26 January 2009

Fifty Years Since The Council Was Called

Bishop Fellay has asked for dialogue about the parts of the Vatican II documents which are prima facie difficult to reconcile with the Tradition. I feel that this is a debate which should occur anyway, and it is a dialogue which Joseph Ratzinger prepared for by writing that, of the ecumenical councils which have taken place, some have been unnecessary and unhelpful. It was prepared for even earlier by Bl John XXIII when he said that his Council would not be a doctrinal Council. There can therefore be no logic in requiring anybody to believe, as defined ex cathedra, doctrine inferred from the Vatican II documents. And in fact, when the clergy in Bordeaux belonging to the Institute of the Good Shepherd regularised their position, they found, so they said, that they were not required to accept anything except that the debate should be carried on within the fellowship of the Church and not across barricades. There is something Anglican about this; and I have said before that I believe Benedict XVI is the most Anglican Pope we have ever had.

I do sometimes find that the documents of Vatican II seem tired and dated. When they come up in the Office of readings, I confess that I do quickly check the rubrics to see if there is a lawful way of getting round reading them. And the post-Conciliar liturgy also often has too much of a sense of the 1960s about it (even in the Latin) to be comfortable; especially the 'preces'. The time has come for reconsidering and sifting; not because Mgr Fellay wants it but because the time has come.

There is a phrase of S Vincent of Lerins which was adopted by Bl John XXIII in his opening speech to the Council: that restatements of the Faith should be 'eodem sensu eademque sententia'. I believe that should be the starting point. It is what is implied by the motto 'Hermeneutic of Continuity'.

Mind you, I do feel that we have got to live in the twenty first century. It was all very well to talk about Error Having No Rights when a Christian state could repress Error. We now live in a society dominated by Secularist Error, the Zeitgeist, and Political Correctness. Nowadays the repression of dissident opinion has become the repression of Christianity because we have become the dissidents, the counter-culturals. Like when, a couple of British general elections ago, a pro-Life political party put up enough candidates to receive, under the electoral rules, the right to party political broadcasts on the media ... and was promptly told that pictures of aborted foetuses were not permitted.

Vatican II may have expressed itself badly on the question of religious liberty; it may require verbal dexterity to reconcile it with earlier magisterial interventions. But perhaps what it really means in the broadest terms is ... what the hell, our present need is to occupy a 'libertarian' high ground and demand for ourselves the rights that the Enlightenment made such a racket about. If Voltaire could say that he disagreed with what an opponent said but would defend to the death his right to say it, why are the bully-boys trying to muffle us?

Or am I being too cynical and slapdash?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's because Voltaire was a "rebel without a cause," whereas the bully-boys are "rebels with a cause? If so, their cause is to impose indifference in the hearts of men; and in particular Christian men.

The only thing that produces a stern condemnation from the "Church" is failure to conform to the Hermeneutic of Indifference. You're more likely to suffer at the hands of "Christian" leaders for rebuking sin and heresy (God forbid, someone become offended). "Our numbers are small enough," they say, "so we better not offend the adulterers, the paedophiles, the liars, the contraceptors, the effeminate, the idle, the drunkard, the obese, the Judaizer...for as long as we're in "full communion" we're OK. Estne Deus caritas? Deus caritas est, BABY! If it feels good, do it."

I for one wish for the days when the unbelievers were not even allowed to observe Church services (let alone asked for their opinions!), when the believers could only gain access by their good works and the indifferent were ostracized by both. As Bede Frost observed, the pagans of today aren't pagan enough!

Independent said...

Tradition develops and the documents of the Council are part of the Tradition.Did Joseph Ratzinger probably agreed with Newman that Vatican I was unnecessary and unhelpful, as promoted by Ultramontanists who "caused the heart of the faithful to mourn". Personally I find, after contact with some so-called traditionalists, that the Vatican II documents on ecumenism, religious liberty, and other religions, are, far from being tired and dated, a breath of fresh air. They are not obscure and like the 39 Articles can easily be understood, in both cases perhaps we should take what they actually say and not seek verbal dexterity to pretend that they do not change anything or mean what they do not say.

I agree heartily with your last three sentences. Cannot we all learn from the Enlightenment? God's influence is not confined to the Church.