amidst all the organization without real leadership, just various powerful groups like the Curia lining their own nest and keeping status quo. They like their comfortable situation, while in seemingly doing nothing,
    their fellow Catholics they supposedly serve can go to hell.
    Quite frankly, I would sack the lot of them, but that would not be feasable or possible.
    The only other suggestion I would make, is that every Roman Catholic return to the New Testament pattern and with the blessing of the Holy Spirit – in fact all the churches need this message, rediscover the power and the fellowship of the Saints anew.
    Yes perhaps your fellow Catholics would sit up and take notice, as would the rest of the world.

  2. Brendan says:

    ” We who have known God since we were young , must ask forgiveness ” – Pope Benedict , Aug. 2004, Castelgandolfo. He said this to a gathering of former students , asking forgiveness for generations of ” cradle Catholics ” who have failed to pass on the Faith. No one person or organisation is immune from social change . One is only fooling oneself if one believes one can resist change forever. The Church like every other world organisation must evolve its traditions that face the challenges of the ‘ world ‘ head on , or die. In Wales from the early 60’s on , this could be seen in the closing down of cinemas and dance-halls too reflect the changing patterns of social life . The pattern was set throughout Britain when rapid change for good or for bad in entertainment , was fuelled by the ‘ sexual revolution ‘ ; the wide use of alcohol and other chemical abuse becoming widespread.
    Wales is heavily influenced ( through its history ) even in Anglicanism by strong Protestant doctrinal thought – even now. . Apart from mainstream Protestantism , Baptists , Methodist etc . ,t there has always been a strong presence – along with Established Anglicanism ( disestablished in the 30’s ) – of Independent Chapels ( Anibynwyr ) having a prominent social presence particularly in local and national politics ; Lloyd George , Keir Hardie etc. Radicalism is in Welsh blood.
    The social upheaval of the 60’s was of course a serious challenge to absolutist religion ; also to Catholicism with its distinctive brand of permanent ‘ truths ‘. Protestant non -conformism with no singular central authority and no mandate for change because of individual rigid doctrine , could not embrace change . Today Welsh non- conformism faces annilhilation in Wales.
    So Vatican ii, called by Blessed Pope John ; heading a Church whose doctrine was similar in its rigidity was indeed a work of the Holy Spirit. It had to be because operating in the same milieu , the visible Catholic Church in Wales and Britain – with consequent deterioration in British religiosity over the past fifty years , could well be facing annihilation today . We have survived as a changing visible Church because of The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council

  3. Vincent says:

    Among the objectives listed by Mickens, I note “the entire Church walking, discerning and evangelizing together”. This sounds benign but in fact it is radical. To achieve it, the Church has to abandon its long tradition of ruling like a dictator to keep its feudal peasants in line — you shall do this, you shall do that, and if you don’t then expect hell fire. That is going to be a difficult change when the majority of those who hold the position in the Church got to their rank under the totalitarian regime.

    It is equally difficult for the laity — who have to take a much greater responsibility than before. Now we need to look behind the commands and understand the values which the Church is working to promote. When we make a moral decision it is now not enough to say ‘the Church told me to’ — we have to answer for it personally. We must to be ready to take part in the activities of the Church, normally through our local communities — and notwithstanding the occasional cleric who still lives in a bygone age. We must know our theology sufficiently well to discuss and argue so that we contribute to our Church’s understanding. It is our Church not the bishops’ Church, not the pope’s Church — their role, Christ made crystal clear, is to serve. Their best position is not high on a throne but low on their knees. washing feet. (And so is ours.)

  4. St.Joseph says:

    You make a good comment, however there must be a starting point dont you think.
    So how in your opinion do you suggest we be low on our knees washing feet, (without speaking literally of course.)?What is our starting point?

    • Vincent says:

      Yes, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to demonstrate that his leadership was an act of service. A popular name for a pope is ‘servant of the servants of God.’

      I think that for us it’s a matter of attitude. To take an immediate example: If someone contributes to the blog with the intention of making a point which is intended to help the discussion further towards the truth, he is a servant to the other contributors. But if a contributor’s intention is to put someone down, or to show how clever he or she is, then this is not the act of a servant, in Christ’s terms.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I entirely agree with you, however where do we start.I what I asked!
      Years ago, a catholic would start by Speakers corner, as Quentin and Daphne Mcleod any many others did. If we did that now, I dont expect we would be welcomed much,
      We can pray outside an abortion clinic as I did up to a year ago, we used to have the police called to send us away even though we prayed the Rosary quitely, along with the occasional priests.
      Many years ago we did a March for Life and delivered thousands of white flowers to No 10 Downing Street.Then on to Hyde Park for a meeting with Mother Teresa, who sadly couldnt turn up because of a broken bone.
      Apart from the secular, to try and give out a pro- life paper , people did not take one.
      An objection to a church Fete to sell items to raise money for the unborn, wasnt allowed.
      Not to mention NFP etc etc etc.
      Any other suggestion would be very helpful , if you have anything in mind, perhaps we could start with the catholic schools!
      We haven’t all been idle living it up!
      I am too old now and too tired now, to do any active work, I just wish to slow down and live the rest of my life in peace.Apart from the blog!
      And speak my mind.

