The True Meaning of Vatican II

The Church today is divided, and very likely to divide even more. Throughout Church history there have been disputes; that’s not so unusual. What’s odd about this situation is that the two disputing groups, the “liberals” and the “conservatives,” both point to the same root cause — the Second Vatican Council.

Both factions believe that the Council gave its approval to modernize the traditional faith and moral teachings of the Church in order to reflect secular society better. The liberals applaud this as “progress” while the conservatives condemn this as “betrayal.”

First, let’s define terms. When I use liberal and conservative, I’m referring to the “ultra” points of view that make up the two far ends of the spectrum. I’m not referring to lay Catholics and clergy who do not rebel from the Church but accept her teachings with faith and trust.

In June 2020, the conservative side shook up the debate when two influential conservative bishops lashed out at Vatican II, claiming that the Council opened the door to dangerous (even heretical) modernizations. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, went so far as to question the truthfulness and validity of the Vatican II documents themselves. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò even suggested that, when it comes to Vatican II, the Church should “drop it ‘in toto’ and forget it.”

Their dissent is attracting numerous followers. On July 15, 2020, a letter was signed by some 50 priests, scholars, and journalists who thanked Viganò and Schneider “for raising Vatican II questions.” These professionals request an “honest and open” discussion about Vatican II because they believe the Council documents may contain errors that need to be corrected.

They are certainly correct in requesting an honest and open discussion on Vatican II, although they seem to be already convinced that at least some of the documents of Vatican II are in error.

The question is: Are they also “open” to the possibility that they may be in error themselves?

An even bigger question is, do errors exist all? Is the Council really to blame for all the present instability and dissension in the Church?

I believe we can go back to the Council documents themselves to prove that the Second Vatican Council is not to blame, and that it was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. What has tainted the Council’s authority is that, almost from the time it adjourned in 1965, it has been both blamed on one side, and applauded on the other, every time the Church appears to be moving away from her traditional roots.

To begin a defense of Vatican II, we should start by remembering that Vatican II has been at the center of controversy from its beginning. The most famous case came in 1968 when many liberal Catholics, inspired by influential theologians and university professors, argued that Vatican II gave them the right to dissent from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, especially with regard to the use of contraception.

Now, let’s examine this point of view carefully. It’s absurd to blame Pope Paul VI and Vatican II for the dissenting action of theologians who themselves contradicted Pope Paul VI and the Vatican II documents! In other words, it’s safe to say that the truths of Vatican II started being obscured and distorted with the worldwide uproar that refused to accept Humanae Vitae. Liberals used the recently-adjourned Council to say it was OK to dissent, especially when it came to artificial birth control. On the other side, conservatives saw the dissent growing, and they invoked the Council too — but for betraying Catholic teaching.

But what do the documents of Vatican II actually say? Is it possible that they are completely in accord with the teachings of the Church, and it is the interpreters — both conservative and liberal — who have misunderstood them? Cardinal Joseph Zen, the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, thinks so. He warns that some books written about the Second Vatican Council, which promise “a particular ‘comprehensive’ presentation of the Council, may not be faithful to the documents of the Council, but rather a subjective understanding of it.”

In a July 2020 essay, the cardinal says that he was working on his Doctorate in Philosophy in Rome during the time of the Council and he recalls hearing about “the fierce debates in the hall” between “conservatives and progressives” over the “drafted working papers” from the material gathered by the preparatory commission for the Council. According to the cardinal, “There is a saying, not far from the truth: An Ecumenical Council starts from human efforts, then comes the devil to make trouble, but at the end the Holy Spirit brings everything to a happy ending.” Cardinal Zen says “Unfortunately, the polarization between the Conservatives and Progressives did not disappear after the Council.”

Let’s examine some of these interpretations more closely.

The conservative interpretation

The difficulty of the conservative faction lies in the fact that they viewed the inner workings of the Second Vatican Council as completely the product of liberal theologians. In fact, one gets the impression that, according to some of these conservatives, the Pope and bishops acted as mere secretaries promulgating what these theologians previously drafted.

