The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) is, in my opinion, a gigantic, ongoing reality having vast effects on our faith and its expression in the world. In convening the Council, Pope Saint John XXIII opened the proverbial windows of the Church to release the old and let in the new, to let the Spirit “renew the face of the earth” (Psalms 104:30). However, any freshening like this can let in more bad than good when not regulated and guided by the Spirit.
More recently, our society has attempted to do the same, trying to air out it’s ethical and moral views in the hopes of moving forward and becoming more “progressive”. Some good has come from this reevaluation, but this rush to “modernize” society has run into the monster of “modernism”, causing serious issues to appear that have redefined our society for the worse. Three of these issues are important to discuss.
First is the movement of putting oneself at the center of our lives rather than God and His Will. We have all seen this playing out in society as the “invention of the self” with the catchphrase “we can be anything we want to be”. This not only ignores the place of God and His Will in our lives, but introduces a manifest unreality into our mode of thinking. We can’t be anything we want to be; that’s just not physically possible! But by working too much on trying to make this happen, we have shifted our focus from God, from community, and from our duties as members of the human race. This does nothing but harm our call to live out our God-centered Commandments and vocations. It is He who calls us to be what we ought to be, for our benefit and the benefit of society.
This leads to the second issue: the denigration of sex. Sex, by its very nature, is a powerful and beautiful gift from God that is meant to enhance and represent the intimacy between a wife and her husband, and to engender new life from that intimacy. However, with the rise of pornography and premarital relationships, the focus has shifted from intimacy to simple sensual pleasure. Rather than being a just effect of the act, that pleasure is now at the center and the ultimate goal; and this dislodging of the central aspect of sex has had destructive effects in society: divorce, teen pregnancies, single-parent families, rapes, abortions, child sex abuse, etc. Unlike the casual “anything goes” attitude taught by society, a life-long commitment of fidelity and self-sacrifice is part of the gift of this enormous power. All His gifts are to be shared with love and compassion with others, not least of all this bond of husband and wife.
The third major issue of this modernist world-view is the belief that the material is the only reality. This view believes that nothing is real that cannot be measured, touched, and felt. This is often expressed as an effect of “following the science”, for this concept is at the center of the Scientific Method. Although one could say that there is some truth to this view, this way of viewing the world has become devoid of the Presence of God in creation. Limiting reality to just the creation, without the Creator, makes the spiritual and invisible realities of no importance, even as errors that must be denied. We believe in a God Who is the Maker of the visible (material) and the invisible (spiritual). Concepts like “thought”, “love”, and “faith” have no measurable dimensions, but would anyone be willing to admit that they do not exist or that they are merely the results of a chemical reaction in our brains? Can human life be actual life without these “non-realities”?
Ultimately, these “errors of the times” are often “errors of The (New York) Times” as well, for it is with the powerful organs of the media, both of the Left and of the Right, that the underpinnings of these errors are propagated and enforced. Thus, it is all the more important to ground ourselves not in the media but in Scripture and the lives and writings of the Saints. We must expose, refute, and replace that which is given to us as “objective truth” by society with the Grace of God that alone can save us from the works of the evil one.
Then what can we do? The answer is not to shut the window of change, but to be more discerning about what comes in. For that, we need the Grace of God and the guidance of Biblically-based Church Teaching.