"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)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vatican II: 50 Years of Failure or Fruition?

Glancing through the Universe Catholic Newspaper (which I received free this past week) I came across an article by Fr Sean McDonagh in which he evaluated the Survey conducted in Ireland by the Association of Catholic Priests in February of this year. It indicates that 75% of Catholics say Catholic sexual teaching has no relevance. This rises to 82% among 25-34 year olds. 87% of Catholics think Holy Communion should be given to those who are re-married after divorce or in a stable relationship after divorce. This rises to 92% among those aged 35-54.

When one looks at these indicators is it possible to say the Church has been renewed in the last fifty years? No Executive Board or CEO of any organisation would claim business is on the up when its workforce is shrinking and many of those who remain are in revolt. The shrinkage of the Church is undeniable: Mass attendance and priestly ordinations are falling; schools, convents and seminaries are closing. The revolt is indicated in the Survey from Ireland, and the CDF’s ‘Dialogue with the deaf’: the LCWR in the USA (or the ‘Magisterium of Nuns’) as described by Cardinal Levada here. This shrinkage and revolt do not indicate renewal to me, but decimation. From where does such decimation arise?

I think it started as much with Person-centred Psychology and Non-Directive Counselling / Therapy as with existentialism. These were highly attractive in the post-war years and remain so simply because they facilitate concupiscence, which is fundamentally an orientation toward the self; they allow man to fall into self-focused extremes and to dissent from the Church under the misuse of ‘Do not judge’, distorting the Biblical injunction which forbids the judging of people by making it an injunction not to judge actions, such as abortion. Thus began the rejection of Church teaching in morality in order ‘not to judge’, with dissenters claiming to be acting in ‘loyal dissent’ –actually a contradiction in terms and more accurately expressed as ‘loyal disloyalty’. Thus the spirit of freedom from external authority so as to self-actualise in autonomous, self-direction took off.

This spirit seems to have infiltrated the Council by deliberate intent, cf. Fr Schillebeeckx, Dutch magazine De Bazuin, No. 16, 1965: “We will express it [ambiguity?] in a diplomatic way, but after the Council, we will draw the implicit conclusions." (“We have used ambiguous phrases in the Council and we know how we will interpret them afterwards” is another translation of the same statement). This spirit of autonomy necessarily replaces the Rock of Peter with the shifting sands of self-directing autonomy.

I have to say I think good fruits have come from the Council, which I accept was an authentic act of the Magisterium: the laity truly experience themselves as members of the Church, and have a magisterial teaching which declares they have a genuine (and primary) apostolate of their own: that of being the leaven in the world. We are also able to pray and work alongside our Non-Catholic brethren (inter-communion being excluded) while at the same time holding to the Council’s teaching that

the separated Churches and Communities ...though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church...
For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. (Unitatis Redintegratio, 3. Vatican Council II, emphasis added).


...all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it...
Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfil their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ. (Dignitatis Humanae, 1. Vatican II, emphasis added).

Sadly, excesses and distortions appear to have grown alongside the good fruits, perhaps because of the ambiguities Schillebeeckx infers were written into the texts. As a result, laity began to be used as pseudo-clerics, standing shoulder to shoulder with the priests in the sanctuary and sitting shoulder to shoulder with them in Committee rooms. And we have encouraged them in this, rather than in the Council’s actual call for them to be the leaven in the world of media, medicine, education, factories and fields etc., where they are the Church’s indispensible front-line apostles. At the same time, religious indifferentism threatened to take hold as a result of misunderstanding ecumenical activity, prompting a loss of the Council’s statement that while other communions can give access to salvation, their efficacy to do so flows from the Catholic Church.

I suggest there is a need for us all to value and promote the laity’s proper, authentic role as the leaven of society if we are to truly value the lay state; that there is a need for the clergy to grow in the valuing of their primary role of teaching, sanctifying and governing while assisting and guiding the laity in their apostolate in the world, and a real need to restore what is identifiably Catholic in our worship (Latin and the ad orientem orientation, as perSacrosanctum Concilium 36, 54 and 116). We might also consider restoring a right understanding of the Church as the One True Church and of the Papacy, setting prudent limits on the idea that a Pope must consult at every stage of every decision. He may indeed be one of the Bishops, but without him, even the collective College of Bishops has no authority (Lumen Gentium 22).

Rome might well remind us all that the Deposit of Faith is unchanging; that the Faith taught and preached by Trent and Vatican I is still the Faith to be taught and preached today; that while we can develop our understanding of Tradition it can never be developed in such a way that it stands at odds with Trent and Vatican I. Let Rome remind us, in the words of Pope John XXIII in opening Vatican II, that

...from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a Magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character. (Opening Speech to Vatican II, Pope John XXIII).

Posted by Fr Dickson at 16:01



Vatican II and the Year of Faith
Today we begin celebrating the Year of Faith and the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Pope asks that we renew our faith in light of that Council and the Catechism which followed it, but I wonder if we don’t first need to promote a correct understanding of the Council before we can renew ourselves in its light because, sad to say, it remains a source of division.

