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An End to the Era of the Single Paradigm Church


In his recent article, “Pope Francis fulfilling epoch-making shifts from Vatican II”, liberal Catholic historian and author Massimo Faggioli argues that, with the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the Chair of Peter, the actualization of the Second Vatican Council is finally upon us. Call it the “Spirit of Vatican II” redux, or the Hermeneutic of Rupture strikes back, either way Mr. Faggioli (a theology professor at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota) clearly demonstrates that it is not only the secular press who are reading Pope Francis through progressive lenses.

From Mr. Faggioli’s article (emphasis mine):

“In the nearly two years since the election of Pope Francis it is hard to deny that something major is happening in the Catholic Church. Those who have tried to argue that the Argentine Pope is in perfect continuity with his most recent predecessor have had to acknowledge this reality. However, some still have doubts about the coherence and consistency of Francis’ message on certain issues…But much, if not all, of the problem is related to how he his fulfilling the vision of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

“At the conclusion of one of the most important recent books on the Second Vatican Council, What Happened at Vatican II (2008), John O’Malley SJ states that the most important “issue under the issues” at the council called by John XXIII was language. The Jesuit historian argues that Vatican II was “a language event” and that “the style of discourse was the medium that conveyed the message”.”

He continues:

“Up until the Council the language of theology was philosophical-metaphysical and its method was deductive. Translating the message was easier because there was minimal room for adaptation to local, concrete situations. There was a single theology for a single Church. It was supposed to be the same everywhere for everybody. Pastoral adaptations often took place, but under the responsibility of the “adaptor” who often paid a high price for that (that is, harsh reaction from Rome).

Imagine that. A time when objective truth and theological clarity were championed and heterodoxy and dissent were soundly condemned by Rome. True to the Bologna School of thought, Mr. Faggioli next discusses post-conciliar shifts in theology, replete with words such as “responsible” and “pastoral”:

“Vatican II brought about a shift in Catholic theology, introducing the use of more historically aware and socially responsible language and an inductive method. It was acknowledged that the true, general principles of Catholic doctrine always needed local and pastoral adaptation. Key to understanding this shift is the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. It is one of the council documents most often quoted by Pope Francis, but one that became almost “forgotten” during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

“A second big shift that Francis, truly the first post-Vatican II pope, has brought about concerns the relationship between papal ministry and theological language. Following the two “popes of the Council” – John XXIII and Paul VI – Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI (in what was, arguably, one long pontificate of 35 years) reintroduced a division of labor between the Bishop of Rome and the local bishops. The first had the task of laying out the official message universally valid for everyone with very little or no room for adaptation. The others then had try to “incarnate” the message (especially on moral and social issues) in their actual, concrete situations. Pope Francis has ended this “theological fiction” of two levels between the doctrinal and the pastoral. He does not pretend to believe that one can talk in exactly the same way about the family in Italy (where there is a serious demographic crisis) and in the Philippines (the context in which he said Catholics do not have to breed “like rabbits”).”

Does this not hint at moral relativism? Where is the need to unambiguously proclaim the immutable truth? While it might be argued that Mr. Faggioli is only advocating for a change in style and delivery, and not in the substance of the message, I disagree. He began his article by asserting that Vatican II was a “language event”, and that the “style of discourse…conveyed the message”. Indeed, language very much matters.

Next Faggioli’s pluralistic and relativistic views seemingly argue against the very catholicity of the Church:

“The third big shift is how Catholicism has become a truly global Church. For the first time since Vatican II we have a pope that concretely acknowledges and integrates this into his own ecclesiology. It is enough to look at the cardinals Francis has appointed. This means recognizing that the Catholic Church of today contains different moral universes…

“In this sense, the problem is not to figure out “which one of the many Francises is the real one”, as some pundits have put it. Rather, it is to acknowledge that there is only one Francis and, for him, there is a plurality of Catholic Churches that incarnate the Gospel and the teachings of the Church in many different contexts.”


