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Happy Anniversary, Vatican II

As you've probably noticed if you've been keeping up with your Commonweals, this year -- and specifically, this day -- marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. John W. O'Malley, SJ, has an excellent overview of the council on the op-ed page of the New York Times today: "Opening the Church to the World." I'm impressed by how much information and analysis O'Malley managed to pack into such a short piece. And he has room to pay particular attention to the principle of collegiality:

The bishops at Vatican II felt that more than a century of centralization needed to be tempered. But in their euphoria, they failed to reckon sufficiently with the resistance of entrenched bureaucracies jealous of their authority and fearful of disorder to change. A more participatory mode of church life took hold for 15 years or so after the council, but from on high it began to be more and more restricted, to the point that central control is now tighter than ever.

John Wilkins's feature article in our current issue -- "Bishops or Branch Managers?" -- takes up the same theme, discussing collegiality as one of the council's brightest and most unfulfilled hopes. His verdict is very much like O'Malley's, and his article is full of details about how it all went down. (By the way, you'll need to subscribe to read Wilkins's article. What better way to celebrate the spirit of Vatican II?)Be sure to also read "Turning Point," Bernard P. Prusak's recollections of being present at the council. (Read it in print if you can, because he took some terrific pictures.) And of course our editorial, "Vatican II Continued." And there's lots and lots of other material to keep you busy here.I've been reading O'Malley's book What Happened at Vatican II? -- reviewed by Prusak in Commonweal -- and I highly recommend it to anyone hungry for more information after reading that op-ed. It's especially fascinating for someone like me who grew up in a thoroughly postconciliar church environment -- it's hard for me to imagine a time when, say, Nostra aetate was deeply controversial. And yet in O'Malley's telling it's a page-turner -- I'm reading along thinking, I hope it passes!


Commenting Guidelines

Happy feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Oops, the novus ordo eliminated that too.Well, happy anniversary, such as it is.

And your age, Mr. Wolfe?(i'm 64-1/2)

I've read "What Happened at Vatican II" as well - it's a great book. I saw a recent video of Fr. O'Malley giving a talk on the subject here ... I first read his book, I posted some excerpts on a few subjects, if anyone is interested ...Missal translation and "What Happened at Vatican II"Vatican II and indulgencesCelibacy, Vatican II, and Maximos IV

I am 39, Mr. Jaglowicz. Certainly you are more liberal and open-minded than to discriminate by age, so I assume you are simply looking to wish me a happy 40th birthday in April. Thank you in advance.

Kenneth Wolfe:I am not sure what your point is.Before 1969, 11 October was kept in the Roman Calendar as Maternitas Beatae Mariae Virginis (the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and its ranking was a double of the second class.With the 1969 reform of the Roman Calendar, the feast was transferred to 1 January and styled as Solemnitas Sanctae Dei Genetricis Mariae (the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God), which means that the feast now has a higher ranking as well as being the Octave Day of Christmas.Also, the Novus Ordo and the Calendar Reform, though related, are hardly one and the same thing. Both were, of course, promulgated by the authority of Venerable Paul VI.

Discriminate against anybody based on his or her age?No way, Mr. Wolfe. As you've noted, I'm a liberal.But, unlike you, I lived during Vatican II --- was in high school during the council.I knew the preconciliar church.Bad.

O'Malley's NYT article should stand as an object lesson in how to present a great deal of important information in a compressed space, avoiding the temptation to run off at the mouth. But then he's a splendid historian; when you've read his book on Vatican II, turn to his earlier "Four Cultures of the West" (also Harvard U.P.), which takes you back some centuries.

So what ever happened to the Feast of the Circumcision? Did it get bounced by the Solemnity of Mary? Or do we just not celebrate it any more?I like the op-ed in the Times on Vatican II; I'm glad we're more ecumenical now.