      • Vincent says:

        St J, don’t forget the other side. You may not be able to cope with outside activities nowadays, but you are always at service to your family as you relate to each other in many different ways. And I’m prepared to bet a large sum that your example of patient faith will continue to inspire them long after you and I are gone.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you.
        The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

  5. John Nolan says:

    Wasn’t Mickens sacked from the ultra-liberal Tablet for his offensive comments about the pope emeritus Benedict XVI on social media with his equally odious crony Chris Grady? Perhaps, Quentin, you might like to revisit these comments before putting Mickens forward as some sort of authority.

    I now realize that your idea of the Church is so divergent from mine, and from most Catholics I know (including not a few priests) that further comment on this blog is otiose. John Candido can have the field to himself. After nearly five years, I have to resign. You shall hear no more from me.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan
      Let me say, John, your contributions have been well balanced and thought out, it will be a great loss to the SSblog not to have further contributions from you.
      I too, I think it is around five years I have submitted contributions – it has its moments,
      disagreements and some write before they think much.
      Please reconsider will you? Perhaps you do need a break from the blog for a few months,
      no bad thing, but I will look out (hopefully) to more contributions from you in the future.

    • John Candido says:

      John Nolan

      I certainly hope that you do not leave SecondSight because your point of view and your intellect will be sadly missed by all on this blog, and that includes me as well. Although I do not agree with your point of view as I don’t agree with most others on SecondSight, I cannot underestimate the value of your contributions to this blog. I have learnt a hell of a lot about the faith and the conservative point of view by reading and replying to your posts over the last several years. This is what happens when a person is repeatedly challenged to rise above the occasion and attempt to give one’s best reply. It is never easy with you because you are so dogged, smart, and not shy or reticent in giving an account of yourself. Please reconsider your final post and return.

      Sincerely yours, John Candido.

    • Quentin says:

      John, I was truly sorry to read this. Ironically, I had been considering asking you directly to give your view of Vat II since I felt that your thoughts in “On our way out?” had not received the discussion they needed.

      Robert Mickens has been for many years perhaps the best journalistic commentator we have on Vatican matters. He is currently editor of “Global Pulse” which is a reputable internet magazine commenting on a wide range of Catholic interests. Even those who disagree with him are ready to proclaim his professionalism. Yes, there was a little fracas last year over an unguarded, informal, remark he made on Facebook. But I take little notice of gossip, having been subject to some of it myself. Catholics can be surprisingly cruel when they get the holier-than-thou bit between their teeth. I see no reason why one foolish remark should destroy a career of service to the Church, nor cause me to doubt a journalist of fine reputation.

      Much more importantly in this context, you speak about my view of the Church diverging from yours. I am not sure what you are getting at here. In this post I have indeed suggested two different views on Vatican II so that we may discuss them. I agree and disagree with bits of both of them. I do hope you will re-consider and come and take part in the discussion with your firm and well-briefed clarity which has often made me re-think my views in the past.

      I don’t like losing my old friends.

      • John Nolan says:

        Facebook 2/3/2014:

        Mickens: ‘This [the elevation to the cardinalate of Loris Capovilla] should have happened a LONG time ago. Do you think he’ll make it to the Rat’s funeral?’

        Grady: ‘I’m hoping he’ll be well enough to concelebrate the Canonization Mass for St John XXIII plus one other on 27 April. The Rat’s funeral the next day would be a bonus’.

        Admittedly, Grady’s comment was the more offensive. Yet Mickens has form. Since Benedict’s election he was a vituperative critic of his papacy, accusing him of among other things of ‘running the Church into the ground’, causing people to leave the Church ‘in droves’. According to Mickens Ratzinger should never have been made a bishop, let alone Pope. The bishops appointed by him and JP II were ‘small-minded’ and the ‘whole cadre of clergy ordained in the last ten years’ (he was writing in 2013) were suspect. Allowing what he refers to as the ‘pre-Vatican II Mass’ was unecumenical (try telling that to the Orthodox!) and invited ‘many fringe groups of the extreme right’ into the mainstream Church. He doesn’t specify who these groups are; one suspects that those who for a number of reasons actually prefer the older Rite are all tarred with the same brush. But then Ratzinger was not a liturgist as Mickens understands the term. I could go on.

        Quentin, you are a journalist. Do you really believe that Mickens is either fair or balanced? He wears his prejudices on his sleeve. I don’t see Edward Pentin or John Allen (his forerunner at the NCR and, incidentally, a liberal) writing in this vein week after week. However, I accept that by quoting his views you are not necessarily endorsing them and was unfair in trying to pigeon-hole you. Indeed on mature reflection I was doing the same as Mickens does and I certainly don’t want to be seen in his company.

        So I shall let the first paragraph of my comment stand and retract the second.

      • Quentin says:

        Thank you for this, John. I am greatly relieved.

        Perhaps this is not the time to debate Mickens. My concern here was to justify my use of Mickens as a source for a Blog posting. For anyone who is interested, his complete article can be read at

  6. John de Waal says:

    The Church is human as well as divine. There will always be a tension between the will of God and man. This tension shows itself throughout Church history between the centre and the extended Church. Sometimes the centre takes on a commanding role – as has been seen when local churches have strayed into gross aberrations of liturgy and Rome has seen fit to intervene (quite rightly). At other times Rome has stifled initiative. The idea of subsidiarity is good but it includes the right/duty of Rome to correct abuses of doctrine and practice.

    A balance always needs to be struck. The centralising direction of Vatican I probably needed a nudge in the opposite direction towards the emphasis on local Churches as put forward by Vatican II. The Barque of Peter really is like a ship tossed one way and then another. Chesterton likened the early Church to a charioteer with wild horses veering one way and being brought back by Rome to achieve an equilibrium.

