Thursday, December 22, 2005

Vatican II Texts Were Misinterpreted, Says Pope

Vatican II Texts Were Misinterpreted, Says Pope
Explains Roots of Crisis That Hit Church in Wake of Council

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2005 ( The crisis that arose in the Church after the Second Vatican Council wasn't due to the conciliar documents, but rather in their interpretation, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made a long analysis of the legacy left by the 1962-1965 gathering of the world's bishops, when he met today with his aides in the Roman Curia to express his Christmas greetings.

The Holy Father asked rhetorically: "What has been good and what has been insufficient or mistaken?" in the implementation of the Council.

According to Benedict XVI, the reception of the Council's messages took place according to two interpretations that "confronted each other and have had disputes between them."

The first interpretation is the one the Pope called "hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture" "between the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church."

According to this view, what is important about the Council is not its texts but the spirit of renewal brought to the Church, the Holy Father said. This view, he observed, "has often been able to make use of the media's liking, and also of a part of modern theology."

Of reform

The other interpretation is "the hermeneutics of reform," which was proposed by the Popes who opened and closed the Council, John XXIII and Paul VI, and which is bearing fruits "in a silent but ever more visible way," said Benedict XVI.

According to this view, the objective of the Council and of every reform in the Church is "to transmit the doctrine purely and fully, without diminutions or distortions," conscious that "our duty not only consists in guarding this precious treasure, as though we were concerned only with antiquity, but in dedicating ourselves with a firm will and without fear to the work that our age calls for," the Pope said.

"One thing is the deposit of faith, that is, the truths contained in our venerated doctrine, and another [is] the way in which they are enunciated, preserving however the same meaning and fullness," he said, echoing John XXIII.

In this way, the Council presented a "new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and some essential elements of modern thought," Benedict XVI pointed out. He insisted that "the Church, both before as well as after the Council, is the same one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, journeying through time."

"Today we can look back with gratitude to the Second Vatican Council," he added. "If we read and receive it, guided by an appropriate hermeneutic, it can be and will be increasingly a great force for the always necessary renewal of the Church."

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: