Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pope: aftermath of Vatican II

On his holiday the Pope met local clergy for a question and answer session, this is part of the answer to the last question about the effects of the Council

I, too, lived through Vatican Council II, coming to Saint Peter’s Basilica with great enthusiasm and seeing how new doors were opening. It really seemed to be the new Pentecost, in which the Church would once again be able to convince humanity. After the Church’s withdrawal from the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it seemed that the Church and the world were coming together again, and that there was a rebirth of a Christian world and of a Church of the world and truly open to the world.

We had such great hopes, but in reality things proved to be more difficult. Nonetheless, it is still true that the great legacy of the Council, which opened a new road, is a “magna carta” of the Church’s path, very essential and fundamental.

But why did this happen? I would like to begin with an historical observation. The periods following a council are almost always very difficult. After the great Council of Nicaea – which is, for us, truly the foundation of our faith, in fact we confess the faith as formulated at Nicaea – there was not the birth of a situation of reconciliation and unity, as hoped by Constantine, the promoter of the great Council, but a genuinely chaotic situation of a battle of all against all.

In his book on the Holy Spirit, saint Basil compares the Church’s situation after the Council of Nicaea to a nighttime naval battle, in which no one recognizes another, but everyone is pitted against everyone else. It really was a situation of total chaos: this is how saint Basil paints in vivid colors the drama of the period following the Council of Nicaea.

50 years later, for the first Council of Constantinople, the emperor invited saint Gregory Nazianzen to participate in the council, and saint Gregory responded: No, I will not come, because I understand these things, I know that all of the Councils give rise to nothing but confusion and fighting, so I will not come. And he didn’t go.

So it is not now, in retrospect, such a great surprise how difficult it was at first for all of us to digest the Council, this great message. To imbue this into the life of the Church, to receive it, such that it becomes the Church’s life, to assimilate it into the various realities of the Church is a form of suffering, and it is only in suffering that growth is realized. To grow is always to suffer as well, because it means leaving one condition and passing to another.

And we must note that there were two great historic upheavals in the concrete context of the postconciliar period.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it have had more integrity to have published the Holy Father's illuminating views on the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council in their entirety rather than choose parts that suits your own agenda? What you have chosen is only a prelude to a fuller analysis that brings the subject to the present time and includes elements like the reform of the liturgy that contradict your own position. He is far subtler than most imagine and that is part of his greatness. Let's hope that readers follow the link and see for themselves. Partial quotation does little service to him.

hermione hollis said...

Fascinating by the Pope on the two great events of my own lifetime: the 1968 cultural revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

What is extraordinary about the latter event is that things seemed to get worse for the Church in this country (and presumably elsewhere). Post-68 catholics carried on going to Mass in large numbers. Post-89 the rate of lapsation grew worse. We now have a new battle on our hand namely demographics. The catholic population is ageing and I am very much part of the problem! In truth, the John-Paul years consitute an appalling nightmare which many in the Church have simply blotted out and hope will go away.

In contrast, listen to the British Tour de France cyclist David Miller (a reformed drugs cheat) and his fascinating mixture of pessimism and optmism about his sport. Listen to his taking ownership of his past sins and mistakes. Listen to his praise and affirmation of others who are doing likewise i.e. taking repsonsibility for their sins. Listen to his depression and pain. Listen to his cautious hopes for the future.

Now he is where we should be as a Church!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Don't be silly, I merely cut and pasted the first part of his answer. I know that most people don't read great chunks of things on this blog. I wanted to give people a taste of what he said, and gave the part that I think most people or can identify with, we all had hopes which did not quite work out, in the hope that they would do as you did, read the first part here, then read the rest, as obviously you have.

I would be the last to suggest the Holy Father lacks subtlety, nor to limit his views to my "own agenda", though, apart from loyalty to the Church's Tradition and Teaching, I am not sure that I have an agenda, would you like to define what you presume that is? Possibly you might also like to tell me what my "position" on the reform of the liturgy might be, over the last thirty years I haven't really developed one, because the Church hasn't really developed one. I am willing to have it formed by obedience to Our Mother the Church and to take in part in the contemporary debate, in order to understand myself where the Church is.

Daniel said...

On the contrary Father, you do have an agenda, you actually preached about it, or used it as an illustration in a sermon on discerning the mind of the Church. You said quite specifically that any theologian should put aside his own agenda, and be like someone who wanted to say Mass properly, they should "do the red and say the black with as much faith, dignity and reverence as possible".
It was the week before I went up to Durham to do theology.
I'll be in touch.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

No, I cannot agree with Anon.
Fr. Ray's post links to the complete text of the Pope's speech.
There is no attempt to quote out of context.
Yes, let all readers follow the link and read the complete text.
I see no sign of a personal agenda on Fr. Ray's part.
Daniel's comment seems to make this point rather cleverly.

Vatican II was an event which happened in history.
It was unfortunate it happened when it did, in light of the cultural revolution of 1968 which led to the crisis of faith in the West.
The false "spirit of Vatican II" was an attempt to read between the lines of the conciliar texts, so that the Council itself was seen as a revolutionary movement.
An authentic interpretation of the Council texts in the light of Tradition shows this to be untrue.

The second misfortune was the dsecent into nihilism in the West, following the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe.
This strike me as a geat paradox, in that nihilism and nihlistic creativity were born out of Marxist philosophy in the first place : the universe itself is meaningless and came into being through blind evolution; hence man can and must fashion a new world.
There can be no objective truth.

Hence, the triumph of scepticsm and materialsm.
Which brings us back to the crisis of faith which began with the cultural revolution of 1968.

No wonder the aftermath of Vatican II seems a time of upheaval !

Should the Fathers of the Council have seen this coming ?
I don't see how they could.
Should they have anticipated that the Council's documents would be mis-interpreted and mis-applied so as to produce a revolution within the Church itself ?
Again, I don't see how they could.

What then of the future ?
The comment by "Hermione Hollis" is about right :
An admission of past mistakes.
A cautious optimism for the future.
And pray.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Dan, do get in contact

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

I beg to differ with Dr. Wright when he says, “Vatican II was an event which happened in history. It was unfortunate it happened when it did, in light of the cultural revolution of 1968 which led to the crisis of faith in the West.”

God can see the sweep of history – we cannot. The bishop who is said to have remarked on the closing of the Vatican II that “We will only know the meaning of the Council in 10 years time” had the right instinct – although I suspect that we will need more like 100 years fully to discern the Council in its proper historical context in the life of the Church.

Surely the Second Vatican Council was actually very well-timed. It was convoked late enough for the Council fathers to perceive that the Church needed to respond to the challenge of the modern world, but before too many of our bishops themselves became over-imbued by the spirit of the age. If the Council had been held any later, it could easily have degenerated into an issues-dominated bun-fight over papal primacy, priestly celibacy, women’s ordination and contraception.

We should not confuse the actual message of the Vatican II with the deficient way in which its directives have been implemented.

hermione hollis said...

francis - 10, 100, 1000 years - how long exactly do apologists for the council actually want?

To me there is no great difficulty in admitting that the whole project has been a failure. Yet we are still stuck in this Orwellian situation where we are being told that nirvana is just around a corner. Just one more folk Mass and we shall make it. Please, just one more ...

It's gone beyond satire. The faithful are no longer angry. They are just shaking their heads and laughing.

Greetings! John-boy said...

What a wonderful blog Fr. Ray! I have bookmarked this site and will frequent it often. May God bless you in all Your endeavors!