Sunday, October 16, 2011

12 Questions about Vatican II

For me one of the great joys of being a priest today, during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI, is the new spirit of intellectual honesty that we now enjoy. For some it is frightening, unnerving, certainties are questioned, or even overthrown, the trend setters of yesterday, today, are yesterday's men. Who takes Hans Kung or even Rahner seriously today?
As I say, for me it is a time of joy but for others it is a time of profound pain, hurt and confusion. I am sure that Pope John called Vatican II as a way of healing divisions, "reconciling the Church to the modern world". It was a remedy but ultimately a remedy that depended on difficult questions not being raised, on silence.

Msgr. Bruenero Gherardini and Antonio Livi, Professors Paolo Paqualucci and Roberto de Mattei and several other noted Italian intellectuals have issued a public petition asking the Pope to go beyond his reading of VII in the hermeneutic of continuity and actually examine some problem areas of VII in depth. An English translation appears on the Dici website listing 12 questions.


Pablo the Mexican said...

I was riding down the road in a buggy one day when suddenly, all the wheels came off.

It did not take long for me to decide there was a problem, and even less time to figure a solution to the problem.

Anyone Catholic since before Vatican Council II came along can testify the wheels have come off.

They can also tell you how to fix the problem: chuck the new, put back the old.

If changes need to be made, adjustments made, this time leave out the Freemasons and their Protestant lackeys; make the Hierarchy more Catholic.


Sadie Vacantist said...

An examination of Vatican II in isolation is pointless. It has to be examined within an historical context. It has been 50 years since the start of the Council but it was only 17 years between the end of WWII and the Council's start. That is the key statistic. WWII dominated the lives of the Council's participants (think Ratzinger who even served in it).

Therein lies the Council's problem. In 1965, it wasn't just the Catholic Church which began its journey of self-destruction. The USA also established a template for its own collapse: permanent war, the growth of the military industrial complex and the expansion of federal government.

This last point is ironic as our moronic theologians took us down the collegial route in the manner of "states' rights" in what they thought was being cool and modern. (Think also the constitution established by the Americans in West Germany after 1945 and the devolution of power). Yet this "new" model of governance was itself being abandoned by the most powerful nation on earth at the very moment when we embraced it!

MichaelPetek said...

I have an answer to question 6, concerning the affirmation that the Church of Christ "subsists in" rather than "is" the Roman Catholic Church.

To subsist in the Catholic Church means, in the first instance, to possess the Eucharist, the real, true and substantial presence of Jesus Christ. This is the only presence of Jesus which is substantial, as well as real and true. It means that it is only by participating in the Eucharist that a baptised person comes into communion with the Soul of Christ, which is the substantial form of His living Body.

The soul of a living man is present nowhere else than in and throughout the body. As the form of the body directly and immediately it guarantees the unity of the organism as this one living being.

The soul also has a second function. It drives the vital processes of the body through the brain stem, which is the physical and visible principle by which all the organs and physiological systems are co-ordinated and integrated. Its destruction - brain death - is the death of the individual and the loss of the disposition of the body to receive the soul.

So the Bishop in his local church, and the Pope for the universal church, can so to speak be likened to the 'brain stem' of the mystical body of Christ.

The Eastern Orthodox possess the valid Eucharist and therefore have communion with the Soul of Christ. That they have no unified hierarchy is incongruous and inconsistent with the way God has designed the human body.

Michael Petek said...

Here's an answer to question 5.

Not all of Sacred Tradition has the same dogmatic value, as different propositions contained within it have different theologicasl notes.

We need not worry about what the Council said about Scripture:

"Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation."

Premiss: Everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit.

From which it follows: The books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.

The conclusion is narrower than the premiss, and is therefore valid and non-exclusive.

Anagnostis said...

It's a fascinating summary. My own view of VII has altered somewhat since I ceased to be involved in the dualistic narratives of Catholic Traddyism; but not as radically my view of the Traditionalist critique ("shooting fish in a barrel and still contriving to miss"). The Trads are right insofar as there is a rupture, undeniably - but what from? From the ancient faith, or from an earlier rupture and its ramifications and developments? And does VII's strange concatenation of the good, the bad, the questionable, the instantly obsolete and the downright dreadful itself represent a return to the ancient faith or, as at the Reformation, the initiation of some "third thing"?

Ignatius said...