“Finally, the shift from a Western/Euro-centric Catholicism to a truly global one has also befuddled many Americans. Some of these Catholics have not yet accepted that a single, particular theological and cultural tradition need not be normative or representative of all churches – especially those on the peripheries…”

In true School of Bologna fashion, Faggioli concludes by arguing that the Council was this seminal event in the life of the Church, an event which never truly ends:

“Pope Francis is bringing an end to the era of a single paradigm for the Church. And this is yet another example of how he has received and his actuating the Second Vatican Council, which – in the words of Belgian theologian Lieven Boeve – was “not a paradigm, but a paradigmatic event”. Vatican II did not create a fixed model of Catholicism. Instead, it forged a style and procedure for creating a new model in ongoing aggiornamento”

Confusion, and not clarity, will reign if this is indeed the case.

21 thoughts on “An End to the Era of the Single Paradigm Church”

    • Rather, put on the armor of Christ and do battle wherever and however you can in a spirit of faithfulness to Christ. Pray that God raises up a faithful servant to the Chair of Peter and that He convicts the minds and hearts of the poor souls who have been deceived by the wolves in sheep’s clothing to reject the errors of the leaders of the revolution against the truth faith and come home!

  1. Excellent work Brian. To respond to your question, does this not hint at relativism, it’s actually much worse than that. Here is Pius XII just dismantling this garbage in Humani Generis:

    “In theology some want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established
    in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers… They cherish the hope that when dogma is stripped of the elements which they hold to be extrinsic to divine revelation, it will compare advantageously with the dogmatic opinions of those who are separated from the unity of the Church and that in this way they will gradually arrive at a mutual assimilation of Catholic dogma with the tenets of the dissidents. Moreover, they assert that when
    Catholic doctrine has been reduced to this condition, a way will be found to satisfy modern needs, that will permit of dogma being expressed also by the concepts of modern philosophy… Some more audacious affirm that this can and must be done, because they hold that the mysteries of faith are never expressed by truly adequate concepts but only by approximate and ever changeable notions,
    in which the truth is to some extent expressed, but is necessarily distorted. Wherefore they do not consider it absurd, but altogether necessary, that theology should substitute new concepts in place of the old ones in keeping with the various philosophies which in the course of time it uses as its instruments, so that it should give human expression to divine truths in various ways which are even somewhat opposed, but still equivalent, as they say. They add that the history of dogmas consists in the reporting of the various forms in which revealed truth has been clothed, forms that have succeeded one another in accordance with the different teachings and opinions that have arisen over the course of the centuries. It is evident from what We have already said, that such tentatives not only lead to what they call dogmatic relativism, but that they actually contain it.”
    This business of language is not a game, it’s coup; and one bent bringing Divne Truth to heel.

    • Another way of saying it, is that it was the Divine will that the Church bloomed in the soil of ancient Greek philosophy and Roman jurisprudence. These weren’t accidents of history or something only relevant for a time. Once we put off those things the Church begins to wither and become deformed.

      As far as the language thing goes, the Bologna school is half-right. There was something different, something missing in the language of the Vatican II documents. This really shows up if you do the Office of Readings everyday for the Divine Office. On the occasion a Vatican II document is included in the Readings, you are immediately struck by the banal, vague language. It has none of the clarity and beauty that you expect from Church documents, nor the conviction of prophecy. By contrast, the documents from Trent, Vatican I and earlier can be a bracing read, enlivened with the Holy Spirit.

      • I contend that the language of the Vatican II documents was purposefully vague and ambiguous so many different interpretations could find their way into the parishes. After all, didn’t Vatican II encourage “experimentation” with, obviously everything?
        In my opinion, the documents were written outside of the truth of the Holy Ghost and thus could be nothing more than banal and vague.

  2. It is one of the council documents most often quoted by Pope Francis, but one that became almost “forgotten” during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

    And not coincidentally, Benedict had been unusually critical of the text of Gaudium et Spes, which he found excessively optimistic in regards to human nature. The “strong sense on the theme of sin was alien to the mainly French authors of the schema, whose theological presuppositions were quite different,” Ratzinger observed in 1976. He suggested that even though formulations by Teilhard de Chardin were consciously kept out of the schema, his thought nonetheless was very formative for many of the French authors. It was in the same essay that he accused the document of falling “into downright Pelagian terminology.” In this he seemed to differ from John Paul, who did not seem to fully share Ratzinger’s concerns.

