BOOK REVIEW

By
JAMES LIKOUDIS

THE GREAT FAÇADE
Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty
in the Roman Catholic Church


by Christopher A. Ferrara and Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
Remnant Press, 2002


This book is a fierce polemic on behalf of a "militant traditionalism." It is full of sound and fury against those whom the authors label disparagingly as "neo-Catholics," i.e., those who have steadfastly defended Vatican II and the post-conciliar Popes against strident charges that the Ecumenical Council and Popes are to blame for all the horrific abuses and evils besetting the Catholic Church since the day Vatican II first convened.

All the professed "scholarship" adduced in the volume constitutes a severe indictment of an Ecumenical Council of the Church and the popes charged with the implementation of its declarations and decrees issued to enable the Church to cope with the "acids of modernity" which were already threatening the future of Catholic Christianity in the world. The negative aspects of the "liturgical revolution" have clearly provoked the ire of the volume's authors to engage in relentless tirades against the Council and its Popes for allegedly betraying Catholic Tradition and practice. Their volume is one long rant against any liturgical change in the Roman rite as well as against Vatican II's directives concerning ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. The authors write plainly:

"The word ecumenism has no real meaning. It is a virus in the Body of Christ" (p. 79).

The book had its origins in the pages of The Remnant, which reacted angrily to Stephen Hand's pamphlet entitled "Traditionalists, Tradition and Private Judgment." Interestingly, Stephen Hand had been a former contributor to The Remnant, but could no longer abide its ideological "resistance" to Popes and the Council. When the Catholic newspaper The Wanderer published Hand's criticisms of The Remnant's insolent manifesto "We Resist You To The Face" (full of rebukes of Pope John Paul II), Messrs. Ferrara and Woods, Jr. took Mr. Hand to task in the pages of The Remnant as "a useful idiot for the [conciliar] revolution." Curiously, Mr. Hand's name does not appear at all in "The Great Façade", even though it is essentially a compilation of articles originally directed against Mr. Hand with additional attacks on other "neo-Catholics."

There is, however, one important value to be found in "The Great Façade" for all to see and ponder. It candidly states the "traditionalist" position:

"A traditionalist is someone who believes that the postconciliar novelties –especially the new liturgy and the new ecumenism– ought to be abandoned... Ecumenism and dialogue... together with the new liturgy, are the three basic unparalleled post-conciliar innovations of the Church... The central traditionalist criticism of Vatican II is that it fundamentally changed the Church's orientation in a direction that tended to undermine her divine mission" (pp. 14, 153).

Traditionalists to this day have never embraced the post-conciliar reforms — above all the reform of the liturgy, which they regard as an abuse of papal authority which no pope before Paul VI would have dared to impose upon the Church:

"We propose that the time has come to consider whether the Church ought to close the book on Vatican II, thus beginning the process of forgetting that this confusing and divisive Council ever happened" (p. 326).

It should already be evident — even though the authors would claim that traditionalists remain fully loyal to papal authority — that they are actually in direct opposition to the mind of the Church. They also fail to render that obedience traditionally given by Catholics to the doctrinal and disciplinary decrees of Ecumenical Councils. Typical of the "hermeneutics of suspicion" constantly displayed toward the Council and the popes is the obstinate refusal of the authors to distinguish between the Church's authentic teachings and the false "spirit of Vatican II."

The authors' rabid opposition to the Ordo Missæ of Paul VI with their litany of liturgical grievances and complaints finds its culmination in their linking "sexual predators" let loose in the Church with the "Novus Ordo"! Another object of their displeasure is J. Likoudis and K. Whitehead's book entitled: "The Pope, the Council and the Mass" (Catholics United for the Faith, 1981), which defended the legitimacy of an ecumenical council's authority to reform the rite of the Mass to meet the needs of the faithful. Revealing their affinities for the "Society of St. Pius X" and its opposition to Vatican II, the authors deny, in effect, that Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops he ordained were lawfully declared schismatic by Pope John Paul II. [Webmaster' s note: Their denial is rather bizarre and intellectually baffling in the light of the following (and very public) Vatican documents: DECREE OF EXCOMMUNICATION and ECCLESIA DEI ADFLICTA - Perhaps our authors forgot that traditionalist maxim, "Roma Locuta Est, Causa Finita Est".]