Do not analyses need to be much more nuanced, critical and historically aware? VII was not a bolt from the blue. The currents of thought that led to it had been in train for many decades, witness the Liturgical Movement inter alia. The rhetoric of continuity and rupture is simplistic and misleading, but things have now become so badly polarised that it is almost impossible to form a just appreciation of the Council. One can certainly not expect it from anti-VII ideologues who seem to want to pretend it did not happen and take the Church back to VI or earlier. Going backwards, however, is never a real option and displays a fundamental faithlessness and inability to trust God, who can only be known in the present and is always leading us forward into the new. Entrusting oneself to God - which entails acknowledging our uncertainty - is what is really difficult and even frightening. Much easier to idolise in place of God an imagined idealised past form of Catholicism which probably never existed if one were honest about history.

Msgr. Bruenero Gherardini said...

Thank you, Mr Petek.

Why didn't I think of that. The answer was staring us in the face!

Michael Petek said...

Thank you, Monsignor!

The answer to what, in particular. I cover several points in my postings.

Gigi said...

My view of the birth of Vatican II is probably too romanticised for many of the more learned people on this Blog. My understanding is that Pope John addressed the gathered from his balcony, referring to the watching moon, and to his sole voice as the echo of the world. I said it was romanticised: my Catholic faith is the love it engenders in me and the love it brings me. I would never profess to be a clerical scholar, but I appreciate the concept of reconciling the patrimony of the church with a modernised and changing world. I appreciate that decentralisation for some was seen as inclusion and as tempering or tampering by others.
I find it slightly sad to see these questions "listed" because the essence of faith is that there will always be more questions than answers. The New Missal (still) invites The Mystery of Faith. The Catholic Church is a living church and as such will evolve with her people,(clergy and congregation); division dilutes, not diversity. We've had four popes since Pope John, the Catholic Church has been rocked by and survived scandal, while countries have dissolved and formed, and the world has been on the brink of self destruction many times. If Vatican II is an ongoing conversation then maybe hassling deadlines is irrelevant.

Evagrius said...

Vatican II was the closing of the Tridentine Period, and is thus both the product of what Tridentinism had become, and of attempting to move away from it.

Anagnostis said...

Ignatius - mightn't it be the case that your "back/forward" paradigm is every bit as "simplistic and misleading" as the rupture/continuity one?

I would be the last person to equate Catholic Traditionalism with Traditional Catholicism, but surely one ought to "go back" in some sense to the point at which one was beguiled from the straight and narrow?

Michael1 said...

Several points, briefly.
1. All Councils of the Church seem to be tied to coming to terms with issues and currents of thought facing the world at the time, from Jurusalem with questions about evangelising the Gentiles, through Nicea coping with Manicheanism or Trent with the fact of the Reformation.There have been many times in history when the Church has needed collectively to reconsider how it maintains and expresses its faith. Doing so should not be confused with the separate issue of the essence of the faith.
2. We need to be humble enough to know that our understanding of faith is always incomplete - we can never say that this or that formulation is the last word, incapable of further refinement or deeper understanding.
3. The deepening of understanding comes as we see new facets and learn new models of understanding. Human models are developed in a host of ways, through new ideas in science and culture, and from others. Someone's different way of theologising is not there to be accepted blindly, but it can be examined and learned from.
4. No-one learns in a climate where all people can do is to shout at each other and call those with whom they disagree 'morons'. A Church without charity is no work of the Holy Spirit. Erasmus objected to the thunder and heat of the Reformers as there was no peace in which to listen to God.
5. It is easy to fear change of understanding: but life and tradition need continually to be examined if they are to remain living things and not dead dogmas.

Michael1 said...

Two other thoughts on the appeal to tradition.
1. Some seem to forget that in many ways Trent was much more radically reforming than Vatican II, but perhaps we have fewer records of all the reactions of the then 'traddies' who doubtless wanted their rood screens back rather than being open to the congregations and who could not understand why their own brief clerical education - quite good enough, surely - was being replaced by long periods in these new-fangled seminaries. We might also valuably remember that Vatican I was curtailed by events in Rome: in some ways Vatican II was a continuation, looking beyond the Pope's role to those of the rest of the faithful, including bishops.
2. It is salutary sometimes to look back to the history of Christian thought. In the 13th Century, a German-educated Dominican theologian wrote a great deal based on new and dangerous scientific understanding of the world about us, based on the newly-translated pagan writings he had studied. His work was so different from conventional theology that in 1277 the Bishop of Paris condemned many of his theses,in the same year, the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned his philosophical views, a condemnation further extended by his successor in 1284. In 1282, the General Chapter of the Franciscans banned the reading of his works. Wiser counsels later prevailed, and his genius recognised by the Church. The rush to condemn things just because they do not fit our conceptual models is not wisdom - and it has happened too often in the history of Faith.

