Robert Barron | – “Pope Francis and Vatican II” (2020 Napa Institute Keynote)

Friends, some Catholics in America today are increasingly vocal in their attacks on the Second Vatican Council—an ecumenical council of the Church summoned and presided over by the successor of Peter. How should we understand this disturbing trend?

In this keynote talk from the 2020 Napa Institute, I trace the missionary purpose of Vatican II from the conciliar texts themselves, through the New Evangelization, and finally to the Magisterium of Pope Francis, whose influences situate him in a particular camp in this history.


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About The Author

Bishop Robert Barron These are brief and insightful commentaries on faith and culture by Catholic theologian and author Bishop Robert Barron. The videos complement his weekly sermons posted and podcasted at

Comment (48)

  1. There is an inherent problem not merely with the 'spirit' of the Council, but with the letter, which has been the position of Traditional Catholics since 1965. It is claimed that is it is possible to interpret the documents of the Council in a way that is harmonious with Tradition, the so-called 'hermeneutic of reform in continuity'. However, the authentic interpretation of the Council is not that of a few Catholic intellectuals, but rather the interpretation given of it by Paul VI and John Paul II. Theirs is the true interpretation. The Council's teachings on ecumenism, religious liberty, collegiality, as realised by magisteria of John Paul II and Paul VI, are objectionable, and have their root not in a misinterpretation of the documents, but in a defect in the documents themselves. A hermeneutic of continuity is therefore not possible. The same principle can be applied to the Novus Ordo Missae: the authentic realisation of the new liturgy is not that found at the Brompton Oratory, which is anomalous, but rather that which is found in 99% of parochial Churches around the world. Bishop Barron, we are not attacking your idealised version of the Council (which doesn't exist in reality). We are criticising the Council as it has been realised in the real world, which as far as I am concerned is the authentic realisation of the Council. What we have seen is the problematic sections of the documents taken to their logical conclusion, e.g. "subsistit in…".

  2. It is tragic how Bishop Barron (great theologian and evangelist, blessed with erudition) is blind to Francis’s embrace of marxism ecologism , his indifference to psycho -sexual corruption bishops cardinals at highest level within Vatican, or Francis distaste of pro life movement or his cowardice to face horrors of Islamic ideology.

  3. Thank you your Grace, but, the horse has bolted. The council of Trent, Our Lady at La Salette ("Rome will lose the Faith and will become the seat of the Antichrist!"), Akita, Doctors of the Church such as, De Montfort, Bellarmine, Ligouri, and saintly and Holy Popes, etc, but more importantly, Mother of Good Success in Quito might take umbrage with you. Quito heard Our Lady say that freemasonry would enter the church towards the end of the 1900's and then just after the middle of the 20th, She said that there would arise a counterfeit Church with a false teaching and a false gospel. Now Bishop Barron, who would you prefer the lowly, confused and bewildered faithful listen to – you or them? Respectfully, my chances of truth, loyalty, faith and trust, are far greater in listening to them, than to your scholarly advice.

  4. "The purpose of the Council was not to modernize the Church, but to Christify (sanctify) the world." "Bring the Lumen to the Gentes." Thank you Bishop Barron. I dare anyone to seriously (out of goodwill and a generous heart) challenge those statements. As I said in reply to a different pro-Vatican II video posted on You Tube: I challenge the extreme right Catholics who challenge the purpose of Vatican II and participants: Your heroes (my heroes) Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger (aka St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) were ardent participants and promulgators of Vatican II and its missionary purpose. In opposing Vatican II, are you saying that the righteous work of both of their papacies (the Magisterially faithful, logical and reverent implementation of Vatican II) was wrong-headed or even heretical? I say no. The massive increase of the Church in Africa and Asia points to a need and success of The Light of Christ being thankfully brought into the world there under immensely trying circumstances that the 1950's liturgy and the 1950's ecclesiology could not have affected.

  5. Vatican 2 did radically modernize the Catholic Church and made her worship more like our protestant brothers in an effort to bring the Church to them, but our protestant brothers are in error and now today many of our Catholic brothers are also in error. The Catholic Church will never find success leading men away from the Lord. The fruits of Vatican 2 have been rotten for the Catholic Church but great for protestant churches. We can pretend our Catholic Churches in America are full and vibrant when the Truth is they are shrinking. Many of the Bishops bury the coins of Catholic Faith in the ground and deny our King any gains.

