The Tablet (aka RU-486) has a really bad editorial about the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
The editorial is an example of cowardice.
There are courageous liberals and cowardly liberals. Courageous liberals come right out and say “The Council was wrong!” about X or Y. Cowardly liberals, on the other hand, pretend that their teachings were embraced by the Council, that their agenda is consonant with the Council. That is why cowardly liberals like to refer to the “spirit of Vatican II”. They argue that “the letter kills and the spirit gives life”. For cowards, literal interpretations of the documents fail to encompass the spirit of the documents. A good theologian, however, like a good exegete, understands that spirit and letter are tied together. The letter tethers spiritual interpretations of texts. The interpretation of the documents by some liberal theologians is as far away from the actual text of the documents as Pluto is from the Sun (and we aren’t even sure if Pluto is a planet at all).
There are so many things wrong with the editorial that I can’t go through them all at once. We can, however, drill into a few points. Let’s look at this paragraph, for example:
It was a fundamentally wise move of Pope Benedict XVI to urge the Church to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council by returning to, and studying afresh, the actual texts the council approved.
They don’t mean this. They’re scared to death that people might read the documents. They don’t want Catholics to know what the documents actually say. They’d rather talk about the ‘spirit of Vatican II’.
All that sounds simple; it is not. Half a century after the opening ceremony in October 1962, the Catholic Church is not the same as it was. The council changed it. The four subsequent papacies changed it further. The conciliar texts cannot therefore be read now as they were read when they were new…
That’s right, Catholics couldn’t possibly understand written texts about the Church that are 50 years old. 50 years, for heaven’s sake!! What a leap of time! How can people possibly understand texts that are 50 years old?
How can we understand President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, “Ask not what your country can do for you…”. How can we understand the UN Declaration on Human Rights any longer?!?
The Church has changed. The world has changed. Nuns don’t wear habits anymore. The Mass? Well, it’s a shadow of its preconciliar self. Oh, but wait, liberals aren’t supposed to say that about the New Order of the Mass. What they’re supposed to say – what they want others to believe – is that the New Mass is in complete continuity with the Old Mass. So forget the Mass. It hasn’t substantially changed. But the Church has alright.
Come to think of it, it’s a wonder we can make any sense out of the New Testament, isn’t it? After all, it’s almost 2,000 years old! And the Church has changed since the New Testament was written. So why do liberals trust liberal scripture scholars to be able to tell us what the New Testament texts meant at the time they were written?
Yes, fifty whole years! That’s a loooong time to remember what words like, oh, let’s see…. hierarchy, obedience, Vicar of Christ, authority, infallibility (all found in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium) meant when those words were written. By The Tablet‘s reasoning we can no longer understand terms like ecumenism and religious liberty either.
Gaudium et spes was promulgated in 1965! By The Tablet’s reasoning we soon will not be able to grasp the condemnation in Gaudium et spes of the destruction of entire cities during wars.
Okay… let’s go on with another dopey paragraph.
The council’s brief, as given by Pope John XXIII both when he announced it and when he opened it, was to seek an aggiornamento – an “opening to the world”. While the council was still in being, his successor, Paul VI, endorsed it and made it his own motto. “We want to bring it to the notice of the whole Church,” he declared in 1964. “It should prove a stimulus to the Church to increase its ever-growing vitality and its ability to take stock of itself, and give careful consideration to the signs of the times, always and everywhere ‘proving all things and holding fast that which is good’ with the enthusiasm of youth.”
Here’s what Blessed Pope John XXIII actually said in his opening address to the Council:
“What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith, without forfeiting that accuracy and precision in its presentation which characterized the proceedings of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. What is needed, and what everyone imbued with a truly Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit craves today, is that this doctrine shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on men’s moral lives. What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, [Hey Tablistas! Get that?] be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else.”
Moreover, a document issued by the CDF in 1973 under explicit instructions from Pope Paul VI, said this:
“Such an opinion is likewise in contrast with Pope John’s assertion regarding Christian doctrine at the opening of the Second Vatican Council: “This certain and unchangeable doctrine, to which faithful obedience is due, has to be explored and presented in a way that is demanded by our times. One thing is the deposit of faith, which consists of the truths contained in sacred doctrine, another thing is the manner of presentation, always however with the same meaning and signification.” Since the Successor of Peter is here speaking about certain and unchangeable Christian doctrine, about the deposit of faith which is the same as the truths contained in that doctrine and about the truths which have to be preserved with the same meaning, it is clear that he admits that we can know the true and unchanging meaning of dogmas. What is new and what he recommends in view of the needs of the times pertains only to the modes of studying, expounding and presenting that doctrine while keeping its permanent meaning. In a similar way the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI exhorted the pastors of the Church in the following words: “Nowadays a serious effort is required of us to ensure that the teaching of the faith should keep the fullness of its meaning and force, while expressing itself in a form which allows it to reach the spirit and heart of the people to whom it is addressed.” (Mysterium Ecclesiae 5)
This obviously ties Paul directly to John’s agenda.
Let’s go back to the editorial for a last example of how slipshod their reasoning is. Have a look at this howler:
What the texts are, are snapshots taken from a journey, and a great deal of theological territory was covered in the course of it. The early texts are manifestly immature. In some cases – such as, for example, the embarrassingly poor decree on the mass media – they were proceeded with because other texts were not yet ready for debate.
The document on “mass media” is called Inter mirifica. It was one of the first two documents promulgated by the Council. For The Tablet, early documents are “manifestly immature”. The other document promulgated – on the same day – with Inter mirifica was the Constitution on Liturgy called Sacrosanctum Concilium. The Tablet didn’t mention this fact. Does The Tablet even know this?
And in case The Tablet types have forgotten, women’s ordination doesn’t occur anywhere in the documents of Vatican II.
Fr. Finigan has a good post about this dreadful editorial on his fine blog. HERE.