    Since Vatican II St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI found it necessary to pull in one direction. Pope Francis is giving the Church its “head” more – but they are all the successors of St Peter and we have the promise of Jesus himself that he will be with us to the end of time – or do some Catholics no longer believe that?

  7. Brendan says:

    In our fallen world, moral man is called to constantly clean up the effects of others mistakes ( sins ) ; others are called to clean up the effects of moral mans mistakes ( sins ) . In this infinite matrix ( Hell ? ) the munificent , merciful God ( The Word ) intervenes on mans behalf to beak this spiral of despair and death promising life through his Church ; united as we are to the promise given to His Vicar on Earth. John de Waal’s imagery is apposite.
    Sin is a mystery because man finds himself at the same time protagonist and antagonist of sin ‘s mysterious elusive existence – until defeated by the existence of grace freely flowing from God. How would we know we are forgiven and saved from this living Hell otherwise ? I don’t know why everyone doesn’t see this – but we just keep SENDING OUT THE MESSAGE the best we can.
    So John Nolan don’t leave under a cloud. I need a break sometimes as we all do, if only to live life fully in His presence in other ways.

  8. St.Joseph says:

    ‘What Went Wrong with VaticanII:. The Catholic Crisis Explained Ralph M.Inerny.’
    This has been produced by EWTN, and it can be seen by typing it in .
    It explains a lot as to how it was manipulated whilst the Council was going on.
    I was married in ’62 just before the Council, 1st child born May 63′, second child born 64′, and I believe 65’the Council closed., Then continued miscarriges after that.
    So my life was taken up with other concerns other than Vat 2.
    However I lived through it like so many catholics who understood their faith,however at the time I was not affected by it.
    However I was not so distracted to realise that things were not quite right.
    I know the rest, and the high jacking of over zealous liberals, homosexuals and femenists.I have two filing cabinets relating to it! Even from priests in America,who were very much grieved.
    It has all been said before on SS in my posts. Catholic for a Changing Church etc.
    Reading the above ‘What’Went Wrong with Vatican II;’ does give an insight into the destructive
    ways by some- to reach the goal to suit their own ends .And I was right it the middle of it.
    I would be interested to hear other comments on Ralph M. Inerny’s Report on the Council.
    It seems very accurate to me with the experience myself and my family lived through the bullying tactics with plenty more upset and deceased parisioners, through the insensitive attitude of priests and Bishops,and lay people.

    • Vincent says:

      St J. I have read the introduction by McInerny as you suggest. It appears to be the only EWTN extract shown. I don’t see anything there to suggest manipulation. Of course the debate was strong since the future of the Church was at stake. But, as McInerny makes it clear, the outcomes were the decisions of the Church’s highest authority and require our loyalty. I hold no brief for the, often theological illiterate, commentators.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent .
        Thank you.
        As you say ‘McInerny makes it clear, the outcomes were the decisions of the Church’s highest authority and require our loyalty’.
        It is sad bishops misunderstood the meaning of the Magisterium and allowed the pressure of those who wanted to change the church to overthrow those loyal aged catholics who all their life respected their faith.
        The 1979 National Pastoral Council did not help! Nor did it help when Archbishop Weakland came to the UK to speak to the Priests Conference in Birmingham, nor when the Womens Ordination Group held their meetings in the Crypt of Bristol Cathedral, nor when Mary Grey spoke at a meeting , proclaiming untruths about Jesus,with priests present,tand I got punched in the back when I protested., nor when Matthew Fox and his side kick Starhawk the witch were doing their rounds all in catholic circles nor when his other representative Fr Venker was going around catholic schools giving his ‘new age’ talks, until he was stopped, when he came to the parish where myself and my family used to worship, and I taped his homily, we had nuns dancing around trees in a local convent supposedly some spiritual new age theory,and meetings many more disasterious antics which were all proclaimed to be the changes of Vatican 2. which of course was not true
        Donna Steichen the authour of Ungodly Rage,came to Bristol from America to speak to the femenists in Bristol, and the air was so vibrant from them, the priest threw salt on the ground before the meeting,.

        Then catholic teachers were having a hard time in schools,then if seminerians said the rosary they were not fit for the priesthood. Any books before Vatican 2 were not allowed in one seminary, and had to be posted wrapped in brown paper, if they were sent by my husband!
        Organisations were started up to combat all this , The Association of Catholic Women, Pro Ecclesia et Pontificat,when were doing its best to protect the future of our childrens faith, were criticised by bishops .
        I will say no more, ‘plenty more to say’ however Quentin asked the question’ How was it for you’, Well that was it and more!!

  9. John Nolan says:

    The whole issue needs to be examined and evaluated in an historical context. I accept that opinion is polarized, and Pope Francis realizes this also. The idea of ‘the entire Church walking, discerning and evangelizing together’ is arrant nonsense since we are talking about a billion people and not everyone of them subscribes to Mickens’s particular agenda (I certainly don’t and I would also argue that his agenda is looking increasingly dated and irrelevant).

    There are those on the so-called ‘traditionalist’ or ‘conservative’ wing whose assumptions can also be challenged although they have at least 1500 years of evidence to fall back on and don’t believe the Catholic Church began in 1965. I’m not talking about priests, bishops or responsible journalists and commentators, but rather those who post on ‘traditionalist’ blogs and vent their frustration in hyperbolism. The election of Pope Francis was to them as great a disaster as the election of Benedict was to Mickens; but they don’t pose as reputable journalists and get paid for contributing to ostensibly Catholic publications.

