Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bishop Bruskewitz says... para-council distorted Vatican II (by Brian Mershon)

January 24, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI addressed his Roman Curia December 22 with an analysis of the reception of the Second Vatican Council after the past 40 years, and outlined a plan and call for action for the Church to bear fruits. With eager anticipation, many Catholics are now asking, "Could this 40 years of 'wandering in the desert' finally be coming to an end?"

Indeed, perhaps the biblically significant 40 years is over. A "re-centering" of the Church is now perhaps necessary, according to Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas.

Pope Benedict began this reflection on Vatican II on December 8, 2005, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, by calling Mary Immaculate "the key to understanding it." Then, on December 22, he posited two interpretations of the council, often in direct opposition with each other: One he identified as "the hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture," and the other one he claims has borne fruit, "the hermeneutics of reform."

The Pope went on to cite the media and certain segments of modern theology for assisting in disseminating the "hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture." Of course, it is evident that many priests, bishops, and cardinals have aided and abetted this appearance of a break with a preconciliar and postconciliar Church. That is, an appearance, growing more so daily, that the Church prior to the council is a completely different structure than that after the council.

He began his December 22 address with a striking analogy coming from St. Basil in his description of the Church shortly after the Council of Nicaea: "Harsh rises the cry of the combatants encountering one another in dispute; already all the Church is almost full of the inarticulate screams, the unintelligible noises, rising from the ceaseless agitations that divert the right rule of the doctrine of true religion" (De Spiritu Sancto, XXX).

As the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith — and shortly after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's consecrations of four bishops against the express will of the Holy Father — then-Cardinal Ratzinger addressed this very topic in detail to the Chilean bishops July 13, 1988 in Santiago, Chile:

"It is a necessary task to defend the Second Vatican Council against Msgr. Lefebvre, as valid, and as binding upon the Church. Certainly there is a mentality of narrow views that isolate Vatican II and which has provoked this opposition. There are many accounts of it which give the impression that, from Vatican II onward, everything has been changed, and that what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II."

He continued: "The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest."

Indeed, these battles cited by the Pope from St. Basil after the Council of Nicaea are still taking place in the Church in the West, and in particular, in the United States. Every day in news accounts from around the globe, cardinal seems to be pitted against cardinal, bishop against bishop, priest against priest. Much of this, especially at the clerical level, is not done with direct confrontation, but if a Catholic reads the Catholic news regularly, he can easily detect the contradictory doctrines taught in the U.S. Church and throughout the world, and can decipher "the signs of the times" in 2006 as Gaudium et Spes encouraged.

Only, today's "signs" are not exactly what the council fathers had in mind in the 1960s.

Of course, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops still attempts to provide a public show of unity in the name of collegiality through its mountains of writings on topics touching on nearly aspect of American life except on faith and morals. Deo Gratias!

Catholics of the "hermeneutics of reform" (orthodox) variety have long viewed Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., as a model father and pastor in the postconciliar era. And Catholics of the "hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture" (dissidents) may rightly identify him as a combatant and as "preconciliar."

Interesting, though, that it was reported widely that Bishop Bruskewitz's diocese is bearing fruits with a large number of priestly vocations, and with almost no homosexual priests violating children scandals.

For example, in Bishop Bruskewitz's 1987 book, A Shepherd Speaks, published by Ignatius Press, the words "transubstantiation," "propitiation," and "sacrifice" are sprinkled liberally throughout the chapter entitled "Eucharist." Bishop Bruskewitz used citations from both the Old and New Testaments to show the Holy Mass is a sacrifice, along with this clear and precise definition from the Council of Trent: "The Mass is a genuine sacrifice and a propitiatory one, although it is nothing else than the sacrifice of the cross." And again, the bishop said, "Because the Mass is, above all, a sacrifice," which might truly be "news" to many U.S. Catholics — and dare I say, may make many priests and bishops cringe as well.

But Bishop Bruskewitz is not alone. The Cardinal Bernardin factor, which has dominated the makeup of the USCCB for the past 30 years, is finally giving way to younger prelates much more in line with the perennial teachings of the Church. Quietly, but assuredly, Bishop Álvaro Corrada of Tyler, Texas, is indeed one of these quiet, unknown bishops. His and Bishop Bruskewitz's perspectives on the Pope's recent remarks follow.

Bishop Bruskewitz and Bishop Corrada share their unique and complementary perspectives on the Second Vatican Council and Pope Benedict's December 22 address. This first interview deals specifically with the reception of the Second Vatican Council.

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Q. Your Excellencies, Pope Benedict XVI's pre-Christmas Roman Curia address had a theme of the competing claims, and subsequent struggle, for the true Second Vatican Council. Do you have any comments?

Bishop Corrada: The Holy Father has been following this theme, and he picked it up from Pope John Paul II, but has emphasized it more. I think that Pope Benedict XVI has a very deep insight because of his philosophical and theological formation that the authentic teachings of the Church have to be followed, and that the Church has to come back to certain disciplines that some bishops and many of the faithful and priests have gotten away from.

And that discipline is the discipline of the sacraments, the discipline of the liturgy, and even the discipline of the Latin language. I think that is what he is making reference to, and I think it is wonderful that he is making that emphasis.

I think, of course, that John Paul II [intended that as well]. But this is something that will take a long time. I think this is the battle for the legitimate and genuine Second Vatican Council teachings to be known by bishops and priests and to put it into action. There have been some tendencies that have vitiated the Second Vatican Council with some of the thinking of bishops and theologians.