This is at best, a naïve view of the complex and careful work done by the Council. One example of this view can be found in a recently published book, Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within by Taylor R. Marshall. (Interesting to note that the foreword is written by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who joined Archbishop Vigano in the recent public criticism of Vatican II.)

Marshall, a well-known Catholic apologist and traditionalist, argues that Vatican II praises Buddhists, Muslims and other non-Catholic religions and basically makes these religions as equally valid, to their followers, as the Catholic Church is to Catholics. To make his point, Marshall points to no. 2 of Vatican II’s document Nostra aetate (Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions). Marshall argues that this document indicates that non-Christians religions, like “Buddhism teaches a way by which men . . . may be able to acquire a state of perfect liberation” and Muslims “submit wholeheartedly to His [God’s] inscrutable decrees.” According to Marshall, “These words are patently false or tremendously stretched” (pp. 141-142).

However, this is where Marshall seems to veer off course. Read carefully and you’ll note that Nostra aetate does not say that the Buddhists actually “attain a state of perfect liberation,” only that Buddhism “proposes a way” to do this. Nor does Nostra aetate say that Muslims “submit themselves wholeheartedly” to God but that “They strive to submit themselves.”

These are observations about these religions; the document doesn’t say that Buddhists and Moslems are successful in doing these things — and it certainly doesn’t say that they contain the fullness of truth. Clearly, taken at face value, these statements are true and there is clearly nothing contrary to the Catholic Faith in this.

Then there is the conservatives’ argument that the Second Vatican Council was hijacked by liberals who wrote all the documents, and therefore it cannot be trusted.

Marshall makes this claim by arguing that the drafts of individual Vatican II documents are the products of liberal theologians who include the late Gregory Baum, a priest and theologian who became known in the 1960s for his work on ecumenism and interfaith matters. Writing about Nostra aetate, Marshall says: “The document was overseen by Cardinal Bea but drafted by Gregory Baum who would later leave the priesthood and marry a close female friend.” He calls Baum “the mastermind behind this Vatican II document.” (p. 140-141).

Actually, Baum was only “one of the drafters” of Nostra aetate. It’s critical to understand that the finalized Vatican II documents are not the product of any one person. The Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations (CCJCR) describes the struggle that the Council had with Nostra aetate: “The process of bringing Nostra Aetate to birth was a difficult challenge. . . . There was opposition to the endeavor from both inside and outside the Council.” Once more, “some prelates employed procedural maneuvers in an effort to scuttle the document, and there were delays in scheduling a formal Council debate on the text.” Finally, “after working through series of drafts” the document was approved by an episcopal vote of 2,221 yes to 88 no (my emphasis).

In other words, the approval of the documents was a complex process; it was hardly a matter of accepting a draft by Gregory Baum! If that were the case, the Council would have been over in a week. No, there was “a series of drafts” and Gregory Baum was one of a number of theologians working on at least the first draft of Nostra aetate.

But over the years, suspicion took root among conservatives that yes, liberal theologians were the architects of the Vatican documents. That was easy to believe because the secular media devoured those liberal arguments and popularized them. The message was completely in line with the times, the 1960s and ‘70s, which celebrated “freedom” and rebellion from tradition.

Except that’s not what Vatican II actually taught. Consequently, when these conservatives reject Vatican II, they are really rejecting the liberal interpretation of Vatican II, that was so widely popularized throughout society that it seemed to be the truth.

The liberal interpretation

The particular difficulty of the ultra-liberal faction in the Church is that they are so “progressive” and eager to explore whatever is new, that many of them “do not remain in the teaching of the Christ” or His Church, as expressed in 2 John 1:9.

Pope Benedict XVI raised the alarm over interpretations which break from the traditional teaching of the Church when he addressed the members of the Roman Curia on Dec. 22, 2005. He stated that there are two interpretations of Vatican II. One is in “continuity” with the Tradition of the Church, and the other is in a state of “rupture” or “discontinuity” with Tradition.

In other words, Pope Benedict was directly addressing the issue of interpretation and noting that Vatican II was being pulled into two directions — one direction was pointing toward unity and one toward confusion.

