The intoxication of Vatican II

How the Council seemed to some at the time: Gregorian Chant Strangled in its Own Cradle. To the young monks of a Benedictine monastery in Rome, Vatican II meant that it was a religious duty to toss away everything to which they had been brought up in the Church for the sake of imitating what the world was doing. As for their elders, they felt they had no ground on which to stand in opposing it.

How do people get into such a state of mind? It looks very much like a story out of Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds. Daily life wears on people, and on occasion they become convinced that some new thing, investing in tulip bulbs or whatever, will change everything almost without effort.

There’s more to it than that, of course. The craziness was supported by interests that favored turning the sacred into a cheerleader for the secular, by “experts,” whose business it is to make the other-worldly a component of a wholly this-worldly system they can fully grasp and control, and by modern life in general, which destroys distance and puts everything on the same footing of money, publicity, and politics. When craziness is supported by comprehensive and enduring interests it can go very far indeed.

Just how it will end, no one knows. Still, crazes eventually die out, and the effort to create a self-contained human world with only notional reference to anything beyond it will fail. Some questions are permanent, and some answers are permanently better than others. Traditional Catholics—those who refuse to exaggerate what the Council did—are in for the long haul. As such, they have good grounds for hope even from a this-worldly standpoint.

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