A few observations about Mr. Wolfe's misunderstanding about Vatican II:+ While Cardinal Ottaviani and aides may have spent "three years" drafting texts for the conciliar fathers to discuss at the council, the latter quickly realized that the Ottaviani texts were simply blatant attempts to control conciliar deliberations and thereby maintain the locus of power in the Vatican;+ If Ottaviani "was vocally heckled and silenced by his participating colleagues," it was because the world's bishops were no dumb bunnies: They knew what the good cardinal was trying to do; there's a reason for human behavior; this was a *council of the world's bishops", after all, not just a large meeting to which subordinate bishops were invited at the Vatican;+ Mr. Wolfe writes that "most Catholics stopped attending Mass." Yes, and as a sociologist of religion noted a few years ago, church attendance did drop around the time of the council --- and was not to be unexpected! Mass attendance dropped back to its pre-WWII level!!! We also know that vocations typically increase after major armed conflict as men return from the horrors of the battlefield and seek closer communion (and peace) with God. In time (ca. Vatican II), vocations tend to drop and, like Mass attendance, things return to normal. Nothing new here.+ Contrary to our young writer's observation, ecumenism does not involve "visits to mosques [and] temples"; no, ecumenism involves closer cooperation among *Christian* churches and ecclesial communities. Furthermore, the end objective is not "conversions"; indeed, I suspect our Orthodox and other Eastern Christian cousins would find the idea of "conversion" in this context highly repugnant. After all, their churches are just as old as, if not older than, the Church of Rome, which acknowledges the "validity" of their sacraments. +Mr. Wolfe refers to the "religious orders such as the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter that reject the new Mass." In fact, the FSSP does not reject the Novus Ordo; it *prefers* the 1962 Mass. Indeed, even Fr. Z has acknowledged, "As priests of the Latin Church with faculties to say Mass FSSP priests can use either form of the Roman Rite" ("QUAERITUR: Can FSSP priest say Mass in the Ordinary Form?").If Mr. Wolfe wants to question or criticize the "spirit of the Council", I suggest he visit a library in the not-too-distant future and peruse the headlines and lead paragraphs of his local church newspaper's coverage of conciliar sessions, etc. There he might find something of the conciliar spirit of the times.Our young writer, sad to say, epitomizes the poor catechesis that occurred during the long pontificate of John Paul II.That is why I asked his age!

The "conciliar spirit of the times" -- gotta' love that phrase. Thankfully those spirits are just about dead, as they've made me consume way too many other spirits.

I can't find it now, but yesterday I read that Pope Benedict said that in terpreting the Council we must look for "the true spirit of the Council". Hmm. Apparently he thought there was such a thing after all.

Pope Benedict is interpreting the Council to his (and his Lefebvrist friends') own whims. The Mass on Thursday in St Peter's Square -- WHICH I ATTENDED -- was a collossal disppoinment, if not a scandal. Look at was done and what was done. It was an indictment AGAINST the Council. To paraphrise the Professore Papa Ratzinger -- a wonderful thing, but it left us all disappointed, especially because it was misinterpretted. Read his speaches in the past few days and judge for yourselves. They had a Mass to bury to the Council. But, in the end (some years from now), it will bury them. Just sayin'...

Mr. Mickens ---The Mass wasn't covered in the news here. In what way(s) was it an indictment of the Council?

Ann, the transcript of the pope's homily is given by Rocco Palmo in his post entitled "To Return to the 'Letter' of the Council... In a Context of Continuity". Pope Benedict wants to reduce the Vatican II council to its documents, and insists on their lack of novelty in matters of faith, whatever that means. Apparently the Council was merely a matter of changing the packaging? He doesn't even point out a single great achievement of the Council! I usually miss what is conveyed by a text at first reading, and it looks innocuous at first. It's only by summarizing it that I realize what it's really about. This one is pretty dismal. Here's my summary. Greetings. Let's develop the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican II according to its true meaning, faith in Christ, that is the true subject of evangelization, that brings the good news to the poor, in both a material and a spiritual sense. The Church is the necessary instrument of this work of Christ. Paul VI said: "the Council [has] essential importance, consistent with the doctrinal tradition of the Church, attributes to the faith, the true faith, which has Christ for its source and the Churchs Magisterium for its channel. John XXIII said something similar. Evangelization needs to be built on the letter of the Council, the actual documents of the Second Vatican Council, to draw from them its authentic spirit and to avoid confusion. The Council wanted to present the faith in a meaningful way. It did not formulate anything new in matters of faith. But in the years following the Council, many embraced uncritically the dominant mentality, doubting the very foundations of the deposit of faith. Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual desertification. But there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God. Thus the Way of Saint James has again become popular. Living faith frees us from pessimism. The Council documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are a luminous expression of the faith of the Church. Let's pray to Mary.

B16 is hell-bent on trying to remake Vatican II into his own preferrred image. He even said a few years ago that the 1962 Mass had never been legally abrogated!Ratzinger is desperate. Good!!!The old man may just be God's gift to the Church of Rome to help it shed its Tridentine crap once for all!!!

I, too, would like to know what was scandalous about the Vatican ceremony on October 11th, and what there was that could lead one to think that the Mass was designed to bury the Council. Look at any of the Lefebvrite websites, and you'll see how little their and the Pope's interpretations of the Council agree. And here is the Pope's homily for the occasion. I'd like to know what was found so offensive:

Dear brothers and sisters!Today, fifty years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, we begin with great joy the Year of Faith. I am delighted to greet all of you, particularly His Holiness Bartholomaois I, Patriarch of Constantinople, and His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A special greeting goes to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and to the Presidents of the Bishops Conferences. In order to evoke the Council, which some present had the grace to experience for themselves - and I greet them with particular affection - this celebration has been enriched by several special signs: the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the Council Fathers when they entered this Basilica; the enthronement of the Book of the Gospels with the same book that was used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I will do before the final blessing. These signs help us not only to remember, they also offer us the possibility of going beyond commemorating. They invite us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning. And its true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people, in the Churchs pilgrimage along the pathways of history.The Year of Faith which we launch today is linked harmoniously with the Churchs whole path over the last fifty years: from the Council, through the Magisterium of the Servant of God Paul VI, who proclaimed a Year of Faith in 1967, up to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, with which Blessed John Paul II re-proposed to all humanity Jesus Christ as the one Saviour, yesterday, today and forever. Between these two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, there was a deep and profound convergence, precisely upon Christ as the centre of the cosmos and of history, and upon the apostolic eagerness to announce him to the world. Jesus is the centre of the Christian faith. The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, he is "the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith" (12:2).Todays Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ, consecrated by the Father in the Holy Spirit, is the true and perennial subject of evangelization. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor" (Lk 4:18). This mission of Christ, this movement of his continues in space and time, over centuries and continents. It is a movement which starts with the Father and, in the power of the Spirit, goes forth to bring the good news to the poor, in both a material and a spiritual sense. The Church is the first and necessary instrument of this work of Christ because it is united to him as a body to its head. "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20:21), says the Risen One to his disciples, and breathing upon them, adds, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (v.22). Through Christ, God is the principal subject of evangelization in the world; but Christ himself wished to pass on his own mission to the Church; he did so, and continues to do so, until the end of time pouring out his Spirit upon the disciples, the same Spirit who came upon him and remained in him during all his earthly life, giving him the strength "to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" and "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19).The Second Vatican Council did not wish to deal with the theme of faith in one specific document. It was, however, animated by a desire, as it were, to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man. The Servant of God Paul VI, two years after the end of the Council session, expressed it in this way: "Even if the Council does not deal expressly with the faith, it talks about it on every page, it recognizes its vital and supernatural character, it assumes it to be whole and strong, and it builds upon its teachings. We need only recall some of the Councils statements in order to realize the essential importance that the Council, consistent with the doctrinal tradition of the Church, attributes to the faith, the true faith, which has Christ for its source and the Churchs Magisterium for its channel" (General Audience, 8 March 1967). Thus said Paul VI in 1967.We now turn to the one who convoked the Second Vatican Council and inaugurated it: Blessed John XXIII. In his opening speech, he presented the principal purpose of the Council in this way: "What above all concerns the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and taught more effectively [] Therefore, the principal purpose of this Council is not the discussion of this or that doctrinal theme a Council is not required for that [but] this certain and immutable doctrine, which is to be faithfully respected, needs to be explored and presented in a way which responds to the needs of our time" (AAS 54 [1962], 790,791-792). So said Pope John at the inauguration of the Council.In the light of these words, we can understand what I myself felt at the time: during the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today. Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the "letter" of the Council that is to its texts also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity. The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change. If we place ourselves in harmony with the authentic approach which Blessed John XXIII wished to give to Vatican II, we will be able to realize it during this Year of Faith, following the same path of the Church as she continuously endeavours to deepen the deposit of faith entrusted to her by Christ. The Council Fathers wished to present the faith in a meaningful way; and if they opened themselves trustingly to dialogue with the modern world it is because they were certain of their faith, of the solid rock on which they stood. In the years following, however, many embraced uncritically the dominant mentality, placing in doubt the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which they sadly no longer felt able to accept as truths.If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers and contained in its documents. Even the initiative to create a Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization, which I thank for its special effort for the Year of Faith, is to be understood in this context. Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual "desertification". In the Councils time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in todays world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path. The first reading spoke to us of the wisdom of the wayfarer (cf. Sir 34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years. How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys? Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of todays world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.Venerable and dear Brothers, 11 October 1962 was the Feast of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. Let us entrust to her the Year of Faith, as I did last week when I went on pilgrimage to Loreto. May the Virgin Mary always shine out as a star along the way of the new evangelization. May she help us to put into practice the Apostle Pauls exhortation, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom [] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col 3:16-17). Amen.

