A little over a year ago, I read something from one of the foremost of the “self-promoting through papalotry” voices of the ecclesiologically progressive gang. It was alarming in its implications.
What I had read was a claim that Vatican II was the interpretive principle through which all of Tradition had to be reinterpreted.
I have been mulling this over for a long time now.
The alarm went off again this week when I saw this tweet from Beans.
What Beans is talking about here is the important address Benedict XVI gave to the Roman Curia before Christmas in 2005, his talk about how to interpret the Second Vatican Council. Benedict identified an interpretive approach or hermeneutic of continuity against a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.
Here’s some of that talk with my emphases:
The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?
Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or – as we would say today – on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.
On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform”, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.
The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.
These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council’s deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.
In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.
The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one.
This, friends, points in the direction of the foundational ideas of the progressivist attacks on the people who want Traditional sacred liturgical worship.
Eventually the progressivists want to sweep aside Catholic moral teaching, discipline, and worship. Those who desire traditional sacred worship stand in the way of those objectives. This is because “we are our rites”. Worship is doctrine. It is our identity. Therefore, people who want traditional worship must be shoved to the periphery and … over it.
Here is the core of the progressivist complaint against “trads” and, indeed, conservatives in general whom they claim are “against Vatican II”. That’s the constant accusation isn’t it?
Here is the connection with Benedict XVI’s 2005 talk, which Beans mentioned above. Beans gave us the compass for their map.
NB: Benedict XVI’s Christmas Curia talk was a critique of German Jesuit Karl Rahner’s thoughts about the Council, which are the essential fuel driving what progressivists are doing today to bring about their goals, the approval of all manner of innovation from the transformation of the Church into a global NGO to the approval of sodomy.
Beans’ tweet, above, accuses Benedict of not knowing what he was talking about in his own talk. But Benedict’s talk was a criticism of Rahner’s view of the Council. Ergo….!
… we must turn our attention to that monumentally important figure for theology in the second half of the last century, Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ (what else).
To keep this short, here is Rahner’s understanding of Vatican II.
In 1979 Rahner published an article in Theological Studies called “Towards a Fundamental Theological Interpretation of Vatican II”. For Rahner, Vatican II constituted a unique event, tantamount to the foundational “Apostolic” Council of Jerusalem recounted in Acts 15 which, among other concrete issues, dealt with the nascent Church being comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. For Rahner, Vatican II was unique in the sense that the Council of Jerusalem was unique, beginning a new era in the Church. No other Council was like it. The Council of Jerusalem brought in the Gentiles in a way that made the Church essentially Judeo-Hellenic in the Roman world, thus leading to centuries of Eurocentric or Western cultural domination of the Church. Vatican II, for Rahner, shattered that framework, transforming the Eurocentric Church into a “world Church”.
Moreover, Vatican II was such a titanic and dynamic event that it is ongoing. Hence the “impulses”, which Benedict mentioned, are still at work in the ongoing “spirit” of Vatican II. Rahner reiterated his notions about Vatican II in a 1979 talk at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, MA, where he argued that Vatican II was the self-actualization of a “world Church”, no longer predominantly Eurocentric, but now influenced and even steered by the Southern Hemisphere, etc.
At the Council of Jerusalem, they had to cope with a shift from a monocultural Church to one that embraced many cultures. Vatican II was another tectonic shift, opening to the whole world and, indeed, letting in the whole world. That has implications, of course. How does such a Church embrace such diversity and still remain the same Church, handed down in continuity? What is inculturation? What if there are conflicts with the world’s ways in culture X or Y?
The progressives, imbued with Rahner’s notion of the Council as a unique and ongoing event, a reimagining of the Church as it were, claim themselves to be justified not just to interpret but to reinterpret all of the Church’s history, liturgy, doctrine and discipline.
Because they stand not on the texts of the Council but the “impulses” they derive from the texts and the “spirit” of those impulses, and because Vatican II is “ongoing”, everything that the Church does in Cult (worship), Code (disciple) and Creed (doctrine) is subject to abolition, transformation, etc. according to the needs of the world.
It makes no difference that John XXIII at the opening of the Council said in his “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia” speech, that this Council, Vatican II, required the same accuracy and precision as Trent and Vatican I, or that certain and immutable doctrines, though expressed in new terms, must remain with their meaning preserved intact.
It is no wonder that Beans and others look condescendingly at Ratzinger, who stands in opposition to Rahner’s false notion of the Council as constituting a tectonic shift in the Church unlike every other Council all the back to the primoradial, pre-ecumenical Council of Jerusalem.
The framework that the progressivists are working from is Rahner’s notion that Vatican II was the self-actualization of a “world Church”, no longer bound by Eurocentric thought or modes of expression. Hence, if celibacy isn’t really a thing in, say, Africa, then celibacy probably has to go. If this is a world Church open to the cultures of non-Westerners, then why can’t you have Pachamama on the altar of St. Peter’s? Why not have all manner of cultural expressions in the Mass? The one thing that is truly questionable is, of course, anything that is done the way things were always done.
You can, from this point of view, see why the Rahnerian framework justifies promotion of … anything… as acceptable, nay rather, obligatory in the Church.
You can see why they fear the Traditional Latin Mass, and all that it stands for.