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Closing shot of Pope Francis' January 2016 prayer video showing baby Jesus, Buddha, a menorah, and Muslim prayer beads (misbaha).The Vatican / Youtube screen grab

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July 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Professor Hubert Windisch, a German priest and retired professor of pastoral theology (he taught at the University of Freiburg), has written a commentary for LifeSite on the current discussion of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and its aftermath. 

Referencing Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Bishop Athanasius Schneider with their own commentaries on the problem of the Second Vatican Council, Windisch explains that “doctrinal and practical bad fruits in the Church of more than five decades of this history of impact give cause to fear that in the texts of the Second Vatican Council there are not only good roots.”
After referring to some earlier warning voices such as the ones of Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand and Professor Roberto de Mattei, the German professor concludes that “there seem to be quite some breaks with the tradition of the teaching authority in the Second Vatican Council, which cannot be covered up by the effort of a so-called hermeneutics of continuity (similar to the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia).”  

Professor Windisch also mentions the McCarrick scandal and with it the scandalous phenomenon of clerical sexual abuse which highlights also the signs of moral weakness in the Catholic Church. He states: “Against the background of the shocking Viganò Report of August 2018 Hedwig von Beverfoerde [A German pro-family activist] (see Die Tagespost of 28 August, 2018 “The Smoke of Satan”) writes disillusioned and deeply disappointed of the Church: 'The facade of the post-conciliar Church has collapsed.'”

On July 15, a group of scholars, priests, and other Catholics of public standing had published an Open Letter to Archbishop Viganò and Bishop Schneider, thanking them for their critical remarks of some of the statements of the Second Vatican Council – such as regarding religious liberty, ecumenism, and the nature of the Church – and welcoming such a discourse, for the sake of the liberation of the Catholic Church from teachings that might weaken her magisterial and missionary voice. While there were initially 50 signatories of this letter – among them Professor Roberto de Mattei, Professor Andrew Napolitano, and Dr. Taylor Marshall – this number has now increased to more than 110, with Dr. Janet Smith, Sir Raymond J de Souza, Father Richard Heilman, Professor Enrico Maria Radaelli, as well as numerous priests adding their name.


Full statement by Professor Hubert Windisch, Germany:

By their fruits you will know them … (cf. Mt 7:15-20): On the justified criticism of the Second Vatican Council

By Hubert Windisch

In the last years of my teaching (until 2012), when I mentioned the Council during lectures, it happened more and more often that one of the more awake students who could make sense of the term “Council” asked: “which Council do you mean?” In the beginning, such interposed questions irritated me. How could anyone think that I could mean another Council than Vatican II? But I understood inevitably that these intermediate questions were justified. They indicated a very uncomplicated relativization of Vatican II by the younger generation, and this in two ways. On the one hand, in temporal terms: the questioners were usually born after 1980, so that the Second Vatican Council was far away for them. For them, it was simply a piece of church history. With it, the questioning young students pointed out unconsciously but in a wholesome way that church history does not begin only with the Second Vatican Council.
On the other hand, a relativization of the Second Vatican Council took place also in terms of content. The Second Vatican Council fits indeed into the series of many Councils and is to be seen and understood in connection with them – above all with the four large Ecumenical Councils of the first centuries (Nicaea 325, Constantinople I 381, Ephesus 431, Chalcedon 451), whose Christological topics are as important as ever. But the statements of the Second Vatican Council can only be sounded out in their relevance in connection with and discussion of the Tridentinum [Council of Trent] and the First Vatican Council. Integrated into the Tradition of the Church, the Second Vatican Council is therefore first of all the last Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, certainly with its own message and a special mission for Christianity, but in relation to the greater whole of the Church on its way through the millennia. 

Against this background, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider have recently initiated a debate (especially in relation to the declarations Nostra Aetate and Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council) which aims to stimulate a critical evaluation of the history of the Second Vatican Council in relation to the faith and life of the Catholic Church. Doctrinal and practical bad fruits in the Church of more than five decades of this history of impact give cause to fear that in the texts of the Second Vatican Council there are not only good roots. Unfortunately, already early warning voices which drew attention to it were not noticed or, if noticed, not taken seriously; so for example Dietrich von Hildebrand and his The Trojan Horse in the City of God, Hans Urs von Balthasar with Cordula oder der Ernstfall [The Moment of Christian Witness], Martin Mosebach with his The Heresy of Formlessness or Roberto de Mattei's The Second Vatican Council – an Unwritten Story. So there seem to be quite some breaks with the tradition of the teaching authority in the Second Vatican Council, which cannot be covered up by the effort of a so-called hermeneutics of continuity (similar to the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia). 