"But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the letter of the Council that is to its texts also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them."This text is notable for several reasons. Most obviously, because Benedict speaks of "the authentic spirit" of the Council. Let that put to rest the idea that there was no such thing as a spirit of the Council. Argue about what that spirit was, but don't deny its reality.Unhappily, by not expanding on the subject the Pope seems to be saying that "the letter" of the text -- the particular written words -- have some one meaning that is accessible to all who try to interpret those writen words. But written signs have only *and all* those meanings assigned to them by all their readers. The problem here is to discover which of those many interpretations are those intended by the ultimate speaker of the words, the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Pope seems to have too simple a notion of how language actually works. He also tells us: "The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient". This is so patently untrue (see the clearly changed teaching about the Jews, for instance) it makes one seriously challenge the Holy Father's continued competence. Yes, that must also be said, even though it is one more reason to think the Church is in terrible shape. Sad, sad, sad.

The Council promulgated no new dogmas and, of course, repudiated none, so the Pope's remark is quite accurate. I don't think there's any need to question his competence. He's quite aware that there were changes at other levels. See his 2005 speech. Sad, sad, sad that people don't read him closely and look for the worst possible interpretation of his words. It would be well if they were aware that written signs have only *and all* those meanings assigned to them by all their readers." And some readers read better than others.

JAK --Since when is making a statement and signing it and telling the whole world this is Catholic teaching not promulgating it? Vatican II said that the Jews are not all responsible for the death of Jesus. Prior teaching was that they were. The teachings are patently contradictory. How can you possibly say that the Council didn't change an ancient Church teaching?

What is dismal, on an anniversary day, is not so much what is written as what is not written. There is a lack of appreciation for the Council and a glaring absence of mentions of a single achievement or positive impact. In 2005 he said: The problems have arisen from a struggle between two conflicting forms of interpretation. One of these has caused confusion; the other, in a silent but increasingly visible way, has brought results, and continues to bring them. What better time than an anniversary to list some of those results? What is dismal as well is the obsession about limiting the Council and constantly harping on what it's not. In fact, to take a popular theme: when talking about the Council, where's the joy?Ann, the 2005 speech is there (if it is what I think it is):

I found one sentence of the Pope's homily somewhat perplexing. It comes at the beginning of paragraph 7: "If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago!"It seems to me that since this Mass was celebrated in St. Peter's Square precisely on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Council, a more positive acknowledgement of the commemoration could have been made by adding just one word. So, "If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not ONLY to honor an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago!" I don't see how opening the Year of Faith is at odds with a positive remembrance of the anniversary.Also, the "of it" [the Italian "ne"] strikes me as too elliptical. Faith? Evangelization? Both, I think. This is not a problem of the English translation but of the original.(For those who may find the Italian helpful: "Se oggi la Chiesa propone un nuovo Anno della Fede, non e' per onorare una ricorrenza, ma perche' ce n'e' bisogno, ancor piu' che 50 anni fa!")

I left out several key words in the Italian: "Se oggi la Chiesa propone un nuovo Anno della Fede E UNA NUOVA EVANGELIZZAZIONE, non e' per onorare una ricorrenza, ma perche' ce n'e' bisogno, ancor piu' che 50 anni fa."

