16 January 2014

Where did we go wrong?

Well, the 'Spirit of the Council' has had a lot to do with the erroneous notion that 'the Council' told the Jews that they did not need to 'convert'. It's very closely similar to what happened to Liturgy: the Council Fathers thought that in Sacrosanctum Concilium they were mandating a modest revision which would leave Latin substantially in place ... and so on. But in less than a decade, change had vastly outstripped the texts which the Fathers had actually subscribed. And, gradually, people were led to think that the Council had ordered a totally vernacular Liturgy; had prescribed the well-nigh universal reordering of sanctuaries ... and all the rest. Nostra aetate  had a very similar fate. The Fathers thought they were roundly condemning anti-Jewish persecution and prejudice. They thought they were doing what little they could to atone for the Shoah. Disgust at what had happened less than two decades earlier led them to speak strongly against the obscene horror which had fouled the face of Europe and about defects in Christian culture which may have contributed to it. But they did not establish, and did not intend (indeed, there is no evidence that they even considered this) to establish, the Two Covenant Error. Yet within a few decades people were being told that the Council had outlawed 'supersessionism'. Just as there are millions who have never read a page of Sacrosanctum Concilium but are quite sure that it ordered the liturgical ruptures and abuses which in fact ensued, so there are very many who have never opened Nostra aetate but have been lied to about what it contains.

And where did we go wrong? Perhaps hierarchies have some answering to do. Why do they send, as their ecumenical spokespeople at Councils of Jews and Christians, individuals less anxious to explain what the Catholic Church does teach, than to trumpet their own versions of what they would like the Church's teaching to be changed to? But bishop-bashing is an easy if satisfying sport. Let us look rather at our own failings. And here, my view is: the gaps in much parochial teaching and preaching.

I don't mean ... two things. I don't mean that we should particularly target Jewish communities in our 'mission'. I have never stood outside a synagogue dishing out leaflets. Nor, for that matter, outside a mosque or a Methodist Church or a Mormon centre. Like most clergy, I have always felt that there were enough people around who technically belonged to my Church but were either totally lapsed or had only very light observance. And then, good heavens, there are the multitudes that are not even technically anything. There are only twenty four hours in the day ... and I think I would even feel a trifle uneasy about the deep-down attitudes of people who had a great obsessive thing about Converting Jews and did little about converting anybody else. There is such a nastiness as Anti-Judaism (I prefer to avoid the vague term Anti-Semitism, because, after all, Arabs, too, are Semites). But, when all is said  and done, the Gospel Call to Faith in Christ is for all men and women and that includes Jews. Always and everywhere and despite whatever. There is no Alternative Covenant for anybody; nothing but the Covenant which is in the Blood of Christ.

Secondly, I also do not believe that, unless particular urgent needs make it essential, we should preach or teach against other faiths. My view is that we have failed adequately to teach our own faith. One, big, example. Typology. Exodus the Type, Baptism the Antitype. And so on. All that. Typology is what makes clear that the Old Divine Dispensation has been superseded by the work of Christ. Typology permeates the the Scriptures and the Fathers. It is the Christian hermeneutic for reading the Old Testament. With it, pretty well everything points to Christ; or is a type of something in the Christian life. It is because most laypeople (and clergy?) are unaware or only nominally aware of this that the usually unspoken problem they have is: What is the point of reading the Old Testament? Why do we have all those dreary and irrelevant psalms? And then there is the Easter Vigil: without an understanding of Typology, it is meaningless mumbo-jumbo. The Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore, indeed. Poor Egyptians. What a nasty God. And what a long time ago. Why on earth am I sitting here listening to all this?

I don't think I've ever heard anybody, apart from myself, work this subject into a sermon. I try to introduce people to it myself, especially when I am invited to give Retreats or Conferences or Lent Courses. But ... well, let me put it like this. I was sitting in Allen Hall in one of the formation sessions awaiting a lecture entitled something like the Catholic Approach to Scripture. I did not have much expectation of anything other than an hour of tedium. But then Fr John Hemer came in and explained, lucidly and brilliantly ... that the Catholic Approach to Scripture is Typology! What a sense of liberation I felt ... gosh, I thought, I'm not, after all, the only one ...

Byzantium does a good line on Typology: if you don't use it already, why not pray the Akathist Hymn? But perhaps we Anglicans In Full Communion With Peter could have a particular role to play here. We had John Mason Neale, who filled the windows of his large Convent Chapel with typology ... Lionel Thornton, a Mirfield Father and a notable typologist ... Austin Farrer ... and, deep in the archives of Pusey House, lie the manuscript lectures on Typology of our own great Dr Pusey quo maior vix ullus.

