Benedict XVI on Vatican II


The pope’s Advent address to the curia, here on Zenit, contains some gems:

No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what occurred in these years the description that St. Basil, the great Doctor of the Church, made of the Church’s situation after the Council of Nicaea: He compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things:

“The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamoring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith …” (“De Spiritu Sancto,” XXX, 77; PG 32, 213 A; SCh 17 ff., p. 524).

I doubt St Basil would look with any more kindliness on St Blog’s. Benedict suggests the past forty years reflect some of this. He asks why.

Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or — as we would say today — on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarreled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

The pope goes on to speak of these two hermeneutics: “discontinuity and rupture” and “reform.” But I would add a third: the hermeneutic of stasis. Take liturgy for example. I for one, cannot see where the indult Mass fits into either of Benedict’s hermeneutics. Its proponents rightly shun the absolute rupture they see with tradition. Yet they steadfastly refuse to cooperate in a hermenutic of reform.

I recall many stories from friends in other parishes where the pastor just ignored Vatican II and continued to rule the parish as he saw fit.

From the pastoral perspective, most Catholics would be happy to be part of a church that saw reform as a serious element of the life of faith. On the ground, I’d say there are people simply inwilling to change. Do such people tend to be tenaciously the same in their spiritual and moral lives? Sometimes. On the other pole, we also have anarchists–but I count them as far fewer in number. Perhaps in Benedict’s circles, scholars tended not to be apathetic; they were either rupturists or reformers.

But I’m still surprised he missed door number three, especially given to whom it was he was speaking.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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