The scandal of the Mass on Thursday was that -- apart from the popes homily -- there was not a sign or mention of Vatican Council II. The impression forcefully conveyed there (and in the current Synod gathering) is that we urgently need a New Evangelization because of the harm caused in the Councils wake.The Roman crowd places extraordinary emphasis (some would say far too much) on signs and symbols, especially in the liturgy. On 11 October the presider and concelebrants in St Peters Square wore green vestments, which is the colour for Ordinary Time. The planners explicitly decided against celebrating this Mass as a solemnity. Surprisingly, they did not use the votive Mass for Blessed John XIII (whose feast day it was) or Mass of the Holy Spirit, which would have made perfect sense. There was not a single prayer during the liturgy acknowledging the fruits of the Council or even praying to better understand it. Had the pope not talked about Vatican II in his homily, one would have had a hard time knowing this Mass was marking the 50th anniversary of the Council. The clerics at the Vatican know how to mark anniversaries with great fanfare. Think of the 85th birthday and 60th priesthood jubilee of Pope Benedict XVI. In fact, they did nothing to make the Councils jubilee a celebration. Instead of celebrating Vatican II, the Vatican has toned it down and the pope continues to raise the great lament of how almost all people in the Church (except him an a few others) have misread the Council these past fifty years and have led us all into a ditch. As for the popes homily, he says the true spirit and legacy of Vatican II is found in the letter of the texts. Full stop. Where does one begin with such a blatantly reductionist and revisionist view of history?

John XXIII, obviously

Sad, sad, sad that people dont read him closely and look for the worst possible interpretation of his words.Fr. K, I don't know if I am one of those people, but I do not look for the worst possible interpretation of Pope Benedict's words.

After FINALLY going to bed, I think I figured out what the Pope was saying, though I still believe it could have been clearer.Why did the opening of the Year of Faith have to be tied to the fiftieth anniversary of the Council?Why not let that be commemorated, indeed celebrated, on its own? The Year of Faith closes next year on the Solemnity of Christ the King, 24 November. Why couldn't it have begun this year on Christ the King, 25 November?There were just too many themes for the Mass on Thursday. It was sort of like the pre-conciliar Mass where in addition to the principal collect there could be two, four or six additional collects (commemorations). For some reason it always had to be an odd number -- 3, 5, or 7.

Ann: I don't quite understand the first part of your last comment. You seem to think I didn't think something was promulgated? I said that no dogma was repudiated and no new dogma was promulgated. I meant dogma in the strict sense. That all Jews were/are responsible for the death of Jesus was not a dogma. To repeat: Pope Benedict is not unaware that there were changes and novelties in the conciliar teachings; most of his 2005 speech was devoted precisely to defending the need for new thinking on a whole set of questions, with the teaching on religious freedom used as an example of "continuity and discontinuity at different levels," which is how he defined "reform".Claire: No, I certainly was not thinking of you. I very much appreciate your method of reading the texts.Robert: Thanks for explaining about the Mass. It does look as if they were focusing it more on the Year of Faith than on the anniversary of Vatican II. What did they say when you inquired about it? E.g., the green vestments?As for the spirit and the letter: For a historian the event of the Council certainly can't be reduced to the sixteen documents it produced, and I take it that this is your point above. I've argued at some length that neither can the Council be reduced to the intentions of its protagonists. It remains, of course, that the vague phrase "the spirit of the Council" needs to be clarified.Theologically, the text of the documents is very important: what the Council decided to say and teach. Take the famous "subsistit in" phrase in LG 8. An ecclesiologist and an ecumenist will want to examine the textual history, find out how it was explained by the Doctrinal Commission, compare it to other conciliar texts, etc. in order to know what the Council's precise teaching about the relationship between the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches is. So if one wants to look for the "spirit" of Vatican II on ecumenism, one does indeed have to look at the letter of the texts. The Council-journals of Congar and Lubac indicate how carefully the commissions worked on the language of the texts, and that's why I was so opposed to the paraphrases of the conciliar texts that were published a while back.