Both liberal and conservative critics of Vatican II should think seriously about what Pope Benedict said, and ask themselves — are they substituting a false and destructive interpretation of Vatican II for what it truly taught?

There can be no doubt that, when Pope Benedict addressed the issue of “rupture and discontinuity,” he was referring to the ultra- progressive interpretation of Vatican II. This view makes the claim that the documents of Vatican II don’t fully express what the Council meant to say, because they don’t go far enough to address all the concerns of today’s society. According to these progressives, the true “spirit” or teaching of Vatican II is still unfolding, and therefore the literal teachings contained in the Vatican II documents can’t fully express what is needed today. The true “spirit” of these teachings may be “vague” now, but will be fully revealed in the future as they develop through the practice of the Church as it relates to secular society in the modern world.

An excellent example of this kind of progressive hope was expressed by Sr. Maureen Fiedler, a well-known progressive activist, who wrote an article on Oct. 8, 2012, to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening session of Vatican II. Her article was titled, “Vatican II: It’s about that ‘fresh air,’” which recalled a popular phrase bantered about by liberal theologians when Pope John XXIII opened the Council. The phrase referred to what they believed the main purpose of Vatican II to be — to “open the window and let in fresh air.”

Fiedler wrote: “I thought of Vatican II not as a finished product, but as a ‘seed’ that would grow and flower and flourish, bringing new life with each decade thereafter. Soon, I thought, we would have a married clergy and not long after that, women would be ordained.” Moreover, she hoped that “the laity would truly run parishes in democratic forms and would be consulted widely by bishops.”

Fiedler’s conclusion reflects the post-Vatican II despair over the lack of progress in becoming that “seed” that continues to grow. Where are all the new and fresh ideas that the Council was supposed to germinate? She writes: “These hopes and others have not flowered — at least not yet. Yup — it’s getting stuffy in here again. It may be time for Vatican III.”

An honest” and open” discussion of Vatican II

So, where does Vatican II stand today?

It’s clear that the conservatives want to use pre-Vatican II documents as kind of an escape hatch, to use them to free the Church from the errors of Vatican II. Meanwhile, the liberals want an escape hatch too — they want to race beyond the Vatican II documents to explore new concepts and ideas. As Pope Benedict observed, they consider Vatican II documents to refer to “old things that are now pointless” and irrelevant to the modern world.

Both views are dangerous because the Church will undoubtedly break into more divisions unless there is a clear understanding of the true teachings of Vatican II as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

So, is the situation hopeless? Far from it. It is possible to reunify the divisions in the Church, and the best place to start the repair and healing process is to return to the point of departure — at the beginning of the divergence. We must return to the true intention of the Second Vatican Council. We must determine exactly what the Council meant by its conciliar teachings at the time they were promulgated — and go from there.

While this might appear as a colossal task, there is a clear and responsible way to do this.

First of all, one must determine exactly what the mind of John XXIII’s successor, Pope Paul VI, was when he promulgated the decisions of Vatican II. We must remember it is not the intention of this-or-that bishop or theologian at the Council that requires the assent of each of the faithful. In the end, the only intention that matters is the Pope’s! And it is his intentional teaching that maintains the Church in unity and can return it to unity once it has been shattered.

The unquestioned leadership of the Holy Father at the Council was shown in rather a dramatic way in a New York Times article published even while Vatican II was in session. It shows that most of society at that time — even the secular media — acknowledged the leadership of the Pope even over the individual bishops and theologians who were running the Council.

The headline of the article, published Nov. 22, 1964 in the New York Times, says: “PONTIFF ADJOURNS VATICAN COUNCIL AND HONORS MARY”;

The second line of the headline goes on to say: “Title: ‘Mother of the Church,’ Shelved During Debate, is Conferred by Pope.”

