Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Rorate Caeli reports that a little more than 34 years ago, on the day after his election to the See of Peter, Pope John Paul II gave his first radio message Urbi et Orbi, which most probably qualifies as one of his least-known and most neglected major speeches.

This is most likely the first time that a pope makes explicit the hermeneutic of continuity in interpreting the Council recognizing that there are both explicit and implicit realities contained in the documents of Vatican II that must be deciphered by the Magisterium, the pope and those bishops in union with him.

Here is Pope John Paul II's Urbi et Orbi a single day after his election to the See of Peter:

We wish, therefore, to clarify some basic points which we consider to be of special importance. Hence—as we propose and as, with the help of God, we confidently trust—we shall continue these not merely with earnestness and attention but we shall also further them with constant pressure, so that ecclesial life, truly lived, may correspond to them. First of all, we wish to point out the unceasing importance of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, and we accept the definite duty of assiduously bringing it into affect. Indeed, is not that universal Council a kind of milestone as it were, an event of the utmost importance in the almost two thousand year history of the Church, and consequently in the religious and cultural history of the world?

However, as the Council is not limited to the documents alone, neither is it completed by the ways applying it which were devised in these post-conciliar years. Therefore we rightly consider that we are bound by the primary duty of most diligently furthering the implementation of the decrees and directive norms of that same Universal Synod. This indeed we shall do in a way that is at once prudent and stimulating. We shall strive, in particular, that first of all an appropriate mentality may flourish. Namely, it is necessary that, above all, outlooks must be at one with the Council so that in practice those things may be done that were ordered by it, and that those things which lie hidden in it or—as is usually said—are "implicit" may become explicit in the light of the experiments made since then and the demands of changing circumstances. Briefly, it is necessary that the fertile seeds which the Fathers of the Ecumenical Synod, nourished by the word of God, sowed in good ground (cf. Mt 13: 8, 23)—that is, the important teachings and pastoral deliberations should be brought to maturity in that way which is characteristic of movement and life.

This general purpose of fidelity to the Second Vatican Council and express will, in so far as we are concerned, of bringing it into effect, can cover various sections: missionary and ecumenical affairs, discipline, and suitable administration. But there is one section to which greater attention will have to be given, and that is the ecclesiological section. Venerable Brethren and beloved sons of the Catholic world, it is necessary for us to take once again into our hands the "Magna Charta" of the Council, that is, the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium", so that with renewed and invigorating zeal we may meditate on the nature and function of the Church, its way of being and acting. This should be done not merely in order that the vital communion in Christ of all who believe and hope in him should be accomplished, but also in order to contribute to bringing about a fuller and closer unity of the whole human family. John XXIII was accustomed to repeat the following words: "The Church of Christ is the light of the nations." For the Church—his words were repeated by the Council—is the universal sacrament of salvation and unity for the human race. (cf. Lumen Gentium, 1; 48; Ad Gentes, 1).

The mystery of salvation which finds its centre in the Church and is actualized through the Church; the dynamism which on account of that same mystery animates the People of God; the special bond, that is, collegiality, which "with Peter and under Peter" binds together the sacred Pastors; all these are major elements on which we have not yet sufficiently reflected. We must do so in order to decide in face of human needs, whether these be permanent or passing, what the Church should adopt as its mode of presence and its course of action. Wherefore, the assent to be given to this document of the Council, seen in the light of Tradition and embodying the dogmatic formulae issued over a century ago by the First Vatican Council, will be to us Pastors and to the faithful a decisive indication and a rousing stimulus, so that—we say it again—we may walk in the paths of life and of history.


Beloved brothers in the Episcopate and dear children, fidelity, as is clear, implies not a wavering obedience to the Magisterium of Peter especially in what pertains to doctrine. The "objective" importance of this Magisterium must always be kept in mind and even safeguarded because of the attacks which in our time are being levelled here and there against certain truths of the Catholic faith. Fidelity too implies the observance of the liturgical norms laid down by ecclesiastical Authority and therefore has nothing to do with the practice either of introducing innovations of one's own accord and without approval or of obstinately refusing to carry out what has been lawfully laid down and introduced into the sacred rites. Fidelity also concerns the great discipline of the Church of which our immediate predecessor spoke. This discipline is not of such a kind that it depresses or, as they say, degrades. It seeks to safeguard the right ordering of the mystical body of Christ with the result that all the members of which it is composed united together perform their duties in a normal and natural way.

MY COMMENT: Clearly those who push the theology of rupture in the Church and to this very day need to get with the program of Vatican clearly made known since the days of Vatican II and in accord with the best Tradition of the Church!


Marc from iPhone said...

The Holy Father asks, "Indeed, is not that universal Council a kind of milestone as it were, an event of the utmost importance in the almost two thousand year history of the Church, and consequently in the religious and cultural history of the world?"

And, I respond: No, it is not. And turning this Council into a "super council" is a large part of the problem with even beginning to view it in the context of the hermeneutic of continuity. He then goes on to discuss things "implicit" in the Council. What is that other than the now infamous "Spirit of Vatican II"?

Perhaps at the time, the Holy Fathers's intentions in the speech were good. It is clear now, however, that if he had taken some action to correct any of the problems that arose from this Council during his long pontificate, the Church would likely not be in the situation She finds herself today.

With hindsight, this is abundantly clear. Perhaps the Holy Father somehow failed to notice the self-destruction for all those years...

rcg said...

Marc, JPII seems to have evolved in his understanding of the execution of the council if not its importance. He initiated the 'New Translation' that has brought the rupture front and center for Catholics in the English speaking worlds. I believe that there were several, non-overlapping, views of V-II that ranged from those who knew this document to be the crack in the wall that it was to those understood the cracks were there but never believed they would be exploited to hurt the Church. I think JPII was likely in the latter.

Henry Edwards said...

"the hermeneutic of continuity has been operational ...?

Unfortunately, John Paul II's saying it did not make it true, for the hermeneutic of rupture continued throughout most if not all of his 27-year pontificate, a long opportunity for restoration missed because of his HH's inattention to the episcopacy (as I believe he himself lamented near the end) and his apparent blind spot regarding the liturgy as the source and summit of faith.

Anonymous 5 said...

JPII wrote: "[F]idelity, as is clear, implies not a wavering obedience to the Magisterium of Peter especially in what pertains to doctrine." I don't think anyone here disagrees with this. I don't even think that SSPX disagrees with this. But this statement is question-begging in light of some statements of the council. _If_ (for the sake of argument) a conciliar statement expressly denounced a doctrine that had already been clearly established, then wouldn't JPII's statement command that we ignore that statement?

And as for the hermeneutic of continuity: Perhaps we here have been going about this the wrong way. I invite anyone here (but especially Fr. McD) to describe/invent for me a Mass/liturgy that would clearly demonstrate a hermeneutic of rupture. Once we can all agree on such a hypothetical liturgy being "ruptured," if you will, then we will be able to understand better how far continuity extends. Takers, anyone?

John Nolan said...

I think he did. But by 1978 the Church was in free-fall and the last decade of Paul VI's reign was probably the nadir of the Church in modern times. JP II acted almost immediately to stop the rot. In addition to this he was the only great man of the second half of the 20th century and restored the moral force of the papacy to the extent that it played a major part in the collapse of Communism. Unlike his successor, he was not particularly involved with the 20th century Liturgical Movement which would perhaps explain his apparent lack of interest in liturgical matters, although some of his writings show him to be liturgically conservative, and EDA and QAA were issued under his pontificate.

Anyone closely involved with the Council (as he was) might be forgiven for exaggerating its importance.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc, an ecumenical council, no matter its content, is a milestone in the history of the Church as these are so infrequent and take decades to actually imlement properly.

The rupture of the Liturgy is not necessarily the rite that we are given after Vatican II, although Joseph Ratzinger certainly gives a good apologetic that it is somewhat, but what happened to the reformed rite after it was promulgated:

1. loss of the low, high and solemn high designations

2. allowance for the substitution of hymns for the official introit, offertory and communion antiphons--the biggest mistake as this ultimately led to number 3:

3. The loss of Gregorian Chant or insisting that the vernacular singing of the Mass be modeled after Latin Gregorian Chant

4. Standing for Holy Communion and the removal of kneelers in many churches

5. Iconoclasm in art and architecture, especially the re-orienting of sanctuaries and allowing too much flexibility to local congregations to decide what would be done

6. sloppiness, casualness and poorly trained "minister" from the altar servers, lectors all the way to the priests and deacons and some bishops.

7. Mass facing the congregation

None of these above were envisioned by Vatican II but came about through experimentation and once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is hard to retract.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I should add, A-5 that if the reformed Mass had been given the strict designations of low, high and Solemn High and that the High Mass was to be the norm for Sundays and allowed for weekdays, and what was/is required for the High Mass maintained, in terms of what is sung, that we would not have had the turmoil musically that we did have and continue to have to this day, even in an all vernacular Mass.

