Monday, July 12, 2010

The Debate About Continuity or Rupture in the Documents of the Second Vatican Council

Today, Sandro Magister features a piece which discusses the debate within the Church on the question of continuity or rupture with regard to the documents of the Second Vatican Council: The Defenders of Tradition Want the Infallible Church Back. In this piece, he discusses a new book by Romano Amerio.

The crux of the discussion might be summarized in this paragraph:

The dilemma is whether there has been continuity or rupture in the magisterium of the Church before and after Vatican II.

In the case of a rupture, if this amounted to a "loss of the truth," the Church would be lost as well.

Amerio never went so far as to support this outcome. He was always an obedient son of the Church. Not only that. He knew by faith that, in spite of everything, the Church cannot lose the truth and therefore itself, because it is assisted indefectibly "by the two great oaths of Our Lord" 'The gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Matthew 16:18) and 'I will be with you all days, until the end of the ages' (Matthew 28:20)."

But it was Amerio's conviction – and Radaelli explains this well in his extensive afterword to "Zibaldone" – that this protection guaranteed to the Church by Christ applies only to "ex cathedra" dogmatic definitions of the magisterium, not to the uncertain, fleeting, debatable "pastoral" teachings of Vatican Council II and of the following decades.

Precisely this, in fact, in the view of Amerio and Radaelli, is the cause of the crisis in the conciliar and postconciliar Church, a crisis that has brought it extremely close to its "impossible but also almost accomplished" perdition: having wanted to give up on an imperative magisterium, on dogmatic definitions "unequivocal in language, certain in content, compulsory in form, as one would expect that at least the teachings of a council would be."

The result, according to Amerio and Radaelli, is that Vatican Council II is full of vague, equivocal assertions that can be interpreted in different ways, some of them even in definite contrast with the previous magisterium of the Church.

And this ambiguous pastoral language is believed to have paved the way for a Church that today is "overrun by thousands of doctrines and hundreds of thousands of nefarious customs." Including in art, music, liturgy.

Magister continues, noting as well a similar book recently written by theologian Brunero Gherardini, a canon of St. Peter's basilica, professor emeritus of the Pontifical Lateran University, and director of the magazine "Divinitas":
Monsignor Gherardini advanced his proposal in a book released in Rome last year, entitled: "Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II. Un discorso da fare."

The book concludes with a "Plea to the Holy Father." He is asked to have the documents of the Council reexamined, in order to clarify once and for all "if, in what sense, and to what extent" Vatican II is or is not in continuity with the previous magisterium of the Church.

Gherardini's book is introduced by two prefaces: one by Albert Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo and former secretary of the Vatican congregation for divine worship, and the other by Mario Olivieri, bishop of Savona. The latter writes that he joins "toto corde" in the plea to the Holy Father.

Magister concludes his piece noting however, the Pope Benedict XVI does not agree with the rupture thesis as it relates to the documents themselves:
In Benedict XVI, both Gherardini and Amerio-Radaelli see a friendly pope. But there is no chance that he will grant their requests.

On the contrary, both on the whole and on some controversial points pope Joseph Ratzinger has already made it known that he does not at all share their positions.

For example, in the summer of 2007 the congregation for the doctrine of the faith made a statement on the continuity of meaning between the formulas "is" and "subsists in," affirming that "the Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change [the previous doctrine on the Church], rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it."

As for the declaration on religious freedom "Dignitatis Humanae," Benedict XVI himself has explained that, if it departed from previous "contingent" indications of the magisterium, it did so precisely to "recover the deepest patrimony of the Church."

The speech in which Benedict XVI defended the orthodoxy of "Dignitatis Humanae" is the one that he gave to the Vatican curia on the first Christmas of his pontificate, on December 22, 2005, precisely to maintain that there is no rupture between Vatican Council II and the previous magisterium of the Church, but "reform in continuity."

Read the entire piece at Chiesa.

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