Benedict on Implementing Vatican II


(W)herever this (reform) interpretation guided the implementation of the Council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing.

I’d agree with this. However, I’m not so sure Benedict’s hermeneutic of rupture is so accurately diagnosed. The shock troops of implementation were pastors. Let’s admit many of them were ill-prepared to impart what Benedict himself said was a “demanding” charge placed upon the Church from John XXIII. Reform came down to the notion of a set of individual changes in how things ran. In very few places did pastors attempt to impart any significant background for why things were changed. To the people, it didn’t look like reform. It was change. They embraced good ideas like the use of the vernacular in liturgy, a renewed emphasis on the Bible, and an endorsement of Catholic social teaching. Vatican II boiled down to doing good things. People appealed to the spirit of a Council they experienced as a spirit behind good changes. Few indeed bothered to actually read the documents of Vatican II. Instead we experienced changes or stasis, and Vatican II documents were used to proof-text what was done (when one or both sides even bothered to refer to them).

About catholicsensibility

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