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January 28, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Fr. James Martin, SJ, has condemned younger, more conservative priests, linking to a National Catholic Reporter article that uses a parish’s experience as a jumping-off point to criticize a whole generation who are strongly motivated to oppose abortion, who are “active” and want to “evangelize,” who like Latin and incense, and — horror! — who read LifeSiteNews. 

Fr. Martin commented as he re-tweets the article: “Essential reading: These are not isolated incidents and part of a growing trend in the church, leaving parishioners feeling angry and isolated. Essentially the rejection of much of Vatican II by younger priests, this phenomenon has flown under the radar.”

It appears that even the Mass reformed by the Second Vatican Council is wholly to be rejected, according to NCR journalist Peter Feuerherd, if its celebration includes elements that a certain group of Catholics don’t like: Latin, incense, traditional hymns, and preaching that takes its inspiration from Pope John Paul II. That Pope started his reign just over a decade after Vatican II ended, but those influenced by him, according to Feuerherd and the people he quotes in the article, are essentially rejecting the Council: a charge made explicit by Fr. Martin.

There is something redolent of a past era about this whole way of addressing issues in the Church: the game of “who is really loyal to Vatican II” (or its “spirit”) lost its importance, surely, at the latest with the election of Pope Benedict XVI, and as the article notes, younger priests and younger Catholics in general don’t have a “lived experience” of the Council any more. Indeed not: you can’t stop the years turning, and they were born long after it. What’s the solution? Never ordain anyone born after 1960?

But the “loyalty to Vatican II” game can be fun and I’d love to ask Fr. Martin whether he accepts, for example, that “a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested.” Or does that sound a bit “pre-Vatican II”? Well, it comes from a document of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, section 37.

How about this statement? “By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.” If the aging Boomers who have fled the radical young priest as described in the article heard him say this, no doubt it would confirm them in their view that he was taking the Church in a “pre-Vatican II” direction. But it comes from the same document, section 48. In section 51, it declared, “Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.”

On the liturgy, the Council insisted that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36), and yet the use of Latin is seen as a marker of dissent from the Council. Those enraged by the very existence of liturgy that is more traditional than they personally like would do well to reflect on another passage:

All in the Church must preserve unity in essentials. But let all, according to the gifts they have received enjoy a proper freedom, in their various forms of spiritual life and discipline, in their different liturgical rites, and even in their theological elaborations of revealed truth. In all things let charity prevail. If they are true to this course of action, they will be giving ever better expression to the authentic catholicity and apostolicity of the Church. (Unitatis Redintegratio 4)

I don’t envy priests who try to bring some order into parishes that have been ravaged by progressive theology and liturgical abuses over decades. It is always possible that in this or that case they should have been more diplomatic or moved more slowly. But they get criticized for doing even the bare minimum. Fr. Matthew Codd appealed to his flock to come forward if they have been through a ceremony of baptism using an invalid formula, and the NCR article uses this as an example of a “stickler approach to church rules and regulations, far beyond what is normal practice.”

It would be grossly irresponsible for Fr. Codd, aware of a rogue deacon in the parish who in the past was using an invalid formulanot to take this action: thank heavens he, at least, takes baptism seriously. I don’t think Vatican II ever said baptism is irrelevant to salvation or the life of grace, or that sacramental formulas could be changed at will.

We must pray for such priests, and thank our Lord for sending them to a Church that needs them so badly.

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Dr Joseph Shaw has a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University, where he also gained a first degree in Politics and Philosophy and a graduate Diploma in Theology. He has published on Ethics and Philosophy of Religion and is the editor of The Case for Liturgical Restoration: Una Voce Position Papers on the Extraordinary Form (Angelico Press). He is the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales and Secretary of Una Voce International. He teaches Philosophy in Oxford University and lives nearby with his wife and nine children.