A Swiss bishop sounds off about Vatican II

A reader sent me the following from the website of the Diocese of Basel, Switzerland.   His Excellency Most Rev. Kurt Koch has weighed in with comments in a rather highly amped German-language speaking environment.  As you know there is a lot of tension right now in the German-speaking areas over traditional expressions of Catholicism. 

This is from the July 2009 monthly newsletter to the priests of the Diocese of Basel with my emphases and comments.

What moves me?

More honesty please! [A good way to start.]

In the last few weeks a lot of journalists, and also some clergy, have been expressing their opinions of Pope Benedict. [Surely this has to do with Summorum Pontificum  and the lifting of the SSPX excommunications.] In these opinions were also contained many half-truths, untruths, and slanders.The worst accusation asserts that the Pope wishes to go back to before the Second Vatican Council. This accusation is the worst because it implies that the very person who possesses the teaching authority of the universal Church would work to undermine the authority of the council. This verdict, however, would be completely mistaken. As a young theologian, in fact, Benedict XVI contributed very much to the council. [And, as a young theologian he also criticized some aspects of the Council's documents.]  Anyone who seeks to understand the Pope now — not just from the media — but also by reading what he writes, would come to the conclusion that he has oriented his entire magisterium on the council. [Hmmm... interesting statement.  "...dass er sein ganzes Lehramt am Konzil orientiert".  Maybe a better way to say this is "toward the Council"?  He has grounded his own teaching as Pope in the Council documents?  Fine.  But at the same time I wonder if we would do better to say that Benedict has reoriented the Council, rather, the understanding - the interpretation - of the Council toward the entire Magisterium?] How should we then understand the accusation being made?

Many people have signed a petition for the unqualified acceptance of the council. Right from the start, the expression "unqualified acceptance" irritates me because I don’t know anyone — myself included — to whom it would apply. A few arbitrarily chosen examples will suffice:  [This is great....]

      – The council did not abolish Latin in the liturgy. On the contrary, it emphasized that in the Roman Rite, apart from exceptional cases, the use of the Latin language must be maintained. Who among the vocal defenders of the council wishes "unqualified acceptance" of that?  [Right.  Hey, you liberals out there!  Wanna sign on to that?]

      – The council declared that the Church regards Gregorian Chant as the "music proper to the Roman Rite", and that it must therefore "be given primary place." In how many parishes is this implemented "without qualification?"  [Liberals only like the parts of the Council that they like.]

      – The council expressly requested that governmental authorities voluntarily give up those rights to participation in the selection of bishops, that had arisen over the course of time. Which defender of the council advocates "without qualification" for that?  [Most liberals think that there should be popular or at least local election of bishops without interference from Rome.]

      – The council described the fundamental nature of the liturgy as the celebration the pascal mystery and the eucharistic sacrifice as "the completion of the work of our salvation." How can that be reconciled with my experience, made in many different parishes, that the sacrificial understanding of the Mass has been completely eliminated from the liturgical language and the Mass is now understood only as a meal or "the breaking of bread?" In what way can one justify this profound change by reference to the council?  [I am starting to like this bishop.]

      – No office of the Church was given more significance by the council that that of bishop. [One might actually argue that way too much significance.] How can we then understand the widespread diminishment in Switzerland of this office of the Church, which is justified by reference to the council? When, for example, Hans Kung denies completely the teaching authority of the bishops, allowing them only the office of pastoral leadership?  [ZzzzzzOT!]

It would not be difficult to lengthen this litany. Even so, it should be obvious why I demand more honesty in the current debate about the council. Instead of accusing others, and even the Pope, of wishing to go back to before the council, everyone would be well advised to look over their own books and reassess their own personal position on the council. [In other words READ THE TEXTS.]  Because not everything that was said and done after the council, was therefore done in accordance with the council — and that applies also to the diocese of Basel. In any case, the last few weeks have illustrated to me that a primary problem in the current situation has been a very poor, and in part very one-sided understanding and acceptance of the council, [We might even call it a "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture".] even by Catholics that defend the council "without qualification." In this regard we all — once more including myself — have a lot of ground to make up. Therefore I again repeat my urgent request: More honesty please!

