An issue I've been reflecting on a lot over recent years is the issue of the Second Vatican Council. In my various assignments I am exposed to Catholics from all over the theological spectrum, radical liberals, radical conservatives, and everything in between. The interesting thing for me in all of this has been realizing that people at the extremes of BOTH sides in the Church seem to detest the Council. There are the liberals who feel the Church didn't go far enough and should have allowed the ordination of women and/or permitted the use of birth control. There are also extremists on the conservative side who hate the Council because of an inability on their part to separate the train wreck that is the average parish liturgy today from the vision of the Council Fathers - these folks think that the Second Vatican Council WANTED liturgy to be done the way it is done in the average parish today.
There seems to be a simple path out of the confusion and that would be to actually read the documents. Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul II, Dietrich Von Hildebrand and Henri De Lubac, all key players in the Council, have been trumpeting this message for years.
Interestingly as well, all of these figures warn STRONGLY against what is typically referred to as "the spirit of the council." As I told my class, when you hear someone talk about "the spirit of the council" you should run far away! Each of these great men of the Council in their various ways commented in the aftermath of the Council that the Council was being hijacked by people with horrible intentions.
De Lubac, 1967: "It is clear that the Church is facing a grave crisis. Under the name of "the new Church,""the post-Conciliar Church," a different Church from that of Jesus Christ is now trying to establish itself:...which is allowing itself to be swept along in a movement...under the pretext of renewal, ecumenism, or adaptation."
Hildebrand, 1967: "It would be difficult to conceive a greater contrast that that between the official documents of Vatican II and the superficial, insipid pronouncements of various theologians and laymen that have broken out everywhere like an infectious disease." (Trojan Horse in the City of God, 9).
Pope Benedict, 1980's: "One found oneself facing a progressive process of decadence that to a large measure has been unfolding under the sign of a summons to a presumed ‘spirit of the Council’ and by so doing has actually and increasingly discredited it.” (Ratzinger Report, 30).
Let us return to the documents, especially the 4 main documents, Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum and Sacrosanctum Concilium. All can be found at www.vatican.va