    Recently I remarked that seminary candidates are no longer discriminated against and excluded if they showed an interest in learning Latin and wearing traditional attire. I was immediately taken to task by another commentator who implied that I believed Latin and appropriate vesture should be a requirement. In fact competence in Latin is still (believe it or not) a requirement for ordination, but that was not what I was saying or implying. Isn’t my English clear enough, or are there some who , like Mickens, are determined to seize the wrong end of the stick?

    I also made the point (made a long time ago by a non-Catholic sociologist) that renunciation is balanced by gain and that Vatican II, wittingly or not, downplayed the gain. My interlocutor on this site is a permanent deacon who did not have to renounce much before his ordination and as far as I know is still married.

    We can’t observe ‘sub specie aeternitatis’ (not yet at least) but the Church has a 2000-year old history which requires understanding and respect.

    • Vincent says:

      I fear I know nothing about Mickens’s agenda as I know nothing of substance about him. I presume it is an agenda which is shared by a number of others. Could you enlighten, please.

      • John Nolan says:


        Mickens’s agenda is based on a hermeneutic of the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ which aimed to ‘modernize’ the Church but which was not carried to fruition because conservative forces obstructed it. According to this scenario JP II was a reactionary and B XVI even more so. It is shared by a number of people (check the combox of the Tablet and the NCR) but I suspect they are not as numerous as they were twenty years ago.

  10. Brendan says:

    Anybody know of and read Edward Pentin’s latest book – backed by Cardinal Napier – on the alleged ‘ ‘shenanigans’ before and after the October Synod 2014 ?
    I ‘m getting more and more annoyed with our senior churchman !

  11. Martha says:

    The link I have just given is to an excerpt from the book you mention.

  12. John Candido says:

    Robert C. Mickens is a liberal Catholic journalist and a trained theologian. I have a YouTube video of an address of his that was delivered three years ago. Don’t let that fact put you off listening to his talk to the City Club of Cleveland in the United States. It was delivered in November 2012 during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, four months before he resigned the papacy on the 28th February 2013. The following is a summary of his talk which is followed by questions from the audience.

    Mickens talks about a slow and ongoing implosion of the Roman Catholic Church that has been going on since the American and French revolutions that ushered in democratic governments. The Second Vatican Council was to arrest this implosion with the breath of the Holy Spirit moving through the church and animating its renewal through structural change which did not occur.

    He believes that the church is in crisis. The signs of this crisis are many. Some of them are the closure of parishes, the failure of the church to find celibate men who are willing to become priests, the failure of the church to consider married men to become priests, and the fact that discussion of the possibility of women priests is officially forbidden. He mentions that clericalism is a ‘cancer in the church’ and is responsible for the abject failure of the church to correctly respond to the world wide sex abuse scandal by removing offenders and prioritising the pastoral care of victims.

    The papacy is the last remaining absolute monarchy in the western world, there is no democracy in the church. In the 21st century most people are acclimatised to democratic forms of governance. However, the Roman Catholic Church considers democracy as an appropriate method of governance, except for the church where it is conceptualised as pejorative. Mickens is after the reform of the structures of the church to bring this into line with contemporary expectations of appropriate ways of using authority and power in the church.

    As a theologian he believes that the church is no longer ‘incarnational’ but focused more on itself, its structures, processes and its position and authority in the world. Mickens believes that Vatican II was a lost opportunity to respond to the vast changes in the world since the Middle Ages. Vatican II created turbulence and disruption to the church’s way of life by acting as an opportunity to create structures that would facilitate change and evolution towards modernisation. The Holy Spirit was to be behind such as process by breathing new life into the church through renewal.

    The Roman Catholic Church has failed to take this opportunity and as a consequence is failing as an institution; the laity is leaving the church in droves and the church will be a smaller and poorer remnant of itself as a result.

    • Nektarios says:

      Mickens is after the reform of the structures of the church to bring this into line with contemporary expectations of appropriate ways of using authority and power in the church.
      As a theologian he believes that the church is no longer ‘incarnational’ but focused more on itself, its structures, processes and its position and authority in the world.

      I don’t agree with Mickens on much of what he says, but on the above, what says is right. Are we so surprised at what he says above?
      If what he says is true, it means the Church has departed from the Apostolic teaching and ascribed to itself the position of all authority.
      This in turn has led to fractures, divisions in the Church and the most ungodly of behaviour and actions.
      Consider what Christ did. Did he not break down all the barriers between Jew and Gentile.
      Yet here we have divisions in the Church because of the actions of a few.
      It does not strike me as odd at all that Churches divide, and Mickens is quite right to point out the superificial causes, being `focused more on itself, its structures, processes and its position and authority in the world.’

      That is only the superficial aspects, the deeper aspect is, it is not the new creation in Christ at all. Only they who follow after the Apostolic teaching soley,teaching that true Christianity is the making of Christians, and that is the work of God, placing those who are truly born again Christians `in Christ’.
      Depart from that, and all one is left with is the old nature modified religiously, but not changed, not a new creation, simply an earthy one masquerading as a spiritual one.
      It is a sad thing to say, but all the mainstream denominations are tarred with the same brush as Mickens outlines above.
      So what are we going to do?

  13. Brendan says:

    Never mind Mickens – just what do YOU believe John Candido in absolute terms , regardless of what others say ? In your own words , please .

  14. John Candido says:

    My attitude to conservatives or anyone that I disagree with on any issue is that everyone is entitled to their theological views. People who have views that are different to mine are as much a part of the Roman Catholic Church as I am a part of it, even though I am not a practicing Catholic and I loyally dissent from the magisterium of the church in significant ways. Of course I support my own views and the views of others that coincide with mine, and I am opposed to views by others that do not coincide with my views.

    As a Christian I have to show tolerance to those who differ with me on theological issues. I would also have to be tolerant of Christians who differ with me on political issues as well. I like the following metaphor. A human is usually born with two eyes, a left eye and a right eye. Having both eyes is obviously better than having only one, because your vision is better. As both eyes are a genuine part of anyone’s body, one cannot say that the left eye is superior to the right eye, or vice-versa. Similarly, both the right and left of theology are a genuine part of the church, which is also known as the Body of Christ, and the natural tension between the two can enrich the church’s theological vision.

    Despite this metaphor, one can never lose sight of the fact that we still disagree amongst ourselves and we will continue to disagree in future. Sometimes there will be heated discussion between both camps and at times this cannot be avoided as well. Democratic governments deal with difference every day by that august institution of the Parliament. If the secular democratic governments of the world can function adequately despite arguments and heated debates, Catholics should follow their example of tolerance by agreeing to disagree between themselves despite the sometimes vast theological differences between.

    I still maintain that I cannot find any fault in the notion that the Roman Catholic Church should be a more democratic structure than its current configuration. What that democratic structure could rise to be in future and how it would operate from day to day should be a matter for debate between Catholics from all walks of life.

    • Quentin says:

      John, I always baulk a bit when I read the word ‘democracy’ because the ‘cracy’ part refers to power. But power as such lies in the college of bishops in communion with the pope. However that power, or authority, is not a gift for the hierarchy to enjoy or rejoice in, it is solely as a service for the sake of the community.

      In the exercise of that power the Church accepts the principle of subsidiarity. This is an obligation to delegate decisions as far downwards as practicably possible. The ultimate stage of this is that God delegates the power of conscience to the individual. (This does not mean that the Church has always acted in line with subsidiarity – and many of your criticisms in the past have arisen because you have believed that the principle was being breached.)

      A second principle is the need for communication – upwards, downward and sideways. This too is an imperative precisely because we are a community – etymologically ‘coming together as one’. Here we might think of Newman’s view – that the lay faithful are a witness to the belief of the community. (Yes, the Church has not been good at communication – but it may be getting better.)

      The Church is currently undergoing change. And that means unsettlement, confusion, exaggeration and conflict. It may well take a generation or two for us to find as a community all the balances we need to thrive and bear witness. But that can only be achieved from inside the Church, and by those who look to the Spirit for assistance.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Candido
      In addition to my posting above:
      Let me first ask you a question. Is what you envisage, simply going to replace the prevailing structures, processes and its position and authority of the RCC in the world with just a liberal different set?
      If so, I see in part where you are coming from. I can agree with some of your analysis of the present situation, but the solution to it, I cannot agree with you, John.

      Let me pose you another question. Do you think the Apostles were only addressing Man in his historical situation on the ground at the time? Do you really think that is what the Apostles and the Gospel is really all about?

      Of course superficially things change, political things, theological things social things change, but man does not change. He is the same as ever he was regarding God, a rebel, a sinner, and nothing he can organize and ochestrate changes anything.
      What does change things regarding man totally, is what God the Father has planned,
      what the Son, taught and fufilled on the Cross, and the proof is in the Resurrection.
      More was to come according to what Christ told his disciples, the sending of another,
      the Holy Spirit, to impart the life of Christ in us, a new nature, a totally new creation all together.
      What I am seeking to get across to you, John, and other liberals is simply this: the liberal position is not of God, but places man at the centre. It is not enough I am afraid to save you, not enough, because it is not Christianity. Your position, as are all liberals does not rise to God or heaven or help us down here, or have the work of the Holy Spirit in it, no salvific Gospel message in it just the useless changes you see as necessary.

      You, John, your fellow liberals, indeed what all of us need, is really to get to grips with what the Lord and the Apostle gave as doctrine and teaching, for that alone does have the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit in it, and is applicable in every generation till the end of time and eternity.

      • John Candido says:

        Sorry Nektarios, I have lost the article. I will have to write it again when I can find some free time to do it.

      • John Candido says:

        ‘Do you think the Apostles were only addressing Man in his historical situation on the ground at the time? Do you really think that is what the Apostles and the Gospel is really all about?’ (Nektarios)

        The church has always been interested in both the soul and our social situation, i.e. community issues. As evidence of this why not have a look at ‘Rerum Novarum’, an encyclical of Pope Leo XIII which was promulgated in 1891. Your notion that the church must be solely focused on spiritual matters is nonsense that a quick reading of its history bears a plethora of evidence in support of this.

        ‘Of course superficially things change, political things, theological things social things change, but man does not change. He is the same as ever he was regarding God, a rebel, a sinner, and nothing he can organize and orchestrate changes anything.’ (Nektarios)

        This simply doesn’t coincide with the facts of humanity. On one level we have the same human nature as in previous generations. However, we do change through changing levels of knowledge, communal, personal and historical awareness, the effects of technology and experience. Has there been zero effect on us from the printing press, the mass media, the internet, personal computers and smartphones? What about our awareness of war and genocide through history? Your point is manifestly untrue.

