Archbishop Thomas Morris was a bishop at the second Vatican Council. An interview he gave in 1992 has been republished, and he had some interesting things to say about the council. I have copied a few of his thoughts that caught my attention. The entire interview is found here.
I was relieved when we were told that this Council was not aimed at defining or giving final statements on doctrine, because a statement of doctrine has to be very carefully formulated and I would have regarded the Council statements as tentative and liable to be reformed.The first session in 1962 was on the liturgy. I had heard in discussions that the choice of the liturgy schema as the first one was inspired — or engineered perhaps — by the North Europeans. They’d scored many such points against the Roman Curia who were supposed to be managing things.
The beginning of the liturgy schema created an atmosphere where there was a lot of agreement and a certain amount of advance enthusiasm. One of the things that arose was the use of Latin. The post-Conciliar practices went far beyond what was decided and voted on as part of the decisions of the Council.Just to take a couple of examples: it was contemplated that the Latin language would continue to be the main language of the liturgy, but there could be limited or occasional use of the vernacular.I and most of my colleagues in Ireland had a very high regard for the Catholicism of our own people. They came to Mass on Sunday in big numbers, believing what the Mass is and wanting to honour God. They brought their children to Mass. They took part in the only way they knew: they possibly said their beads or read the Key of Heaven. But many of the liturgical pundits were writing off that kind of piety. They wanted people to be more authentically liturgical and saying your Rosary during Mass was out. I didn’t like that.Another matter was altars facing the people. They were only permitted, not obligatory, and I don’t think it was contemplated they would become as common as they have. Immediately after the Council, the fashion developed of tearing out the altars and putting up altars facing the people in just about every Church. Saying Mass with your back to the people was rather reprobated in the Council opinions. Communion in the hand, that was grasped at by the nuns and it spread from them.I feel that, at a lot of points, the implementation of the Council decisions has gone beyond the Council. Earlier on there was a phrase going around: ‘the Spirit of Vatican II’. I think the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ meant the misuse of Vatican II to bolster up some idea of one’s own. I think the implementation of the Council has been very uneven throughout the world. A lot depended on what was there before the Council. You don’t change the practice in a diocese overnight just because there’s been a Council.As to the interpretation of the Council, the theologians are the ones who encourage trends and develop theories and if they don’t defend the essentials, then the essentials are in great danger. After all, it has been the theologians who have led the Church astray in so many cases and so many countries.But the over-influence of the Council isn’t as great now as it was a dozen years ago. We used to all claim the support of Vatican II for our own pet ideas, but I don’t think we do that now as much as we used to. The Council is history now.The Council was meant to bring the Church up to date — aggiornamento. But it hasn’t percolated down sufficiently to the ordinary folk and it hasn’t been taken up with sufficient enthusiasm by hierarchies. It was a brave attempt but I don’t think it succeeded in doing that.