Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Year of Faith and Vatican II

My email update from VIS (Vatican Information Service) today contained this announcement (my emphases throughout):


Vatican City, 2 October 2012 (VIS) - A conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present an International Academic Conference: "Vatican Council II in the Light of the Archives of the Council Fathers, on the Fiftieth Anniversary of its Opening (1962-2012)". The event has been organised by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences in collaboration with the "Vatican Council II" Centre for Research and Study of the Pontifical Lateran University, and will take place from 3 to 5 October.

Participating in this morning's presentation were Fr. Bernard Ardura O. Praem., president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, and Philippe Chenaux, director of the "Vatican Council II" Centre for Research and Study of the Pontifical Lateran University and a member of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.
Fr. Ardura explained how a global project has been organised in view of the anniversary of Vatican Council II, involving an examination of the personal archives of the Council Fathers, the aim being to produce original and academically valid research and to favour an increasingly deep understanding of an event "which has profoundly marked the life of the Church over the last half century".

“Profoundly marked” is right! And of course some argue it’s for better, and some for worse. I think it’s difficult to argue with the correlation between the changes that occurred practically overnight in the Church – regarding the Mass as well as certain areas of Catholic moral teaching – and the rapid decline of vocations, the grand exodus of the “faithful” from the Church, and the sad dilution of our Catholic identity in the last 50 years.

I have read most of the Vatican II documents, and I did that early on in my Catholic “journey”. I’ve gone back and reviewed some of them, but this review has been in light of my understanding of “modernism”; it seems to me that, once you identify some core concepts of modernism, you can’t help but notice the modernistic thread that runs throughout the Council documents. Frankly, I find it difficult to identify anything truly good and beneficial and to the Church which has come out of Vatican II. That lack may be a fault of the documents or a fault of their interpretation and implementation. (see "How Modernism Undermines Catholic Identity")

The article also notes:

"Following the path laid down by Blessed Pope John XXIII in his opening address to the Council, all available archive material must be submitted to careful historical scrutiny, in order to ensure that people do not, as the Pope himself said, 'act as if they had nothing to learn from history, which is a teacher of life'. The consultation and publication of diaries, memories and correspondence of important figures who participated in Vatican Council II has already contributed to the development of an hermeneutic of the Council; ... that 'hermeneutic of reform in continuity' identified by Benedict XVI as the way to ensure authentic ecclesial interpretation.

Fr. Ardura explained that "the intention of the Pontifical Committee is to promote, in the light of the Holy Father's Magisterium and following a strict historical-critical methodology divorced from any ideology, a pondered and academically grounded historiographical re-reading of what was undeniably 'the great event' of Vatican Council II".

…The first of [the conference speakers] will be Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Italy, who will focus on the months between the announcement and the opening of the Council because, Fr. Ardura said, “the preparatory period offers many keys to understanding the subsequent development of the Council”. The other opening speaker will be Professor Philippe Chenaux himself, who will discuss historiography with relation to Vatican Council II. In order to recall the ecumenical dimension, “strongly underlined” by Blessed John XXIII, one representative from the Patriarchate of Moscow and one from the Protestant churches will also attend the conference.

…Philippe Chenaux explained that "the attempt to write a history of Vatican Council II involves not only research into the sources, ... but also interpretation, the so-called conciliar 'hermeneutic'. In other words, the historians who devised this project of the history of Vatican II have 'excogitated' the Council, whence have emerged two interpretative criteria which guided their work: the Council as 'event' and the Council as 'rupture'".

"The fundamental challenge for historians of the Council is, then, how to reconcile these two opposing readings of Vatican II and its decisions. This does not mean writing a 'counter history' of Vatican Council II. Rather, more modestly, it means resuming historical research on the basis of the widest possible documentation and with no ideological bias. It means avoiding the manipulation of conciliar history for ends other than the history itself, in order to achieve a more balanced and shared understanding of the event and its decisions…

I must admit I have looked with a skeptical eye at the hoopla surrounding the “Year of Faith” with its emphasis on “understanding” the Vatican II documents. Sure, I think that would be a good thing, but I have my doubts as to the intellectual honesty of such an investigation of the documents. For one thing, there is clearly an agenda in what Michael Voris has been calling “the Establishment Church”, and that agenda would not be at all amenable to a fresh look at what the VII docs really say.

Second, there is that problem with modernism. In my humble opinion, modernism truly does permeate the Vatican II documents, and that’s a problem. How do we go from a couple of pre-Vatican II popes decrying the influence of modernism, and going so far as to require an oath against modernism – to what amounts to an embracing of some harmful tenets of that philosophy? Where’s the continuity in that?

Just some thoughts, as we are poised to enter the “Year of Faith”…May God grant us all wisdom and understanding, and the courage to right any wrongs that emerge in our fresh investigation of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

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