VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — In a recently published interview Pope Francis praised the Second Vatican Council as an event which “rejuvenate[d] the Church” to be “more in tune with the signs of the times.”
The Pontiff made his comments in a December interview with Catholic Belgian weekly “Tertio” along with the French language “Dimanche,” marking the second interview he has granted to Tertio. Vatican News published an abbreviated English translation of the interview, with a more complete translation in Italian.
Answering questions about how Vatican II is a central theme to his pontificate, Francis began by saying that “I am so committed to the Council because that event was actually a visit of God to His Church.”
He continued: “The Council was one of those things that God brings about in history through holy men.”
Francis expanded upon his bold claim by stating that Vatican II was a “renewal” and a rejuvenation of the Catholic Church.
“The Council did not only involve a renewal of the Church,” he said. “It was not only a matter of renewal, but also a challenge to make the Church more and more alive.”
Citing not only a “renewal” of the Church, Francis argued that the Council “rejuvenates the Church,” turning it into a “mother always moving forward.”
Echoing a recurring talking point made by those arguing for “updating” Church teaching in light of modern thought, Pope Francis claimed that “the Council opened the door to greater maturity, more in tune with the signs of the times.”
Tertio noted that in order to implement and represent the Second Vatican Council, the Synod on Synodality is necessary – a point which Francis agreed with. Praising the development of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops by Paul VI, Francis stated that this was necessary because Paul VI believed “the Western Church had almost lost its synodal dimension.”
According to the Pope, the 2019 Synod on the Amazon presented a “maturation” in the role of women in the Church, after which bishops reportedly asked for a synod to be held on priesthood and then synodality. “Evidently it was a shared theme that all the bishops felt it was time to address,” he said.
“We come from afar, now we are here and we have to move forward. This is what we do through the current Synod process, and the two synods on synodality will help us clarify the meaning and method of decision-making in the Church.”
Misrepresenting St. Vincent of Lerins
As has become a regular occurrence, in making his arguments Pope Francis referenced the 5th century theologian St. Vincent of Lerins, whose famous Canon has been increasingly used as the basis for modern arguments proposing “development” in doctrine.
Quoting from St. Vincent, Francis argued that “starting from the root, we always continue to grow.”
The Council took such a step forward, without cutting off the root, because you cannot do that if you want to produce fruit. The Council is the voice of the Church for our time, and we are now in the first century of putting it into practice.
Francis has previously employed these phrases from St. Vincent to justify theological arguments appearing to defend contraception.
However, St. Vincent of Lerins did not advocate for a rejection of Church teaching – despite the manner in which his words are commonly used today – but rather he stated that as an individual’s physical body grows in accordance with the Divinely ordained plan, so must any development of Church doctrine follow the same law of progress.
The saint wrote that such a process should “be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits.”
But the saint was in fact very clear in his opposition to novel doctrine which had no grounding in the Church’s Tradition. In instances where confusion abounds within the Church, due to a part having “cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith,” St. Vincent presents clear teaching on the Catholic response:
What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his [a Catholic’s] care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.
Theologian: Vatican II’s errors must be ‘anathematized’
While Pope Francis and many modern theologians issue praise for the Council, its benefits have also long been disputed by Catholics.
A recent debate was respired in 2020, due to an intervention by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Weighing in on the topic, liturgist and theologian Peter Kwasniewski wrote of the Council that “it must be remembered with shame and repentance as a moment in which the hierarchy of the Church, to varying degrees, surrendered to a more subtle (and therefore more dangerous) form of worldliness.”
“Moreover,” he continued, “the errors contained in the documents, as well as the many errors commonly attributed to the Council or prompted by it, must be drawn into a syllabus and anathematized by a future pope or council so that the controverted matters may be laid to rest, as former councils have wisely and charitably done in regard to the errors of their times.”
“French historian Guillaume Cuchet shows that the collapse of practice among Catholics in France dates very precisely to the year 1965 [end of Vatican II]. He calls it ‘the year of the collapse.’” pic.twitter.com/ZplmbeSdzB
— MrCasey (@MrCasey62) October 19, 2022
A recent analysis published by French historian Guillaume Cuchet examined the “collapse of practice among Catholics in France.” While notably reluctant to conjecture, Cuchet argued that “there must have been an event behind a phenomenon of this magnitude, at least to provoke it. My hypothesis is that it was the Second Vatican Council.”
Evidence certainly points to a seismic shift in the Catholic Church following the Council. Whilst 75% of U.S. Catholics attended Mass weekly in 1955, that figure had dropped to 50% by the mid 1990s and had further dropped to 39% by 2014-2017. A 2015 study then found a considerably large portion, 76% of Catholics, did not believe it was sinful to use contraceptives, whilst 39% did not believe homosexual behavior was sinful.
A 2014 study found that Catholicism in the U.S. had experienced the greatest loss of numbers, more than any other religion.
Church historian Michael Davies recounts the findings of Kenneth Jones on the post-Conciliar rapid decline in the number of priests, ordination, seminarians, religious and Catholic schools. Whilst there were 58,000 priests in 1965 in America, there were only 45,000 in 2002 despite the population growth: there were also 1,575 ordinations in 1965 with only 450 in 2002.