Monday, April 13, 2015
ACTUALLY IMPLEMENTING VATICAN II: THIS IS NOT A NOVELTY AND POPE BENEDICT XVI HAS BEGUN THE WAY!
My comments follow what the pope wrote:
4. I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.
We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity … The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.” Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: “We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council … the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council … a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity.
Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honoured, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed … Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channeled in one direction, the service of mankind, of every condition, in every weakness and need.”
With these sentiments of gratitude for everything the Church has received, and with a sense of responsibility for the task that lies ahead, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.
My Comments: I am a cusp Catholic. I was brought up in the pre-Vatican II way of things, positive and negative until about 1967 when I was 14. My father was thoroughly pre-Vatican II prior to Vatican II and struggled with the lack of clarity in the Church after Vatican II and the disintegration of religious life and the priesthood after Vatican II with rebellion and priests and nuns leaving to get married. However he liked the vernacular Mass and some of the simplication that occurred to it.
What was difficult about pre-Vatican II Catholicism was how quickly Catholics disowned one another if Catholic friends or family members wandered too far from the Church's truth. A child getting married outside the Church would end in a life long estrangement from his or her parents and sibblings. One can only imagine if that child was homosexual. Hell fire and damnation was all too prevalent in Sunday homilies or sermons. Mercy was not well preached and even in the Sacrament of Penance, many Catholics were castigated rather than treated for their sins which they were humbling trying to confess and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
And there was a lack of humility from the institutional Church concerning the goodness of those who are not Catholic and the possibility of them being saved in God's divine Mystery. There was an undue fear of the world that most Catholics lived in daily.
Perhaps the worse part of the pre-Vatican II Church was paternalism . Many, many more Catholics went to Catholic school and sometimes throughout college prior to Vatican II. When priests and religious were prominent, lay Catholics even as adults, were treated as children. Treating adults as children is not good and is a sign of clericalism. We see this mentality even today amongst academics who think they know it all and look down their noses at the "lay" people to whom they relate. Pope Francis does not seem to like academics too much and I suspect it is for the same reasons I don't, their clericalism, religious or secular! Paternalism is a part of this too!
If only the negative, clerical and rigid aspect of the Church and some of her members had been addressed and only modest external changes in the post-Vatican II era, I think the Church would have been in a better and stronger place today!
This is what could have happened embracing all that Pope Francis highlights above:
1. Keep the Liturgy as it was with only the minor adaptations that Vatican II foresaw, some vernacular, some simplification. The 1965 transitional missal had/ has promise in this regard. I continue to insist that the revised lectionary is what Vatican II wanted. It isn't perfect, but could easily be perfected by including the old missal's lectionary for Sundays as a 4th Year! This would save the Graduals and Tracts of this lectionary as well as Sequences. Simply allowing for the pre-Vatican II GIRM and rubrics for the Ordinary Form Missal, to include the PATFOTA, Offertory and post-Communion rituals would go a long way and with little effort.
2. Religious Life needed some updating. The religious themselves were kept as children and had silly, small minded rules that had become archaic. A more humane community life and a modified habit that maintained a true veil would have gone a long way in keeping religious life strong. Respect for the Magisterium and the revealed truths of the Church would have too, also!
3. Much of the simplifying of religious life and the priesthood to include how bishops function has led to the loss of confidence and respect for the clergy and religious. This is accelerated by the abuse scandal and how bishops dealt with it and actually in a pre-Vatican II sort of way, long after Vatican II. The clergy, especially bishops, felt no accountability to the laity or civil law! They perceive themselves above it. This is clericalism to be sure!
4. A pre-Vatican II approach to sexuality needed to be addressed and a more cogent apologetic for the Church's traditional understanding of sexuality and chastity needed to be articulated and not in a paternalistic, authoritarian way. Sex, contraception, abortion, technology for dealing with infertility and the like have to be explained to adult Catholics in a way that makes sense and doesn't make them feel like children. The influence of pornography today and how it is influencing the young, old and everyone in between needs to be addressed in a more cogent way too. Pope St. John Paul II's theology of the body is but one advance and holds promise if promoted more widely. Same sex marriage and gay rights poses a tremendous challenge to the Church today. As well classifying sex as mortal sin without nuance truly pushes young people away from the Church. If masturbation will send you to hell, then why not go whole hog? God's mercy for our sexual peccadilloes, small and big, needs to be better explicated, especially in Confession and spiritual counseling. Sex touches us at our core and if we turn people off to the truth in this regard, we could well lose them throughout their lives and offer no restraints or cautions whatsoever. A positive understanding sexuality, even in marriage, what is good and what isn't needs a better articulation that appeals to the sensibilities of young and old alike without compromising the truth.
We don't live with "if onlys" though. We have to live with what was and is. But reform of the reform within continuity with the pre-Vatican II Church, which will eventually become what is most appreciated and celebrated of Pope Benedict's papacy will help us in our recovery and moving forward.
We can't go backwards, but we can learn from past-mistakes in the post-Vatican II era and reform and move forward in high gear!