There are many exaggerated and extreme statements found in this volume which has as a major theme the complicity in deconstruction of the Church by "neo-Catholics" ("right-wing liberals" according to the authors). They have become "papo-laters" who have "false notions of holy obedience" to the Vicar of Christ and have become "'de facto' apologists for Vatican II's Revolution setting aside the traditions of the Church." Such "neo-Catholics" as George Weigel, Fr. Joseph Fessio, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, James Hitchcock, Helen Hull Hitchcock, Michael Novak, James Likoudis, and Janet Smith receive criticism for their "misguided sense of loyalty" to the Pope and their blind support for Vatican II's "innovations" and "ambiguity-laden conciliar texts that afflict the Church today." Yet much of the criticism of post-conciliar abuses and disorders, the authors freely admit, have been the work of these same neo-Catholics and the "neo-Catholic system" which they clearly despise. It is, moreover, a falsehood to charge that:

"the neo-Catholic obliterates any distinction... between the doctrinal and disciplinary decrees of popes and Councils — it's all infallible" (p. 166).

No distinction has been more utilized by defenders of the Petrine Primacy than that between infallible doctrinal teachings that cannot be changed and disciplinary enactments (affecting liturgy, canon law, and administrative governance) which can be changed by lawful Church authority. It is a calumny to state that unwise and imprudent liturgical decisions (from which the Church has never been immune) are taken as "infallible" and thus rendered immune from legitimate criticism. It is also a calumny to state, as our authors do in their apparent efforts to place the worst possible interpretation on certain questionable statements made by some theologians and bishops:

"What can one conclude but that the Vatican has 'de facto' abandoned the conversion of the Jews and the return of the Orthodox and the Protestants to Roman Catholic unity?" (p. 204).
The authors admit that:
  • "None of [Vatican II's] conciliar documents contains any explicit doctrinal error" (p. 88).
  • Neither that Council nor the post-conciliar popes have imposed "as a matter of doctrine to be held by the faithful any explicit theological error" (p. 57).

This is the core of their defense that they cannot be regarded by their critics as schismatic or heretical. They may indeed be excused from the charge of being schismatics or heretics (charges they vehemently reject), but they cannot be exempted from being declared gravely disobedient to papal and conciliar authority, and by such disobedience causing great harm and damage to the Church.

An attitude of negation, contestation, doubt, and suspicion toward the teachings of Vatican II is at the source of the misunderstandings of its doctrine and disciplinary changes. This attitude is contrary to the purity and strength of the faith, as Pope Paul VI warned in 1966 when he stated:

"The Council is a great act of the teaching Church, and those who adhere to the Council thereby recognize and honor the teaching authority of the Church. In view of the pastoral character of the Council, it has avoided pronouncing in an extraordinary way dogmas carrying the note of infallibility. Nevertheless, its teachings carry the weight of the supreme ordinary teaching authority. This ordinary teaching authority, so evidently authentic, must be received docilely and sincerely by all the faithful in accordance with the intentions of the Council regarding the nature and purpose of each of the documents" (address of January 12, 1966).
In another address, Pope Paul VI noted:
"Everything that is taught by the Second Vatican Council is harmoniously joined with the preceding ecclesiastical teaching, of which it is no more than the continuation, the explanation, and the growth" (September 21, 1966).
Two weeks later, he said:
"You sons and daughters who love the Church: The Church needs obedience. And more than a passive and enforced obedience, she needs an inner and spontaneous spirit of obedience" (October 5, 1966).

It is ironic that the post-conciliar popes who have repeatedly called for obedience should be blamed for the disobedience and dissent of others intent on disturbing the peace and unity of the Church.

There is yet more irony in the traditionalists' distorted view of the post-conciliar papacy. According to their critique, it has been transformed into what some Protestants falsely claim it to be: an absolute dictatorship governed by an absolute monarch. This is nonsense and a ridiculous caricature of the Petrine ministry in the Church, whose power is spiritual in nature and relies primarily on the Holy Spirit to foster those visible and invisible bonds which make for unity among the Church's members. It is an old story in the history of the Church: Those who distrust the Magisterium and refuse to be guided by its interpretation of what constitutes "Tradition" and what liturgical and ecclesiastical practices are in conformity with "Tradition", are invariably led to acts of disobedience, and later, open schism.

Much could be said concerning the liturgical matters discussed in the volume. On page 168, one reads:

"That the new liturgy is a dramatic rupture with the Church's entire liturgical past is a matter of simple common sense."

Here is registered elemental confusion between the official texts of the restored Roman Missal and the impoverished (and worse) ceremonies with which the Mass has too often been scandalously celebrated. Traditionalists could not do better than to read the two books, "The Liturgy Betrayed" and "The Liturgy After Vatican II" by French author Denis Crouan (both books published by Ignatius Press) to find an antidote to serious misunderstandings of liturgical history and to obtain a more balanced and objective grasp of what must be done to restore sacred liturgy than what is found in the jaundiced perspectives of "The Great Façade". As Crouan noted:

"Contrary to what is claimed by groups and movements that belong to the traditionalist sphere of influence, there is no substantial difference between the Roman liturgy before Vatican II and the Roman liturgy after Vatican II. That in the wake of the restored Roman Missal there have been deviations and acts of disobedience that are much more serious than the faithful have been led to believe, that there has been a certain anarchy and a process of desacralization that we all deplore, is another problem altogether" ("The Liturgy After Vatican II", p. 42).