Apparently, Paul VI did not agree with the majority of the bishops at the Council who were not yet ready to give Mary the title of “Mother of the Church.” But he got the bishops to accept it anyway, as no. 53 of Lumen Gentium clearly states about Mary: “The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.” When the Pope exerted his authority to name “Mary the Mother of the Church,” it was at first contrary to the wishes of the bishops and theologians at the Council. But did it truly express the “spirit” of the Second Vatican Council? Who would say no today? It’s difficult to imagine any faithful Catholic questioning that title for Mary. We can infer from this secular reporting by The New York Times that it was understood at the time that the validity of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council — or any other ecumenical council — intrinsically depends on the intention of the Pope. It does not depend on the intention of any particular person or group of cardinals, bishops or theologians.

In other words, the Council did not deviate from established doctrine at all, no matter what today’s critics (on both the left and right) may say. In fact, the importance of the Pope’s intention in establishing Church doctrine was made most clear and decisively by the Second Vatican Council itself. The document no.25 of Lumen Gentium points out that the Catholic bishops speak in the name of Jesus Christ and “the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.” Then the Council states: “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra.” The Council then spells out precisely what this “religious submission of mind and will” requires: “that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will [my emphasis].” Continuing, the Council says: “His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”

So, the documents of Vatican II themselves clearly and forcefully state that the decisions of Vatican II are not mere suggestions which a Catholic can take or leave as he chooses.

But that brings up another common misunderstanding, or false argument about what the Council taught. Many people came to believe that because Pope Paul VI decreed these documents in a non-infallible form, each Catholic is free to dissent from them. This is simply false. The promulgation of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council were themselves an exercise of the “supreme ordinary magisterium” of the Church. And about this Paul VI stated at a General Audience on January 12, 1966:

In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statement of dogmas that would be endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the supreme ordinary magisterium [my italics]. This ordinary magisterium, which is so obviously official, has to be accepted with docility and sincerity by all the faithful, in accordance with the mind of the Council on the nature and aims of the individual documents.

But the true meaning of the Second Vatican Council, which was expressed by this supreme ordinary magisterium, is not just limited to what is listed as the 16 Vatican II documents. The supreme ordinary magisterium of Vatican II must also include Mysterium Fidei promulgated on Sept 3, 1965 by Paul VI in the midst of the Council, and Humanae Vitae promulgated on July 25, 1968, just three years after the close of the Council.

The timing of these two historic documents has had the effect of damaging Vatican II’s credibility even more, because they seemed to be promulgated apart from the Council, leading both liberals and conservatives to conclude that the Council’s involvement in these two fundamental issues was minimal.

The reason why Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council left the subjects of the Eucharist and Human Life completely to the immediate decision of Paul VI was because of their urgent importance and because both were under attack from within the Church at that time. The Eucharist needed immediate attention because Paul VI expressed his “pastoral concern and anxiety” over some who were sowing “confusion about matters of the faith.” Similarly, with Humanae Vitae, “The encyclical was written — in ‘anguish,’ according to the Pope — in answer to the many questions that were raised by Vatican Council II.” And the questions surrounding Human Life were so complex that they needed a thorough investigation by a commission in the Church. These matters required special attention and they each received it in the form of an encyclical which is a true expression of the supreme ordinary magisterium of the Vatican II.

Because Mysterium Fidei and Humanae Vitae were both conceived in great “anxiety” over urgent matters of the faith during the Second Vatican Council, these two encyclicals are particularly important in revealing the deepest intentions and spirit of the Council itself. More than any other document of Vatican II these two encyclicals express the true heart and meaning of the Second Vatican Council. One cannot have an “open and honest” discussion of Vatican II without discussing in depth Mysterium Fidei and Humanae Vitae.

Therefore, we should be able to see that the teachings of Vatican II have always expressed the truths of the Church. This is powerfully conveyed even beyond the mind of Paul VI to his two successors — namely, in the solemn ordinary magisterium of John Paul I and John Paul II.

John Paul I, who succeeded Paul VI in August 1978, took the double name of John Paul because he wanted to show that he intended his pontificate to be in perfect continuity with the intentions and works of the Second Vatican Council in the spirit of John XXIII and Paul VI. He wanted it understood that he “was not going to deviate from their path and would be faithful to what they had done.”

