Friday, October 21, 2005

"The Council: 'A Copernican revolution'"sayz offers a fair summation of the Second Vatican Council. Catholics throughout the world prepare to commemorate the Fortieth anniversary of the Council's conclusion this December 8th. Writer John Thavis observes, among other things:
Although the council defined no new dogma, Catholics who lived through the Vatican II era will never forget the changes --- some of them abrupt --- that visited their church communities in the mid-1960s.

Altars were turned around so that priests faced the people. The Mass in Latin gave way to Mass in the vernacular. Other sacraments were updated and simplified. Men and women religious adopted a more modern form of dress.

Not all the changes were immediate, however. Church leaders began a long and sometimes contentious process of revising nearly every area of pastoral life, from the teaching of religion to lay ministries.

"The council represented a Copernican revolution for the church, which challenged itself by asking how it could reopen a dialogue with the modern world," said Father Dario Vitali, who teaches church history at Rome's Gregorian University.

"Through the council, the church drew closer to contemporary men and women and made the Gospel meaningful to them. If there had been no Vatican II, I think the church today would be a small minority, closed off in rites incomprehensible to the modern mentality," Father Vitali said.

Not everyone in the church sees the council as a positive thing. Some Catholics are still nostalgic for the old ways of worship, and at times some church officials --- including several in Rome --- have criticized the way Vatican II has been understood and implemented. In many cases, the ongoing debate reflects issues that were argued heatedly on the floor of the council.
Vatican II often becomes another flashpoint in the American Catholic Church's internal "culture war." Catholics of good will--and Foolables as well, often find themselves on opposite sides of fierce debates concerning the Council. Indeed, quite often Fools will face Foolables that skirt the schismatic on one side and Foolables in love with pelvis issues on the other. What an akward position to be in. What a scandalous situation for the Church. And what an unnecessary mess.

Mr. Thavis saved the best quote for last:
Pope Benedict has been a sometimes critical voice in this debate. But he always distinguished between the council and its implementation, saying that what hurt the church in the decade following Vatican II was "not the council but the refusal to accept it."
The crux of the problem with Vatican II was not the reality of its accomplishments but the dubious implementations of it's just demands. Far too often, Catholics of the Vatican II generation saw too much of what they wanted the Council to say and not enough of what it actually said. Thus, they pushed implementations that may have honored the council's teaching in a general way, but often way out of proportion with what the Council Fathers intended. Indeed, one may not find the particular expression of some implementors sacred cows within the text of the Council itself.

A classic example of this remains the changes instituted in the Liturgy. The celebration of the Eucharist with the Priest facing the community does not deny the reality of the Real Presence or deny the centrality of Christ's sacrifice in our salvation. The overemphasis of the laity gathered around the altar as "community", however, can detract from fully experiencing Christ as the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Yes, the Church is the People of God. That doesn't mean we should so recognize the "people" that we forget to remember the "of God."

Sadly, this has become the case for far too many Parishes. When Priests offer vapid or even dissenting homilies from the pulpit, there's a problem. When laity preach a homily without proper authority from the local Ordinary--and without consideration for the appropriate circumstances--there's a problem. When Music Ministries/choirs perform rather than pray in song, there's a problem. None of these problems orginated in Vatican II. All of them resulted from misapplication of the council by either the misinformed or those with an agenda.

Thus, the true difficulty of the council lay in those enthralled to the "Spirit of Vatican." For some, strange reason reason, everytime I hear someone utter this inanity, I can't help but feel a bout of hysteria bubble up. Maybe that's because I rarely--if ever--hear these disciples of the SOV2 ever recite documents from Vatican II. Instead, I hear out-of-context references to "sensus fideli" and mantras that essentially boil down to "modernize and be Reasonable!"!

Well, thanks but no thanks, my fine Foolable friends. I'd rather the Church be Foolish--and true--then be Reasonable, and false. The Church can't deny the revelation Christ has entrusted into her keeping. Thus, the misguided efforts of those that demand the "Spirit of Vatican II" be obeyed in all things pastoral and doctrinal badly misread the council they seek to fulfill.

Pope John Paul the Great began the magnificient work of offering authoritative keys to the council. I'm confident that everyone's favorite German Sheperd will continue it.