Looking Closely At Continuity


My friends are aware I put little stock in the so-called hermeneutic of continuity for its own sake. While I’m not attempting to disrespect one important leader who really adhered to it and believed in it, I’ve been pondering the possibility of putting a series of posts up to take a closer look at continuity.

My premise would be that we tried institutional continuity for four centuries (1570-1962) and it was found wanting by Pope John XXIII and the world’s bishops of the 60’s and 70’s. Continuity can be an excuse for a wide array of things: avoidance, laziness, inertia, acedia, lack of imagination.

On the plus side, continuity is a pastoral value, not a theological one. Continuity is important when people require a broad sense of ritual, a sense of structure, a refuge in trying or troubling times.

Continuity can hamper us when we are asked to take initiative, to explore new options, or when significant change is asked of us. Perhaps a judgment on the Church’s situation informs a continuity or reform stance. Are we satisfied with where we are as Roman Catholics, and there’s little left to do within our ranks? Or do we face serious problems in need of new initiatives? You can guess where I stand on that question. You?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Looking Closely At Continuity

  1. I can’t tell if your perspective here, Todd, speaks to liturgy only or not. Framing it within the shibboleth of “the hermeneutic of continuity” seems to narrow the discussion somewhat. The accompanying photo even moreso, though I “imagined” a horizon of all sorts of period sailing vessels dotting the seascape and horizon, maybe even some French balloons!
    Not knowing exactly your intent, I can’t coherently agree with the “why” for VII you ascribe to PSt.John23 and the bishops. I did run across this piece by Russell Shaw with which I concur.


    • Todd says:

      Two areas in addition to liturgy, I would say: pastoral ministry and spirituality. I think the three are interdependent.

      The interesting thing about Mr Shaw’s essay is that the crises he thinks needed addressing all originated outside of the Church. And these philosophies don’t really touch the overriding concerns of the people of the time: nuclear obliteration in the First World, racism and colonialism all over. As we’ve discussed recently, perhaps this is a plank and speck assessment. The great councils were less about barbarian hordes(at least directly) and more about the challenges from within the Body.

      In hindsight, I would say the Church’s big challenges continue to be leadership and evangelization. Though I doubt the bishops of Vatican II would have perceived this. More later …

  2. Devin says:

    For me, the “hermeneutic of continuity” is a theological virtue. It assures us that Christ is present in his church in each age guiding us by the Spirit. It allows us not to reinvent the theological wheel every century or half-century. Continuity applies more to values, morals, principles & doctrines more than pastoral practices, rubrics, canon law, & specific formulations of teaching. It simply means discerning what are true developments of teaching & pastoral practices and trying not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

    • Jim McCrea says:

      Maybe what Todd mentioned (avoidance, laziness, inertia, acedia, lack of imagination) are a substantial result of NOT having to reinvent the theological wheel every century or half-century.
      Men selected to be bishops (and, unfortunately, way too many priests) are not chosen for their theological or pastoral acumen but, rather, for being good enforcers of the status quo.

      • Devin says:

        I respectfully disagree. Most of the litany mentioned above can be attributed to an administrative mindset. When you are an administrator, being adventurous and trying new things tends to cost time and money and will certainly rumble a few feathers and bring problems and complaints. You often have to go down five wrong paths before you find the right one. Most benefits of changes in pastoral practice are future oriented while the cost are upfront.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s