+ Kurt Koch
Bishop of Basel

 

Official WDTPRS kudos to Bishop Koch!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to A Swiss bishop sounds off about Vatican II

  1. Andrew, medievalist says:

    Wow! And this from a European bishop. The ground really is starting to shift.

    He’ll need our prayers as the inevitable attacks pile onto him from the self-appointed “defenders/interpreters” of the Council.

  2. ssoldie says:

    Please, a rosary every day for Pope Benedict XVI.

  3. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Wow – and Amen, your grace!

    For the young people out there who might not have seen this before, that is what exercising one’s episcopal office looks like.

  4. TNCath says:

    Bishop Koch writes, “The council expressly requested that governmental authorities voluntarily give up those rights to participation in the selection of bishops, that had arisen over the course of time….Hans Kung denies completely the teaching authority of the bishops, allowing them only the office of pastoral leadership?”

    Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe that Bishop Koch is Fr. Kung’s diocesan bishop. I find it quite ironic that Fr. Kung had this to say in a February 2009: interview:

    “We can be happy in Switzerland and the bishopric of Basel that the bishop is elected by the representatives of the diocese and is only confirmed by Rome. But even in this case, Rome has tried repeatedly to use its influence to push through its preferred candidate”

  5. Precentrix says:

    Tip of the mantilla to Monsignor!

    Anyone else with better-than-non-existent-German want to write and encourage him?

  6. Andreas says:

    Absolutely beautiful, inspiring, encouraging, gaudeo, exsulto, laetor, admiror, plaudo, salto …

  7. William Tighe says:

    Well, consider the situation in the Diocese of Basel. A year or so ago the cantonal government prevented Bishop Koch from removing as pastor of his parish a priest who had married and who had the support of his parishioners and the church’s “lay trustees” (I am using the American term here). His predecessor as bishop was a liberal who was “elected” in the face of conservative opposition and Vatican hesitations, and within a year or two he had to resign when his having a long-term concubine was publicized in the press.

    There are, I believe, three Swiss dioceses, Basel, Chur and Sion, in which the bishop is elected. In each one of these, though, the Vatican has a “say” in the process, although the extent to which the Vatican can interpose a veto, and at what stage of the process, differs among these three, although I think that it is Basel that the Vatican has the least amount of “say” in it. Since at least the 80s, if not earlier, the Swiss Catholic “liberals” have been exploiting this system as much as they can. We must thank God that such opportunities for meddlesome “interest groups” to interfere with episcopal appointments, and invoke local civil law in their support, are just about non-existent elsewhere — although even without the support of the law, but simply that of the media, recent events in Austria have demonstrated what harm they can do when faced with a faineant episcopate.

  8. Paul Waddington says:

    Please everyone, pass on this post so that it is read all around the world.

  9. TJM says:

    Wow, wow, and wow. Talk about straight talk. Father Z, I hope you share this with John ALlen at the National Anti-Catholic Reporter and have him ask the editorial board to wriggle out of this one! I love this bishop. Tom

  10. Fr Z. said “Fine. But at the same time I wonder if we would do better to say that Benedict has reoriented the Council toward the entire Magisterium?”

    I would have to disagree with this assessment. [Read it again.]

    There seems to be two understandings of the Council: That within the continuity of the Church and that of a break of continuity. From what I have read of the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, it seems he strongly rejects the concept of a break in continuity and holds the intent was to be understood within the teaching of the Church as a whole. In The Ratzinger Report for example, he strongly objected to the terms pre- and post-conciliar, holding one can neither reject past teachings nor reject the teachings of Vatican II. [In other words, you are agreeing with me.]

    Of course his predecessors from Bl. John XXIII to John Paul II have held the same (see Ad Petri cathedram for example).

    I find it unfortunate of course that we have these “Spirit of Vatican II” propagandists who claim to know what the Council “intended” to do (even though the words say quite the opposite).

    I also find it unfortunate that the traditionalists, who would not accept these people’s opinion on any other Church teaching, seem to accept their view as to what Vatican II was “supposed” to justify.

  11. Fr. Z:

    If I misunderstood your phrase, I’m sorry. However the way the syntax went, it led me to believe you were saying that his Holiness was reinterpreting it differently than originally understood.

    If that’s not your intent, and my understanding of what the pope had to say was what you intended in the first place, then I’ll withdraw my statement of disagreeing with you.

