NEWS:  June 15, 2012

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

THE OFFICIAL HERMENEUTICS OF RUPTURE - II   -   Two weeks ago I expressed the intent to present my readers with some texts of the “big shots” of the Conciliar Church acknowledging without a shadow of a doubt that Vatican II broke with the past tradition of the Church. This ongoing list intends to show that such great names of the Council affirmed precisely the opposite of what Benedict XVI and his sycophants are calling “the hermeneutics of the continuity.” According to this new papal version, the real interpretation of Vatican II was adulterated by a few radicals, but those who inspired the Council, directed it or wrote its documents never thought of making a rupture with the past of the Church.

In my last column, I presented declarations of three conciliar Popes proving the opposite. Two by Cardinal Ratzinger, today’s Pope and main advocate of the “hermeneutics of continuity,” one by Card. Karol Wojtyla, the future JPII, and one by Paul VI.

Moderators of Vatican II

Moderators of the Council, from left, Giacomo Lercaro, Julius Doepfner & Leo Suenens
Card. Ratzinger said Gaudium et spes was expressly designed to be the opposite of the Syllabus of Pius IX, “a counter-Syllabus” was his expression – hardly a manifestation of continuity. Next, the future Benedict affirmed that the Church had “an urgent duty to raze the bastions” of her past institutions and doctrine. According to the present Pope, she should abandon her suspicion and distance regarding the world, which he qualified as being a ghetto position.

Wojtyla, in turn, randomly listed eight points in which Vatican II differed from the past:
  • Decentralization of the Church;

  • Collegialty of the Bishops;

  • Re-evaluation of all pastoral methods in force until then;

  • Inculturation: adaptation of the Church to the local cultures;

  • Ending the policies in force since Constantine in Church-State relations;

  • Religious liberty for all creeds;

  • An openness to lay participation in everything;

  • Ecumenism with the false religions.
Paul VI declared solemnly that he was officially abolishing the past discipline of the Church, which he classified as “intolerance.” That authority should no longer impose itself, which he considered to be an expression of “absolutism.”

Thus I quoted three Popes declaring that they want to break with the past.

Today, I will go on to show what some Prelates, who played important roles at the Council, said about the changes it generated.

Two of the four Moderators of the Council, the men who directed the works of the assembly in the name of the Pope, were Card. Leo Jozef Suenens and Card. Julius Döpfner. Let us see what these important Prelates said about the revolution Vatican II made in the Church.

Suenens: Vatican II marked the end of many epochs

Cardinal Suenens honoring John XXIII

Obeying John XXIII, Suenens anulled the schemata prepared for Vatican II
In the first session of the Council, it was one of Suenens’ interventions that put to rest the whole schemata that had been prepared for years during the pontificate of Pius XII, and replaced it with a new one suggested by him. Card. Suenens was also considered the inspirer of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium and of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes (1). Thus, he was a very qualified insider to speak of Vatican II’s intentions.

In 1967, delivering a speech at an International Congress of Theology in Toronto, Canada, he was quite unambiguous regarding the rupture Vatican II represented with the past:

The Second Vatican Council marked the end of an epoch, or even of several epochs, depending on one’s historical perspective. It brought to a close the Constantinian era, the era of “Christendom” in the medieval sense, the era of the Counter-Reformation and the era of Vatican I. In reference to that past, it marks a turning point in the History of the Church. (3)

From Suenen’s words, we have to admit that it is difficult to find continuity with the past of the Church.

Suenens: The Council finished with the concept of the Church as a perfect society

Suenens with Paul VI

Card. Suenens agreeing with Paul VI what to do at the Council
Referring to the Pilgrim Church mentioned in Lumen gentium (§ 48c), Suenens manifested relief that this new concept of the Church replaced the concept in rule until the Council. It is also a statement that hardly corresponds to the “hermeneutics of continuity.” In his memoires, he wrote:

For too long we have suffered from a static vision of the Church defined in terms of a juridical perfect society.

Today, thank God, we do not view the Church with those juridical criteria any longer, but rather see her as a living reality that Christ animates with His presence and His life ... As a pilgrim she goes forward, walking step by step on an unknown road.

The history of the Exodus teaches us that God does not like to provide his people with stocks of supplies, but rather He watches to make sure that the daily manna is there.

We became accustomed to accumulate lots of unnecessary goods and to build stone or cement houses, instead of being happy to have simple folding tents and be able to roam freely.

