Thursday, July 26, 2007

More of my motu proprio commentary

Appearing in today's Catholic Times is a commentary I wrote on "recent Vatican documents" -- that is, the pope's motu proprio and the CDF's doctrinal statement. For your online enjoyment, eccoloqua:

Recent documents help interpret Vatican II
By Franz Klein
Catholic Times Columnist

The release of two Vatican documents in quick succession created a media flurry these past few weeks.

First came Pope Benedict XVI’s “Summorum Pontificum,” the long-expected motu proprio that established the Tridentine Mass as the “extraordinary” form of the Roman Rite, abrogating any special permissions needed to celebrate it.

A few short days later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its own “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church.” In a series of questions and answers, this cumbersomely named document clarified that, even after Vatican II, the one true Church of Christ remains the Roman Catholic Church.

In some circles, these two documents proved far from being occasions for rejoicing.

Speaking about the pope’s motu proprio, Italian Bishop Luca Brandolini complained to La Repubblica that ”a reform for which many people worked, with great sacrifice and only inspired by the desire to renew the Church, has now been cancelled.”

“I can’t fight back my tears. This is the saddest moment in my life as a man, priest and bishop. … It’s a day of mourning, not just for me but for the many people who worked for the Second Vatican Council,” Bishop Brandolini added.

Ecclesiastics like Bishop Brandolini, a renowned liturgist who became head of the Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo diocese, belong to what is known as the “Bologna School,” founded by Father Giuseppe Dossetti in the aftermath of the Council. According to their line of thought, the Council must be followed, not according to its letter, but according to its “spirit.”

Foremost in their thinking is that a fundamental rupture, following a “hermeneutic of discontinuity,” took place. With this rupture, a “breath of fresh air” was to enter the Church, and both liturgy and doctrine were to take a radically new direction that conformed with modern ways of thinking.

An American proponent of the Bologna School would be Notre Dame University’s dissident theologian Father Richard McBrien.

“The strongest and, in the long run, the most effective opposition to the Second Vatican Council comes not from the vocal detractors of the Council’s spirit and orientation but rather from those who insist that the Council really changed nothing at all,” Father McBrien wrote last year.

All this in spite of Blessed Pope John XXIII’s clear warning as the Council began, that he wished “to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion.”

And all this in spite of Pope Paul VI’s warning during the Council that “what was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach.”

For Bishop Brandolini, Father McBrien and other members of the Bologna School, the election of Pope Benedict XVI, a Council attendee, to the papacy has proven to be a worst nightmare.

“The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church,” Pope Benedict told the Roman Curia in 2005, warning of what might come.

Now the pope has matched his warning with the beginnings of a remedy, in the form of two documents – namely, his motu proprio and the CDF’s doctrinal clarification.

“The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine; rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it,” the CDF document said regarding Catholic doctrine on the nature of the Church.

And regarding the Tridentine Mass, the pope wrote, “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

Practically speaking, these documents will eventually help ordinary, everyday Catholics to experience the delayed fruits of the council – both in terms of liturgy and doctrine.

By allowing the older form of the liturgy to coexist alongside the newer form, the pope’s motu proprio should make it easier to weed out anything contrary to tradition in the newer form. And by eliminating erroneous ideas regarding the nature of the Church, the CDF’s clarification should nurture an ecumenism that begins honestly by recognizing what the Church can’t give up – that she is the true Church instituted by Christ.

Are these two documents cure-alls? Certainly not. A hundred and fifty years after the Council of Trent, the Vatican was still correcting misinterpretations of that Council’s teachings. But maybe now, over four decades after Vatican II, we can at least start to experience the fruits of our own generation’s council.

1 comment:

Shimmy said...

"There is no pope" (Gertrude Stein).