John Paul II , who became Pope in October 1978, also wanted to show that his pontificate would be in “continuity” with these intentions of John Paul I (whose pontificate lasted only about a month due to his early death). Therefore, the decisions made by John Paul II — especially his encyclicals — would be in “continuity” with the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. By studying the documents that John Paul II wrote during his influential and historic papacy, we will know the mind of the Council and the supreme ordinary magisterium of the Church, and just as important, we will be able to link them to the work of the much-misunderstood Second Vatican Council.

So, can Vatican II be trusted as the true Church teaching? Let’s start here, with an “honest and open” discussion on what Vatican II really taught. But let’s do it right, by carefully reading the documents of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II (especially their encyclicals), and by understanding that each pope was a participant in one supreme ordinary magisterium of the Second Vatican Council. Their pontificates were expressly dedicated to initiating, promulgating, teaching and implementing the decrees of the Second Vatican Council.

Once we know the role of the popes in the teachings of Vatican II, we will finally understand that the Council is fully in line with the Church as it has always been, and, as mentioned above, Paul VI stated that its decisions must “be accepted with docility and sincerity by all the faithful.”

Maybe then we can heal the divisions caused by both the left and the right. It would be a good place to start, anyway.

Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap About Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap

Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap, was ordained in Aug. 26, 1972. He is currently in the process of developing the Julia Greeley shelter for homeless, unaccompanied women in metro Denver. He is spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta's Missionaries of Charity in Denver, as well as being one of the spiritual directors for the Missionaries of Charity in the western United States. He was director of prison ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, from 1999 to 2010; a chaplain for Missionaries of Charity at their now-closed AIDS hospice, Seton House, and at Gift of Mary homeless shelter for women in Denver from 1989 to 2008; and in 1997, he was sent by Mother Teresa to instruct Missionaries of Charity in Madagascar and South Africa on the subject of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist . His articles have been published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Faith, Soul Magazine, Pastoral Life, and The Priest. He has also made two series for Mother Angelica's EWTN: "Crucial Questions," "Catholic Answers," and "What Did Vatican II Really Teach?"


  1. Thank you Father. I fully accept your clear, thorough and very convincing analysis of the way the council has been interpreted (or misinterpreted). I was saddened to read Archbishop Vigano’s criticisms of Vat.11 because up until he did so, I considered him as a forthright defender of the faith. By criticising, indeed attacking the council, he has undermined his own credibility.

  2. This article fails to take account of the cognitive dissonance caused by the Francis papacy. We had 40 years of the “hermeneutic of continuity.” Vast numbers of clerics of the Church rejected it and worked assiduously to undermine it. Then, its greatest proponent, Benedict XVI resigned and the underminers seemed to have “won.” To many, it seems that there is stark discontinuity between Francis and his predecessors on many issues. The biggest example is his reversal of their clear and seemingly definitive teaching on communion for the divorced and remarried. Also, where his predecessors saw themselves as limited by the Tradition in how far they could go on issues like the death penalty, Francis pushes ahead. But most significantly, Francis has given essentially free reign to “hermeneutic of rupture” progressives to push ahead. For example, could stop the Germans, but he doesn’t stop them.

  3. Avatar Chuck Patterson says:

    Wonderful explanation Father. I keep thinking of Pope Paul VI’s statement that he was seeing the smoke of Satan flowing through the halls of the Church. Now, more than ever, we need to have unity and peace in our Church. There are a lot of factions out there who want to destroy our Church; we don’t need it from within. I believe that Vatican II was inspired and run by the Holy Spirit and that we need to recognize His Will to guide the Church of Jesus.

  4. Man we needed this…I see schism forming on the left and the right at the present time…

  5. Avatar Kyle Pociask says:

    Fr Scanlon, On the Vatican Website, the English Translation of Nostrae Aetate says, “it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination”. That is a copy and paste. It seems straight forward and seams to be written as a matter of fact statement. I do not see anywhere in the document suggesting that Buddhist only “proposes a way”, as you suggest. Can you clarify where this written?