Surely we are happy to support Vatican II when read in the light of all the other Councils (the hermeneutic of continuity) since, being of the One True God who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb.13v8), it cannot contradict previous dogmatic teaching, only develop it; it can introduce new pastoral disciplines but not demand we unquestioningly accept those disciplines which are, after all, prudential judgments, not dogma.

Most sincere Catholics are likely wearied by folks on the extremes of the Vatican II debate; wearied by those who claim to support Vatican II yet will not live by its teachings and disciplines where those teachings and disciplines have a pre-1962 history, and wearied by those who reject it as inconsistent with pre-1962 teaching (if it were, would Archbishop Lefebvre have added his signature to its documents?).

What about a cursory, personal inventory of where we stand in regard to Vatican II; one understandable by the average Joe and the Prelate? I wonder if we could agree that:

That the Bishops rule the Church in union with the Pope: The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church.

That the Pope remains superior to the Bishops both individually and collectively: The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church.

These are not contradictory positions: one subjugates Episcopal Authority, which the Pope has in common with every other Bishop, to Papal Authority, which the Pope alone possesses.

That laity are properly called to act in the world, yet can voice an opinion on Church matters and undertake ecclesial tasks: An individual layman, who must take on the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation led by the Gospel and the mind of the Church… is, by reason of knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which he may enjoy, permitted and sometimes obliged to express his opinion on things which pertain to the good of the Church.

That the ecclesial tasks undertaken by the laity are supervised by the clergy: Whether laity offer themselves spontaneously or are invited to act and cooperate directly with the hierarchy, they do so under the higher direction of the hierarchy itself (AA20 and 24).

These are not necessarily contradictory statements either, but a recognition that while the laity can engage in ecclesial-centered tasks, they do so under the direction of the hierarchy since the authentic (proper) role of the laity is the renewing of the secular world with the light of the Gospel.

That the ordained teach and rule the people of God, and that they alone can confect the Eucharist: the ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people.

That the faithful, who exercise their priesthood by reception of the sacraments, unite their self-offering to the Sacrifice offered by the ordained: The faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity (the exercise of the royal priesthood)

These statements are not contradictory. Since the priesthood of the ordained and of the laity differ from one another in essence and not only in degree,the exercise of their priesthoods differ.

That non-Catholics can be saved: Some, even many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, yet...

That it is only the Catholic Church which saves: Non-Catholic communitiessuffer from defects, and although the Spirit of God has not refrained from using them as a means of salvation [they] derive their efficacy from the fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.

These are not contradictory statements but situate the effectiveness of non-Catholic religions in the context of the Catholic Church as the sole means of salvation established by Christ.

that the human person has a right to religious freedom; that this freedom means all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or social groups and any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his beliefs.

That all remain obliged to seek the Truth of the Catholic Church: Religious freedom, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.

These determine that while man has a right to religious liberty he still has the duty to seek the Truth and the One True Church of Christ which subsists [originates and permanently exists] in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.

That we are to follow our conscience: It is through his conscience that man sees and recognizes the demands of the divine law; he is bound to follow this conscience faithfully in all his activity so that he may come to God, who is his last end. Therefore, he must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience nor prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.

That conscience must be formed in light of the Church’s authoritative teaching: It can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgements about acts to be performed or already committed; and that this ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a person takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin. Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and teaching, lack of conversion and charity can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

That the Pope’s teachings do not require ‘reception’ by the Church for validity: The Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, he confirms his brethren in their faith. His definitions are, of themselves and not from the consent of the Church, justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgement. Religious submission of intellect and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, and the judgments made by him sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.

That use of the vernacular is acceptable and useful: A suitable place may be allotted to the mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer”, but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of the Council’s Constitution.

That Latin is to remain in use even by the laity: Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. Wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of [the Council’s Constitution] should be observed. Gregorian chant, as specially suited to the Roman liturgy, and all other things being equal [one to another], should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

That the Missal, as promulgated in 1969 by His Holiness Pope Paul VI in order to give concrete expression to the liturgical decrees of the Councilretains both the altar-facing position for the priest from the offertory onwards and the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, and therefore that these ought to be promoted in faithfulness to the Council, to the Missal, and to the memory and manifest intention of Pope Paul VI.

From the General Instruction:
Note No. 115 where the priest faces the people; No. 116 where he faces the altar, and No. 117 where Communion is obviously received on the tongue.

From the Rubrics of the Order of Mass
Note No. 133 where the priest faces the people and No. 134 where he turns back to facing the altar:

Have some of us wrong-footed ourselves in our walk with the Council? It is my hope that the Year of Faith will help the whole Church to rediscover Vatican II in its continuity with Tradition. It was my hope the discussions between the SSPX and Rome would produce unity and a clarification of Vatican II's disputed and more difficult texts. Sadly that was not to be at the time.

Posted by Fr Dickson at 11:18

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