I am perhaps not the only person who fills with dread whenever “the spirit of Vatican II” is invoked. This is so whether the tone is approving, or sarcastic. In either case, one is presented with a wrong. For a person, even a pope, not to see the catastrophe that has befallen our Church in the time since the 1960s, is discouraging. One wonders if he is capable of judgement, or candour. But to indulge bitterness is to succumb to the same acids: to play the very part assigned to “traditionalists” by the “reformers,” and advance their project of dividing the Church into factions.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus — “Come, O Holy Spirit” — is the Catholic position, parodied in this case. The devil’s game is to set the one “spirit” against the other, in a trick of speech. It is to temporalize and politicize what is above politics. For five hundred years this game has been played, this trap has been set to “inspire” schism after schism.

Several times in the last few days I have begun drafting, then torn up what this short note replaces. It began with Cardinal Dolan’s cave to “gay” activists, demanding a place in New York City’s St Patrick’s Day parade. I was disturbed less by his decision than by the dishonesty with which he justified it, saying his predecessors had never interfered in the arrangements of the parade organizers, who are not formally answerable to the hierarchy. But he has the power to disown the parade; a power his predecessors used quite courageously — to keep out, for instance, the IRA.

The real pressure came from big businesses, which threatened to cancel their sponsorships. Money talks, and favours the politically correct. The alternative, for Cardinal Dolan, was to find the strength of character and conviction that Phil Robertson showed, when Duck Dynasty came under similar pressure.

The issue was anyway not an important one, in the larger scheme of things. Its whole significance was perhaps limited to the public spectacle of a bishop yet again bowing before strange gods. The St Patrick’s parade itself means nothing. It had become a mass market event, with little, and now nothing to do with the Catholic faith. It began as a religious procession, but had already been transformed into a fatuous display of fake Irish identity, by archepiscopal neglect. In current circumstances the celebration of the genuine St Patrick should happen in the Mass, behind closed doors, shutting out the noise of the mob passing along the street. It should be solemn.

One cave leads to another, and Cardinal Dolan’s was hardly the first. Nor will it be the last. The forces arrayed against the Church are advancing quickly. The “spirit of reform” is encouraged by every evidence that the Church will abandon her ground; that her hierarchy will cut and run from the fight, leaving her flocks to the wolves; that they will give up tomorrow what they preach today, if the reformers can muster sufficient material pressure.

Let the faithful recall that Christ did not cave: “Not one jot or one tittle.”


A more serious threat is on the immediate horizon. The Vatican’s synod on the family will come to some result, perhaps next month, and there are many indications that it will conclude with the pope’s blessing for alterations in Church doctrine on marriage. Yet even if he instead surprises everyone by upholding the received Catholic teaching — as Paul VI did in the writing of Humanae Vitae, forty-six years ago — there will be convulsion.

The “progressive” factions within the Church smell blood. There will be hell to pay if they are denied it. The “regressive” factions — which is to say, those who do not believe that the religion of Jesus Christ is outdated — will be likewise in tumult should Rome deviate from Catholic teaching. We are perhaps on the cusp of the biggest single disaster to befall the Church since the various innovations after Vatican II began emptying the pews.

Besides prayer, I do not see what faithful Catholics can do, but endure, keeping our attention focused on the Cross.

And mordantly remember Hilaire Belloc: “The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”

Little history is taught today, and were we better informed we would better appreciate the many catastrophes the Church has survived, over the centuries. In time, she recovers. Often it requires more time than can be appreciated in the parenthesis of one human life. In the fullness of time, Christ rights what men have turned over. That will again happen.

Before Vatican II, it is my impression that most of the enemies of the Church were outside her, and in a sense they helped to keep her faithful unified. Since Vatican II, it is my impression that her worst enemies are inside the Church. But that has happened before.