  12. Peter Esser says:

    The remark about the Holy Father “orienting his entire magisterium on the council” doesn’t sound for me as if His Eminency wanted to say “ground the Magisterium on the council”. That would be obviously self-contradicting. For me as a native speaker it sounds more like “orienting the lines of his pontificat according the themes and documents of the council”. So for my understanding “sein Lehramt” doesn’t say “Magisterium” with capital “M”, but rather “his teaching”.

    I agree very much to the commentary of William Tighe, who seems to have a good knowledge about the very special situation of the Church in Switzerland.

    And to Andrew: Yes, this from an European bishop! Thank God we have still got some of them. Fearless shepherds. Precentrix, I will send him an e-mail with your best wishes and prayers.

  13. Peter Esser says:

    (Oups. I made him a cardinal. “His Excellence” would be appropriate for a bishop.)

  14. Mark says:

    “This accusation is the worst because it implies that the very person who possesses the teaching authority of the universal Church would work to undermine the authority of the council.”

    Why is that “the worst” exactly?

    This Pope isnt the same as a council 40 years ago.

    If the political(/psychological) weight of the Council’s authority is downplayed IN FAVOR OF the authority of this Pope, the 260 pre-V-II popes, and the 20 pre-V-II councils…is that really so bad?

    In some sense, didnt V-II and the Popes implementing it…undermine the authority of Trent or Vatican I, for example? Maybe not “officially” obviously, but in terms of overthrowing the psychological hierarchy of those texts and their institutional weight, it clearly did.

    Why must Vatican II continue being our paradigm? Why must it continue to be the touchstone for papal policy?

  15. jamie says:

    So, as Vatican II doesn’t actually teach any of the things that both the SSPX and National Catholic Reporter think it does, why can’t the SSPX accept it? What doctrinal problems are there for the SSPX to work out? Why can’t they accept what the Vatican II documents say, and issue a statement saying “We accept what the Vatican II documents actually say, which is…”? This would help matters greatly. This isn’t so much a liberal-conservative issue, as it is a literate-illiterate issue. This would force the issue such that more liberal and more conservative Catholics would have to deal with looking at what the Council was about, rather than settling into a silly, stubborn reactionary or revolutionary mindset.

  16. Ann says:

    AWESOME letter from this Bishop! Makes me wish the Koch’s in my family tree were related–just excellent. :-) MORE! MORE! If this is typical of this bishop we need more like him! God bless him!

  17. TJM says:

    jamie, funny you mention the National Anti-Catholic Reporter. I don’t think they are ignorant at all in terms of what the Council documents actually say, they simply reject the ones they don’t like. Typical liberal supplanting the views of the Magisterium for their own high flown opinions. Tom

  18. Scott says:

    When I became a real catholic at age 16 ( started going to mass, began to understand the mass and all the churches teachings)I thought that the future of the church was grim. That I was some how out in the cold and that people like me would fall away as time goes by. But Im now 25 and I have so much reason to hope that future of the church is looking good. The World may go to the dogs but God is preparing his Church for it

  19. Tom Lanter says:

    Fr. Z.

    Thank God for a Bishop who is actually Catholic. The problem is many of our Local Ordinaries are just that ordinary, what we need are extraordinary men of God. Priests with courage and a strong faith. Shepherds who protect their flock from every enemy, men who are out front leading their people to Christ.

    Pray for your Bishop.

    Tom Lanter

  20. schoolman says:

    Jamie, I think you will find various camps within the SSPX that would debate the point. Some will have no problem accepting Vatican II “in light of Tradition” while others — having bought into “rupture theology” — find it impossible. I think Bishop Fellay belongs to the former group.

  21. Mr. H. says:

    Wow! What an effective way of taking the argument to those who want to undermine the Church.

    Great stuff!

    Mr. H
    http://www.allhands-ondeck.blogspot.com/

  22. Matt Q says:

    See, there are a FEW good bishops around, and one more to be happily added to the prayer list. :)

    These German bishops on the other hand are so annoying. They are like a bunch of old women spazzing out, drooling on themselves over the new neighbors moving in. Get a life.

  23. Larry says:

    Should I refer to this man as the future Pope Benedict XVII? He sure sounds like a solid one to me.

