12 May 2012

A Cardinal, VC2, and Religious Life

In 1972, French Jesuit Cardinal Jean Danielou gave an interview in which he criticized contemporary religious life as "decadent."  He accurately diagnosed the disease infecting monks, friars, nuns, and sisters and found its cause in popular deviations from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.  Because his diagnosis and cure were seen as a threat to the very decadence he called out, Crdl. Danielou was exiled from his community.

Interview of Cardinal Jean DaniƩlou on Vatican Radio, October 23, 1972

Q: Your Eminence, is there really a crisis of religious life, and can you give us its dimensions?

A: I think that there is now a very grave crisis of religious life, and that one should not speak of renewal, but rather of decadence. I think that this crisis is hitting the Atlantic area above all. Eastern Europe and the countries of Africa and Asia present in this regard a better state of spiritual health. This crisis is manifesting itself in all areas. The evangelical counsels are no longer considered as consecrations to God, but are seen in a sociological and psychological perspective. We are concerned about not presenting a bourgeois facade, but on the individual level poverty is not practiced. The group dynamic replaces religious obedience; with the pretext of reacting against formalism, all regularity of the life of prayer is abandoned and the first consequence of this state of confusion is the disappearance of vocations, because young people require a serious formation. And moreover there are the numerous and scandalous desertions of religious who renege on the pact that bound them to the Christian people.

Q: Can you tell us what, in your view, are the causes of this crisis?

A: The essential source of this crisis is a false interpretation of Vatican II. The directives of the Council were very clear: a greater fidelity of religious men and women to the demands of the Gospel expressed in the constitutions of each institute, and at the same time an adaptation of the modalities of these constitutions to the conditions of modern life. The institutes that are faithful to these directives are seeing true renewal, and have vocations. But in many cases the directives of Vatican II have been replaced with erroneous ideologies put into circulation by magazines, by conferences, by theologians. And among these errors can be mentioned. . .


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  1. Is it possible that one of the necessary effects of Vatican II was to blow the lid off the corruption and rot in the Church that already lay beneath the surface? The enemies of the Church had already burrowed into her flesh like maggots, and clearly saw the council as their opportunity to try to transform her in accordance with their ideology; but ultimately, God turns everything to His purposes. You have to lance a boil, and then a lot of pus and other disgusting stuff oozes out, but then healing comes. Perhaps the council was God's way of lancing the boil.

  2. Anita, no doubt. The pastoral care of the Church had devolved into devotionalism and clericalism. These needed to be renewed desperately. The theology of the Church had also stultified into propositionalism. . .not good. Renewal was most definitely needed. Had the Council been called ten years earlier, I think we may have gotten a lot of the same theological renewal w/o all the 60's revolutionary rhetoric that came with the implementation of the council. Too much of the language of renewal was too easily co-opted by those steeped in the revolutionary ideologies of the time. Thank God we are moving away from all that and starting to implement what the Fathers actually called for in the documents.