"The errors of the post-conciliar period were contained in nuce in the Conciliar Acts," the archbishop added, accusing the council, and not just its aftermath, of overt error.
Viganò has suggested that the Second Vatican Council catalyzed a massive, but unseen, schism in the Church, ushering in a false Church alongside the true Church.
Last month, some Catholics, including priests, media personalities, and some scholars, signed a letter praising Vigano's engagement on the topic, and claiming that "Whether or not Vatican II can be reconciled with Tradition is the question to be debated, not a posited premise blindly to be followed even if it turns out to be contrary to reason. The continuity of Vatican II with Tradition is a hypothesis to be tested and debated, not an incontrovertible fact."
In response to Viganò, Cavadini wrote in July that he sympathizes with Catholic frustrations "regarding the evident confusion in the Church today, the attenuation of Eucharistic faith, the banality of much of what claims to be the Council's inheritance liturgically, etc."
"Yet, is it fair to blame the Council, rejecting it as riddled with error? But would this not mean the Holy Spirit allowed the Church to lapse into prodigious error and further allowed five Popes to teach it enthusiastically for over 50 years?" Cavadini asked.
"Further, did the Second Vatican Council really produce no good worth mentioning? Viganò mentions none. True, its liturgical reforms were commandeered by banality in the United States. For example, there is the introduction of hymns with no aesthetic merit but containing doctrinal errors especially regarding the Eucharist, hymns that de-catechized the very Catholics who faithfully attend Sunday Mass," he wrote, while noting that he had experienced beautiful liturgies in African nations that were the fruit of the Second Vatican Council.
Speaking of one such Mass in Nigeria, Cavadini wrote, that "when, after Communion, the whole assembly recited in unison three times, 'O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine,' it seemed that the Holy Spirit was making the deepest possible appeal to our hearts, reaching into our souls, helping us to 'pray as we ought.'"
The theologian also praised the universal call to holiness contained in Lumen gentium, Vatican II's document on the Church. The council emphasized that sanctity, or closeness to God, is not only the domain of priests and religious, but of all people.
"It is something which seemed so sublime to me when I first read it at age 19 that the desire to live up to it has never worn off even now," he wrote.
Cavadini catalogued other aspects of Vatican II he said were important theological or pastoral pronouncements. He said claims that documents of Vatican II planted the "seeds" of theological error do not stand up to scrutiny.
"Is Vatican II a bad seed? Or, is the seed in question rather the lopsided choice of theologians to develop one strand of conciliar teaching at the expense of others? Not to mention pastors who have so prioritized the true good of making Christian teaching accessible and intelligible to modern people that they downplay its uniqueness as embarrassingly outmoded?" he asked.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
In comments to CNA, Cavadini emphasized that other councils have been misinterpreted and controversial. His essay noted that after some councils, like the Council of Chalcedon, controversies continued for centuries.
"That a statement would need further interpretation is not a unique feature of this council," Cavadini said.
The theologian raised an example from the Council of Nicea, which took place in the summer of 325. The council, in a discussion about the Trinity, declared that the Son is consubstantial, or homoousios, with the Father.
"There was a widespread reaction against the word," Cavadini told CNA, by bishops and theologians who equated it with the third-century heresy of Sabellianism, which had been condemned by the Church's magisterium.
"It was only when the use of the word hupostasis or persona was clarified and distinguished from ousia or 'substance' that the ambiguity was clarified. But -- to emphasize -- this was not an error in the teaching itself, far from it! Yet the very act of making a statement sets up a new situation, which often does require further interpretation."
When Nicea used the word homoousios, "it was taking up a tainted word," the theologian said.