Suenens: Lumen gentium carried out a Copernican revolution

Regarding the new role attributed to lay people in the Church in the conciliar constitution Lumen gentium, the same Suenens affirmed it represented a Copernican Revolution:

It was said that by switching the chapter initially planed as chapter 3 to make it chapter 2, that is, by addressing first the totality of the Church as people of God, and afterward by dealing with the Hierarchy as a service to this people, we carried out a Copernican revolution. I believe that this is true: this inversion imposes itself as a type of constant mental revolution whose consequences we are still evaluating. (4)

Döpfner: for Vatican II the supreme power of the Church belongs to the Bishops

Cardinal Julius Doepfner empowers the bishops

Doepfner: Vatican II transferred the supreme  power of the Church to the Bishops
Cardinal Döpfner, another of the four Moderators, writing after the conclusion of the Council about the concept of Papacy, asserted that there had been a clear break in the continuity of the previous teaching of the Church. Until the Council, he sustained, the supreme power of the Church belonged only to the Pope; thenceforth, the supreme power passed to the Bishops considered as a whole, including the Pope. These are Döpfner’s words:

Vatican Council II is important for its concept of the Papacy, above all because of the relationship it makes between papal power and the College of Bishops. Until now, the Pope related principally with Bishops individually; now the Pope and the College of Bishops are placed side by side in a more accentuated way.

Hence it appears evident that the College of Bishops holds the supreme power of the Church in the same way; that is, it has the power to teach infallibly and to guide the people of God on the path to salvation, which relates to and will always and inviolably relate to the Pope alone. Nonetheless, it is certain that the College of Bishops and the Pope do not hold such power independently, but only when intimately linked together.

König: Vatican II approved what the Syllabus & Pascendi had condemned

Cardinal Franz Koenig

Koenig: the Council ended with the doctrines of Syllabus & Pascendi
Card. König, Archbishop of Vienna, was also a powerful voice at the Council. He contributed heavily to the final text of the Declaration Nostra aetate. In a book-interview about the future of the Church, referring to Gaudium et spes, he said this:

Question: In your opinion, did the Council give its beneficial fruits in Europe also?

Koenig: Yes, absolutely, also in Europe, but here many conciliar documents never left the shelves. For instance, there is a lot of talk about liturgy as if it were the sole problem that the Council faced. Further, people give too much importance to the fringes [the radicals] that tried to push ahead, and forget the authentic progress Vatican II produced. In the Church this progress took place primarily through the acknowledgment of the positive aspects of history, the sciences, and the arts - in short, those human categories that less than 100 years earlier the Syllabus had rejected and only 48 years before [the Encyclical] Pascendi had again condemned.…

This document [Gaudium et spes] represents an about-face on the Church’s conception of History and closes the era of the Syllabus and Pascendi.

La Civiltà Cattolica: It produced a radical change in thinking, feeling & living

Let me conclude this article, which cited three of the great names of Prelates who directed Vatican II or had great influence on it, by quoting the evaluation of the Council made by La Civiltà Cattolica, the main organ of the Society of Jesus. It is currently said that each issue of this magazine is edited by the Vatican Secretariat of State before it is printed. It is, therefore, a semi-official Vatican organ.

Twenty years after the Council, while commenting on the difficulties of being a Jesuit in the modern world, the editorial of the magazine made this evaluation of the rupture Vatican II represented for all Catholics:

With Council Vatican II, the Tridentine age, which was born then [when the Society of Jesus was founded], closed for the Church.

It is not merely a matter of a change of appearances or a superficial thing, but rather a radical change in the way of thinking, feeling and living. It is not only a new civilization that was born, but a new man.

The Church, by means of a difficult and painful work, has profoundly renewed herself, and new ways of living the faith and being Christian have appeared.

Thus, we have a small collection of texts by Prelates who played important roles at Vatican II saying precisely the opposite of what Pope Ratzinger is now affirming: That the majority interpreted the Council as continuing the past of the Church, and only a few radicals believed it to be a rupture.

I still have some more great theologians who concur with these heavyweights on the rupture Vatican II made with the past. I plan to bring them forth in my next column.
1. See my In the Murky Waters of Vatican II, Los Angeles: TIA, 2008, p. 139 § 31, notes 33, 36; p. 161, § 78; see also Animus Injuriandi II, Los Angeles: TIA, 2011, p. 142, note 3; Animus Delendi I, Los Angeles: TIA, 2000, p. 36, note 14e.
2. Leo Jozef Suenens, “Co-Responsibility: Dominating Idea of the Council and its Pastoral Consequences,” in Theology of Renewal, Montreal: Palm Publishers, 1968, vol. 2. p. 7.
3. L.J. Suenens, Souvenirs et Esperances, Paris: Fayard, 1991, p. 131.
4. L.J. Suenens, "Discorso ufficale d’apertura,” in L’avvenire della Chiesa, Brescia: Queriniana, 1970, p. 46-47.
5. Julius Döpfner, La Chiesa vivente oggi, Bari: Paoline, 1972,, pp. 220-221.
6. Chiesa dove vai? Gianni Licheri interroga il Cardinale Franz Koenig, Rome: Borla, 1985 pp. 104, 108.
7. La Civiltà Cattolica, "Essere Gesuiti Oggi," Editorial, n. 3197, September 3, 1983, p. 355.

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