A priest acquaintance was recently speaking about the merits of Vatican Council II, as he saw them:
It is easy to see the fly in the ointment concerning some of the deleterious practices that developed out of the wrong implementation of the splendid documents of Vatican II. So there is plenty wrong with the wrong-headed, liberalizing, false egalitarianism of spirit of Vatican II ecclesilogy. Music in the reformed Liturgy has been the biggest sore thumb and the iconoclasm that went with what was proposed as renewal. But with that said, this is what has been good about Vatican II.
1. Catholic adults are asked to be Catholic adults and to live their lives as adults, responsible for their faith and their salvation. Gone are the days when only the priests and religious were understood as "church" and everyone else as inferior children who needed a paternalistic approach to them from priests and sisters. What many are doing here in terms of offering ideas and even challenging the authority of the Church is a result of Vatican II, but I would say some have gone to the extreme in that they reject a council which is anathema!
2. People are taking ownership in the local parishes, contributing as adults, and appreciate Catholic Stewardship and the Church's call that they use their talents for building up the Church and local parish, such as in ministries like Daybreak, Fam, St. Vincent de Paul, the RCIA and numerous other ministries and people are empowered to do these things. This would not have happened in pre-Vatican II times except for running bazaars and fund raisers.3. The RCIA as we have it today provides for a recovery of an early Church practice with all the liturgies and prayers associated with it. This was totally lacking in the pre-Vatican II Church.4. More pastoral flexibility and understanding the human condition a little bit better, more mercy than punishment. 5. Liturgy that is more accessible and without having to do cartwheels and handstands to understand it. I attribute this to the vernacular and I do feel that for the Mass itself, a total revamp was not necessary, but vernacular was/is and the expanded lectionary. I simply do not buy that a one year cycle was all lay Catholics need. That is a red herring to say the least and no one should lament the loss of the one year cycle, although I wouldn't mind it as a particular year.
I responded thusly:
1. I also have to disagree with your assessment of Catholic adulthood. It is elist to think that Catholics prior to Vatican Council II were somehow oppressed children who left their faith to priests and nuns. I disagree 100%.
The role of the priest and the nun is to guide Catholics through their faith and to help them understand it. But we don't have to have a perfect knowledge of that faith.
There is something to be said about having the faith of a child. We should be able to look to the Church as our mother. We should be able to look to the Church in a way where her priests and religious are leaders and we shouldn't have to rely on strict "freedoms" and "adult thoughts" to get us through.
We can and we should speak to the Church as adults, when we are so, but we should always look upon her with the wonderment and eyes of a child. To lose the sense of mystery and the sacred is to lose a great portion of what it means to be Catholic. Sure, one can understand that a Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to bring about grace. But is there more that needs to be known, or is that enough? For centuries, that idea of sacrament is what got billions to heaven. But since the Council, it isn't enough? There is a real problem in that way of thinking.
2. People took ownership in their parishes. The Knights of Columbus. The building of 1500 seat parish churches out of stone and mortar. The advent of various clubs and organizations. The ownership in parish life is not just the spiritual, but the temporal working with the spiritual in harmony. There is so much more to ownership than just the things...it is knowing that the parish church is home. It is where we go to bury, to marry, to baptize, to cry, to laugh and to love. It is a place in heart, mind and deed. But is not just what Vatican Council II babies think, when it comes to "ownership." This all existed well before the Council and it has largely dried up since. The world has taken the place of the parish for the center of Catholic life and that is a huge problem. Schools are closing. Parishes are closing. Membership in service organizations are dwindling....not because of what happened before the Council, but after.
3. Interesting to note that the "early Church" references that keep popping up sure seem like archealogicalism. What about development? What about the definition of dogma and doctrine which happened in the two millinea between the early Church and Vatican Council II? And where does one start defining "the early Church?" 100? 325? 1000? 1054? 1570? 1854? 1961? It is a complete misnomer and misleading to use the "early Church." The Church has grown since then and there have been organic and necessary changes. The education that Catholics got catechetically prior to Vatican Council II puts to shame any RCIA program today.
4. More mercy than punishment? I don't ever recall my mother or grandmother being punished for being Catholic. Archbishop Sheen taught mainly before the Council...and he was full of merciful teaching....As was Pius X, as was the Cure D' Ars, as was Therese of Liseiux. But they also understood that there were consequences for actions. Something we have lost in this generation.
5. Cartwheels to understand the Mass. The Mass doesn't need to be literally understood, but I can guarantee you that most traditionalists understand the TLM a lot better than Catholics understand the Novus Ordo. This is about language. And the idea that if it "ain't in English" it "ain't good." I call BS on that. The Mass particular is where the priest communes with God on behalf of the faithful in the pew. It matters not whether the faithful hear one word of what the priest says, Latin, English, Russian or Greek. He should be focused on worshiping God the Father through the sacrifice of the Mass. That can be achieved by any number of means, meditating on the Life of Christ, the Stations of the Cross, the Nativity, or following along in the hand missal, which allows a person to (gasp) understand.
Bottom line Father....the destruction wrought after Vatican Council II wasn't because of Vatican Council II. It was because Vatican Council II opened the stage for men to hijack that which was beyond them. They took the Divine and made it profane. And now it falls on my generation to pick the pieces up and start re-building brick by brick. And we are none too happy about the fact that our glorious Church is in shambles, because aggiornamento needed to rule the day...how? By tuning in, turning on, and yes, Father....dropping out.
We're not dropping out...we're coming back...but we don't want the banal and on the spot. We want authenticity as the Church gave it to us from time immemorial through all of the Councils, including today.