    I think the passage of time has vindicated Benedict’s concerns, which were in fact shared by a significant number of people at the time, including, interestingly, many of the Protestant observers at the Council, such as George Lindbeck.

  3. Thanks to Brian for an interesting examination of Massimo Faggioli’s comments.

    One other point I might make. Faggioli is not offbase per se to suggest that “there is a plurality of Catholic Churches that incarnate the Gospel and the teachings of the Church in many different contexts.” By itself, this is not a dangerous statement; by itself, it is something that Joseph Ratzinger (who famously argued on this point with Walter Kasper in the 1990’s and 2000’s) or even Cardinal Ottaviani could have subscribed to – but only with important qualifications. There are after all numerous sui juris particular churches (some in communion with Rome, some not), most dating back to the Early Church, all with distinct rites and customs, and even (to a certain degree) distinct spiritual emphases.

    The problem is that the pluralism spoken of by Bologna School spokesmen like Faggioli goes beyond such distinctions. It’s engaged in something more than mere inculturation, even improperly understood. It’s become a mechanism to alter Church doctrine itself. Progressives might not be able to get Rome (even under the leadership of rather liberal popes like Paul VI and Francis) to change doctrine on (say) contraception and divorce, but there are more than a few bishops conferences around the world where they *could.* And they know this. Pluralism thus is a means to an end. The surprise is that Faggioli is so candid at hinting at this true aim when he says that “the Catholic Church of today contains different moral universes.”

    • It is my humble opinion after reading dozens of books and articles that Vatican II is the culmination of a century long revolution against the Catholic Church by the Freemasons and their brethren and supporters.
      From the Freemason’s “The Permanent Instruction”, we read: “Our ultimate end is that of Voltaire and the French Revolution-the final destruction of Catholicism, and even of the Christian idea.: (From booklet by John Vennari entitled ‘The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita.”
      Vennari states in his book: “In his book Athansasius and the Church of Our Time”, Bishop Rudolph Graber quoted a Freemason who declared that “the goal of Freemasonry is no longer the destruction of the Church, but to make use of it by infiltrating it.”
      Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII asked that “The Permanent Instruction” be published to expose the plans of the Freemason’s to overrun the Church.
      Looking at the state of a affairs within the Conciliar Church (which I believe is a COUNTERFEIT church because it teaches false doctrines and is clearly infected with the heresy of Modernism and Freemasonry), how can we recognize it has been taken over by the anti-Catholic Freemasons and their supporters?
      1. It would produce an upheaval that the entire world would realize there had been a major revolution inside the Church in line with modern ideas. It would be clear to all that an “updating” had taken place. (The Conciliar church isn’t quite to this point-yet but if you look at what went on during the Synod of the Family, you know the anti-Catholic revolutionaries such as Kaspar haven’t and will not give up.)
      2. A new theology would be introduced that would be in contradiction to previous teachings. Vatican II documents are so heretic and blasphemous, only the age of Arianism is comparable.
      3. The Freemasons themselves would voice their triumph, believing the Church had finally “seen the light” on such points as equality of religions, the secular state, PLURALISM, and whatever other compromises had been achieved.
      In the Encyclical ‘Humanum Genus (1884), Leo XIII called upon Catholic leaders to “tear off the mask from Freemasonry and make plain to all what it really is.”
      I wonder if Faggoili is a Freemason because he certainly sounds like one.

  4. Brian, thanks for the thoughtful article. Thanks also for all your efforts on behalf of maintaining the true teachings of the Church, especially in light of your recent conversion. God bless.

    • “It’s going to be a long winter for the Church…”

      Maybe. Or maybe not. Our Lord has a way of handling these types of crises, and it often involves outsiders.

      These western narcissists may just have to deal with an Islamic reality that rains on their parade. Perhaps Rome needs a wakeup call that would look like what we usually refer to as “just deserts.”


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