  6. To Robert, Bishop Barron. Extraordinary information this on Gaston Fessard and our present Pope: most welcome, because I must admit some of the grieving "tears" of, for instance, a Michael Matt of The Remnant had gotten somewhat to me in recent times, even though I had defended to him in writing at various occasions the theological positions your Excellency stands for and mentioning this unwavering allegiance to him explicitely urging him always to reconsider – and the same goes for Garrigou-Lagrange fan Taylor Marshall who has tackled you in recent times. Yet, a Michael Matt at his nostalgic best can get to one, I must admit, even if the at some times sipping-in vitriol regarding the present Pope always kept me safely at ecclesial bay.
    If a Pope studied very closely the writings of Fessard, agreeing to them of course, then it is fair, I would contend, to feel assured, whatever the waves the Great Ship finds itself in and they are huge he will keep on conducting it in the direction leading between the trustworthy beacons of Don Bosco´s dream. Thank you for this most revealing and soothing information on our Pope Francis.
    Fessard is intricately conceptual and reflexive and almost nothing of this mindbent sips through in Pope Francis, but the fact that it is there somehow as the pope went carefully through the writings, as You affirm makes it all the more astounding! The always to-be present Thomistic-spirit-opening to what can eventually be redone (and better) of (even a) Hegel is very much Fessard though!! No sterile, a-priori, so to speak, anti-hegelianism here, but a very close in-depth analysis and real, efective Catholic transcendance of a possibly heretical logic present in Hegels tought – think of the three volumes on the existential Dialectic inherent in the Ignatian Exercises.
    Nothing of Fessard is yet translated in english though, and even in french you can´t find any new editions…Fessard is indeed a tough nut to crack, being very much a theologians theologian. The same goes for someone very akin to Fessard, Claude Bruaire: extraordinary deep french Catholic philosopher (died young), not translated, not republished since the first editions of the 70´s and 80´s..Or for that matter, other great belgian theologians working in that same vein opened up by Gustav Siewerth´s philosophy: Albert Chapelle, s.j., Emilio Brito, s.j., and Mgr. Andre Leonard. But Thanks America (and D.C. Schindler) for the recent translation of Homo Abyssus by Ferdinand Ulrich.

  7. Ok so I have no problem with fostering great lay catholics – lawyers, bankers, journalists, etc. But what about great catholic priests, bishops and cardinals – that's a great holy vocation if there ever was one – where are the abundant holy clergymen? Somehow I see (the practice of) Vatican2 having stripped away too much of the christological truths of the clerical vocation by overly emphasizing the roles of the laity in the world

  8. Bishop Barron you said in one of your interviews that hell is empty. That is NOT what Jesus said…that is your flawed opinion. God is merciful but He is also just. Some people will not believe God even if they are face to face with God….they will do their own will instaed ofthe Father’s will whom they deny…and still you imply they will be heaven because that is wha God wants. Yes, He wills that all be saved…. but does all wills to be with God? Some deny Him. I just don’t get how you arrive in your own personal opinion, that is not what Jesus said. Even the messages of Fatima, the images of hell and souls in it were explicitly described by the seer. Not because you are a bishop.. your views is never flawed. When you say Hell is empty, you are doing a great disservice to the faithful….some will definitely think that why go through the motion? Why attend mass? Why ask for forgiveness? Why? When we will all end up in heaven. Your view is very anti-biblical.

  9. Thank you Bishop for this. What you say about the purpose of Vatican II is Evangelization I assume to be true. As a former Protestant, but raised in the Catholic school system post Vatican II I can say with no hesitation that Vatican II failed in it's purpose. Having seen what real evangelization was in the Protestant church, it was painfully clear to me that it was missing in Catholicism. I converted only because of marriage, convenience and former Protestant apologetic Scott Hahn. It's only recently a group evangelists has sprung up in my Church that has helped me to love and embrace my Catholic faith. Guess who inspires them? Taylor Marshall. Like it or not he is right about something very import: the Church has been in great decline since Vatican II. How do you explain that? Would you blame external factors or have the Church look in the mirror? In my experience, then mirror is the way to go.

  10. Bishop, I am writing this on Sept. 25, 2020. If the President nominates Judge Barrett for SCOTUS and she is appointed , it would be a great opportunity of what you represent in this video of bringing the lumen to the gentium. I hope the Church and our nation can count on the vocal and muscular support of Judge Barrett from you and your fellow bishops if this comes to pass.

  11. What is intreating is that even as a non-catholic I would accept the authority of vatican II. Not on the basis of their infalibility, but on the basis that they are the ligitimate God ordained leaders of the catholic church. As such, one must either be a catholic and submit to the leadership of vatican II, or do neither.

  12. Thank you Bishop Barron, truly instructive. A great concern that we have is how the Vatican is handling China and seemingly capitulating to the Commnistic regime supposedly for financial reasons. This does not seem to be a logical or even moral propagation of Vatican II – of evangelizing the periphery! Thank you.

  13. It all sounds so reasonable. And yet…there is zero mention of the things for which Vatican II and Pope Francis are criticized. The Bishop's response is mere disparagement of ANY criticism, identifying it only as conspiracy theory attacks, and blaming the criticism for a devolution of constructive conversation. This approach by the Bishop is an old tactic to dismiss critics: just claim that the platform they stand on is illegitimate and if follows that everything coming from their mouths is therefore illegitimate. But the people who criticize both the effects of Vatican II and Pope Francis are well-educated, reasoned men who love our Lord. Why does the Bishop not engage them?
    The Bishop is a gifted teacher but as I listen I am beginning to think of his teaching as rat poison: it is wonderfully attractive except for the ingredients that kill you.

  14. Bishop in my opinion you have forgotten the importance of the Holy Bible that Vatican II gave great priority for clergy and laity. Now our Church has another aspect. Before Va. II it was not so as it is nowadays.