  6. Avatar Kyle Pociask says:

    Father Scanlon,

    I posted a comment asking about your suggestion that Buddhism “proposes a way” where as the English translation on the website states “teaches a way”. I should have looked up the Latin before I posted the comment. The Latin says, “docetur” which is means to teach or instruct or to give instructions. It appears to me that the Latin is translated more properly by the word “teach” and not by “propose”. This supports my previous comment. I do not see an indication that Nostrae Aetate only says that Buddhism simply proposes these ideas. Rather, it appears to be written as a factual statement. This is what causes confusion. Maybe the intent is to be orthodox, but it is confusing to read. This allows for people on both sides of the argument to quote the document. Clarity should be paramount. Regardless of any other argument for liberal or conservative interpretations, one significant failure of the documents is their lack of clarity.

  7. Avatar Virgil Evans says:

    Could it be that the Council attempted too much? The paperback version of The Documents of Vatican II is weighty tome. The current Austin Flannery OP edition is just over a thousand pages. This is not only far more than most keen members of the laity would want to tackle. Furthermore, how many parish clergy or bishops have read it in its entirety? Very few, I would venture to say. As the distance in years from the close of the council grows , and as confusion and rival interpretations of the documents grow, I think that the question posed at the beginning of this note is probably true. But the documents are a fact and there is no erasing that. Finally, to whom does one go for an authentic interpretation? And assuming such a person (or persons) exists, will it make any difference? It may be a little late in the day for commonly accepted interpretation. Various factions are loath to give up their positions.

  8. Kyle you miss Fr. Scanlon’s point. The Council is only giving a description of these religions. Whether you use the word “propose” or “teach” the document says that it is these religions which are proposing or teaching this — not the Catholic Church. Again, the Council is only describing what these religions propose and teach. The Council is not necessarily agreeing with them.

    • Avatar Kyle Pociask says:

      Attalus, I suppose I am missing something. When I re-read Nostrae Aetate, I do not see what Fr. Scanlon suggests regarding Buddhism. I am simply focusing on this one point. To me, the document reads as an affirmative statement whereas Fr. Scanlon suggests that it is not an affirmation. As a result, his point does not register. To be fair, I would like clarification because Fr. Scanlon’s statement only adds to my confusion as it doesn’t seem to say what he suggests. So, it makes me wonder what I am getting wrong. Reading Nostrae Aetate is confusing. It seems, in a sense, to promote these other religions and it seems to contradict prior statements of the ordinary magisterium and it seems to contradict scripture. From my experience, it is not just the laity that was confused by the document, but the clergy as well. I can remember multiple occasions after I first converted to the Catholic faith where priests would espouse the virtues of other religions, most especially the Muslim faith. Even to the point of bringing out Muslim prayer beads and recommending them to us during the homily. It was immensely confusing. I had sacrificed quite a bit to become Catholic and priests were telling me how wonderful the Muslim faith was. Today, I see many priests recommending Yoga. So, my concern has real-world problems, not just a theoretical argument for argument’s sake. Many Catholics today are genuinely confused about the validity of other religions. Whether they have read Nostrae Aetate or not, it seems that the promulgation of this document has helped to spread this confusion.

  9. Avatar Basil Cole, OP says:

    If one takes a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the Latin concerning capital punishment, it is rather surprising since all the translations simply say that it is admissible whereas it really says: “Quapropter Ecclesia, sub Evangelii luce, docet “poenam capitalem non posse admitti quippe quae repugnet inviolabili personae humanae dignitati”[1] atque Ipsa devovet se eidemque per omnem orbem abolendae.” In English it means:
    “The Church teaches that the death penalty is inadmissible to the extent [not because] that it could be [not it is] an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” (Notice: this leaves the door open for an exception.) “and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”
    My generation never read Vatican II in Latin nor looked at the footnotes and that led to a certain dimness in our understanding of its teachings and pastoral recommendations. Then, from another perspective, St. Paul VI never directly corrected bishops’ conferences nor theologians dissenting from Humanae Vitae, nor did St. John Paul II, nor Pope Benedict, nor has Pope Francis except laterally or indirectly by asserting the truth of authentic marital intercourse. While the official Latin version of Vatican II is under the help of the Holy Spirit, translations may not be. Then, in addition, what the popes did not do to correct error led to, at least, a feeling of intellectual discontinuity from Tradition from Vatican II until now, not outright heresy but its similitude, at least some confusion here and there.

