Friday, August 22, 2008

Famous last words

John Charles McQuaid CSSp, sometime archbishop of Dublin (1940-72) and iconic personification of pre-conciliar Irish Catholicism that the mavens of the New IrelandTM love to hate, was a father of the Second Vatican Council, having attended the council sessions which punctuated the latter years of his long archiepiscopate.

In more recent years, McQuaid became the subject of a tendentious biography (1999) written by our friend the egregious John Cooney, a biography which is by no means devoid of merit but is nonetheless marred by its author’s ultra-liberal partisan views.

McQuaid was one of those many orthodox prelates whose last years were troubled by the tension between their adherence to the Catholic faith and the obligation they believed they had to impose the nouveau regime of Vatican II upon their dioceses. McQuaid was clearly troubled by some of the more problematic new orientations inherent in the acts of the council, orientations which could be susceptible of an heterodox interpretation, and apparently felt the need to clarify the council’s continuity with sacred tradition. McQuaid would never have even contemplated engaging in any public criticism of the council—he could never have become an Irish version of fellow Holy Ghost Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, for instance. Nor would he have permitted criticism of the council to be published by his diocesan clergy. But the fact that he felt it incumbent upon himself to reassure the faithful that the Catholic Church was still the Catholic Church is truly remarkable in itself. Having returned to his archdiocese from the last session of the council in 1965, he declared to his flock in Dublin’s pro-cathedral that nothing had changed, adding that “nothing in this council will disturb the tranquility of your Christian lives”.

He couldn’t have been more wrong, could he?


Anonymous said...

The recent book HOLDIN ON, John Charles Macquaide and the Second Vatican Council, showed how J.C.M. was ,like many other Irish Clericalist Conservatives, was unwilling to show that there could be any problems within the organisational and hierarchical church.He was so devoted to the Church as an institution he could not reflect upon anything that caused difficulties. This was why he "shut up" anyone who didn't go along with his "let nothing disturb you" line. I am also amazed that he was so blind as not to see how a new generation of good and orthodox clerics and assistants needed to be brought up to succeeed his regime in Dublin. He seems to have had no interest in the future of his diocese, like other "conservative" prelates Heenan of Westminster,Cowderoy of Southwark,I do believe that they were Vaticanist yes men, who kept the machine going but with no thought for what would come after : ecclesiastical ostriches, so unlike Msgr de Castro-Meyer and Msgr Lefebvre, who out of all the members of the Coetus Internationalis Patris, DID something to preserve the faith. Alan Robinson

Melancholicus said...

Welcome back, Alan.

I have not read Hold Firm, nor had I even heard of it until you left your comment, but you are right about McQuaid's attitude and that of so many other bishops at the time, namely that party loyalty and the appearance of uncontroversial stability must at all times be maintained lest anyone be scandalised. In this atmosphere, the greatest enemies of sacred tradition were not actually the conciliar revolutionaries seeking to impose a new religion upon the Church is every diocese and religious order, every parish church and institute of education, but those conservative clergy—personally orthodox—who accepted this new regime as embodying the will of the Holy See. The same “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” horror of controversy also created the climate that permitted clerical sexual misconduct to flourish unchecked for so long—in not a few instances, the bishops who shielded clerical abusers from exposure and punishment were not raving liberals at all but solid conservatives.

And most bishops in the 1960s followed this pattern. Although there were a few revolutionary lunatics like Remi de Roo, most were personally orthodox who felt they had to go along with the novelties since this is what the council called for—and the council couldn't possibly be wrong, could it? I think in many cases they didn't really understand the nature of the changes they imposed on their dioceses. I also think the sudden about-turn after Vatican II caused much confusion among such bishops—Fulton Sheen, for instance, died in a state of total bewilderment, not knowing his left hand from his right. The novelty of episcopal collegiality also served to neutralise the initiative of individual bishops. Hence those like Lefebvre and de Castro Meyer were the very rare exception.

Anonymous said...

HOLDIN FIRM is published I think, by Columba Press. It's not very good and I borrowed it from the library. The Worlock Papers, a book by and about Abp Derek Worlock of Liverpool, shows how he changed from being a pre-Vatican II unthinker to being a militant progressive unthinker.In fact at one meeting he banged the table and shouted we have a new religion and I am going to ensure that it is rigorously enforced here in this diocese [is this the true Spirit of Vatican II ?]. Alan Robinson