Gigi said...

I heartily agree with Michael1 that "We need to be humble enough to know that our understanding of faith is always incomplete". Also that tradition should be a living thing; we're all part of history and the future.

Amfortas said...

I think mentioning Karl Rahner in the same breath as Hans Kung is a little unfair. Few people may read Rahner these days but sadly many still read Kung (Tony Blair and Frank Skinner, for instance).

Amfortas said...

Blessed John Paul II's encyclicals were rooted in the documents of the Council. We need to make a clear distinction between the Council and the so-called Spirit of Vatican II. Your blog suggests some sort free for all. I'm sure that's not what you want. That leads to SSPX heresy and loony liberal heresy too.

Fr Ray Blake said...

"We need to make a clear distinction between the Council and the so-called Spirit of Vatican II."

Yes, but the signatories of the petition indicate problems, at least a lack of clarity with the Concilliar texts themselves, and their own apparent rupture with continuity. It seems more than a "Spirit of the Council" issue.

The definition of the Council as a "Pastoral Council" itself needs clarification, especially as it issued "Dogmatic Constitutions". How dogmatic are they?

Truth isn't served by "fudge".

Amfortas said...

I wonder how recent the pastoral/dogmatic argument is. I have seen a quote from the Holy Father referring to Vatican II as a 'pastoral council'. But clearly it promulgated a Dogmatic Constitution for the Church. It's a good few years since I studied divinity at university but I do not recall hearing about the notion of a 'pastoral council'in church history classes. Maybe I was asleep in class but I suspect it is a recent historical evaluation. Some clearly use it to suggest that Vatican II is some sort of lower order council. I prefer to stick to the position that we must make a clear distinction between the documents and the so-called spirit. This is the hermeneutic of continuity. The approach suggested by the Dici authors could result in schism. Perhaps this is inevitable. When you consider the dreadful situation in Austria and Germany it's difficult to see how this can be avoided.

Amfortas said...

You're right, truth isn't served by fudge but sometimes it is served by prudence. I'm not sure the Dici move is prudent or wise.

Gigi said...

Father Ray, I wanted to ask you - you said you're enjoying the spirit of intellectual honesty, as a priest, but what's your opinion of a specific of Question 10: is there a "demotion" for priests from being "of God" to being "of the people of God"? My simplistic view is that priests serve God, and the people in God's name.

Amfortas said...

To clarify my point about prudence. Given that SSPX is considering the 'preamble' at present, is it really wise for thinkers associated with the SSPX to be calling for such a radical examination of the status and interpretation of Vatican II? I am not saying that these issues should never be considered. My point here is about timing. SSPX is schismatic sect (as in my opinion is the Austrian Priests' Initiative but that's another matter!) and I think the DICI would be better advised not to make grandstanding statements or requests at this time.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Gigi, I wish I could answer briefly or even concisely but let me say there seems to be drastic change.

Amfortis, The Eng translation appears on the Dici (SSPX) site but that is not the origin of the petition. These questions are being asked in Rome, as a result of the hermeneutic continuity, it is suggested with encouragement of Pope, insofar as they seem to originate from his intellectual circle.
I think it is very prudent insofar as there seems to be rumour that the Preamble will forbid the SSPX from discussion of these very issues.
I think most of the signatories are from the Pontifical Universities.

Ignatius said...

Anagnostis, I might well be oversimplyifying in the way you suggest. My point was that the whole business of continuity and rupture is more complex than our polarised discussions usually suggest. I am not sure what you understand by the "straight and narrrow," but for me the great achievement of VII was precisely to recognise the ways in which our traditions had departed from the true path and to reassert the need for continuity with that. Nor was this a sudden realisation, but the outcome of a long process of development in understanding. This is what I think there can be no going back on - unless you think any suggestion of the need for reform or renewal must always be mistaken and that change ipso facto must be bad. (This not to say that all the changes that came from VII have been good!)

Gigi said...

Father Ray: I wasn't trying to put you on the spot regarding Question 10! Simply that the question , for me, seems almost to be calling to redefine the "nature" of a vocation. It can't even be compared to varying a contract or altering a job description, both of these being traumatic enough. I do sympathise.

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