Pusey ... If the Ordinariates have any purpose at all beyond mere survival, it must surely be to bring Pusey along with us as a big part of our luggage, as a particular treasure of our Anglican Patrimony, as a gift of incalculable value to the Universal Church. May he, before the Throne of Grace, intercede for us his children in the Ordinariates. Oh, and by the way, in addition to the rest of his polymathy, he was Professor of Hebrew in this University.


Francis Arabin said...


What went wrong was perhaps too much of the Zeitgeist allowed into the Sanctuary.

Is it then nostalgia or archeologism to pine for a day when the stations marked in the Roman Missal will make sense again? Or when the blessing of oils will be restored to its full symbolism, and the ecclesiological and eschatological meaning of the cult of martyrs emphasised?

On another note, I cannot help myself making a mental association between the NO Offertory Prayers and the Two Covenants idea influencing members of Consilium. I may be wrong here.

Patruus said...

I confess to never having heard of Typology until very recently. It has a substantial Wikipedia article [1], and I've also chanced to notice that it figures prominently in Emanuel Swedenborg's "Adversaria in Libros Veteris Testamenti", volume 1 of which is available online in both the original Latin [2] as well as English [3].

Commenting, for instance, on Gen. 12:4 et.seq., he writes as follows (in Alfred Acton's translation) -

"In Abram, as in a mirror wherein appears a type or image, are represented the effigies of future things both earthly and heavenly; but the Messiah and his kingdom is the verimost effigy, all else being nothing more than continually successive types. Wherefore there is not the least occurrence in the life of Abram, the parent of the Israelites, which is not representative or typical of things to come, first in Jewish society and then in the societies that follow even to the last times when the thing itself will be presented before the sight in its light and effigy. For later societies are represented in their parent no otherwise than as the future man is represented in his egg, or the coming tree in its seed; or, consequently, as the woods that are yet to spring up are represented in that tree which is the parent of all the rest."

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typology_%28theology%29

[2] http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=-1C-MqSmtwsC&printsec=frontcover

[3] http://www.scribd.com/doc/35917315/

Woody said...

Glad to see Thornton in the list of approved writers, Father. What about FP Harton?

The young fogey said...

Right, the strict-constructionist reading of the council isn't that bad. But it seems to me someone was playing this game in Sacrosanctum Concilium and similar documents just after the council (Paenitemini): rhetorically praise an old practice (Latin, ad orientem, chant, Friday abstinence), then a few lines down, make it optional, which was code for giving the liberals what they wanted and effectively abolishing it. The church shot itself in the foot with that council. Better if, instead of the council, the Pope issued a few pronouncements that the church can live with American-style religious liberty (which then it successfully was - massive immigration from Ireland, Italy, and Poland made Catholics accepted in America) and allowing the vernacular in services. The first could take care of uncharity to Jews; after the second, English-speaking Catholics should have used the translations of Tridentine services that Anglo-Catholics had already done. (I think rank-and-file Catholics would be fine with my Mass, the old Mass, as long as they don't have to go back to Latin.) No council, no local takeovers by Modernists.

Lisa Nicholas said...

Bless you, padre, for preaching about typology! I agree with you completely, it is *the* Christian way to read the Bible, and the only way to make sense of the claim that the entire Bible is about Jesus Christ. It's such a shame that Biblical typology seems to have been abandoned by all but medieval scholars.

the Feds said...

Fr. H,
You, and the Ordinariates have enriched our Church. Thank you!

Deacon Augustine said...

Fr., you highlight a major problem for the Church which Cardinal Ratzinger drew much attention to: the state of Catholic Biblical Scholarship.

In the decades leading up to the Council, most biblical scholars had become so enamoured with the historical-critical method that they ceased to think with the Church, and typology and its attendant senses of Scriptural interpretation were thrown out of the window. The hermeneutic of suspicion became all the rage and generations of skeptics were raised in Catholic academia. The publication of the CCC was the first time since the Council that the four senses of Scripture were even given an airing in Magisterial documents again. I believe that was largely thanks to the efforts of the late Fr. John Redford of Maryvale note. Under Benedict I was hopeful that the Church might begin to recover some of these babies thrown out with the bathwater - we will see.

A good read on the corruption of Scripture scholarship can be had in "Politicizing the Bible" by Scott Hahn & Benjamin Wiker, published last year. They trace the roots of the problem back to 1,300 A.D. in the works of Marsilius of Padua and William of Ockham. I found it threw a lot of light on why biblical studies are in their current mess and the philosophy that underlies the advance of historical criticism.

