Group n° 3: The Unsatisfied
The third group is that of those who have been disappointed by Vatican II, because of a lack of audacity on the part of the episcopate, they say. These disappointed Catholics:
1) Acknowledge that Vatican II has made it possible to break with the rigid and dogmatic habits of the pre-conciliar Church, which was killing the life of the Spirit within its walls, and they welcome as great advances all the developments that occurred in the ecumenical and interreligious fields, because it was a recognition of the fact that the Spirit also moves outside the Church.
2) stress the importance of Dignitatis Humanae, because of its acceptance of religious freedom as a basic human right (a right that quickly served as a justification, for some Catholics who sought to distance themselves from certain Church teachings that seemed superstitious, retrograde or oppressive to them.)
But these same people also consider that:
3) The conciliar Fathers stopped too early on the path of reform and that their work must be continued through an ongoing process of questioning and criticizing the old forms of ecclesial life, with a view to the emergence of a new Church, capable of entering into relationship with today's world.
4) The unwillingness to adopt a truly progressive agenda for reform is due to the existence, in Rome and elsewhere, of a Catholic conservatism opposed to the true spirit of the Gospel, and whose influence persists despite 60 years of liberalization of our religious practices and beliefs in the Church.
Group n° 4: The Opponents
A fourth category of people is extremely critical of Vatican II and considers that:
1) Vatican II is a disaster from almost every point of view (ecclesiological, because of the confusion about the role that each one is supposed to play in the Church; theological, because of the promotion of flagrant heresies; liturgical, because of the replacement of the traditional Mass, etc.).
2) Vatican II erred seriously on various subjects (religious freedom, relations with the modern world, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue), first because the Fathers of the Council lost sight of the primary mission of the Church, which is to defend and propagate the revealed truth, and second, because they replaced this mission with a strategy inspired by humanism and atheism, whose ultimate goal seems to be to live a good neighbourly relationship with the modern world.
3) Vatican II officialized the Church's submission to modernity (and postmodernity), which soon resulted in Catholics adopting all modern ways of thinking and living, to the detriment of the Catholic worldview and ethics.
4) The condition for a true "Renaissance" of the Church lies in the abolition of Vatican II and a return to the mentality and morality that were normative before 1962, but the progressive mentality that predominates in the Church today is an obstacle preventing the rapid realization of this project.
Where I stand (the short version)
Personally, I have points of agreement and disagreement with each of these groups or each of these theological positions. Except for the second one, with which I fully agree. I therefore belong to the second group: those who are both in solidarity with and critical of the Council. In solidarity, because it was needed in its time and theologically well inspired for the most part. Critical, because Vatican II initiated changes that were more than necessary, but in a way and in a spirit that probably lacked foresight and prudence. Moreover, it has often been poorly understood, promoted and implemented on the pastoral ground.
The group that I find the hardest to agree with and that I criticize the most is the third group. First of all because its progressive theology is excessively influenced by the rationalism of the Enlightenment and by Marxist or socialist thought. Second, because it's the most widespread type of Catholicism in Quebec, and therefore, very concretely, it is the one I'm fighting in a fraternal way most often, on most pastoral and ecclesial grounds.
With the first group, that of the enthusiastic Supporters, I share the conviction that we must avoid the two pitfalls of antimodernism and hypermodernism. With the third group, that of the Unsatisfied, I share the conviction that the Spirit moves beyond the Church’s walls. With the fourth group, that of the Opponents, I share the conviction that the pre-conciliar Church is full of treasures (I am thinking, in particular, of Neo- Thomist philosophy and theology), which it is in our interest to re-appropriate, if we want to be well armed, intellectually speaking, to deal with the worst aspects of the irrational postmodern society.
But unlike the first group, I find that some aspects of Vatican II deserve to be criticized, and that it is bad for the intellectual health of the Church to turn the “spirit of the Council” into an untouchable idol. Unlike the third group, I consider that a progressive agenda is as bad as a reactionary one, and more damaging, insofar as progressives are more numerous in Quebec and that they can therefore lead us into more massive theological and pastoral drifts. Unlike the fourth group, I consider that Vatican II prompted much needed changes, and that the pre-conciliar Church can serve as an inspiration in some areas only, while in others its deficiencies are obvious, and need not be replicated.