"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Kasper Admits Intentional Ambiguity


Cardinal Walter Kasper made a stunning statement in the pages of L'Osservatore Romano this past Friday. In offering some reflections on the challenges facing the Church and the continued (perpetual) problem of the "true implementation of Vatican II", Kasper, speaking with reference to the documents of the Council, stated:

"In many places, [the Council Fathers] had to find compromise formulas, in which, often, the positions of the majority are located immediately next to those of the minority, designed to delimit them. Thus, the conciliar texts themselves have a huge potential for conflict, open the door to a selective reception in either direction." (Cardinal Walter Kasper, L'Osservatore Romano, April 12, 2013)

In the Cardinal's statements, we basically have an affirmation of a fundamental thesis of Michael Davies and most Traditionalists: that the Council documents themselves have ambiguities in them and are subject to a multitude of interpretations. This concept of Conciliar ambiguity has been denied by many conservative/pop apologists, who insist that the Council documents are plain as day and it is only the malice of dissenters pushing a false implementation that is responsible for our current confusion.

Traditionalists, however, and ironically, Kasper, too, have insisted, however, that the destruction that followed the Council can be read back into the documents themselves. Even if the Council Fathers did not intend for the disaster that followed the Council (and most agree they did not), the documents themselves were constructed in such a way as to permit progressive interpretations when put into the hands of progressive theologians or bishops. Contra the conservative mantra of "perfect documents - imperfect implementation", Kasper affirms the Traditionalist critique of "imperfect documents lead to imperfect implementation." Benedict XVI had made the same point. There is an intimate connection between the documents and their implementation.

But Kasper does more than just admit that "the conciliar texts themselves have a huge potential for conflict"; he goes on to state that these ambiguities, these potential conflicts, were part of anintentional program. He does not simply say the texts will bear various interpretations, but that these ambiguous passages were "compromise formulas" brought forth to placate two opposing sides, in such a way that they can be interpreted in an orthodox manner, but just as easily can be twisted by the progressives to lend seeming support to their mischief.

These are what the late Michael Davies called the "timebombs" in the conciliar texts. Davies wrote, "These 'timebombs' were ambiguous passages inserted into the official documents by the liberal periti or experts - passages which would be interpreted in an untraditional, progressivist sense after the Council closed." (Michael Davies, Liturgical Timebombs, Rockford, Ill: Tan Books, 2004, pg. 23). Davies borrowed the phrase "timebombs" from Archbishop Lefebvre's book A Bishop Speaks, which had basically put forward the same argument. In Kasper's interview, we have nothing less than an admission that there were not only timebombs, but that they were placed there intentionally, and in this he and Lefebvre are in agreement. This is a stunning admission.

Kasper made many other interesting statements that undermine other aspects of the conservative narrative of the Council. For example:

“For most Catholics, the developments put in motion by the council are part of the church’s daily life. But what they are experiencing is not the great new beginning nor the springtime of the church, which were expected at that time, but rather a church that has a wintery look, and shows clear signs of crisis.”

This is contra to the prevailing mantra from the JPII era that we are experiencing a 'new springtime" and a candid admission that there is in fact a crisis, despite the fact that some, such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan, continue to deny this plain truth. This simple admission of fact, that the Church is in crisis and is not experiencing the promised post-conciliar springtime, is of considerable importance in moving forward, and whatever else we may think of Kasper, I appreciate his sincerity here.

Speaking of the confusion that ensued after the Council, Kasper said:

"For those who know the story of the twenty councils recognized as ecumenical, this [the state of confusion] will not be a surprise.The post-conciliar times were almost always turbulent. The[Second] Vatican, however, is a special case."

This important admission, which I have also stated elsewhere, really debunks the conservative Catholic talking-point that what we are experiencing in the modern Church is normal, since there is 'always confusion after a Council.' That may be true, but Kasper notes that the confusion that followed Vatican II is "a special case", different from the turbulence of previous periods. This, too, is a point that is often made by Traditionalists, who see in the Second Vatican Council not just another ecclesial event with the standard level of confusion after the fact, but rather a new kind of ecclesial event that cannot be so easily classed alongside the Councils of the past.

Cardinal Kasper affirms the positions of Michael Davies, Lefebvre and the Traditionalists? These are strange times, indeed.

There is a paraphrase of Kasper's comments here, or you can read the original through Google translate at this blog. As of yet, the L'Osservatore Romano Englsih site has not posted the articles from the previous week, but I will link it up when it becomes available.

1 comment:

  1. This was great analysis of some very illuminating comments. However, I would like to point out one point about the ambiguity issue. A common Traditionalist position is that the ambiguities are essential parts of the documents themselves. This itself seems to be borne out by the Cardinal's comments. However, the second part of that common Traditionalist position is that the ambiguities themselves invalidate the documents wherever they CAN be misconstrued (or "poorly implemented" per your take of Conservatives).

    However, my own analysis on these ambiguities is as follows: 1) They WERE put in intentionally. 2) They were put in by the Progressives to get THEIR (often heretical) interpretation into the documents themselves. 3) The Progressives have used, are using, and will use THEIR interpretations to create and sustain the Spirit of Vatican II. 4) The non-Progressives let the ambiguities into the documents in the spirit of compromise. 5) The non-Progressives knew then and know now, as explained by Pope Benedict, that all teachings must be interpreted in a hermeneutic of continuity. 6) Thus, a heretical interpretation of an ambiguity in a Council document is an INVALID interpretation, and, no matter how much used, carries NO WEIGHT.

    I see the ambiguities making it into the document as being the Progressive's version of a "Hail Mary" pass--and once the ambiguities made it in, the Progressives thought they had changed Church teaching. (They certainly act that way now.) However, the non-Progressives knew that ambiguities could go in, but only consistent, continuous doctrine could come out, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Progressives goal was thwarted by the very means they used to try to accomplish it. Therefore, nothing invalid or contradictory can be read into the ambiguities, even if the ambiguities were intentionally placed into the documents.

    Now, whether letting in the ambiguities just to get documents passed is ever a good PRUDENTIAL move, well, let's say time has proven that it was NOT.

    Michael Val
    (who hasn't read every document of VII, and it's been a while since he has read those he did)