The Thinking 

Vatican II and Communism

December 10, 2012



The Catholic World Report has always struck me as accepting of Vatican II (“properly interpreted,” anyway).  As we’re now at the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II, CWR has devoted its current issue to “Vatican II: Fifty Years Later.” Interestingly, it isn’t all cheerleading.  In one of the articles, Edward Pentin asks, and tries to answer, “Why Did Vatican II Ignore Communism?”

While Mr. Pentin would like to give Pope John XXIII the benefit of the doubt, he is in the end very critical, as are several of those he quotes — among them Roberto de Mattei, of the complete failure of the Council’s participants even to mention, much less condemn, Communism when that most anti-Christian of ideologies was at the peak of its influence.  There is speculation that the unwarranted silence came from a desire to achieve a rapprochement with the Russian Orthodox Church at a time when several in its hierarchy had been co-opted by the KGB; I find that unconvincing.  More likely, as people of liberal inclination themselves (otherwise why would they have held this unnecessary council in this first place and then endorsed all the anti-traditional innovations that flowed from it?), Vatican II’s participants were not entirely opposed to Communism in the way that previous Popes and bishops had been, and were hoping somehow to help that socially liberal — so they deceived themselves — system to become more humane.

Pentin argues that Vatican II’s silent detente with Communism has greatly eroded the Catholic Church’s power to speak authoritatively on moral issues.  I fear he is right, although that is not the only reason.

— Comments —

Vincent C. writes:

On the issue of the Church and Communism, in this matter George (Weigel) has some credibility in that Pope John Paul II, a Pole who lived under Communist rule, had some interest for both religious and political reasons to use Church influence to unravel the Lenist/Stalinist monstrosity. Both John XXIII and Paul VI were, if anything, willing to co-exist with Communism: the Vatican’s policy toward the USSR was referred to by its diplomats as, “Ostpolitik,” despite their reasonable certainty that this was a one-way street.

It should be remembered – but it is not – that Paul VI as Cardinal Montini, who was assigned to the Vatican’s “Relations Between the States” dicastry, (department) was sent by Pius XII to “Siberia,” figuratively, not literally, because of his leftist leanings in dealing with the then Soviet Union. Unfortunately, he was the wrong man for the job in more ways than one. I can also tell you this: the U.S. government obtained some information – not all of it crucial, to be sure – about cut-off countries such as Albania and Bulgaria through the Catholic clergy. By Paul’s time, all of those sources of information had dried up, and one need not wonder why.

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