3 Things Vatican II Did Not Teach


In my experience, when someone ends a sentence with, “which is, after all, the spirit of Vatican II” or, “the spirit of Pope John XXIII”, they almost never know what they mean.

In fact the “spirit” they speak of is usually in direct conflict with with both Vatican II and John XXIII.

Sacrosanctum Concilium is the Vatican II document that dealt specifically with the reform of the liturgy.

In this post I thought I would (ridiculously briefly) look at three things the constitution did not say.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Abolish Latin in the liturgy

In paragraph 54, it states: “In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and to the Common Prayer. But also as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people.”

Yet it goes on to say, “Nevertheless, steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass” (that is, the unchanging parts that we say every Sunday, such as the creed, the Gloria and the Lord’s Prayer) “which pertain to them.”

2. Give contemporary music pride of place in the liturgy

In paragraph 116, the document states: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

3. Have the priest face the people during the liturgy

Nowhere in the document does it say that Mass should be celebrated facing the people. Check for yourself. Founder and President of Ignatius Press, Fr. Joseph Fessio, says “Mass facing the people is a not requirement of Vatican II; it is not in the spirit of Vatican II; it is definitely not in the letter of Vatican II. It is something introduced in 1969.”

A Caveat

In pointing to these facts, I am not insinuating that a Mass celebrated entirely in the vernacular with contemporary music and a priest facing the congregation is inappropriate or not permitted. These things are permitted. They’re just not mandated by Vatican II—or any subsequent council for that matter.

So the next time someone tells you their Mass has really “embraced the spirit of Vatican II,” you should ask them, “oh terrific, so you have gregorian chant? The parishioners know how to say the order of the Mass in Latin? . . . ”

If they look at you strange and say ‘no,’ then you might (with a look of confusion) respond with, “then what is it you mean in saying that your liturgy has embraced the spirit of Vatican II.”

18 thoughts on “3 Things Vatican II Did Not Teach

  1. “… I am not insinuating that a Mass celebrated entirely in the vernacular with contemporary music and a priest facing the congregation is wrong, sinful, or not permitted.

    “These things are permitted. They’re just not mandated by Vatican II – or any subsequent council for that matter.”

    This reminds me of recent changes in liturgy to bring American Catholics in line with the rest of the world. Apparently that liturgy language was “permitted” too. Can we expect the same for contemporary music, priest facing the congregation and entirely in the vernacular?

    1. The changes to the language of the liturgy was needed to bring a unity to the English speaking world, apparently here in America we were not saying the same thing as the rest of the English speaking world or even what the world was saying during Mass. JP II noticed this and ordered a revision of the English texts through-out the world, so it wasn’t just something here in America. Also they came out with a new list of music suitable for Mass before we even got the new text for the Mass. If you also do not remember Benedict XVI said that the preferable orientation for the priest saying the Mass was Ad Orientem and that we should be using Latin more in the Mass. We here in America just chose to ignore Rome’s requests.
      Here we have a priest who is from Africa, and he told me that in his country they say the entire NO Mass in Latin. He said he would love to start saying Mass that way here but we have an dis-like for Latin, and he is correct. The majority of Mass attendees have a distain for Latin, only a small minority have a love for this. I think it’s nonsense and I want to encourage him to bring back some Latin in the Mass. I say give it time with more people encouraging traditional means at Mass one day we can have the true spirit of Vatican II prevailing instead of this nonsense we have now.

  2. Thanks for this. I would go one step further though: To be informed on the intent and teaching of Vatican II on the sacred Liturgy, and *not* conform to it, is also to be in direct tension with the Magisterium that preceded it. Read *anything* written on the Mass by Pope John XXIII or any Pontiff prior. They apparently believed that the art of celebration was important enough to warrant the invocation of suitability or unsuitability in sacred worship, in the presence of the Divine Majesty, regarding details like sacred music, Latin, and praying to the East.

  3. Great post. More people need to know how the Mass was hijacked and stolen from us by progressives in the church. VII never said to allow communion in the hand or get rid of communion rails or have 4-8 extraordinary ministers at every Mass either.

    1. And Vatican II did not change the rule of women covering their heads. Priest started back in 1962 telling the ladies that and it was before Vatican II and 2 decades before the New Code of Canon Law came out, so for 20+ yrs women were breaking Canon Law.

    1. Of course Vatican II was cool!

      But what liturgists did largely without a mandate from the Church Fathers under the Holy Spirit included a lot of Vatican II coolness, but sadly, much else that was not mandated.

      Plus, we ended up with an English language Mass text that did not align with the Latin original, nor with any of the other global vernacular languages, a situation only rectified in the last few years by the Vox Clara committee in the corrected translation for the English speaking world.

  4. I’m so glad that you came over from the dark side back in 2000, Matt 🙂
    Look at how God is putting your snappy comebacks to good use!

    Thanks again for your wonderful presentation in Petoskey. I’m sorry the Monday turnout was such a disappointment. I plan to share Bishop Loverde’s document at all of our marriage preps, with your foreword.

  5. Vatican II also did not mention the abolishment of women covering their heads (usually wearing a mantilla or hat). i also didn’t read in the document anything about receiving communion in the hand, or allowing the lay people of the church to touch the Blessed Sacrament or the sacramentals that hold It (the chalice and ciborium, the lay were/are given gloves to wear when setting up for Mass).
    I’ll be honest, not argumentative, i did not like anything from the Vatican II council. and are church has changed so much since then, i honestly don’t know that maybe some of my religious practices are novus ordo and not Tridentine. i find that Vatican II was very unclear about the changes to the Mass. And its sad that it changed from a truly Catholic culture, to a more protestant style. I know so many “Catholics” that don’t go to the Catholic church, and instead are going to protestant churches and then if i give any fuss about it, they confront me with “its the same service.” (besides, its not a service, its a MASS!!!)
    Also, the council wrote the reform vaguely, as i said, and thus i have a good friend that was “not welcome at the church” anymore. Her Parish Priest told her Confirmation in a requirement and you are not welcome without it. And then, he told her that the confirmation classes were required for the sacrament, which she has neither the money nor time for that.
    Vatican 2 perhaps should be re-written more clearly or considered void in my opinion. (And the Vatican and/or the Bishops need to keep closer watch over the seminaries and parishes)

  6. Following Vatican II I read all the documents pertaining to the Liturgy. I recall being stunned by what was going on and wondered (then) why no one seemed to be following the directives of the Council, especially re: the three items you cited. It seemed to my adolescent mind that something fishy was “going on.”

  7. Just wondering, why do you not mention anything positive coming from Vatican II? Why is there nothing on inter religious dialogue, religious freedom, or ecumenism? The recently canonized Pope St. John XXIII devoted a special focus and attention to these areas. There should be an article about the joys of religious pluralism. You could even Pope St. John Paul II’s Redemptor Hominis as a source. There needs to be a greater variety of subjects than apologetics, Pope St. John Paul II, chastity, and the rosary, though on these subjects you are truly top notch. As a Catholics, we should certainly appreciate these things. However as Catholics, we also must appreciate social justice, inter religious dialogue, and ecumenism to a greater degree than we currently do. Anything less means that you are a cafeteria Catholic.

    1. Trying to be as charitable as possible:

      I think it’s because he says that he is going to, quote, “ridiculously briefly look at three things the constitution did not say.”, and, “specifically with the reform of the liturgy.”

      I hope that clears up why this post isn’t about those positive things that may or may not be commonly misunderstood by the faithful, and yet are and I agree extremely important aspects of Vatican II; not related to the liturgy.


  8. Okay something positive:
    The documents of Vat II are most excellent. I still reread today.

    The changes AFTER VII, and not to b confused with VII, affected just about everything at the local Parish level and was a disaster.
    There was little to no advance instruction, explanation, or discussions. It left my parents generation stunned and confused.

    I learned of the upcoming changes on a Friday. Sister Yovonne informed us at end of day that on Monday there would start a Folk Mass with her playing the guitar, and a Harp and Tamparine. It would be fun. I was in 8th grade. Altar Server. Thinking already about a religious life. It sounded okay at that particular moment.

    Come Monday at 8AM MASS. We were all stunned. It was felt by most all kids ( first through 12) that this was weird and not cool.

    It is still not cool and it got weirder through many years.

    Went through formation at 18. Witnessed a pack of obviously homosexual seminarians coming out of the St. Josephs in Ohio..dancing with each other and with balloons tied to each wrist… and got in my car and drove home…

    I turned my back on God’s call. It was that simple. Wish I would have stayed and bore wittness.

    Net Result to date: parents quit church 1972. of three sibling, I stayed, 2 came back or are easing back in. The other not a chance.

    My prayers continue. Hopeful about parents and sibling. Parents in 80’s. Time running out. My children are not interested in Catholic faith. I am certainly partly to blame. CCD gets the other blame. Still hopeful and praying for them and now able to evangelize slowly to them. By the grace of the Holy Spirit.

    Was ecstatic on July 7, 2007 when P. Benedict XVI announced Moto Proprio. Was living in a community where we had English NO, Latin Mass FSSP, and Latin Mass SSPX. I attended LM with FSSP. Still do. Appreciate the choice of either LM or NO. Some of my peers do not.

    So. See the Church coming back over 40 years now. Slowly but surely coming. The modernist movement did not develop or mature over a forth night. It took decades. It will take decades to see the Church and Society healed of the current times.

    At age 42 I decided to learn my faith all over again. Okay the Holy Spirit and Holy Mother tracked me down. I am still waiting for those two GW young men to come back to me door. Waiting and ready. lol

    I thank you all for your comments. I know that I am not alone in my quest.

