Monday, July 16, 2007

How to Apply the Second Vatican Council

To Liturgy and Ecumenism, from Sandro Magister:

Just a few months ago, the French bishops were extremely concerned about the news that Benedict XVI was preparing to liberalize the celebration of the Mass labeled as that of Pius V. “Such a decision endangers the Church’s unity,” wrote the most alarmed of them.

Benedict XVI shot straight from the hip, with the “motu proprio” released on July 7. But there was no reaction of rejection from the French bishops. Nor was there from the bishops of the touchiest countries: Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain. On the contrary, their most authoritative leaders hailed the pope’s decision with positive comments: from the German cardinal Karl Lehmann to the English cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, both ranked among the progressives.

The same happened with the document released on July 10 by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, which nails down some firm points of doctrine about the Church. There was no comparison with the criticisms that in the summer of 2000 were hurled – even by high-ranking churchmen – against the declaration “Dominus Iesus,” signed by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which to a great extent dealt with the same points of doctrine. Cardinal Walter Kasper, one of the critics back then, decisively supported the Vatican document this time: “Clearly stating one’s own positions does not limit ecumenical dialogue, but fosters it.” And from Moscow, metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, president of the department for external relations at the Russian Orthodox patriarchate, described the text as “an honest declaration, because sincere dialogue requires a clear vision of the respective positions.”

Criticisms did arrive, naturally, against both of these promulgations, from within and outside of the Church, and especially from Protestants and Jews. But in the Catholic camp the protests were limited to confined sectors, mostly Italian: the sectors of the liturgists and of the intellectuals who interpret Vatican Council II as a “rupture” and a “new beginning.”

Among the liturgists, the one most pained in contesting the papal “motu proprio” was Luca Brandolini, bishop of Sora, Aquino, and Pontecorvo, and a member of the liturgical commission of the Italian bishops’ conference, in an interview with the newspaper “la Repubblica”:

“I cannot hold back my tears; I am living through the saddest moment of my life as a bishop and as a man. This is a day of mourning not only for me, but for the many who have lived and worked for Vatican Council II. What has been negated is a reform for which many worked at the cost of great sacrifices, motivated solely by the desire to renew the Church.”

Among the theorists of Vatican II as a “rupture” and a “new beginning,” the most explicit against the papal provisions were the founder and prior of the monastery of Bose, Enzo Bianchi, and the historian of Christianity Alberto Melloni, coauthor of the most widely read “History of Vatican Council II” in the world. For Melloni, the objective of pope Ratzinger is nothing less than that of “deriding” and “demolishing” Vatican Council II.

But instead it is known that Benedict XVI’s clear objective – plainly enunciated and argued in the memorable discourse to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005 – is that of freeing the Council from a particular interpretation: precisely the interpretation of “rupture” and “new beginning” dear to Bianchi and Melloni.

"The hermeneutic of discontinuity,” the pope said in this address, “risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church".

While instead the correct interpretation of Vatican Council II, in the view of Benedict XVI, is this:

“... the hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.”

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