California priests lament ‘pull back from Vatican II’

Two priests from California were among several interviewed for a recent story in the National Catholic Reporter in which “Vatican II” priests express concerns about the direction of the Church as the 50th anniversary of the historic Ecumenical Council approaches in October.

The “Vatican II priests,” said the Reporter in a March 12 story, “raise concerns about church leadership, ecumenical apathy, a collapse of collegiality, the role of women, liturgical reform and more.”

“‘Sometimes I think the Second Vatican Council is the church’s best-kept secret,’ said Fr. David Pettingill, a retired priest of the San Francisco archdiocese who is still active in retreat work and teaching courses on the council for lay ecclesial ministers,’” according to the Reporter’s story.

The well-known heterodox newspaper identified Fr. Pettingill as “a former pastor, college seminary teacher and high school administrator who was ordained in 1962,” and quoted him further as saying:

“What I see is a concerted effort to pull back from Vatican II with a party line, and that party line is that the council was simply in continuity with the church’s teaching and that it simply evolved. However, when you take that approach, and it can be a valid one, you also have to ask another question, if you are going to be historically accurate: What did that council do for the church?”

“Unless you want to say it was a waste of time, there are some things that happened there that had never happened in the 20 other ecumenical councils, and the documents produced are in a different literary form, and they are the consensus of the largest number of bishops throughout the world ever assembled, and they were taking a fresh look at the church because John XXIII said, ‘We are going to have aggiornamento. We are going to bring the church up to date.’ So I find the party line a real admission of that fact that we are pulling back from ongoing renewal. I find that very sad.”

Later in the story, in a discussion of “increased clericalism” in the Church today, the Reporter quotes Fr. Pettingill as saying, “It does seem to me that in certain documents that the priest is gradually being exalted above the people he is going serve — things like only the ordained being allowed to clean sacred vessels, the emphasis on priestliness to the point a man is almost put on a pedestal. And that is dangerous for both the priest and the people because we are all human, and it is that humanity that makes us able to deal with one another.”

Of the recently revised Roman Missal, the Reporter quotes Fr. Pettingill as saying, “No one asked God’s people if they would like a new English translation. Fact two, or maybe this is more of a suspicion, local bishops were not consulted in the sense of being asked if they felt it was appropriate at this particular time. Thirdly, if you have any dealings with teaching English, you realize the translation is not English. It is a Latinized English, which is cumbersome and very difficult to proclaim.”

Also quoted in the Reporter story was Fr. Gary Lombardi, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Petaluma (Diocese of Santa Rosa). Fr. Lombardi, said the Reporter, was ordained in 1969.

The article quoted Fr. Lombardi as saying, “In many ways things have reverted to the authoritarian, hierarchical, institutional model. Things are much more top-down. Everything seems to come from Rome. Bishops are appointed without much consultation with bishops of the region. There is a kind of emphasis on orthodoxy and fidelity and the magisterium and loyalty to the Holy Father that is the same as before the council.”

“There has been a return to ‘rigidity’ and an emphasis on ‘people measuring up to the church rather than the church ministering to people,’ said Lombardi, who headed the Santa Rosa diocese’s clergy education office for 16 years. ‘At times I have seen good people suffer because of that rigidity,’” the Reporter story continued. “Lombardi recalls struggling in the final years of his seminary training with ‘if I was going to serve the church or if I was going to serve the people. Then it struck me,’ he said. ‘The church is the people of God. Vatican II did that.’”

To read the full article in the National Catholic ReporterClick Here.



Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 12:17 AM By JLS
This priest ignores that fact that the bishops have not prohibited their flocks from pushing abortion by their political choices. His rant fails to account for reality. Good riddance, and thanks Vatican II for the exposition of the errant.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 3:34 AM By MAC
The National Catholic Reporter (not to be confused with the faithful Register) is heretical and schismatic. They do not adhere to or even recognized the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition”, so that everyone can just do their own thing. – This is called Relativism, where there is no moral right or wrong, but each individual makes his/her own determination based upon their poorly formed conscience which is influenced by the secular media and politicans in office.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 3:43 AM By OSCAR
This Priest is old enough to remember that no one asked the Catholic Faithful if they wanted Mass changed to English, if they wanted the kneelers removed, if they wanted altar girls, if they wanted to receive Holy Communion standing, if they wanted women readers, if they wanted to interrupt Mass to shake hands with those near them, etc. Most of these were propogated by US Bishops. The Nov 2011 changes in the Mass are very well accepted in my Parish. The Bernardin philosophy that everything is equal (carries the same weight) is wrong and must be discarded – even if he did use Jesus seamless garment to try to prove his liberal/innacurate point. It is taking alot of years to get over this falicy in the USA.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 3:49 AM By Vic
Why even spend the space commenting on an article from a dissident, anti-Catholic rag like the National Catholic Reporter? Why dignify their reporting with your comments? Just so people can continue to grind away with anger? The National Catholic Reporter is “Catholic” in name only. End of story.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 4:14 AM By ED
Someone needs to tell this Priest and the ‘Reporter’ that we don’t vote on what is right and wrong in our Church. If we did, many SINS would be voted out of existance. CCC: ” 890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms.” CCC: “891 891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.” This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.” Last I heard neither this Priest nor the Reporter nor the Laity were part of the Magisterium. Who educated this guy?

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 5:15 AM By Canisius
Deos Gratias…undo Vatican II

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 5:27 AM By St. Christopher
Vatican II priests (and most certainly bishops) cannot retire soon enough. No, there is no “new church” although more damage has been done (and continues to be done) to the Catholic Church, and to its members, than by any modern event. This damage, it is hoped, has not lead to the loss of souls. Many Vatican II priests are objecting due to the fact that what they preached and did are now being called into question. They did not act as if they were stewards of the Deposit of Faith, but architects of something altogether different. One can see the importance of the new translation by the drama it has produced among the Vatican II folks, who say: “what a minute, we fixed all that, no going back, blah, blah, blah.” The demand to “return” to Vatican II will increase when a new Pope is needed.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 5:53 AM By Joe
Just goes to show that no one can prevent the Holy Spirit from guiding the church to the path she ought to follow. Whether Vatican II and its subsequent reforms were good for the church,a misguided experiment, or something in between will continue to be debated. But what will ultimately emerge is what God intends for His church. 50 years is a long time for us as we live through this period of time. But it will have been but a blip on the radar screen of time. The “wrongs” that came out of this period of time will have been corrected. The “good” will remain.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 5:59 AM By Allan Wafkowski
Fathers Pettingill and Lombardi represent a breed of poorly trained priests who cannot comprehend the true nature of the Catholic Church, nor its reason for existing. They are primitives with a provincial outlook shaped in their small slice of time. Perhaps we can tolerate a certain unsophistication due to their unfortunate post-Vatican II training, but after years of abject failure to enrich the church with their self-centered philosophy, one has the right to question both their competence and their sincerity.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 6:03 AM By Thomas Edward Miles
As they say, the priests, “hit the nail on the head,” BINGO!!! Anyone seen, St. Pius X, about the Vatican these days?!!

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 6:07 AM By JMJ
Just the fact that this came from the ‘National “catholic” Reporter’ and America says it all. Perfect examples why the Bishops and Rome need to get back in charge once again. Have mercy on us dear Jesus and take away our blindness. +JMJ+

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 6:15 AM By Gabriel Espinosa 
These guys are sorry examples. That’s all I have to say on the subject.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 6:37 AM By Ted
I recall a meeting in the San Bernardino diocesan “Pastoral Center”. The meeting facilitator was passing out copies of various Church documents, and apologized for the fact that some of them were “pre-Vatican II” as if that were a bad thing. Those who argue in favor of the council often claim it was a restatement of belief and done so to clarify Church teachings. If that were what they believe, why offer an apology for a document written before the council ? They hoped for a repudiation of some Church teachings, and when they did not get that, they are trying falsehoods and practice to render Tradition irrelevant if they don’t like it.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 6:41 AM By Catherine
“Bishops are appointed without much consultation with bishops from the region.” THANKS BE TO GOD! California was so very blessed to receive the strong faithful leadership of Bishop Robert Vasa. Bishop Vasa said, “Any government leader, particularly those who claim to be Christian, who claim to be pro-choice, is unworthy of public office. How much more important is the worthiness of a Catholic Bishop? Blessed John Paul II loved this quote from St. Catherine of Siena, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.”