Marc said...

I was thinking about what you suggest, Father, that every Ecumenical Council is monumental. I agree that each is monumental to a certain extent. In reflecting on that extent vis-a-vis Vatican II, I started to question where it would rank in terms of importance if one ranked all Ecumenical Councils. I'll give my answer below, but I would love for everyone to think about this and post his or her thoughts.

Here is my ranking with a little thought, but without intensive study:

1-7: First Seven Councils
8. Trent
9. Lateran IV
10. Vatican I
11. Florence
12. Lyon II
13. Lateran III
14. Lateran I
15. Constantinople IV
16. Vatican II

Marc said...

Can you please provide some historical basis for the assertion that prior councils took "decades to actually implement properly"?

And let's think about this: shouldn't an explicitly pastoral council provide some better guidance about its pastoral mission? It makes sense to be vague on doctrine, being pastoral in nature. But, that nature tends to indicate it would be even more clear on implementation...

ytc said...

First person plural, yes?

Militia Immaculata said...


You asked for historical basis that ecumenical councils tend to take decades to properly implement. Let's take the Council of Trent, for instance. For example, Trent called for the foundation of diocesan seminaries, but it wasn't until 1618 -- 50 years after the close of the council -- that Lyon, the second-largest city in France at the time, established a seminary. With Paris, it was even longer wait -- until the 1680s (over a century after the council's end).

In a nutshell, Trent's reforms depended on individuals -- popes, bishops, priests, and laity alike. And there were those who resisted Trent's reforms. Even St. Charles Borromeo, who zealously helped spread Trent's reforms, encountered resistance both from his own clergy in the Archdiocese of Milan and also in Rome.

Marc from iPhone said...

The creation of diocesan seminaries is a concrete thing, an actual building, in fact. So, fifty years seem appropriate in that case.

In this case, we are talking about the implementation of what, precisely, in the wake of Vatican II? An idea? A series of ideas? What did Vatcian II "order" that needs to be implemented exactly?

I think the whole idea that we just need to await the Council's "proper" implementation is an abstraction. Even if it were true, though, are those ideas still something in need of implementing or were they a product of their time best left to the past? Can we seriously hope to "engage the modern world" using pastoral strategies from the 1960s?

The ideas have been implemented: the spirit of Vatican II came into the Church... and everyone else left.

Henry Edwards said...

How long different councils have required for implementation has varied.

However, would anyone suggest that the immediate outgrowth of any other council in Church history--besides Vatican II--has been an abrupt and disastrous collapse of worship and practice of the faith, in extent and suddenness that would previously have seemed unimaginable?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

We need to keep in mind the information age that had never been experienced in any other ecumenical council's aftermath and how quickly fads spread in the Church and that the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions was the spirit of the Council which seduced many--those who promoted the renewal in unfortunate ways really thought it would bring about a new springtime for the Church which was post-Vatican II triumphalism run a muck.

ytcc said...

I abhor the popular liturgical direction of the recent past just as much as the next person here, but I have always felt that only a few of its advocates really had malicious intent. Rather I think the majority of them had good intentions in their own ignorant way. That is another difficulty that must be dealt with, making sure we do things definitely from now on but also delicately.

Gene said...

RE: "malicious intent." My Daddy used to say, "Son, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Never realized my Dad was a theologian...LOL!

Marc said...

Arius and Martin Luther had good intentions...

Henry Edwards said...

I wonder how much the intentions, whether good or bad, of men really matter. When their intention is to impose their personal will over the will of God as expressed in centuries of slow organic evolution under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

One who reads the available notes on the workings of the Bugnini consilium can hardly fail to be struck by the hubris and near frenzy of its members to sweep aside what had come before. Including even the Roman Canon dating back to patristic times, not a Latin word of which had been changed since Gregory the Great (600 AD) until 1962, when John XXIII inserted the phrase referring to St. Joseph in the Te igitur. (To his credit, Paul VI stymied them on this.) And replacing collects and readings that had been used on the same Sundays for a thousand years and more.

Gene said...

There is nothing to say that Satan cannot take the form of a priest or use a council for his venue. Perhaps the fact that nothing doctrinal or infallible came from Vat II is evidence of the Holy Spirit protecting the Church from error...I mean, I'm just sayin'...