You can find fuller remarks of the Pope about Vatican II in a preface to a collection of his conciliar writings and talks here: here is what he said about the Council at his audience last Wednesday, where he made his own Pope John Paul II's metaphor of the Council as a "sure compass": here's yet another talk on the Council:

Father Joe Komonchak:Thank you for posting last Wednesday's general audience talk. It Is Pope Benedict at his finest. Moving and inspiring.

Mr. Mickens, thank you for sharing how the Vatican works when planning a public event --- the attention to detail, etc. Dr. Page, thank you for noting that the Year of Faith could have begun on the Feast of Christ the King in light of the calendar lineup.For the 50th anniversary of Vatican II's beginning, it certainly strikes me that B16 et al were downplaying its significance.Sad.

Mr. Wolfe, I didn't want to overlook your most recent contribution:When you sidle away from the bar after "consum[ing] way too many other spirits," I trust you have a designated driver at such times?As the new AB of San Francisco did not???

An excellent companion article to O'Malley's New York Times op-ed is his "The Style of Vatican II" at only was this council a response to the "signs of the times", but it also set a trajectory that would be opposed in practice, as many see it, by JPII and now increasingly by B16.Actions speak louder than words.And B16 is no Vatican II pope.No way.

The Wednesday talk is so much more appealing! It's almost as if the homily on Thursday had been written by a different person. (?)

Mr. Mickens --Thank you for your analysis of the opening Mass. It sounds like the Curia is trying to kill the Council by ignoring it. Remember how the Soviet Communists erased all evidence of certain events? Just not remembering events can have the same effect. And they didn't even mention the feast of John XXIII? Sheesh.

JAK --The problem is only partly the meaning(s) of "dogma" as you or I have used it. The main problem is that the official Church seems to waver in its meaning. It seems that the official Church sometimes means by "dogma" that which is a required belief. (This seems to be the strictest sense). But at other times "dogma" means that which is officially taught as true. Sometimes, I think, even the official Church itself is confused as to just which teachings are required beliefs. Take, for instance, the case of Archbishop Lefebvre. Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated for, among other things, his teaching about the Jews. He was tossed from the Church because he persisted in maintaining the ancient teaching about the Jews being Christ-killers. Wasn't his excommunication for *heresy*, specifically including his teaching about the Jews? And isn't heresy a denial of a required belief? The problem is two-pronged. First, if Lefebvre was guilty of heresy, and heresy is a denial of a required belief, and his Jewish position was one of his heresies, then this implies that the Council's new statement about the Jews *was indeed* one that requires belief (a dogma ) -- but if it was NOT required, then the Pope was not justified in excommunicating Lefebvre on the basis of his denial of the Council's new teaching. If the Council's statement's were meant by the official Church to be dogma in the *non-strict* sense (dispute is permissible), then condemning the SSPX for holding them is permissible. But if that is the situation, one must ask: what is all this foo-fah about the SSPX about? So are the beliefs they deny required beliefs or not? If they are required, then the teachings of Vatican II (being the teachings they deny) are required, and the Council is thus a "dogmatic council". If they are not required teachings, then the teachings of Vatican II are not required, and the Council was simply a pastoral one, and the SSPXers are being unjustly condemned. This is the main problem: the official Church defines "dogma" as it suits the occasion. It's a see-saw word in Vaticanese: If it is convenient to say that "dogma" is simply "what is officially taught", then that's the definition of the day, and if it's convenient to say that "dogma" is what is has be defined infallibly and is therefore requires belief, then that is its meaning that day. Or is the word supposed to mean one thing to the Office of the Inquisition and another to the faithful? Or maybe I wasn't taught right. I'd be interested to know what "dogma" means to the others on this better-educated-than-average blog.

OOPS -- Should have been:If the Councils statements were meant by the official Church to be dogma in the *non-strict* sense (i.e., that dispute is permissible about such teachings), then condemning the SSPX as hereticalfor holding them those non-dogmatic statements is not called for at all. But if that is the case, one must ask: well, then what is all this SSPX foo-fah about?

