Friday 5 October 2012

Hermeneutic of Continuity

According to Church teaching, no Pope could presume to interpret any Council except through the lens of continuity with the past.

The Hermeneutic of Continuity espoused by Pope Benedict has renewed the energy of the Second Vatican Council and, given that what seemed to be the Council's fruits of decline in so many areas of Church life, has enabled us to begin to understand the council in a new way - one that is breathing fresh life into the Church for the very reason that it is a more faithful interpretation (orthodox).  Deacon Nick makes the excellent point that it is not denying reform but interpreting it in the light of the wider and older Church.

But now it seems that those with the ageing liberal agenda are attempting a fight back.  The Tablet carries an attack on the Hermeneutic of Continuity this week - an attack ably rebuffed by Deacon Nick at Protect the Pope

Here is part of the Tablet's pejorative re-interpretation:

The Pope has repeatedly emphasised that there is more than one way of understanding Vatican II, and not all understandings are equally valid. Some remarks he made in 2005, not long after his election, have been understood as favouring, and maybe even wanting to impose, a highly conservative interpretation of what the council achieved. He appeared to contrast a “hermeneutic of continuity”, of which he approved, with a “hermeneutic of rupture”, which he rejected. But that itself is a conservative interpretation of what he actually said. The words of his Christmas Address to the Roman Curia that year were much more nuanced. He fully acknowledged the tension between continuity and reform that characterised much of the council’s debates, with more continuity in one place, more reform in another. There is no papal mandate for imposing a hermeneutic of continuity on all of it – the view that the council fundamentally changed nothing. Such a serious distortion of the council’s work would amount to a rejection of it.

"There is no papal mandate for imposing a hermeneutic of continuity."

Really?  I think the Pope did indeed receive such a mandate...

What about:  

"Thou art Peter 
and upon this rock I will build my Church 
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Matt: 16:18


Fr Francis Marsden said...

The fact to keep constantly in mind is that Vatican II was simply one of 21 Ecumenical Church councils in history, and they all bear equal weight as General Councils and part of the Church's ordinary magisterium. The definitive canons issued by previous General Councils bear the guarantee of the infallibility of the ordinary Magisterium, and may not be contradicted by anyone wishing to call themselves Catholic, although their understanding may be deepened or nuanced.

Granted, the earlier Councils often dealt with problems of their era which are no longer problems in our time, so Vatican II has more relevance to the world we face today - even if Gaudium et Spes for example has been much criticised for an over-optimistic view of secular progress and late 20th century western society.

Too many people talk about "what Vatican II said" when they have never studied the texts for themselves. We need to study the texts in harmony with the great preceding Tradition of the Church (not against it).

There is a risk that revisiting Vatican II in isolation from what preceded it during 19 centuries might lead us further up the garden path, especially if we take skewed interpreters with their own vested ideology as our guides, instead of pondering the "ipsissima verba Concili"

Sixupman said...

I equate the documents of Vatican II to those of the European Union.

How many Members of Parliament have actually read them, whilst passing laws related thereto?

How many of The Fathers attending Vatican II actually read what they were approving, or did they rely on their advisers?

I rather suspect the German contingent knew what the were doing.