Thursday, August 04, 2011
We are not called to be faithful to a particular Council, anymore than we are called to be faithful to a particular Pope's teaching, except the reigning one as the centre of Christian unity but we are called to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. It is the Church that Christ guarantees to be inerrant, not a particular Council, and not a particular Pope, except in the very particular circumstances of an Infallible statement.
Various conservative groups like the geriatric Stand Up 4 Vatican 2 are as irrelevant and heretical as Stand Up 4 Nicea 2 might be. The Magisterium has moved on! Catholics are not "Concilliarists", we understand Councils speak to a particular time, they are part of the continuous effect of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The problem with the Holy Spirit is we need history to help us discern where he has been. For Orthodox Christians it isn't so much that a Council is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than its acceptance by the Church, the sensus fidelium. It is the acceptance of a Council's teaching that distinguishes a "robber" Council from an authentic one. In practice the same thing happens within the Catholic Church. It is first of all the acceptance of a Council's decrees by the Bishop of Rome that guarantees an authentic Council, secondly it is his interpretation in communion with other bishops that guides how a Council's teaching is to be interpretted. Hence Joseph Ratzinger's joke that the Holy Sprit's role is to clear up the mess made by a Council.
With the Second Vatican Council, fifty years on, we can begin to make some assessment of its value but it has to be seen through the perspective of the present, today, most obviously through the light of the Magisterial teaching of the Church - in practice the Popes - through encyclicals like Humanae Vitae, the 1984 Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church etc. etc.
However it is not simply the teaching but also the practice of the Church that is important, that shapes both teaching and the acceptance of teaching, this is why Benedict XVI sees liturgy as crucial - hence my opinion that Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus are as significant as those documents that interpretted VII - note "interpretted" is in bold and underlined!
The big problem with VII is that unlike any other Council it issued no Canons, no summary, which has meant for some that everything was regarded as inspired, even over and above scripture or any other Council, it became "THE" Council, something never intended by either Blessed John XXIII or Paul VI or the Concil Fathers themselves and has no place in Catholic theology.
For some Vatican II was Year Zero, an experiment in rupture, a break with the past, for some it was a golden calf that consumed the Church's mission dragging men and women who were already fulfilling the teaching of Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes and sanctifying the world ad extra into fussing about the ad intra. The last 50 years have been the most "churchy" in the history the Church which by its very nature is Missionary. I speak as someone who has never known the pre-Vat II Church, except through the great theologians and saints and works of art. I want to go forward not backward, so I treat Vatican II with respect but for me it is one at the end of a long list and Holy Church has moved on.
A now silenced blog, much praised for its erudition, insight which I enjoyed for that and also for its rather English humour carried an interesting series of posts on Councils:
Posted by Fr Ray Blake