Fr. Barsotti wrote:
"I am perplexed with regard to the Council: the plethora of documents, their length, often their language, these frightened me. They are documents that bear witness to a purely human assurance more than two a simple firmness of faith. But above all I am outraged by the behavior of the theologians.”
"The Council is the supreme exercise of the magisterium, and is justified only by a supreme necessity. Could not the fearful gravity of the present situation of the Church stem precisely from the foolishness of having wanted to provoke and tempt the Lord? Was there the desire, perhaps, to constrain God to speak when there was not this supreme necessity? Is that the way it is? In order to justify a Council that presumed to renew all things, it had to be affirmed that everything was going poorly, something that is done constantly, if not by the episcopate then by the theologians.”
"Nothing seems to me more grave, contrary to the holiness of God, than the presumption of clerics who believe, with a pride that is purely diabolical, that they can manipulate the truth, who presume to renew the Church and to save the world without renewing themselves. In all the history of the Church nothing is comparable to the latest Council, at which the Catholic episcopate believed that it could renew all things by obeying nothing other than its own pride, without the effort of holiness, in such open opposition to the law of the gospel that it requires us to believe how the humanity of Christ was the instrument of the omnipotence of the love that saves, in his death.”
I think Fr. Barsotti may have just been musing, but if he was dead set in his judgment, he may have been wrong. The pre-conciliar Church may have been in bad shape after all, a decline that first began with the rise of the modern nation-state and nationalism. In the struggle between the Church and the state [at first nominally Christian but progressively secular], the Church has been losing? What is the nature of the defeat, and how did it happen? I will leave that speculation for a future post. What if the theses of the Constantinian Church/Constantinianism/Constaninian shift are not wholly wrong? The overlap between civil society and the Church was bound to lead to problems as the different authorities, temporal and ecclesial, came into conflict. The questions of the nature of each authority and their limits must be constantly revisited and rethought, and there is no guarantee that the answers of the virtuous and wise will prevail.
But Fr. Barsotti may be right to think that some thought they could renew the Church without first renewing themselves and focusing on their duties. Or they thought they could accomplish it by merely being academics and advocates, rather than as saints and true sons of the Church.
Robert Louis Wilken, In Defense of Constantine