A Great Myth Put to Rest
Book-review on In the Murky Waters of Vatican II by Atila Sinke Guimarães
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Since the of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has experienced probably the gravest crises of Faith in her history. The “New Springtime” expected after Vatican II never happened. Yet rather than examine the reasons for the Council’s failure, our Church leaders opt for a new distraction. With deafening fanfare, they propound that a “New Springtime” will magically unfold with the coming of the Third Millennium. This is yet another groundless promise guaranteed to yield even more dissolution and chaos than the present disappointment.
Throughout the post-Vatican II upheaval, a common refrain has been repeated from most quarters – that the documents of Vatican II are perfectly orthodox, but have been misinterpreted by liberal Bishops and theologians. It is the misinterpretation of these “flawless” documents that is responsible for the crisis. If we wish to return to Catholic stability, we must return to the “purity” of Vatican II texts.
A new book recently released has put this myth to rest.
In the Murky Waters of Vatican II is the first volume published of an 11-volume collection entitled Eli, Eli lamma sabacthani? by Brazilian author Atila Sinke Guimarães. It is the fruit of fifteen years of labor. The publishers assert that the book [editor’s note: the collection] contains more than 14,000 quotations from 900 authors. Anyone reading this work will not find this claim far-fetched. The author utilized all of his six research languages in compiling this collection. It is truly a ground breaking work of immense scholarship.
Murky Waters takes an approach different from that of a book like Iota Unum. In Iota Unum, Romano Amerio spotlights various errors, then presents a refutation, primarily through expert use of the perennial philosophy. The approach of in Murky Waters also differs from the method used in such books as Michael Davies’ The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty, which demonstrates that certain tenets of Vatican II are in contradiction with Papal teaching of recent past.
Guimarães’ Murky Waters starts with the Vatican II documents themselves. He writes that “if someone gifted with an average Catholic culture and moved by his love of the Church were to read the documents of Vatican Council II, his mind would gradually be filled with questions as he progressed in his study.”
He explains that the reader will encounter certain statements in Vatican II that seem unnecessarily imprecise and unclear. For example, the Council document Lumen gentium states that “the Church of Christ .... subsists in the Catholic Church.” This causes bewilderment. Why doesn’t the document clearly proclaim what the Catholic Church always taught, that the Church of Christ exists exclusively in the Catholic Church? Why employ a term favorable to the progressive error that the Church of Christ is actually bigger than the Catholic Church?
Guimarães examines the Council texts in the light of open admissions from those who drafted the documents, and from other conciliar experts: Rahner, Congar, Küng, Schillebeeckx, de Lubac, Suenens, König, Chenu, etc. The book contains a gold-mine of citations that most English-speaking readers will encounter for the first time. With countless documented quotations, the author demonstrates:
1. That ambiguities exist in the Council documents.
2. That these ambiguities are not due to an honest mishap, but to a calculated plan, a definite strategy. (A strategy that mirrors that of the early modernists – deliberate imprecision.)
3. That the ambiguities serve to advance a new theology contrary to traditional Catholic theology, so that there are actually two different currents (ideologies) at work in the Vatican II documents: progressive and traditional.
4. That the ambiguities serve to silence “conservative” critics and to calm ‘conservatives’ ” fears, since in these duplicitous documents, the traditional position can often be cited.
5. That the ambiguities have opened the door to endless change for the future. As long as the Council’s plan is followed, the Church will never stop “reforming” and “adapting” toward a progressive direction.
6. That the effect of these ambiguous documents has lead to multiple concessions with false ideas and false religions, and has caused a great crisis of faith, morals anddiscipline among clergy, religious and laity.
Guimarães has done a great service documenting the progressive motives of those who wielded the greatest influence on the Council, and those who perpetuate the “spirit of Vatican II” to this day.
Murky Waters also has the potential to free many “conservative” Catholics from the servitude of bending over backwards attempting to defend Council documents that are fundamentally and deliberately flawed. It may help them realize that their first duty to Christ and His Church is to defend Catholic Truth, not documents and mandates that compromise this Truth. Their misplaced energies may finally be properly channeled.
The book closes with a brilliant appendix on homosexuality within the post-Vatican II Church. It demonstrates how Vatican II’s mandate of “dialogue” and “accommodation to the world” opened the doors for homosexuality to rage throughout the Church and society. It also portrays how this new attitude towards homosexuality violently clashes with the Church’s historic teaching on this most noxious vice.
Before concluding this brief review, two points must be made:
1. As mentioned earlier, the book is not, nor is it intended to be, a refutation of error. It is a brilliantly documented demonstration that serious anomalies exist in the documents and “spirit” of Vatican II. It presupposes a certain amount of knowledge from the reader to be able to recognize both open and subtle falsehoods. Hence, the book is probably best read in conjunction with Michael Davies’ Pope John’s Council or Romano Amerio’s Iota Unum.
2. The book was written under the direction of Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, the late founder of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP). The TFP is a Catholic group that was responsible for outstanding work in the 1950’s, keeping Communism out of Brazil, but that has now become extremely controversial. Here and there throughout Murky Waters, the TFP is praised by the author. Yet even the TFP’s strongest critics will recognize that this does not detract from the book’s true worth. The outstanding work in this volume exists quite independently from the cloud over the TFP. Catholic Family News is in no way associated with the TFP, and its endorsement of the book should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the TFP.
In a special forward to the book, Malachi Martin writes:
“This first volume of the collection Eli, Eli lamma sabacthani? established the author Atila Sinke Guimarães as one of the best informed latter day students of the epochal event, the Second Vatican Council.”
“All of us who lived through the years of Vatican II and have had to deal with the consequences can recognize immediately the pinpoint accuracy of this first volume: the ambiguity, cultivated and, as it were, perfected in the composition of the sixteen main documents of the Council, is now seen as the most skillful means devised to undo the essential Roman-ness and Catholicism of the Roman Catholic Church, and to deliver that entire one-billion member institutional organization into the ready and eager hands of those for whom the existence of the traditional papacy and hierarchical organization has long been anathema. One reads in this volume with a certain sickening feeling the united way in which the Church’s own theologians and prelates conspired willingly to bring about the present trend to de-Romanization and de-Catholicizing of the once monolithic institution.”
Every Catholic concerned about the present crisis in the Church should secure a copy of this book for their library and become familiar with its content. It promises to serve as an invaluable reference tool for years to come.
John Vennari is the editor of Catholic Family News.
This book review was first published in that periodical, February 1998
In the Murky Waters of Vatican II
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