Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Do we need a new Council?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 16, 2022

Michael Pakaluk has an interesting piece in The Catholic Thing today, raising a provocative question: “Is Vatican II ‘Spent’?”

Pakaluk does not deny the validity or the importance of the Council—far from it. But he suggests that the force of the Council’s teaching has been “spent,” for reasons both good and bad.

The good reason: Vatican II was a pastoral council, and Pope John Paul II—who was uniquely qualified as an interpreter of the Council—devoted his very long and very productive pontificate to implementing the Council’s pastoral suggestions. The bad reasons: … Well, anyone acquainted with the long-running battle between “the spirit of Vatican II” and the actual teachings of the Council knows the bad reasons. Pakaluk tells the old story well, then concludes:

Honesty might seem to require us to say that the Council is now a dead letter: Or better to say, not that it is dead, but that it has achieved whatever it could achieve.

But the final paragraph of Pakaluk’s essay brought me up short, when I read my friend’s conclusion that “we need a new Council.” My first reaction was sheer horror. A new Council now—in an era of unprecedented confusion? At a time when leading prelates openly question the perennial teachings of the Church? During a pontificate when any gathering of the world’s bishops is flagrantly manipulated to further the liberal cause?

“No, no, no!” I thought. But just two sentences later, my opposition softened, as I realized that Pakaluk must be thinking of a Council that we need, but probably cannot have, until some measure of clarity is restored. Or, better, a Council that we could have, if a critical mass of the world’s bishops agreed with the premise that clarity must be restored. In Pakaluk’s challenging words: “We need another Council that diagnoses, indeed, but also anathematizes, brings to an end an implicit schism by drawing lines as to who belongs and who does not.”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Cory - Feb. 24, 2022 9:58 AM ET USA

    What to do then when the one who does not belong is possibly the Pope?

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Feb. 22, 2022 8:22 PM ET USA

    Uh, nope. Trent already did that.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Feb. 17, 2022 2:09 PM ET USA

    Your last line, as cited from the article, strongly contradicts "Who am I to judge?". Like the actions of this question's author, one of the premier roles of Catholic leadership is to judge good from evil and the prudent from the imprudent. Where, for example, would the Sacrament of Penace be without first identification of the species of sin, then contrition, forgiveness of sins committed, firm purpose of amendment, and some form of reparation? This sacrament embodies sure and certain judgment.

  • Posted by: johnhinshaw8419405 - Feb. 17, 2022 12:32 PM ET USA

    I, too, saw Pakaluk's column and rejoiced since I have been telling everyone the same thing for 3 years now. Since it was a "pastoral council" meant to array the Church with new ways to heal and minister to the modern world, we would need to ask: has not the world changed even more by 2022? A 60-year old council, held in the shadow of the worst war in the history of the world, surely cannot say it has the answers to our current culture of death, pandemic and abandoned sacraments. But not yet.