  24. Hey, this guy is quoting from the actual Council documents. That’s hardly fair is it? [YAH! How uncivil for him to demonize dissenters with texts! o{]:¬) ]

    Shouldn’t these quotes first be submitted to some kind of consilium so that we may be certain that they truly coform to the Spirit of Vatican II?

  25. Bravo! I’m going to borrow this for my posting. One more good bishop to add to my prayers.

  26. Michael says:

    Fr. Z.
    “I wonder if we would do better to say that Benedict has reoriented the Council toward the entire Magisterium?”

    I don’t think so. The Pope Benedict is not above the Council. Nor is the Council some entity that is different from the “entire Magisterium”. They, the Pope, the Council and the “Magisterium” are all constitutive of the Magisterim. That is what the Hermeneutic of Continuity is all about. You seem to propose a discontinuity between the Council and “Magisterium”, between the Pope and the Council, and between the Pope and the “Magisterium”. [No, you didn't understand what I wrote.]

  27. mfg says:

    Thank God for the plain speaking Bishop Kurt Koch. The obvious and sad thing is that if Bishop Koch knows this, all of the German and French Bishops also know it and still they create havoc in the Church. An observation: Before VatII, before 1965, one heard from Bishops and Priests from the pulpit, at Mass, in any other liturgical functions, and also in casual social settings, “…the Catholic Church says…”. It was always “The Catholic Church says”. Since 1965 (with the obvious exception of the new orders committed to tradition) whenever one hears a Priest/Bishop speak, the words have changed to “…Vatican II says…”. I’ll stick with what the Catholic Church says. I’m hopeful that the Motu Proprio which is expected momentarily, in spite of seeming ecclesial efforts to suppress its release, will put things back into proper perspective (eventually!).

  28. PO says:

    William Tighe, in the diocese of Sion, wich is my diocese, the bishop is not elected by the parlament anymore, as it was for 400 years until 1895. This custom disappeared under the Vatican’s pressure in 1919. I think you’re right about the dioceses of Chur and Basel though. In those swiss german dioceses (Sion is in the french-speaking part of Switzerland), i guess the bishops are elected since the 19th century, especially after the Swiss Constitution of 1874, whose grounds were clearly against the catholics.

    I do really like Bishop Koch. He often writes clarifications about the popes actions wich are badly interpreted by the newspapers, and it means that he takes his role of teacher very seriously, wich is unfortunately not always the case among the european bishops. He’s never afraid of showing his support to the pope, despite the fact that a lot of the swiss german catholics are closer to Hans Küng than to Benedict XVI. And he always publishes his notes in both german and french, so almost everybody in Switzerland is able to understand him.

    Fr. Z., thanks from Switzerland for your work and your interesting blog, and sorry for my poor english.

  29. Mitchell NY says:

    Growing up I heard everything in the name of “The Council”. Not once, ever, did anyone ever tell me that Latin as well as Gregorian Chant is to be retained with the allowance for some vernacular parts. Never….Not in Cathecism, in Mass sermons, or among ordinary Catholics…A big, shameful lie was perpertrated against the Church and in fact the Council..More openly exposed, it now should be and shame on clergy who did this…I wonder what Bishops around the world would say to this article, I would love to hear Archbishop Dolan’s thoughts here in NYC..

  30. FranzJosf says:

    In that closing sentiment about ground to make up, I wonder if he’s going to begin moving in that direction? Latin? Gregorian Chant? The Sacrificial nature of the Mass?

    If so, he’ll help the Holy Father’s push for clear Catholic identity

  31. BLC says:

    Deo gratias! What a wonderful bishop!

    Pray for him, and that there may be more like him.

  32. Johnny says:

    “The council did not abolish Latin in the liturgy. On the contrary, it emphasized that in the Roman Rite, apart from exceptional cases, the use of the Latin language must be maintained. Who among the vocal defenders of the council wishes “unqualified acceptance” of that?

    [Right. Hey, you liberals out there! Wanna sign on to that?]

    – The council declared that the Church regards Gregorian Chant as the “music proper to the Roman Rite”, and that it must therefore “be given primary place.” In how many parishes is this implemented “without qualification?”

    [Liberals only like the parts of the Council that they like.]

    “Liberals” aren’t the only Catholics who have failed to promote the Council’s teachings regarding Latin and Gregorian Chant. How many Masses in conservative dioceses and parishes are offered in Latin? Answer: Few.