  15. It was the "critics" of Vatican II that drove me actually study the documents; what I found amazed me, because they are not only perfectly orthodox, but precisely the pastoral tools the church needs to approach the modern world. Implementation, of course, has been a different story, but we've got the framework ready for us right there in the documents.

  16. How do you reconcile Vatican II's Nostra Aetate to Unam Sanctam, Cantate Domino, or the Athanasian Creed. The answer is it cannot be reconciled. Vatican II rejects prior Church teaching.
    "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith. Which faith unless every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity."

  17. I too lived through the implementation of Vatican II in the United States. It seems like in the US the Council served only to empower liberal Catholics to attempt to revolutionize the Church. Unfortunately, their revolution was not to implement the many good things in Vatican II you pointed out. It was about making the Church politically liberal. I associate Vatican II with the moral relativism that plagues the Church. I think the relativism drove the faithful into the arms of Evangelical Protestant congregations. This then accelerated the political liberalism of the Church. This is evident in how Cardinal Gregory of Washington, D.C. allowed President Biden and Speaker Pelosi use the Church as a back drop to legitimize their views on abortion, gay marriage, critical gender theory, and other political positions abhorrent to Catholic Doctrine. Do you realize that the "Catholic" president of the United States doesn't assert that God made them male and female, that that a family with a mother and a father is not preferable to any other, that abortion through and even immediately after birth is acceptable.

    How can a Catholic of good conscience not see the blessing of these heretical positions by Cardinal Gregory to be the absolute height of relativism.

  18. BACK TO UNITY PLEADED FOR BY CHRIST IN JOHN's GOSPEL – i call myself "novus-trad-ismatic" ( a complete dis-comforter): where Christ moves, acts, saves souls in the Catholic Church, GO i !!!! No more debates. Is your allegiance really total, to Christ, and the Church? Or also to private opinion, tastes – that would be a touch selfish ? 'Charismatics' are more traditional than trads in one big sense, the most ancient and first Church meeting was Pentecost. Fact ('church' in fact began there). The Charismatic movement, always obedient interestingly to the magisterium, leading to many traditional oriented groups afterwards (judge by fruits), makes people uncomfortable at the first few meetings. But trads who i support, want non-trads to get past the discomfort of the first few meetings, but then say, "Charismatic ,ok, but not my private taste". C'mon, if you're uncomfortable, in the world of mission of Christ, then, sorry, that's where God may be calling you, to really sacrifice your tastes ( your self) to His service. How given are you in your soul to Christ, and the Church, and salvation of souls… really ?? I'm 'novus-trad-ismatic', ha. Lastly, if you want people to respect trad, which i do!, then show them you are about Christ, Church first – i.e. show them you're a full and balanced person, too, saying, wherever Christ moves powerfully within the theological and moral teachings of the Church, go i…..

  19. "It is absurd and a detestable shame, that we should suffer those traditions to be changed which we have received from the fathers of old." — St. Thomas Aquinas.

    But hey, by all means take out the altar rails & sell them at a yard sale. Lets replace Gregorian chant & the organ with hippy drum circles, complete with dancing & flag-waving. We should probably remove anything from Catholicism which isn't pleasing to Protestants, Muslims, Jews, & any others. So rather than uphold doctrines such as extra eccelasiam nulla salus, we should tell everyone that your faith is unimportant, merely a bit of cultural flavor. It doesn't matter if you're Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, an atheist, or a pagan worshipping the Pac Man's Mama.

    So we call Catholicism one way to God's kingdom. Maybe if we're particularly bold we'll call it the preferred way. Then we wonder why people feel no need to convert to please God. Why are there so many who have no religious affiliation? Why do so few believe in the Divine Presence which is the reality of the Eucharist? Food designed & sold by corporations for mass appeal is largely tasteless & forgettable. Strip Catholicism of many of the distinctive traits of the faith for fear of offending outsiders and watch as those who were within the fold begin to drift away. After all, one state in life is as good as the next.

    The Church did not begin at Vatican II.

  20. I understand why you found it necessary to do this video because like many of us we see the church being divided. Your defense of the good that came out of the Council and your rejection of the liturgical abuses are valid. But your defense of Pope Francis is not valid. His recent support of civil unions and Communion for the divorced is indefensible. These types of statements, which are directly in opposition to church doctrine and the Chetechism will only lead to more Catholics falling away. These positions are not from the Light of Christ.

  21. The vocal attack Bishop is because so much changed too quickly with little explanation. Young Catholics are very susceptible to the information they receive from the media and having three children myself and bringing them up in the faith only to watch helplessly but ever lovingly as they drifted from the faith with no one to help persuade them why the faith truly matters. I do know why but the big question is how to convince our youth that God truly matters, in fact he is, essential to our lives in this world and very much so in the next. But I recall people constantly commenting about nefarious infiltrations etc etc etc it is fierce and very present in every day life. We are drowning in a ocean of unbelief without a single lifeboat to rescue us.

  22. I love this speeh, Bishop Barron — Plaase continue to support Pope Francis — I pray the criticism, which is too much, would stop — and to help I wlll post and repost this video. Please continue to support him.