(Prefatory note: this post was inspired by an article* by Mons. Charles Pope on the radical deficiencies of Catholic catechesis in America during the past century and more.)
The “spirit of Vatican II” said that the Church as it existed in 1958 (let’s say) was hide-bound, clergy-bound, conformist, brittle, stifling, and infantilizing. The adult lay Catholic was treated as a child, lacking in personal responsibility for achieving personal holiness and maturing as a Christian. The institutions of the Church alienated him from a personal response to God’s grace.
The traditionalist often reflexively tries to reject this characterization. He states that he wants to restore all of the institutions that existed in 1958, or whatever date he picks. But shouldn’t the traditionalist agree with the indictment of Catholicism as lived ca. 1958? How, HOW, could the spirit of Vatican II have wrought such pure havoc if things were good?** How could religious orders and lay attendance at Mass, and devotion to the old liturgy, and public orthodoxy, etc., etc., have collapsed so readily unless the Church of 1958 was in fact victim to crippling institutionalism? The revolutionaries seized control of the institutions and proved their case.
It was the traditionalists, often lay men and women, who opted for the “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” response (Joshua 24:15). *They* ignored wicked and/or indifferent and/or imprudent Popes/bishops/priests and did what was right, arranging for clandestine Latin Masses and catechizing their own children. *They* took personal responsibility and refused to call black white and white black just because their “superiors” in the Church told them to. They, I argue, are the true fruit of Vatican II. In this light, perhaps we can think more kindly of the Fathers of Vatican II. Maybe among the villains and the Modernists and the world-pleasers and the wild-eyed Utopians, there were a few who said, “If this fight is to be won, it must be won by the laity. Sink or swim, it’s time to kick them off the diving board.”
**I owe this observation in part to Vin Lewis of All Roads Ministry(https://www.allroadsministry.com/), who is old enough to remember the so-called “good old days,” as well as a course on American Catholic theology that I took at Marquette University during my undergraduate days.