[. . .]
My first encounter with Vatican II was an unforgettable lesson in first grade, when the teacher insisted over and over again that Vatican II (whatever that was) taught that the “Church” is not the building across the street, but the “people.” While there’s an important theological point there, at the time I still thought the building across the street looked more like a “church” than my classmates did.
In third grade, as religious garb changed “because of Vatican II,” I was mesmerized by the fact that I could now see Sr. Ellen’s legs and hair. Later that year, my mom explained to me that “because of Vatican II” many priests and religious were leaving their communities, including my beloved piano teacher.
Then in fifth grade, I gave up six months’ worth of recess–a real sacrifice; I lived for kickball–to be trained as an altar boy. Just as my classmates and I were considered ready for this august service, we were told that the Mass was changing “because of Vatican II,” and so we needed to be retrained. Meanwhile, our Church’s sanctuary was a construction zone the next several months, as the altar was moved forward and burnt orange carpeting was installed. I didn’t know what to think of this, though the carpet, irrespective of its aesthetic merit, was decidedly easier to kneel on.
In the eighth grade, I remember the teacher writing the word “ecumenism” on the blackboard. I can’t recall whether she said anything that was contrary to the faith. However, I do know that the effect of the class on me and on my classmates was that “because of Vatican II” it didn’t really matter anymore whether one was Catholic. After all, “they will know we are Christians by our love.” I blithely continued to hone my collage skills and routinely brought home A’s in religion.
During my high school and college years, virtually all my peers left the Church, as did I. I remember well my ninth grade religion class in which we studied the Bible. We repeatedly were told about what we don’t believe anymore “because of Vatican II.” One got the impression that Vatican II painstakingly went through the Bible and identified for us all the myths, fables, and inaccuracies found in God’s inspired Word. In subsequent years, as I feebly groped for some spiritual guidance, I’d pick up a Catholic Bible or a Catholic biblical commentary and, rather than be nourished and buoyed in my faith, I was confronted with agnostic doublespeak.
[. . .]
I think many traditionalists are coopted by the arguments that the liberals made (and continue to make) that the changes to the life of the Church were made by the authority of “Vatican II” and had nothing to do with the broader social and cultural upheavals going on at the time.