    Walk into virtually any conservative parish and you will encounter Mass in the vernacular…not to mention ad populum Masses, Communion in the hand received while standing and additional liturgical novelties.

    My conservative parish features altar girls and about 12 “EMs” at virtually every Mass.

  33. Dominic says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Bishop Koch has the reputation of being anything but conservative. I wonder what’s going on?

  34. RichR says:

    Hopeful post.

  35. GOR says:

    Dominic: metanoia perhaps…? I think one of the things the Holy Father is accomplishing is making people (bishops and Cardinals included) re-think their positions on many aspects of the Faith and Church life, including Vat II.

    That is not new for him, as he has been doing that for years in his writings and addresses. But now as Pope he gets more attention and has Papal authority behind him. Not all recognize this or are swayed, but change is happening. Little by little…

  36. RBrown says:

    In several Swiss dioceses the bishop is elected by the Cathedral Chapter, then he must be approved by Rome.

    There is, however, a way around it. Rome may name an auxiliary without the nod of the Cathedral Chapter. Then, when the see is opened, the auxiliary can be promoted to the office of ordinary.

    Also: In Switzerland the parishes are very independent–almost the opposite of the situation in the US, where the diocese owns every parish. Swiss parishes control the salary of the pastor.

  37. Jayna says:

    Kudos, indeed! Of course, the liberal response is that we’re not to take the Council documents literally. That’s the “spirit of Vatican II” at work for you.

  38. irishgirl says:

    Bingo! A Bishop who knows how to ‘bish’!

  39. TerryC says:

    “If I’m not mistaken, Bishop Koch has the reputation of being anything but conservative. I wonder what’s going on?”
    Comment by Dominic

    I think it is very misleading to use the words “liberal” and “conservative” when speaking of Church teaching. One is either orthodox or heretical. I don’t know Bishop Koch, but based upon what has been written here, it seems to me that he is orthodox in his interpretation of Vatican II.

  40. wsxyz says:

    I don’t know Bishop Koch, but based upon what has been written here, it seems to me that he is orthodox in his interpretation of Vatican II.

    Maybe, but he says right at the start that he himself doesn’t accept Vatican II without qualifications. I am guessing that he agrees more with the current state of things than with some of what the texts actually say.

    He just wants people to be honest about their dislike for what Vatican II actually said, instead of claiming to uphold Vatican II while completely ignoring some of the things that the council called for.

  41. Philippe says:

    I am afraid that “Basel” is German. The English name for the city is “Basle”.

  42. Dominic says:

    I went to go look up previous publications by Mgr Kurt Koch, and I came upon his book “Le Credo de Chretiens – une lecture contemporaine” which itself is translated from German. Some of his writings are very surprising. Here is an example:

    “At the origin, when Christ was called Son of God, this filiation passed for an adoption…. According to this primitive formula, it was at the moment of the Resurrection that Christ was established as Son of God. But according to a tradition that is no doubt later, the adoption happened at the moment of the Baptism of Jesus…. When the virgin birth of Jesus is recognized, the moment of divine filiation is situated even earlier, that is, at the birth of the historical Jesus…. The putting in relation of the filiation of Jesus with the concept of pre-existence permitted the crossing of an additional step. The Christ can then be assimilated to a pre-existing divine being…. It’s only once this has been understood that the Son of God is called ‘Only Son’…” (pages 49 and 50)

    Wow. Does anyone share my feeling that this can be put into perspective with Pascendi?

  43. wsxyz says:

    Philippe: I am afraid that “Basel” is German. The English name for the city is “Basle”.

    I am afraid that you are wrong. The usual spelling for the city in English these days is Basel.

  44. MAJ Tony says:

    Basel/Basle: it’s most commonly Basel, with Basle being a rather archaic use of the French Bâle (â [a circumflex]=”a”-silent “s” , which would’ve been pronounced “Bahl” in French, as I understand it. Whatever the pronunciation, the “s” is silent.

  45. Mary Macharia says:

    Thank God I’m on this Websiste. Being a far-off Catholic in Kenya the European view of the Catholic Faith is educative. God bless you all. Mary

  46. Matt K says:

    Will Hans Kung be calling for an impeachment? :)