Catholics and ex-Catholic Christians who are older than sixty can remember the period of great turmoil in the church that followed the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965. In calling together the council, pope John XXIII was determined to “open the windows [of the Church] and let in some fresh air” by somewhat revising many of the church’s rituals and beliefs. There were many “window dressing” changes that did not affect core dogmas, but some revisions, such as the church’s new ecumenical outlook, were profound.
It took time before the Vatican II reforms, such as saying mass in the vernacular, filtered down to the parish level so when I became an altar boy in 1966 at the age of ten, I still had to respond in Latin to the priest’s prayers. I believe the mass switched to English the following year, in 1967.
Conservative Catholics deeply resented the many changes introduced by the church at Vatican II. A rift began in the church that continues today. On the one side are the conservatives/traditionalists who pine for the pre-Vatican II militant church with its exclusivist dogmas. On the opposite side are liberals who could be categorized as the Catholic version of the Protestant mainline “social gospel” followers, who downplay doctrine and regulations and emphasize social applications. Liberals welcomed the changes of Vatican II and press for further changes.
Between these two camps are the vast majority of Catholics, many of which might best be described as nominal members. They attend church for significant milestones – baptisms, weddings, funerals, major holidays – but that is the extent of their “spirituality.”
When a Christian witnesses to a Catholic, they must determine where the person falls on the extremely wide spectrum of Catholic belief and practice.
Catholic apologists like to present their church as a monolith united behind the pope but that’s very far from the reality. Conservative Catholics strongly resent the pragmatic, reform-minded Francis who plays fast and loose with cherished dogmas and traditions. They hope his papal reign ends quickly. Full-blown schism is not really an option at this point because, as much as conservatives dislike Francis, they’re restrained by their allegiance to church orthodoxy from considering a split from a duly-elected pontiff.
I was recently scanning through soon-to-be-published books at Amazon, and I came across the two interesting titles below from traditionalist Catholic authors that mirror the deep divide within Catholicism:
Among the Ruins: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Catholic Church
By Paul Williams
Prometheus Books, August 15, 2017, 366 pages
“This critical review of the Roman Catholic Church since the pivotal changes initiated in the 1960s by Vatican II paints a disturbing picture of decline and corruption. Dr. Paul L. Williams, a self-professed Tridentine or traditionalist Catholic, traces the various factors that have caused the Church to suffer cataclysmic losses in all aspects of its life and worship in recent decades. Williams illustrates the decline with telling statistics showing the stark difference between the robust number of clergy members, parishes, schools, and active church-going Catholics in 1965 versus the comparatively paltry number today.
The author is highly critical of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis for steering the church so far away from its traditional teachings and for a lack of oversight that allowed corruption to fester. Symptomatic of this failure of leadership are the recent pedophilia scandals, the ongoing financial corruption, a gay prostitution ring inside the Vatican, and criminal investigations of connections between the Holy See and organized crime.
This unflinching critique from a devoted, lifelong Catholic is a wakeup call to all Catholics to restore their church to its former levels of moral leadership and influence.” – Publisher’s summary
Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is Misleading His Flock
By Philip Lawler
Gateway Editions, February 12, 2018, 256 pages
“Faithful Catholics are beginning to realize it’s not their imagination. Pope Francis has led them on a journey from joy to unease to alarm and even a sense of betrayal. They can no longer pretend that he represents merely a change of emphasis in papal teaching. He seems to be engaged in a deliberate effort to undermine fundamental Catholic doctrines. Assessing the confusion sown by this pontificate, Lost Shepherd explains what’s at stake, what’s not at stake, and how loyal believers should respond.” – Publisher’s summary
Rather than placing your faith in an untrustworthy institution, place your trust in the unchanging Rock of salvation, Jesus Christ. Accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone.