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Msgr. Joseph Fenton's 1962 Warning
Faith

The Crossroads at 23rd Street

 

"For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:22)

 

Errors can be corrected and trends reversed if only our faith and determination does not fail us in our earnest quest for the truth.
John Vennari

Msgr. Joseph Fenton's 1962 Warning

by John Vennari

Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton was one of the most eminent theologians of 20th Century America. He was trained at the Angelicum in Rome and did his doctoral dissertation under the revered theologian, Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. From 1944 to 1963, he was editor of the theological journal, the American Ecclesiastical Review. He also defended the doctrine "outside the Church there is no salvation," and upheld the traditional Papal Teaching on the Confessional State.

In the October 1962 American Ecclesiastic Review, Msgr. Fenton published an article entitled, "The Virtue of Prudence and the Success of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council." It seems to be the only article from the period which levelled the sober warning: Do not think that just because this Council has been called, it will automatically be a success!

Fenton noted that the announcements regarding the upcoming council always called upon the Faithful to offer prayers for its success. He was worried, however, that the call for prayer lacked any note of urgency. It seemed as if it were nothing more than a pious formality.

No, Fenton remonstrated, the Faithful must pray diligently for the success of the Council, because there is the real possibility that the Council may be a failure.

He said that many "imagine that the Council will automatically be a success, and that, as a result, there is no particular need of any prayers for the attainment of the ends for which it was conceived and summoned. Many seem to have imagined that the calling of an ecumenical council was like pushing a magic button, which would automatically and painlessly do away with all of the difficulties being faced by the true Church of Jesus Christ during the second half of the 20th Century. And, as is obvious from a study of the history of previous general councils, and from the consideration of the very nature of the Catholic Church, it is plain that there could be no more serious misconception. The fact of the matter is that the success of the ecumenical council really depends on the effectiveness and the ardour of the prayers of the Faithful."

He then lays out what the Council will have to achieve in order to be considered a success:

"In order to be successful, in order to accomplish the purpose for which it has been called into being, the ecumenical council must speak out effectively and adequately against the doctrinal aberrations which are endangering the Faith, and hence the entire spiritual life, of the Faithful at the time the council is working.

"Furthermore, in the disciplinary field, it is impossible for an ecumenical council to attain its purpose unless it sets forth regulations and directives which tend to achieve the following objectives.

"First, these disciplinary decrees must be such as to make it easier for the Faithful in the state of friendship for God to advance in His love.

"Second, they must be so calculated as to make it easier for those who are members of the Church and who are not living the life of grace to return to the friendship of God.

"And finally, they must be such as to aid in the conversion of non-Catholics to the one and only true Church of Jesus Christ."

Along the same line, he elaborated, "those who are not favored with membership in the Church [should] be able to see even more clearly that the presently existing visible Catholic Church is really the one and only supernatural kingdom of God on earth."

Again, he warns, "It is by no means automatically certain the council will be successful, speaking from the point of view of this supernatural prudence."

As if predicting the future, Fenton closes: "It is possible that the council might act other than with the fullness of supernatural prudence. It is possible that, seen it this perspective, it may not be successful."

Tragically, the Council has been a failure on the very points spotlighted by Msgr. Fenton.

The Council did not speak out effectively against the doctrinal aberrations of the time. In fact, it made everything far worse, due to its liberalization and Protestantization of doctrine. As a result, it has shattered the interior unity of Catholics who have never been more divided amongst themselves.

As far as disciplinary measures:

  1. The Council has not made it easier for the Faithful in their friendship of God to advance in His love. If anything, tens of thousands of Catholics have ceased practicing their religion since the Council became the progressivist revolution that the Council generated: especially regarding liturgy.

  2. The Council has not made it easier for fallen away Catholics to return to the Church. In fact, the liberal reforms from the Council have generated a massive falling away of Catholics from the practice of the Faith, not to mention the mass defections of thousands of priests and religious from their sacred vocation.

  3. The Council has not been an aid in the conversion of the non-Catholics to the one and only true Church of Jesus Christ. Cardinals Ratzinger, Cassidy and Kasper have openly stated, in defiance of the thrice defined infallible dogma that there is no salvation outside the Cathol Church, that it is no longer necessary for the non-Catholic to convert to the one true Church of Christ for unity and salvation. The Council's new orientation stands in rebellion to traditional Church teaching.

Thus, the Council has been a failure. Its ecumenism, a disaster.

 

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