    • Regis Scanlon Regis Scanlon says:


      Good point, and thanks for the comment. Please see my comment to Gary Lambert.

      Fr. Regis

      • Basil,
        Once again thank you for taking the time to give a well thought-out reply to my article. I am honored that you did so. I have heard of the great work that you have done in both teaching and writing in theology. Let us both pray for unity in the Church.

        Fr. Regis Scanlon O.F.M. Cap.

  10. Avatar Garry Lambert says:

    A very well thought out and articulate article, Father. You have come to convince me, through this and other articles and discussions, that there was nothing within the Council that, when honestly reviewed, supported doctrinal error. However, despite this understanding, it appears that the Council has been an abject failure.
    For the first time, a Council was called, not to address any heretical teaching or clarify some obscure point of the faith, but had as its intent to improve the expressive heart of the church, and to make its true presence and teaching more enticing and meaningful to the world. (My feeble generalization.)
    If all we can say about the Council was that it just didn’t do or say anything wrong, we accomplished nothing. Other than fueling the abuses of the liberal autonomy of thought, I’m trying to think of a single positive thing the Council has accomplished for Holy Mother Church. I think this is where the Ultra-right focuses its ideas of “failure.” There has been no good “fruit” to nibble on.
    All that being said, and conceding the Holy Spirit’s guidance through it all, what did the Holy Spirit intend us to learn? What was the point? God does nothing that is “abject failure,” so what was He trying to get through to us? The Pope SHOULD have this answer, but so far his pontificate has offered little consolation to the Catholic faithful. Perhaps you could enlighten to the good you have seen from the Council.

  11. Avatar Randolph Guerrero says:

    Thank you for your illuminating discussion of Vatican II.
    I keep you in prayer. 🙏

  12. Regis Scanlon Regis Scanlon says:


    As I said, while the teachings of the Second Vatican Council were approved and formally taught by Pope Paul VI, the fake news about the Council and her teachings is what reached the ears of the people with the help of the very liberal media (like Vatican II gives Catholics permission to dissent from any and everything). Consequently, how can we judge the effect of the workings of the Holy Spirit when the people have not yet heard the words inspired by the Holy Spirit? We must proclaim the authentic teachings of Vatican II for the first time and then see the results.

    The problem lies with those bishops and theologians who knew better and did not believe the authentic teachings of the Council. I doubt that this is the first Ecumenical Council at which this has happened. Some say it takes a hundred years before a Council is completely understood and proclaimed.

    Fr. Regis

  13. Fr. Scanlon’s well reasoned approach here
    reminds me of Pope Saint John Paul ii’s words:
    “The glory of man lies in his ability to make
    distinctions.” Father shows how Tayler Marshall‘s
    conclusions in his popular book INFILTRATION
    are misleading – causing unnecessary division in
    the Church. Let the discussions begin.

  14. Gary Lambert,
    Gary you wrote that Vatican II produced no fruit to nibble on. According to Fr. Scanlon, Mysterium Fidei
    (on the Eucharist) and Humana Vitae (contraception) were conceived during Vatican II by the Fathers of Council. These were promulgated and thoroughly taught by Paul VI, just to be rejected by the people of the Church. Whose fault is that? Fruit can be presented but also refused. Was it the Holy Spirit, Vatican II, Paul VI or we who failed?

  15. Avatar Gilbert Chesham says:

    Another excellent article from one of the foremost experts on Vatican II in the United States! Though in one sense, the Church can be said to experience division; in another sense, she can never be divided. For one of her four notes–found in the Nicene Creed–is Unity. This, along with Infallibility, is an aspect of her Essential Nature. For the Holy Ghost dwells within her. Thus, He fulfills the High Priestly Prayer of Our Lord recorded in the 17th Chapter of St John’s Gospel. One must wonder, therefore, why some apologists, theologians, philosophers, and even clerics, call themselves ‘Catholic’, if they deny the infallibility of the Pope & the Ecumenical Councils. Was it not Martin Luther who, as it were, put his own opinion above these?


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