    In Christ love

  9. I posted the following on FB with a link to this post. Sadly I had not read the comments first. I may be way out of line. I can relate to the comment “However as Catholics, we also must appreciate social justice, inter religious dialogue, and ecumenism to a greater degree than we currently do.” I understand the post is attempting to address the liturgy ever so briefly and why it does not deal with “inter religious dialogue, religious freedom, or ecumenism”. I don’t understand some of the follow-up comments. If we focus on the not-so-important details and try to blame our sins upon those instead of owning up to the objective Truths of the Church (i.e., to say “the devil made me do it.” The devil being the vernacular, contemporary music, and people facing priests), then we are missing out on the Truth and missing out on reaching others and telling them about the Truth. Catholics were not catechized or not well formed back during the early post-Vatican II era. Plain and simple and now we are trying to make up for that and the focus sometimes is not on the objective “T”ruths and the “deposit of faith”. Here’s my FB post pre-reading the follow-up comments.

    What does the Catholic Church hold true & True –my perspective
    “T”: true & real “deposit of faith” that embodies the spirit of Vatican II
    I’m a –vernacular, contemporary music, etc. kind of– convert.

    If I understand, vernacular and contemporary music are both “permissible” and “appropriate”, but not mandated by Vatican II. Nor were the ladies required to burn their head coverings.

    Today there seems to be a swing back toward the truly traditional in my local parish and for whatever reason we do not incorporate much if any contemporary music in the Mass and female altar servers have different vestments from the male altar servers and it is the preference of some of the individual priests that other conservative practices are respected in Mass when they are the Celebrant. I’ve struggled with this mostly because of the “cloak of secrecy” (intentional or not) when these things were introduced or re-introduced in our Parish. My parish is younger than Vatican II.

    I dare say some in my parish still believe the cups are out being repaired and I’m humbled that I gave that answer to many who asked when I served as Sacristan until I eventually realized… The reasoning behind some of these practices I knew in my heart or some I stumbled across in my research.

    I am still working on getting over the shadowed way they were implemented, working on moving on and hope I have forgiven as Christ forgives the Church. Certainly not trying to be pompous as that sounds…just trying to explain why it has been hard to digest. I often contemplate what my vicar likened it to; i.e, being like a refugee in a concentration camp and being fed [“truth”] too quickly. That still perplexes me, but I…oh nvm as I digress. Anyway…

    I think (and this is just my opinion) after Vatican II there was a relaxing of the traditional so much so that the pendulum is now swinging back and it will be on the side of the pre-Vatican II traditionalists before it strikes a balance between pre and post practices.

    Don’t get me wrong Catholicism is anchored on Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterim. And before my “Sola Scriptura” brothers and sisters respond, I just ask you to consider…Did Christ come out of the womb (or tomb for that matter) holding a copy of the New Testament? Digessed again.

    There is a difference in Tradition and tradition…in Truth and truth. There are some objective truths that in the Catholic Church will never change despite the picture secular media paints. Don’t get your hopes up “T”ruth does not change, but there are many lower case traditions that often times get mixed up with the objective truth.

    I may have it all wrong, but still miss contemporary music and have a hunger for a LifeTeen style Mass. And that is not against what the Catholic Church holds true.

    Recently my daughter who is finishing up her preparation for Confirmation told me through streaming tears why she was upset that she might not be able to say “I believe all the Catholic Church holds True”. Imagine my emotions as she began to tell me where she held doubts. Imagine my relief as I learned her objections were not really against the objective Truths. Imagine my grief when I realized her struggles may be rooted in the same struggles about which I have been very vocal. And imagine my thankfulness for the grace of God in the Sacrament of Confirmation!

    [Nephew], One day we’ll get back to our discussion on what Catholics actually hold true about purgatory and Saints. I look forward to listening to this week’s sermon from [name of church]’s pastor, just hope he doesn’t use anymore Catholic terminology [smile emoticon] Actually I hope and expect just the opposite (intentional or just b/c he doesn’t realize the Catholic Church’s deposit of faith isn’t what it is sometimes perceived to be and sometimes even believed to be by good-hearted well intentioned Catholics themselves)

    [Brother-in-law], And maybe we can even take up our discussion on Baptism again and I miss your FB devos. Pls bring them back.

    Until then I love you both as nephew and brother-in-law, but more so as brothers in Christ.

    [Daughter] I am so proud of you for really thinking about your upcoming Confirmation even though in class we both know you are just trying my patience [smile emoticon] Outside of class I know you are thinking about this in a very mature/age-of-reason type fashion. I love you as my daughter, but so much more as my sister in Christ.

    Keep “Fight[ing] the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…”
    1 Timothy 6:12

    May God bless your hearts, minds, and souls with peace. In Jesus’s name Amen

    I was on a 15 year journey to the Catholic Church after marrying my husband. It was because of well intentioned Catholics that it took me so long. I kept being told things that I knew in my heart were not “T”rue about the God I know and His grace. How could I believe anything they said? That is the battle I waged everyday. Let’s get back to teaching the real “deposit of faith” that is the spirit of Vatican II and stop being so hung up on and blaming our sins on those things that are the little pre-VaticanII “t”raditions.

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