It is rightly claimed that the Second Vatican Council, despite many beautiful and profound doctrinal statements (e.g. in Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium or also in nos. 47 – 52 of Gaudium et Spes on marriage and family) was not a doctrinal but a pastoral Council. That is true in so far as at the Second Vatican Council no dogmas were proclaimed or anathemas pronounced. Rather, the Church tried to reposit herself in her time. Thus the pastoral intention of the Council meets with the fundamental understanding of the Church's pastoral approach, which is always essentially a contemporary event in the respective world. In the past decades, the so-called “spirit of the Council” was gladly striven for in this pastoral shaping of the Church, but often it was only used to justify a selective perception and a selective use of the texts of the Second Vatican Council. With it, one deliberately overlooked that the pastoral mission of the Church in the world has to be carried out on a firm dogmatic basis when connecting with the world and when contradicting it; or, the Church's turning to the world always has to have at the same time a detachment from worldliness, in taking up a provocative thought of Pope Benedict XVI from his speech in the Freiburg Concert House on 25 September 2011. Madeleine Delbrel, the saint of the Christian devotion to the world, is said to have put this connection into these striking words: As Christians, we must, in order to be close to the people, remain strangers to them in some way.

Thus, when it is repeatedly propagated that John XXIII, with the convocation of the Second Vatican Council, opened the windows of the Church or the Vatican wide to provide fresh air after the era of the Popes Pius IX until Pius XII, one must not overlook the fact that when the windows are open, bad air can also penetrate from the outside to the inside. Indeed, much Catholic silverware has been thrown out of the open windows of the Church in recent decades. Just think of the at times even official proclamations on marriage and sexuality, which rather resemble a blessing of trends than Catholic views, or of the liturgical wild growths which are not so rare. Here Karl Barth's words about a remaining danger for the Church are applicable: In one of his late writings (“Das christliche Leben” [“The Christian Life”]) he describes a “defective church,” a church of the boulevard, which, stammering and squinting, sells itself to the course of time. One can literally hear Kurt Tucholsky's biting remark, which he already made in 1930 in his famous bridal and physical education lessons towards the Protestant Church: “What is striking about the attitude of both national churches is their tongue that is hanging out. Breathlessly gasping, they run behind the time, so that nobody escapes them. 'We too, we too!', no longer as centuries ago: 'We.' … These churches create nothing, they transform what has been created by others, what has been developed by others, into elements that can be useful to them. … the church has yielded; it has not changed, it has been changed.” The Catholic Church presents herself to contemporaries in much the same way. Against the background of the shocking Viganò Report of August 2018 Hedwig von Beverfoerde (see Die Tagespost of 28 August, 2018 “The Smoke of Satan”) writes disillusioned and deeply disappointed of the Church: “The facade of the post-conciliar Church has collapsed.”

The so-called anthropological turn in theology since the sixties of the last century, closely connected with Karl Rahner and his writings, plays a major role as a basic drift for these developments in the theoretical and practical self-understanding of the Church. Whether there is an error in this theological approach or in the zealous and often dilettantish implementation in pastoral practice (especially in the proclamation and in the liturgy) will not be examined in detail at this point. In any case, the loss of the kerygmatic consciousness of the Church, which began at that time, suggests deficits – according to the old axiom: “bonum ex integra causa, falsum ex defectu.” The Tradition was more and more often put into the dock, because the new as new had priority. Since that time the Church with her message increasingly has to justify herself before the world and the historical changes instead of fulfilling her mission to bring the world and the historical changes before God's justification in Jesus Christ. The “Extra nos” of our salvation was increasingly dissolved into an “Intra nos” (very clearly in Eugen Drewermann), which according to Fulbert Steffensky ultimately amounts to a “domestication of God.” But the Church in its basic movements “Martyria, Leiturgia, Diakonia” becomes thereby flat and banal, which is among other things also due to a disparity and the often one-sided reception of the Second Vatican Council. In the end, the way to a self-secularization of the Church was smoothed, to which Harvey Cox in radical sharpness had already in 1965 referred with his “City without God?” Fridolin Stier, the former Old Testament scholar from Tübingen, suspects and laments in his diary “Vielleicht ist irgendwo Tag” (“Perhaps Somewhere is Day”) that such a theology might even have to call itself Theothanatology. Does this result in a Church without God – at least without a Christian God?

Two consequences of this theological foundation, which to a large extent determine the present practice of the Church, suggest the affirmation of this question: 1. Do what you want. Christianity too is only one of many legitimate religions (cf. the video on Pope Francis' prayer opinion of January 2016, where at the end the representatives of Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity stand side by side on an equal footing and each holds its religious symbol in the centre of the circle: a Buddha statue, a seven-armed candlestick, an Islamic prayer cord and – not a Crucifix but a small Baby Jesus figure). So why not let an Imam preach in Catholic services? 2. What you do is right. There is no longer a critical point of reference extra nos, neither in doctrina nor in moralibus, and certainly not in pastoralibus. The whole thing, rather, is held together by what one calls conscience, and this with ecclesiastic legitimization. The sad result of this development culminates in the oppressive realization, which many leading church people unfortunately do not have or do not want to have, that one wants theology and Church in today's world – contrary to the pastoral intentions of the Second Vatican Council – as standards that are actually no longer needed.

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Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli,, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana,, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.