Ann: Archbishop Lefebvre was not excommunicated because of his views on Jews, but because he ordained four bishops without Roman authorization. And I don't know of any Roman document in which he was declared to be a heretic. So your argument here is not ad rem.Some people use "dogma" in the strict sense--defined teaching--and others don't, but mean something much looser. I use it in the strict sense. I was trained to make careful distinctions in the degree of binding authority that lies behind various teachings (e.g., the teaching about Guardian Angels as compared to the teaching about the Most Holy Trinity), distinctions that had the purpose of making sure that their authority was not exaggerated and the freedom of the faithful was not thereby limited. There is a large literature on this, but I admit that it was not very widely taught--you won't find it in the average catechism, for example. I haven't seen any Roman documents in which the word dogma is used in differing senses, but I'm willing to stand corrected if you can adduce some.We've already discussed this before on this blog, I believe. But here again is the official clarification given to the conciliar fathers about the qualification to be given to its teachings:

A question has arisen regarding the precise theological note which should be attached to the doctrine that is set forth in the Schema de Ecclesia and is being put to a vote.The Theological Commission has given the following response regarding the Modi that have to do with Chapter III of the de Ecclesia Schema: "As is self-evident, the Council's text must always be interpreted in accordance with the general rules that are known to all."On this occasion the Theological Commission makes reference to its Declaration of March 6, 1964, the text of which we transcribe here:"Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare to be binding. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth, inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church's supreme magisterium, ought to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ's faithful according to the mind of the sacred Council. The mind of the Council becomes known either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation."


JAK --I'm glad the SSPXers are in no danger of being burned at the stake. But my main point about "dogma", required belief, heresy, and permitted dissent still holds -- The SSPSers are in deep trouble with the Vatican because they deny the Vatican II statements about the Jews, ecumenism, etc. Either that dissent is heresy or it isn't. But if the statements of the Council are not the strictest sorts of statements (as you seem to be implying in your last post), then the SSPXers are right to complain that they are being criticized unfairly: they are not denying a dogma in the strictest sense, and, therefore, the Vatican shouldn't be threatening to classify them as schismatics.Note this especially: those threats *imply* that the Vatican itself *does* actually think that the statements are dogma in the strictest sense. If it did *not* think that, it would not be making the threats. The threats SHOW that it thinks that the statements about the Jews and ecumenism are *required* beliefs, that is, necessary if one is to be counted among the Catholics. As to the Vatican's theory of its degrees of authority to bind belief, you say it's not even described in the Catechism? That very inaction shows that the Vatican itself sees the weakness of its claims to such degrees of authority. And there is another problem; is that a theory of degrees of authority *itself* a matter of required belief? (A little self-reference problem there, I think.) How can you tell me that the Church is not in awful shape?

P. S. Yes, within the Church are many good people doing good things, and some are in the Vatican, and some in the Vatican sometimes do some good things But the structure of the Church is self-destrucing as is its theory of itself, and the hemorrhaging of membership proves it. The center does not hold.

OOPS -- that should be "its theory of itself AS TEACHER" is self-destructing. . .

Everyone that I know of who has commented on the conciliar teaching agrees that the teachings of the Council do not constitute newly defined dogmas. To repeat: the Vatican is not calling the Lefebvrites heretics, and that's not why they were excommunicated but because they committed a serious breach in Church-discipline. P.S. there is a difference between heretics and schismatics; they're not equivalent terms.I didn't say that the difference in levels of authority is not found in the Catechism, but that it is not found in "the average catechism."You write: "The structure of the Church is self-destructing." For someone who insists on care in language, I find it odd for you to use the phrase "the structure of the Church" as the subject of activity. Perhaps you meant the hierarchy? But thank you for acknowledging that all in the Church, including in the hierarchy,is not doom and gloom. Sure, there are problems, but it sure doesn't help to think that there's nothing vital or vibrant going on, in the Church at large and even among the ordained leaders.

Ann, so far as I know from my limited reading on the subject, the Church of Rome has no official list of dogmas. A related term is *deposit of faith*, which my Catholic dictionary defines as "all that God has revealed through Christ for our salvation". Like Prof. Komonchak, I recall Lefebvre being excommunicated because he illicitly ordained four men to the episcopate. The SSPX, of course, remains in schism to this day (as do I since the end of CY 2006 :-)Regarding the stalemate in discussions (or their termination?) between the Vatican and the SSPX, I would like to see the document(s) not made public to date regarding what Rome definitely demands of the SSPX and the latter's response. Such information might shed a great deal of light in addressing what you've raised.

