Saturday, January 22, 2011

Every So Often...

...I write another post that is basically the same rant regarding clichés about Vatican II that annoy me. Well, here's another version, more concise, this time taken from something I wrote as a comment somewhere else.

There's been much talk in the blogosphere lately of Bishop Athanasius Schneider's call for a new "Syllabus of Errors" to counteract "misinterpretations" of Vatican II. There is much traddie excitement over this concept, but I personally have to agree with Arturo Vasquez:

Calling for a new Syllabus of Errors strikes me as one of those paradoxical statements, such as “no freedom for the enemies of freedom”. For a council that explicitly aimed to convince rather than condemn (seen in the tragicomic governing style of John Paul II – except if you were a Marxist), the final farcical act would be to use authority for anti-authoritarian purposes (“I said be convinced about our communion of love, dammit, or you’re out of the Church!”)
There is all this concern with showing that Vatican II was in continuity with previous teachings, but maybe it wasn’t. There are some matters (like how to interact with other religions) which are mere prudential questions of diplomacy/politics/administrative tactics etc. On these, the institutional church can and clearly did make a 180-degree turn.

And we should just admit that rather than try to do all these mental gymnastics to square the circle and “reconcile,” say, Dignitatis Humanae, with the Syllabi. Just admit this is a mere prudential question, that the two approaches are very different, but that both are potentially valid opinions (especially in different historical circumstance), and that Catholics are free to disagree about what is the best approach for the modern day, about whether the approach called for by Vatican II and used since is still best (or even whether it was ever prudent).

Let’s not try to “spin” continuity into existence where there isn’t any. Some things just changed (but they weren’t the unchangeable dogmatic sort of thing). There can be no discussion about whether these were good changes (or, on the other hand, bad changes) until we admit they were huge changes. Let’s get it over with.

We don't have to discard the Council. It was an ecumenical council to be sure, and infallible (inasmuch as it didn't declare any heresies; then again, it didn't declare any dogmas either). But one that is perhaps largely irrelevant. It is my constant plea: can't we just move on already? It's almost 50 years later, can we please stop using that as our constant reference point, prooftexting all decisions with references to it?

As I will once again quote Ratzinger himself as saying, "Not every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis many of them have been just a waste of time." And obviously, we move "beyond" Councils all through history. Vatican II itself was an attempt to "move beyond" the ethos of Trent and Vatican I, which dominated the Church for 400 years.

Then again, I've obviously come to appreciate some of the "attitude change" in the Church when it comes to what we might call a greater freedom of thought and opportunities for lay (intellectual) involvement. So it wasn't all bad. My blog certainly would not exist under the regime of the Syllabi!

Furthermore, let’s not pretend the mere disciplinary suggestions of the Council were some sort of mandate which tie our hands until…when? The next Council? No. That’s why talk of trying to create the “true” liturgical reform that Vatican II called for irks me to no end. The "true implementation" can only be the one the Pope approves.

Paul VI approved the Novus Ordo. Did the committee go seemingly beyond what was called for in Sacrosanctum Consilium? You bet. But then, the Pope is free, on purely disciplinary questions like this, to go further than a council suggests, to be more conservative than a council suggests, to modify a council’s suggestions, or to ignore them completely, when it comes to the liturgical implementation.

I’m not saying I support the Novus Ordo, just that “what the Council ‘really’ intended” is a meaningless concept; there were 4000 bishops there! Some (like Lefebvre) probably imagined nothing more than some minor changes, maybe vernacular propers. Others (like Bugnini) obviously did have the Novus Ordo in mind. Other bishops probably imagined something like the 1965 books. Many probably had no particular concrete vision and just signed onto vague notions of “reform.”

As such, rather than worrying about trying to implement “the true liturgy of the Council” the Pope should worry about what is best liturgically for the Church's needs today. Who cares whether that’s "what the Council 'really' envisioned” or not!?!?! And that goes for all the "pastoral" decisions of Vatican II: if "what the Council 'really' intended" wouldn't or doesn't maximize the glory of God through the salvation of souls, then why should it be any sort of standard for us today? The Council existed for the good of the Church, not the Church for the good of the Council…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander as well. There were and are plenty of liberals who although they didn't reject the dogma of Papal Infallibility still weren't happy about it being defined at Vatican I. These are mostly the same people, unfortunately, who would happily excommunicate those who disagree with the American-inspired wishy-washy agenda put into action at Vatican II.