I was born about 20 years after the Second Vatican Council closed in 1965, so I wasn't around when the controversies began to whirl during that era of the Catholic Church. And I didn't enter into full communion with the Catholic Church until the late 1990s, so my exposure to the Catholic Church in the United States came quite a while after the purportedly wilder times of the 60s and 70s. I was hit by quite a different problem in the Church: the revelation of the extent of the sexual abuse crisis in the decades following Vatican II (and my anger over that is a story for another day).
This is probably part of why the reactions to Vatican II among many of those who were around during the 60s and 70s is so baffling to me. I just wasn't there and didn't choose a side in the heat of the moment as the counterculture's wave was cresting. I have the benefit of hindsight and critical distance, which the people who were in the Catholic Church at that time did not have.
They were forced to decide as the battle was joined, a notoriously difficult time to see clearly and make the best decisions. I've made many bad decisions in those types of situations, so I can empathize with those who later changed their minds and admitted their behavior at the time was not very good. Bishop Gracida is a good example of this humility of spirit which allows us to own our past mistakes and resolve to correct them going forward.
And Bishop Gracida is certainly not the only one to have misgivings about the liturgical innovations that spread rapidly after the Second Vatican Council. There were many, most notably Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who had serious concerns about the direction of the Council when it was beginning, not just after it had happened and their mistakes were apparent. Some of them rejected Vatican II as heretical, and others were just worried about Council fathers laying the foundation for future heresy.
Some were concerned that, while Vatican II documents contained no heresy and didn't lead to heresy, there were plenty of politically progressive Catholics who would be happy to use it as cover for their heresies that were a result of imposing their political views on the Church so that it would "get with the times." In an interesting twist, those who wanted the Church to get with the times are in many cases now clinging rigidly to the times with which they wanted the Church to get, holding it back from getting with the new times.
They don't want to give up their manufactured "liturgical dance" performances for the stillness of contemplative prayer recommended by the Saints and Doctors of the Church, nor do they want to abandon their folksy guitar Masses for the chant prescribed by Vatican II. And when young people who want to use American trance or house electronic music, or European melodic metal, want their preferred music in the Mass, then how urgent do they think it is to get with the times? Not very, in my experience.
And despite the fact that Gregorian chant is extremely popular, surprisingly so among young people, are these "get with the times" leaders of the Church in a hurry to make sure it is sung at Mass? No. Just as the pre-Vatican II Traditionalists want to keep things as they are even if it means disobedience to the Church and not keeping up with current trends, the post-Vatican II Traditionalists want to keep things as they are even if it means disobedience to the Church and not keeping up with current trends.
The pathology that is often (though not always) present in traditional Catholic circles is the tendency to cling to the liturgy of a particular time and place rather than allowing the Church in her wisdom to participate in the constant renewal of the Christian life through the liturgy. Which is not to say that the hierarchy of the Church has been perfectly clear and coherent, because it has frequently been neither in the last few decades especially.
To err is human, so this should not be surprising, and we should pick ourselves back up, ask God's forgiveness, and keep seeking Him. And the situation is generally more complicated than it appears, as this excellent article in First Things explains as it tells the story of the post-Vatican II era. The pre-Vatican II Traditionalists and the post-Vatican II Traditionalists would like to point fingers at one another and insist that the other side is in the wrong on a number of important matters.
For myself, I agree with both of them; they have definitely been wrong about some very important matters. And I've been wrong on many important matters myself (a situation that's likely to continue indefinitely), so I know that the best thing to do is admit it when the weight of the evidence suggests that you're wrong. After admitting it, then it's time to correct our behaviors, but that admission of guilt comes first.
When we can stop looking at our brother's guilt long enough to examine our own, this becomes much more possible. At that point, the war over liturgical praxis and theology between the pre-Vatican II Traditionalists and the post-Vatican II Traditionalists might reach a cease-fire. Maybe, if we're very fortunate, a peace accord.
It's what I have to hope for, not for my own sake, but for the sake of a Church that needs the gifts of both groups without their pathologies and pride tagging along with them. At this point, it doesn't matter who started the war. We need to end it with Christian love for the sake of future generations and for our own.
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