As the official clarification made during the Council by the Doctrinal Commission said, not all of the teachings of the Council are on the same level and they need to be interpreted according to the standard theological criteria. In the discussions with the Lefebvrites, it was said (I read somewhere) that this means that some would be open to greater challenge than others. I think this has been common knowledge among commentators on Vatican II from the beginning. But even this reminder has not been enough to persuade the Lefebvrites, and it appears that the discussions have foundered without success, and that there will be a schism among them. The rumors are strong that Bishop Williamson will be thrown out of the SSPX.The chief objections of the SSPX concern the Council's teaching on religious freedom (libert), collegiality (galit), and ecumenism (fraternit).

JAK --IS the problem with the SSPX that some VII statements are open to challenge but others aren't? From what I've read the problem seems to be that some new conciliar statements contradict some old ones, and the SSPX says that isn't allowable because the Church cannot change its teachings. As I see it the issue is: what does "Catholic doctrine cannot change?" mean. I think the words in the question (i.e., "doctrine" and "change") have not been sufficiently well defined for the issue to be resolved with the SSPX. And the SSPXers aren't the only ones who have problems. The issue of change in doctrine is the source of much if not most of the polarization in the Church today. You say there are "levels" of authoritative statements. But what does this mean? The whole idea of "levels" of authority is mysterious at best. Are the statements themselves authoritative? If so, what does that mean? It obviously has something to do with the truth of the statements, but are there levels of truth? That makes no sense logically. There is no such thing as a true statement that is only sort of true. Yes, our certainty about the truth of a statement can vary, but the statements truth/falsity cannot. I daresay that most Catholics aren't even aware that there are "levels" of authority, and that itself is a failure on the part of the teaching Church right there. (I have never heard of it being taught in the schools, not the grammar and high schools, anyway.)This is really just my same old complaint instantiated in the SSPX mess, viz., the Church does not have an adequate epistemology of theology. That is, it has no adequate philosophical grounding for claiming that theological statements can be true or even must be true. It certainly has no justification for saying that a theological statement can be more or less true or that we have more or less reason to think that it is true. In other words, the official Church can't explain very well why it is reasonable to accept what it teaches. It cannot illuminate the process in which we rationally come to believe that the truths promulgated by the official Church are in fact true. It cannot defend its reasonableness except with mushy concepts like "levels of authority". And that's a terrible state of affairs for the teaching Church. Just ask the SSPXers. They deserve a lot of sympathy.Granted, this is a rather new problem for the official Church. When most Catholics were illiterate it made sense for them to have to simply accept what we were taught. But no more. With literacy comes questions and criticisms, and the official Church must be prepared to answer them -- or to change.

P. S, The reason that a philosophical grounding for theological statements is necessary is because such a grounding is what establishes the criteria for recognizing true theological statements. Individual theological claims can be measured against those criteria when disputes about a theological position arises. For instance, in the SSPX case,"Protestants cannot be saved" could be tested against the requirements set up by the theological epistemology. For instance: have the words in the statement been exactly defined? What are the empirical claims implicit in the question (what do Protestants believe?) ? Is the statement consistent with the axioms and theorems of Church belief? Such disputes are always extremely complex. All the more reason to have clear criteria for measuring the truth of the disputed claims.

Oops -- re: " or that we have more or less reason to think that it is true."That is just wrong. Of course there are times when we have more or less evidence for a statement. Bad editing. That belonged in an earlier version.I apologize for all my Oops statements. I'm a terribly copy editor, but not from lack of trying. I do re-read stuff before I send it. But it doesn't always work. Sigh.

Ann: I'm away from home at the moment and can't reply at length. But here is an article that is relevant to your concerns:

JAK --Thanks very much for the article. There doesn't seem to be a translation of Cartechini's work, but there is an outline of his 10 basic categories of notes on a sedevacantist (!) site. The outline includes some basic confusions (e.g., of certainty and probability) and some highly ambiguous words and phrases (e.g., "truth authentically taught"). In all a triumph of clearly drawn lines and massive confusion.I'll read the article carefully. My first reaction is, oh, would that Cartechini had had some solid training in the 20th century language philosophers -- and Lonergan (?). He taught at the Gregorian U. Did he get along with Lonergan?