And it is more than that. It is secularism as an ideology. The Catholic Church sees the secular world as the place of the kingdom. But when secularism as an ideology comes and turns the world into a place where there is no transcendental relationship to God, where there is no respect for the dignity of the human person, with abortion and the whole culture of death, that is where I think this Holy Father is asking us to go back to the culture of life. And the evangelization of the Church needs to be directed in that internal reform if we are going to be effective in the world against the ideology of secularism.

Bishop Bruskewitz: The majority of the Second Vatican Council fathers and the Popes never saw the council as discontinuous and as a rupture with the past. The emphasis was always in accord with the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council — the unbroken continuity of Catholic Tradition, both in doctrine and in many other areas. There are those who understood, and still understand, the Second Vatican Council as some sort of revolutionary destruction of the past — a sort of French Revolution — that we are destroying everything in the past and starting new all over again, with a whole new [liturgical] calendar and everything.

It is not at all what the Second Vatican Council [fathers] understood themselves as doing.

What happened, however, is there was a para-council of periti, of experts, who all dominated through the whole matrix of media representation of what was going on at the council. Because of that, there were horrible distortions in the popular imagination, including the clerical imagination, including the priests. Even they saw this as a complete rupture. Emotionally and psychologically, people who intellectually might understand that the Mass is the same if you offer it in English or in Latin, [nonetheless] thought, "We have a whole new world here, and this doesn't really mean what it said."

We had this whole rising expectation, this para-council that gave this impression to the world that there was this big revolution. So, when this revolution hit some blank walls like "no women priests" and "no married priests," I think what happened was that then these expectations were frustrated. Then, people got all upset and more in a dissenting and rebellious mood.

When the history of the council is explained, it will be clear that Pope John XXIII never thought he was going make a tabula rasa by throwing away everything in the past and starting all anew, that this wasn't his idea at all. In fact, Pope John XXIII was super-traditional in many of the things he said and did.

Q. Like Veterum Sapientia [On the Promotion and Study of Latin, promulgated by Pope John XXIII February 22, 1962]?

Bishop Bruskewitz: Veterum Sapientia means "the wisdom of the ancients."

I don't think John XXIII intended the destruction of everything. That was not his intention at all. Things maybe ran away from him. He was very sick and died, of course, when the council began.

However, there was, and continues to be, a very serious misreading of what was going on. I think when he beatified John XXIII, along with Pius IX, John Paul II had a grasp of that. He was at the council. He understood that this was not what the council said, nor what the intention was.

There are horror stories. For instance, Gregory Baum and some of these left-wing people who left the Church and dissented, they were going around [Rome] on motorcycles with Latin speeches in their saddlebags trying to find bishops who would say them.

And then some bishop would read them [publicly], they were in Latin, so he probably didn't even know what they said, and then they would blast them all over the newspapers: Things like 'The council says no more Purgatory,' among others. There was that sort of outrage that was going on. And in the area of the media, the left-wing liberal dissenting branch took over and prevailed.

Q. Do you think part of the Holy Father's message might encompass a clarifying of what makes up true ecumenism?

Bishop Corrada: The question is well placed. Many bishops and in many parts of the Church in the United States, we have allowed the Church to have "unity" that comes from political tendencies or other religious traditions' tendencies — even Protestantism. [We have allowed that] to direct the dialogue, instead of that dialogue that comes out of the true ecumenism that only the Church can present. True ecumenism is built by the Church itself. It is what the Church does. That is ecumenism.

It does not come from the directions from which so many other groups go on. You will find so many political parties trying to call ecumenical prayer groups and things like that. I think that is totally wrong. I think we need to re-center into true ecumenism, which is what the Church does, and not what other people do. We try to attract them to the fullness of truth. We try not to push them further away from the truth that they might still have either by natural revelation or by religious tradition. We try to bring them closer. I think that is what the Council was trying to emphasize.

We try not to push them further away, but we should try to bring them closer, or at least for them to stay where they are, so that unity and growth can happen so that truth can work itself. But we know this is in the hands of the Holy Spirit. It is not this activism that you have seen in some people, and which has been unfortunate.

Ecumenism is what the Church does by bringing the truth to people through the aid of the Holy Spirit — the mission — so that those who are closer to the Truth come closer and that those farther away are not moving farther by our example or by our way of presenting the Truth.

But the Truth is only one, and it is in the Catholic Church. We have to accept that.

Q. Both the Pope and you mentioned the effect the media had on its representation of the council as a revolution. Does the secular media even understand the Church? Do you believe the misrepresentation of the Church is intentional? Or is it out of naivete and ignorance of the Church?

Bishop Bruskewitz: It is ignorance. They are looking for sensationalism. And sometimes the reporters aren't responsible [for what happens]. It is oftentimes the editors. They like to see conflict and this is what sells their product. Of course, sex and religion are explosive issues, and the more you can put that on the pages, the better it is.

Published in the January 26 issue of The Wanderer

Brian Mershon is a commentator on cultural issues from a classical Catholic perspective. His trade is in media relations, and his vocation is as a husband to his beloved wife Tracey and father to his six living children. He attempts to assist his family and himself in attaining eternal salvation through frequent attendance at the Traditional Latin rite of Mass, homeschooling, and building Catholic culture in the buckle of the Bible Belt of Greenville, South Carolina.

© Copyright 2006 by Brian Mershon

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