        ‘What I am seeking to get across to you, John, and other liberals is simply this: the liberal position is not of God, but places man at the centre. It is not enough I am afraid to save you, not enough, because it is not Christianity. Your position, as are all liberals does not rise to God or heaven or help us down here, or have the work of the Holy Spirit in it, no salvific Gospel message in it just the useless changes you see as necessary.’ (Nektarios)

        You have got to be joking, but alas you aren’t at all! As they say, to each person their own understanding.

  15. Geordie says:

    Does “Vox populi, vox dei” have any meaning in the Catholic Church?

    • Brendan says:

      Geordie – That is the balance that Quentin points out we are trying to achieve . We are not there yet – three steps forward , one back maybe . But we have to believe that it is achievable however painfully slow . It may be God’s way to teach us a lesson ?
      Too much ‘ populi ‘…. we know what that led to in the past !

      • St.Joseph says:

        Perhaps the answer is not to get involved in the’ false prophets’ and just live our own lives in peace.
        But of course when it affects our own life in the Church, and we can see it affecting our young people in the catholic schools, and the public around us, and seemingly it doesn’t seem to be the Church we were brought up in.
        I think it would not be so bad if those who wished to be liberal did not try to interfere with the faith of others, it seems to me that liberals only want the Church to change so that their
        conscience will be clear, then they can face their Maker, and say ‘I did it for you Lord’
        and your Church..
        They are not showing love to their neighbour, or why is it that they show much ‘rage’ in their actions.
        When I see how the Holy Father and Popes in the past the way they are welcomed all over the world, we ought to be thanking God that the Catholic Church is still alive and kicking after 2000 years! Especially the charitable works and help we give to the poor and abroad!
        I feel the people who destroy the Church the most are Her own people.

  16. St.Joseph says:

    I believe that “Vox populi, has a meaning compatible with my comment at 10.10am and 6.47. on the 5th September above,.
    We do have the ‘voice of the laity’ to express our faith in line with the teachings of Holy Mother Church and the Magisterium, although some may dispute it as not being the voice of God, we have a duty from our reception of the Sacrament Confirmation to defend it ,inside and outside of season, even if others think we are wrong.

  17. Brendan says:

    Thank you John for being so candid. I and perhaps others know you a little better . There is a tension between John Nolan ‘s disagreement with you which I believe was lent some support by Quentin’s piece – on the question of the impact of social ( political ) science on the life ( theology ) of The Catholic Church. This is not to demean the academics view of the social sciences ; but how far should it be allowed to dictate to an institution that is primarily … ” not of this world .. ” in the sense that The Church can achieve ( by the Grace of God ) real change in ” our world ” only by the ” balances ” given by The Spirit that present a better understanding of mans destiny ?
    Isn’t this what post – Vatican ii has somehow forgotten / lost ? Is it as Quentin hints at , a ‘ revised theology ‘ in the making ?

    • John Candido says:

      Brendan, I would say that there is nothing wrong with thinking about how the Gospel and/or the Catholic Church are received and viewed by the world. As Catholics live in the world I don’t see how life should proceed in a normal way if we were to only emphasis the spiritual aspects of our faith and neglect the world that we all live in. Have a short look at my reply to Nektarios as I have touched on this issue there as well.

    • John Candido says:

      By the way, where is my reply to Nektarios?

  18. John Nolan says:


    I think I can answer your question (I presume it wasn’t rhetorical). The phrase first appears in a letter from St Alcuin of York (c.732-804) to Charlemagne: ‘Nec audiendi qui solent dicere ‘vox populi, vox Dei’ quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insanae proxima sit’. [Do not listen to those who keep saying ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’ since the riotousness of the mob is always close to insanity’]

    It has been used since approvingly, but only in a political context (e.g. as the title of a Whig pamphlet of 1709).

  19. Geordie says:

    People must have been saying “vox pop…. etc” before St Alcuin or he would not have said “Do not listen” to them.
    I’ve heard it quoted by priests when it supports their point of view. In 1969 a priest quoted it to my brother in order to win an argument about I don’t know what. My brother’s reply was “If that were true, it would solve a lot of the Church’s present problems”. Note the year!

    • John Nolan says:

      Geordie, of course they were saying it, which is why Alcuin was at pains to condemn it. The problem with these little aphorisms, especially if they’re in Latin, is that people who are ignorant of their provenance and context bandy them about as if they were truisms, or worse still, doctrinal truths. We had a case the other week with ‘ecclesia semper reformanda’, a Protestant, not a Catholic concept.

      I’ve heard people quote: ‘This above all, to thine own self be true …’ approvingly, as an example of Shakespeare’s moral wisdom. Yet it is put into the mouth of the preposterous Polonius, as an example of his absurdity (in Shakespeare’s day it would not have been a morally acceptable maxim in any case).

  20. John Nolan says:

    ‘It may well take a generation or two for us to find as a community all the balances we need to thrive and bear witness.’ (Quentin)

    That’s fine on a metaphysical level – the idea of the Church Militant, with a billion members spread out across the globe, functioning as a ‘community’ is an abstract concept. Incidentally the term ‘community’ is somewhat overused; I recently heard someone refer to ‘the heterosexual community’ which implies that not being sexually deviant gives people a communal identity. However I digress.

    Most studies of the Council have been underpinned by theological and ecclesiological assumptions. Pope Benedict talked of rescuing the ‘true’ Council from the ‘Council of the media’. Massimo Fagiolli, also a theologian but a more ‘liberal’ one has recently published an account of Vatican II which is insightful and tries to be fair but is nonetheless agenda-driven. I prefer to approach the subject of the Council and its aftermath, which we are still living with, from an historical angle; apart from anything else I have no theological training. Vatican II was primarily an event in history and we need to know what happened and why. ‘The Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story’ (2012) by Roberto de Mattei attempts to do just this.

    The author is a ‘traditionalist’ who is no stranger to controversy and no mean polemicist either; but he is first and foremost an historian and approaches the subject from a non-ideological standpoint. You won’t find conspiracy theories and Masonic plots. In 567 pages with 2478 footnotes he relies mainly on primary sources and his research is impressive. Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, at one time the Vatican’s leading historian endorsed the book and praised its ‘rigorous historical-critical method’.

    The British historian HJA Sire (who works in Rome) has written a wide-ranging historical survey ‘Phoenix from the Ashes – The Making, Unmaking and Restoration of Catholic Tradition’. Don’t be put off by the title (probably suggested by the publisher); it’s an historical study, not a traddy rant. We need to know what is happening today and explain it rationally rather than rushing to condemn or approve it.

    Talking of history, the third week of October 1962 saw the world’s bishops, recently assembled for the Council, deciding who would sit on the all-important commissions; the famous coup of the northerners, led by Liénart and Frings, against the Curialists. Meanwhile the real world, with which the Council was supposed to be connecting, teetered on the edge of nuclear Armageddon. Ironique, n’est-ce pas?

    • Vincent says:

      No, I think the community of the Church is not merely an abstract concept. St Paul wrote of the Church as a body in which every member, however humble, takes a part. We are joined in our belief that are saved through Christ, and that we are joined to him by love of God and love of neighbour. Of course there will be local and cultural variations — but diversity and tolerance in non-essentials is the mark of a living community.

      • John Nolan says:

        Vincent, I didn’t say ‘merely’ an abstract concept; on a metaphysical/theological level the mystical body of Christ no doubt enshrines a higher truth, and for Catholics this mystical body is coterminous with the Church founded on Peter. The ‘community’ in this sense includes the living and the dead – the Church militant, the Church suffering and the Church triumphant.

        But when dealing with historical events and historical figures we need to push this into the background (which does not mean denying it) and after half a century the Council belongs to Church history and we need to use historical-critical methods to evaluate it. It’s not as if there is a paucity of evidence.

  21. St.Joseph says:

    ‘Happy Feast Day’ to all on the ‘Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary’,the ‘Mother of God’ and our Mother.!

  22. Quentin says:

    General descriptive article on the Pope’s new procedures on the nullity of marriage.

  23. Horace says:

    I am more that somewhat confused (like, I suspect, many other ordinary Catholics) about the changes which have occurred since Vatican !!.
    The most obvious are:
    Mass in the vernacular.
    The priest saying Mass facing the people.
    Communion in the hand.

    I have read; “The Basic sixteen documents VATICAN COUNCIL II . . .” and “What happened at VATICAN II” – and remain bewildered.
    None of the ‘obvious’ features above are significantly discussed!

    • St.Joseph says:

      When I was a teenager all my friends were non-catholics, and they did not know who the Pope was, that was the middle and late 50s.
      I thought Vatican ll meant for catholics to evangelize and explain our faith to those who were ignorant, which I always did to my friends and which I did to my husband when we first met at a dance when I was nearly 18 and he 21!
      I was pleased when I thought in my innocence that the publicity surrounding Vatican ll was an opportunity to express our faith to the world.
      How mistaken I was when I ended up defending it to catholics!

  24. Brendan says:

    Thanks Quentin. Let’s hope this is enough for the liberal modernisers to rein themselves in – outflanked ? Our Pope is full of surprises !

    • John Candido says:

      ‘Let’s hope this is enough for the liberal modernisers to rein themselves in – outflanked?’ (Brenden)

      Sorry Brenden, not enough!

      ‘Our Pope is full of surprises!’ (Brenden)

      Francis is my Pope too Brenden.

      I welcome these reforms to the Code of Canon Law regarding annulments, because they are evidence of a greater trust given to local bishops and local courts, and a good example of subsidiarity. This should make decisions about annulments timelier. A cursory glance at the changes suggests that they could have been introduced some while ago given the sort of leadership that likes to trust others and delegate authority down the chain.

  25. St.Joseph says:

    Did I read the article,wrong. did it say something about not being open to life when the vows were made ,that could be grounds for an annulment

  26. John Nolan says:

    Regarding the Motu Proprio: if the bishops (and I’m thinking here of the US, which accounts for most of the annulments) act prudently and responsibly then this should be a good advertisement for subsidiarity. If they do what they did in the 1970s then history will repeat itself. It’s also important that when such decisions are devolved there is consistency across the board – not easy to achieve.

    It won’t be cost-free, of course; the attorneys who advertise their services on-line in preparing the appeals are not going out of business, and they don’t come cheap. Also, the dramatic decline in the number of annulments is because people are divorcing and remarrying civilly and not bothering with the Church. It is these people the new legislation is aimed at; whether or not it succeeds only time will tell.