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 7:00 AM By 4unborn
The Catholic Church is a hierarchy. Some of the bishops have shown that they are not faithful to Catholic dogma and doctrine.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 7:30 AM By GK
Deep down these are good men. We pray for them and beg their prayers for us. There is surely a change of seasons in the Church. The 1960s generation is passing away. There will be, naturally, some lamentation from them about this passing away of the 1960s and its culture and we should be sensitive to that. (I hear this from my inlaws all the time…they used to say ‘the times they are a’changin’ and were happy….now they say ‘the times they are a’changin’ and they are sad.) Love them.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 8:11 AM By Laurette Elsberry
I read the National Catholic Reporter for a number of years so I could keep up on the Church radicals’ activities. It has only gotten worse. In my opinion, no truly Catholic priest would provide any interview to the NCR.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 8:23 AM By hosemonkey
Anything coming out of the NCR is tainted and suspect. Even in the bad old days of the Soviet Union, Pravda and Isvestia contained more truth than the NCR. What we are seeing in these whining commentaries by a couple of 60s-era priests are the last gasps of the liberalism that nearly destroyed the Church. Thank God that our Holy Father and some good Bishops are trying to repair the damage.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 8:26 AM By Larry
I would only note here, for the benefit of the Council’s critics, that Father Pettingill was obviously born, raised, educated, given his seminary formation and ordained before the Council even convened–and yet he’s clearly a theological anarchist to the core. There must have been something wrong with the whole formation process even then. It’s definitely not just a post-Conciliar problem.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 8:36 AM By MD
In my humble opinion I think one thing is confused when referring to Church councils and that is implementation vs. teaching. No council has ever changed Church Doctrine or Teachings, but how these teachings are implemented in the world. Vatican II was so radical because it was the greatest change in presentation ever, but the fundamental material is the same. Our failures come when we make Vatican II about us when it is supposed to be centered on Christ and deepening our relationship with our Lord and Savior. Blessed John Paul the Great understood this well as does Pope Benedict XVI. God Love You.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 8:50 AM By Deacon Jim
These priests (and, thank you for your years of service) need to stay retired. They are part of the “this is my parish I will do what I want” generation of priests (sadly, many of whom are still in active ministry). To you, Reverend Fathers, I respectfully say … if you don’t like listening to Rome … go join another church. The Catholic Church and its teachings are governed by the Magisterium — like it or not. These men simply were ill-formed, because of timing (starting the Seminary before V-II and being ordained after V-II). It is not really their fault, but they need to quit attacking the Body of Christ.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 9:04 AM By Fr. J
Vatican II said to read the signs of the times. To do that just look at Pope Benedict. Let’s follow the real Vatican II with him.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 9:05 AM By Maryanne Leonard
Hate to tell you, folks, but I’m old enough to report from the trenches: the Church was better before Vatican II. Even the people behaved properly in Church; they knew what to do and when to do it. It seems to me that Catholics behaved better in those days and were even more polite and respectful to one another; priests and nuns were respected more profoundly, and it seemed to me that they deserved it, judging by their behavior and demeanor. We had no thought of priestly abuse of children back then. Say what you will about its good intentions, Vatican II has been a horrible failure, if for no other reason than the people are so poorly catechized today, it is a crying shame. Go ahead, call me old-fashioned, but I was there, and I am reporting the truth.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 9:06 AM By grampsc
I know Fr. Pettingill, I have listened to Fr. Pettingill, Fr. Pettingill your no theologian.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 9:13 AM By JFK
These two priests Fr. Pettingill and Fr. Lombardi are a good example of the modernist teaching that has plagued the church since Vatican II. They are saddened by the idea of a priest being held to a higher standard than the people! They remind me of the men in the world who want to be part of the conception of the next generation but don’t want to be responsible for the raising and developement of it. They don’t like the idea of having to do the job they were ordained for. Why did they go into the priesthood then? If people have a problem returning to the “ridigity” of the church it is because they have been too relaxed in there religious habits that they will have to do alot of work to bring them out of the spiritual void they have been living in. And what’s up with that anyway, aren’t we all going to heaven anyway? God give these priests the grace to be better sheperds!

