Only God knows how many acts of cowardice were born from the fear of not appearing progressive enough.
The Church brought in many more converts and exerted much more hard and soft power over the culture back when she hurled thunderous anathemas from on high, and told Protestants and heathens that outside the Catholic Church there was no salvation. When the Church opted for the poor, the poor opted for the Pentecostals.
Prophets were generally unpopular men. They called out kings, priests, and rich men as sinners. They told the people of Israel that if they did not repent, God's wrath would be kindled and he'd destroy them.
And the author touches on something I've long found deeply irritating: spiting the Church to save the Council. Anyone with eyes in his head can see that the Catholic Church was decimated shortly after the close of Vatican II and has been on a steady decline ever since then. Correlation by itself does not prove causation, but it's a pretty big clue. What we usually hear at this point is, "Well you have to understand the Church had a lot of problems before Vatican II. None of the lay people had a clue what was going on. They were just going through the motions. Religion was just a set of empty rules. The Church had a ghetto mentality. There's never been a golden age of the Church. If it weren't for Vatican II, the collapse would have been even worse."
To use a technical theological term our Catholic vice president learned in school, what a load of malarkey. What were these vague and mysterious "problems" that so plagued the pre-Vatican II Church? How did Vatican II solve them, if at all? There's a peculiar reluctance to discuss the quantifiable measures by which we often judge the success of the Church. Before Vatican II the Church was doing splendidly in terms of Mass attendance, vocations, lay organization, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, clerical and religious discipline, and apologetics. All of the problems of the post-Vatican II Church are verifiable matters of public record. All of the supposed problems of the pre-Vatican II Church are unverifiable speculations about the internal states of peoples' souls. Christ himself said that actions are how we know if someone loves God: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
I laugh aloud at the notion that back then Catholics just mindlessly repeated rote questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism but now they think for themselves. Is that really so much worse than Catholics mindlessly repeating what the world tells them? Wouldn't it be better if they were dogmatically certain about the truths in the Baltimore Catechism, instead of dogmatically certain about liberalism? These days many baptized Catholics are so ignorant about the Catholic faith that they don't even rise to the level of being wrong about it. Are we supposed to be happy about the death of Catholic culture, and the concomitant loss of so many souls to apostasy, heresy, and immorality? A siege mentality is appropriate when you are, in fact, under siege.
I understand the reluctance of many Catholics to admit that Vatican II was an unmitigated disaster. But I won't sit still and be quiet when they attempt to salvage the Council by trashing the previous nineteen centuries of Catholic life. We don't need to read Vatican II through a "hermeneutic of continuity" so much as we do through a "hermeneutic of forgetfulness."