Lastly, with regard to the [authors'] sharp rebukes of the popes such as those found within the pages of "The Great Façade", rebukes which sometimes reach the level of overtly unfilial public denunciations and castigations, I conclude with the words of a quite traditional (not "traditionalist") Catholic. It was St. John Bosco who wrote during disastrous days for the Church in the 19th century:

"We must love the popes ... their counsels and even their wishes must be a command to us. My sons, regard as enemies of the faith those who belittle the pope's authority or who try to minimize the obedience and respect due to his teachings and directives."

The saint, whose love of the supreme pontiff was great both in word and deed, also gave a practical rule of thumb for appraising a book such as "The Great Façade":

"If the author is somewhat unfavorable to the pope, don't read the book."
The message of "The Great Façade" is really quite simple. Vatican II was evil and the popes attempting to implement its teachings are to be blamed for the present corruption in the Church.
This book will only confirm those already "theologically confused" in their alienation from the Catholic Church.


Reprinted from "LAY WITNESS" (CUF), issue of Jan./Feb., 2003
Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage

ADDENDUM

The following was posted on Amazon.com, the online book store. It was written on March 6, 2004, as a customer review offering a critique of the Ferrara-Woods' book "The Great Façade".


A "Traditionalist" Screed Against Vatican II and the Popes

By James Likoudis

It is a sad fact that the post-conciliar disorders in the Catholic Church have resulted in the disorientation of some Catholics who vent their spleen against the Second Vatican Council and the Popes who amidst great difficulties have sought to implement correctly the Council's 16 documents. Such is the case with authors Ferrara and Woods who in the name of their own presumptious understanding of "Tradition" violently attack the doctrinal orientations and disciplinary directives decided by an Ecumenical Council.

The measures of Vatican II intended to strengthen the Church against the "acids of modernity" threatening historical Christianity are judged by these extremist writers to have betrayed Catholic Tradition. They therefore engage in a fierce polemic on behalf of a "militant traditionalism" in Lefebrvist fashion and full of sound and fury against those Catholics who have steadfastly defended Vatican II and the Popes from mindless charges of having contradicted past Catholic doctrine. They refuse to acknowledge that the Church is one in all her Councils and wallow in their direct opposition to the mind of the Church which calls for acceptance of and obedience to the teachings of Vatican II as set forth in its authentic declarations and decrees. The Ecumenical Council and the Popes are simplistically blamed for all the abuses and scandals and evils which have disfigured the life of the Church since the close of the Council.

Our authors add their own spirit of disobedience to complement the disobedience to Vatican II by unabashed neo-Modernist dissenters. It is the negative aspects of liturgical reform (admittedly poorly carried out in all too many dioceses and parishes) which have especially provoked the ire of the authors who engage in one long rant against any changes in the Roman liturgy. They betray great confusion concerning the meaning and scope of the Church's infallibility, and their relentless attitude of negation, contestation, and doubt registered towards the teachings of Vatican II results in a volume that constitutes a distinct disservice to the Church.

Readers of this volume will find it contains many distortions concerning the work and teachings of Vatican II – distortions that are fueled by a "hermeneutics of suspicion" towards the modern Papacy that is characteristic of romantic reactionaries wishing "this confusing and divisive Council" had never happened. There result denunciation and castigation of the Popes for the alleged misuse of Papal authority.

The authors' main message to their readers is straightforward but wrong: Vatican II was evil and the Popes implementing it are to be blamed for the present corruption in the Church.

Pope Paul VI long ago stigmatized the exact mentality and attitude manifested by our authors:

"There are those, who, under the pretext of a greater fidelity to the Church and the Magisterium, systematically refuse the teaching of the Council itself, its application and the reforms that stem from it, its gradual application by the Apostolic See and the Episcopal Conferences, under our authority, willed by Christ. Discredit is cast upon the authority of the Church in the name of a Tradition, to which respect is professed only materially and verbally. The faithful are drawn away from the bonds of obedience to the See of Peter and to their rightful bishops: today's authority is rejected in the name of yesterday's... It is painful to take note of this: but how can we not see in such an attitude -whatever may be these people's intentions- the placing of themselves outside obedience and communion with the Successor of Peter and therefore outside the Church." (Address, 24 May 1976)

This unfortunate book will only serve to confirm those already theologically confused in their alienation from the Catholic Church. Readers seeking a far more objective evaluation of the Second Vatican Council, the need for real reform, and the real causes of the Crisis of Faith sweeping the entire Christian world can be found in Philip Trower's "Truth and Turmoil: The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church" (available from Amazon.com).