Fr. Theodore Phillips said...

Well preached, Father!

As a monk in the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate, I continue to treasure the patrimony that I brought to Orthodoxy from the brightest and best of Anglican Catholic thinkers: not uncritically at times, but very thankfully!

Typology is indispensible to Christian theology (and yes, we Orthodox do revel in it!). How tragic that our rightful turn away from past ways of relating to Jews has led to the utterly false notion that there is any way to God other than through Jesus Christ, his Jewish Son. He came to them first, that through them he might reach the rest of us Gentiles. What hubris to claim, now, that he is for "us," but not for "them." It has led, in turn, to the notion that it is questionable to preach Christ and convert anyone other than Europeans. That makes nonsense of the entire Gospel. If it is not "for the many," what is the point?

GOR said...

I think you hit on the salient point about our Faith and its relation to others when you intimated the example of our Faith. Why isn’t the world converted to Christ? Pace God’s providence and plan for the world, is it not that we have not shown Christ to others?

Faith is always a gift given by God. We can’t beat it into others through argument or force. But we can demonstrate it – not in an “I’m right, you’re wrong” self-congratulatory manner – but through our own interior conversion, showing forth Christ in how we live and how we treat others. And that we fail to do over and over.

Whether it be Jew, Muslim, atheist or agnostic, all must come to Christ eventually. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what picture do we Catholics paint for others?

I am not Spartacus said...

Take some time and re-read, Sacrosanctum Concilium, for there are reasons it was first on the reformers agenda (Fathers Bugnini and Jungmann wrote it); chief among them is the reality that it is via the Mass that most Catholics are learnt Theology and Doctrine; that is, if one is a new theologian and you want the masses to to adopt your new theology, you have to change the Mass.

To me, SC , is a sudden, um, leap forward from the past and reading it is not unlike the experience to be had sitting outside a Golden Corral restaurant at closing time as the beefy broads from the Oprah Book Club come waddling out; that is, Sacrosanctum Concilium is one long line of ugly buts.

Latin yes, but vernacular; Gregorian Chant but....

Rev. Anthony Cekada rightly observed ("Work of Human Hands") that ...But on this question, as on so many others in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, both sides and neither side was simultaneously right and wrong. They were arguing over another vintage Vatican II formulation, written in the yes-but-no, on-one-hand/on-the-other/hand style.

And having seduced the conciliar conservatives (girondists) into signing onto this questionable hard-to-pin-down product, the conciliar Jacobins worked their new theology will and wrecked the Roman Rite but that was to be expected given that Sacrosanctum Concilium was written by, Bugnini, and a cleric who hated the Roman Rite, Jungmann.

It was, for me, a grave oddity to learn (Prof Mattei's, "The Second Vatican Council an untold story") that a majority of the Fathers arrived for the Council already exhausted by the Roman Rite and the Curial Conservatives were ill-prepared to strive to defend it.

In any event, what the soi disant traddies must wrestle with is the reality that Mediator Dei (which they are jake with) is part of Tradition but it essentially authorises the Pope to do whatever in hell he desires to do with the Mass - that being the case, what is a soi disant traddie to do?

He can't very well defend Tradition by attacking Tradition.

At my crummy blog is a post bearing links to a great series on the Liturgy by the estimable Rad Trad. His fantastic series was sequential but interrupted by his other excellent observations and so I just collected them and set them down in order.

Reading it will likely result in one having a radical beak with the past same old, same old, rehashing of polemics that have long ago annealed into Titanium strength positions and it has the great value of offering a way out of the polemical quicksand (I dare anyone to top that mixed metaphor).

Tristan said...

Fr, as one who remains on the other side of the Tiber, can I recommend 'The Bible and the Liturgy' by Jean Danielou SJ (Notre Dame Press, 1956, reprinted 2005.) It's a glorious romp through types and shadows with the Fathers.

Pastor in Valle said...

My people get lots of typology from me. I even gave it to our 14 year old confirmation candidates last weekend on their retreat. I agree entirely with you.

Bernard Brandt said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke,

Thank you for your excellent weblog.

If I may humbly suggest, we went wrong when we were far too concerned with aggiornamento, too little concerned with resourcement, and far too little concerned with acquiring that same mind which is in Christ (Phillipians 2:5).

As to the solution, I am reminded of the counsel of our Lord Christ: "That sort is cast out only by prayer and fasting."