By Kathleen Gilbert

SIOUX CITY, Iowa, October 16, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Catholics must learn to "exorcise" the so-called "spirit of Vatican II" to end the secularization that has "wreaked havoc" on the Church since the Council, says Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa.

In a pastoral letter issued Thursday to the lay and religious of his diocese, Nickless wrote that he has "no other desire" than to see the reforms of Vatican II implemented properly. However, he said, "It is crucial that we all grasp that the hermeneutic or interpretation of discontinuity or rupture, which many think is the settled and even official position, is not the true meaning of  the Council."

The "hermeneutic of discontinuity," under the guise of the "spirit of Vatican II," sees "the Second Vatican Council as a radical break with the past," explained the bishop. However, "There can be no split ... between the Church and her faith before and after the Council."

"We must stop speaking of the 'Pre-Vatican II' and 'Post Vatican II' Church," continued Nickless, who agreed with Pope Benedict XVI that the Council's meaning "must be found only in the letter of the documents themselves."  "The so-called 'spirit' of the Council has no authoritative interpretation," Nickless said. 

"It is a ghost or demon that must be exorcised if we are to proceed with the Lord's work."

The bishop said the cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 70s precipitated a shift in perspective about the Church, and it began to seem that "nothing was certain or solid" in its teaching or liturgy. "Sometimes," he said, "we set out to convert the world, but were instead converted by it. We have sometimes lost sight of who we are and what we believe, and therefore have little to offer the world that so desperately needs the Gospel."

This "hermeneutic of discontinuity," said Nickless, "emphasizes the 'engagement with the world' to the exclusion of the deposit of faith." 

"This has wreaked havoc on the Church, systematically dismantling the Catholic Faith to please the world, watering down what is distinctively Catholic, and ironically becoming completely irrelevant and impotent for the mission of the Church in the world," he said.  "The Church that seeks simply what works or is 'useful' in the end becomes useless."

Nickless devoted a portion of the letter to defending the family against this relativistic mentality, re-emphasizing the nature of the family as the union between man and woman, established by God for the good of the spouses and the procreation of children. 

"This seems really basic, but it is worth repeating in our day and age when the family has sometimes lost its centrality and cohesiveness, and is under constant attack from cultural and ideological forces," he said.  "Not only are its purposes sometimes unknown or ignored in practice, but God's authorship of marriage and its nature (and hence its priority over arbitrary civil law) is flatly denied.  Therefore we must be attentive to protecting and strengthening family life."

The bishop asserted that the Catholic community must therefore "give concrete help against" the breakdown of sexuality in society. In addition to extramarital promiscuity, easy divorce, contraception, abortion, and pornography, Nickless advised his flock to actively resist the breakdown of the family through "the domination of communication technologies and novelties, and the cult of fun and entertainment, to name just a few dangers."

Nickless called himself "thoroughly a product" of the "exciting, almost intoxicating, time of the Second Vatican Council," which he called "the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church in centuries." 

"I have no other desire for my ministry than seeing the hopes and reforms of the Second Vatican Council fully implemented and brought to fruition," said the bishop.  "Like Pope Benedict XVI, I know that, while we have worked hard, there is still much work to do."

"Our urgent need at this time," wrote Nickless, "is to reclaim and strengthen our understanding of the deposit of faith. 

"We must have a distinctive identity and culture as Catholics, if we would effectively communicate the Gospel to the people of this day and Diocese. This is our mission."

Click here to view Bishop Nickless' full letter.