  27. Brendan says:

    This surely is in line with Pope Francis’ pastoral approach – the main theme of his pontificate. I would hope all the worlds Diocesan Bishops take note and endeavour to do likewise . Whatever the new 20 ” procedural rules ” to aid them in processing an annulment , let’s hope as John Nolan says they all remain true to the letter and spirit of the change . If so there is another bonus – collegiality – which can only bear good fruit in time.
    I would hope that good practice would ensue so that Bishops keep a close touch with candidates for annulment and their canon lawyers .Particularly good news for ‘ in -house ‘ appeals process to the nearest archdiocese I believe this really bodes well for the October Synod , the coming Year Of Mercy AND the Catholic cause of evangelisation ; a sure sign for me that the Holy Spirit is working in the Church and world..
    I’ve never known anyone whose had an annulment ; I sometimes wonder how many Catholics have ? I wholeheartedly echo Martha’s sentiment – Jubilate Deo !

    • RAHNER says:

      Your naivety is really quite touching.

      • Brendan says:

        I’m sorry you see it as naive Rahner. I’m well aware I hope of the pitfalls . Can we all for once rejoice in this moment . People like us have the opportunity to spread the message that the Catholic Church is open to all those who have felt distant for years from their Church and can give genuine hope to those , who will weep when they ‘ taste ‘ Our Lord in the Eucharist , after perhaps many years in the wilderness. And while we’re congratulating The Holy father and the Commission – the same goes for our Queen on her special day !

      • Martha says:

        Yes indeed, Brendan, and Jubilate Deo is a much better response than my Hooray! Perhaps we should have Like and Unlike buttons a la Facebook?

    • Quentin says:

      Subsidiarity (delegation downwards as far as possible) is very important. But it takes time — people are not used to it, there are initial abuses etc, and it has to come from the top. Francis has taken some good steps, but Mickens’s point is that this will not outlive him unless there is structural change. In addition to the reform of the Curia, it will be necessary to develop the synods so that they are, and can be seen to be, a meaningful expression of episcopal collegiality.

  28. St.Joseph says:

    Yes, Jubilate Deo.
    I do believe that The Holy Father recognises the fact that marriages broke down in the past mainly from poor ‘Marital Care’. He is now justifying the cause with mercy.
    I hope he will think about abortafacients now when he considers mercy for those who have had an abortion. That it is also a soul from conception.!

  29. Nektarios says:

    In a television interview on October 16 with Catholic News Service, Cardinal Pell said the document was “tendentious, skewed, it didn’t represent accurately the feelings of the synod fathers.” He said “three-quarters” of those who discussed it afterward “had some problems with the document”. He added that “a major absence” in the document was scriptural teaching and “a treatment of the Church tradition”.

    This is what I have been seeking to get across to JC (still your reply to me does not appear) and others.
    When we ignore deliberately the Scriptural/Apostolic teaching/doctrine and the Holy Tradition
    the Church is on very shakey ground. When one reads that it is the `rigging on a Vatican synod aspx’, this is a very serious matter, but it shows the lengths some are prepared to go to push their agenda.

    The idea, that modern man is different from those beloved early Christians, is just plain wrong.
    Man does not change, unless he/she is changed by God.
    The Apostolic Teaching and doctrine without which, one can see from the above the power of their teaching and doctrine and how it shows up Man in all his true colours. No wonder certain people wanted it absent from any documents or arguments – for without the Apostololic teaching and doctrine such devious people in power can get away with practically anything.

    • Brendan says:

      Nektarios – Catholic Voice and its umbrella organisation The Catholic Family along with the professionalism of The Catholic Herald is where I look to solid, balanced and effective journalism on Catholic issues.

    • John Candido says:

      Nektarios, my post contained three internet links and that is the reason it has been held up. Quentin has set the blog to automatically allow all posts that have a maximum of two internet links. Any more than two and the post is automatically blocked until Quentin releases it after checking the links for their authenticity.

      • Nektarios says:

        JC, It will be interesting to read I am sure if or when Quentin will release it.

      • Quentin says:

        The rule exists to prevent us from sliding into argument by internet link. Contributors can always post again to include the link, if they wish. The blog rules are simple: 600 words maximum, two links maximum, awareness that many non-Catholics visit the site, no significant discourtesies. These have served us well over the years.

  30. Brendan says:

    A correction to my earlier post. ” The Catholic Family ” should read ” Voice of the Family “.
    In our thoroughly rationalistic West the upholding of Catholic Teaching post – Vatican ii is more important than ever . So in line with Gaudium et Spes .50 – abortion is still an ”unspeakable crime” and the homosexual act is one of ” grave depravity ” CCC. 2357. I find it good to envelop oneself in reliable sources that promote Catholic Teaching rather than the plethora of information that panders to pure media construct on the basis of rational syncretism …. and not The Catholic Faith.

  31. Geordie says:

    One more point on “Vox populi…etc”. St Augustine of Hippo was elected bishop of Hippo by acclamation. Thus it does work sometimes or was it too much ‘populi’?

    • John Nolan says:

      According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia St Augustine was praying in a church at Hippo when the people gathered around him, cheered him, and entreated the bishop (Valerius) to ordain him. Augustine consented and accepted ordination (AD 391). Five years later Valerius secured his consecration as co-adjutor and on his death Augustine took sole charge of the see.

      A handful of papal elections have been decided by acclamation (i.e. by unanimous decision of the electors without a ballot). In 1073 on the day of Alexander II’s funeral, the clergy and people present shouted for the Archdeacon Hildebrand to be made Pope and he was canonically elected the same day as Gregory VII. Since 1996, however, there must be a secret ballot.

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