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 9:16 AM By FrMichael
Note well that Fr. Lombardi headed the priests’ ongoing formation committee for 16 years for his diocese. All the more reason to pray for Bishop Vasa!

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 9:17 AM By ED
It’s good to see a face on two priests who led countless folks away from the faith after Vatican 2, they still don’t understand what they did to the church. The church has been anything but authoritarian since Vatican 2, the Vatican allowed dissident bishops, priests and sisters to continue in the roles over the years but anybody who has dealt with these so-called “progressive” priests know how authoritarian they were at their local parish.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 10:08 AM By Cheryl
Many of the post-Vatican pastors are having difficulty with parishioners who have embraced the priest-as-servant model. These people expect the pastor to be pastoral, not a CEO as our bishop has described our parish priests here in Sacramento Diocese for legal purposes. That job description causes suspicion about every detail of how the parish is being run (“Why to the checks have to be made out to the ‘Pastor of the’ Parish?” “Why wasn’t the money I designated for flowers used to purchase flowers?” “Why won’t the pastor talk to us parishioners; he treats us as if we are plebeians in his way?” “Why does this priest only talk to youths while so many of the elderly are ignored?” Many solid Catholics do not trust a priest who presents himself as such a CEO. He does not minister to us. Our current post-Vatican pastor said he could comfort the bereaved, set up all the masses, plan the music and the liturgies, balance the budget, teach the catechists, etc. all by himself. (He can’t and doesn’t though he tries.) He won’t answer questions; the good steward is the one who says, “Yes…” because “…he is the spiritual leader of our parish….” After having a pastor who actually spoke with us (vs. avoiding contact with us) and who welcomed our participation in our Church (vs. “I don’t need you here”), and who respected us (vs. literally shoving us aside while saying “I’ll do it myself”), dealing with a self-aggrandizing CEO leaves us without a ministering, compassionate pastor. So we depend on our deacons who were called from our community and our few remaining ministry leaders. We stay out of our pastor’s way so he will not publicly humiliate us because we are flawed and aging humans. Welcome to the post-Vatican Church.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 10:20 AM By Bud 
The answer is simple and simplistic, the Church has not fallen far enough to do anything about it’s problems. Most of us are too weak and don’t particularly care about being a saint or martyr (just as many in the clergy). The Western fall from the Church is even too much for our Pope who has and is doing a “saintly” job.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 11:05 AM By broco
As one Irish Bishop asked “Why is the one quality or characterisitic that qualifies a man to become a priest is that he be unmarried?” The Vatican is ,if you please, is an old boys network that needs and wants control of the laity and the priests. The Church is the people-all the people-not just the “Hierarchy”. When 90% of the world was illiterate the Vatican could do whatever unchallenged but that has changed and will never be the same.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 11:20 AM By Clinton
The National “Catholic” Reporter and Fr. Pettingill are representative of the Vatican II mentality. The Church Militant has had to endure so many novelties that have only served to weaken the Catholic faith across the globe. Though we keep hearing that Vatican II did not represent a rupture in Church tradition, it is obvious that this has not been the case. So many clergy have been faint hearted in defending and upholding the traditions of the Catholic Church. The desire to serve the needs and whims of the world have taken priority over saving souls from perdition. Just look at the horrors that have taken place since Vatican II: layman giving Communion, altar girls, removal of St. Michael prayer from Mass, change in prayers for ordination, Rainbow “Masses”, jokes in the homilies, dissident clergy, nuns and layman. You could write volumes on all this. How ironic this article and yet another dissident “Catholic” speaking at the LA Religious Education Congress. Oh boy, more ‘fruits’ of Vatican II I guess. And we wonder why the true Catholic Church continues to be reduced to a remnant. May the day come soon when the dissidents fade away and those who truly love Jesus and His Holy Church lead the way in our call to holiness. +JMJ+

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 11:41 AM By MAC
Sorry, JMJ, but Pope JP II and Pope Benedict are also of the Vatican II mentality. They just don’t try to twist things like the liberals to meet their own desires. I also pray for the dissidents to change or leave – and I’m not talking about our beloved Popes. Cafeteria Catholics do not adhere to the teachings in the CCC but pick and choose – to continue their own desired sins.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 12:11 PM By Tracy
OSCAR, you make a great point. This is worth repeating to the whiners out there who are upset about any current changes, which of course, are actually reversions as opposed to actual changes.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 12:13 PM By cjo
Dissidents are alive and well..and the Church has GREAT problems because of them. We thank God for Pope Benedict XVI…’ad multos anos”

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 1:32 PM By Bob
Perhaps Fr. Pettingill meant the “clericalizing of the laity,” which the Council did not have in mind and “asking” the laity if they wanted a new translation or the Roman Missal? Really? Over 1500 years of the Mass said in Latin (of which the Council said fixed parts were to remain said in Latin) and you complain about the English translation? How about Gregorian chant and its esteemed place in the Mass? What of saying Mass facing the people? VII says NOTHING about it. And the tabernacle should be in a worthy and dignified place-not off to the side or lost in another room. Perhaps all priests need to go through seminary refresher courses every so often?

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 1:34 PM By Dennis
Good posts all! Thank God I’m not alone…………..

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 1:58 PM By Anne T.
Vic, regarding your post at 3:49 AM, I say exactly. These priests are stuck in the 1970s, a time of rebellion and lack of common sense. Look who is being rigid now? They want us to stay with all the dumbed-down, elementary school English.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 3:04 PM By MacDonald
@ Bob 1:32 — If memory serves, at the Vatican the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a side chapel of Saint Peter’s Basilica, which is not meant to show a lack of reverence. Rather, this enables the (real) faithful to pray in the Real Presence and not be disrupted by rehearsals, tourists, and such. As for your suggestion that priest go through a refresher course OFTEN, great idea!

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 3:50 PM By Pro-Life Mom
EXCUSE ME!!! “There has been a return to RIGIDITY???” There has been a RETURN to the TRUTH!!! BRING ON THE TRUTH as Jesus Christ taught. GOD BLESS our Pope in Rome for realizing that Vatican II was a HUGE mistake.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 4:35 PM By Ron
Thomas Edward Miles: Yes! St. Pius X is under the first alter on the left when you enter St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 5:14 PM By MacDonald
REUTERS, March 16 — “But Benedict has refused to grant SSPX bishops the right to reject some of the Council’s teachings, such as its historic reconciliation with Judaism and other faiths.” The Holy Father has never said that the Second Vatican Council was “a huge mistake,” nor has any Pope. Some people in some countries at some times in history have made huge mistakes, but the Church herself did not make a mistake at Vatican II. Those who claim otherwise, like the dissident Society of Saint Pius X, found themselves excommunicated by Pope John Paul II. Our current Holy Father is trying to bring them back into the fold, but they seem hell-bent on saying “no.”

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012 5:47 PM By MacDonald
SURPRISE! Just read the NCR article: “Disdain for dialogue and contempt for consultation repeatedly draw the ire of the men educated and ordained within the short shadow of the Second Vatican Council. During the council, they say, the operative formula for seeking truth was the pope working in concert with the college of bishops. They would agree with a young theologian-consultant to the council who wrote in 1963, “The formulation of liturgical laws for their own regions is now, within limits, the responsibility of the various conferences of bishops. And this is not by delegation from the Holy See, but by virtue of their own independent authority.” According to biographer John L. Allen Jr., that theologian, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger and future Pope Benedict XVI, would also write during the days of the council, “For many people today the church has become the main obstacle to belief. They can no longer see in it anything but the human struggle for power, the petty spectacle of those who, with their claim to administer official Christianity, seem to stand most in the way of the true spirit of Christianity.” [The Pope wrote that final tidbit? Guess he never imagined he’d become Pope one day.]