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Saturday, April 25, 2009

What does acceptance of Vatican II mean?

Brilliant article from Professor Spaemann

The success of future talks with the SSPX depends largely on whether the parties can agree about the Second Vatican Council. The questions are not new: even after the secession of Lefèvbrists, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei discussed the controversial issues with traditional believers. But what is to be understand that someone should unreservedly stand on the basis of the Councl? The demand for full recognition of all the conciliar texts will also be sought from people who for their part are far away from meeting this requirement. The following article examines this dilemma.

For Members of the SSPX, who are serious about the desire for reconciliation, there are two problems. The first relates to the liturgy. Archbishop Lefèbvre refused to recognize the celebration of the Mass according to the books of Paul VI. The fact that the new Mass is "The Mass of the Council" an assertion supported by frequent repetition is not true. As an Mass of the Council, implemting the Council decision, the then Cardinal Secretary of State presented the Missal of 1965 which disappeared a few years later into the closet and was replaced in 1970 by the "Novus Ordo Missa". This new Mass Rite and even more so the actual current Mass practice are in obvious contradiction to the multiple pronoucements of the Liturgy Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, which was also accepted by Archbishop Lefèbvre.

However, the rite of Paul VI was introduced by legitimate authority, and its legality and validity can be no doubt. Even John Paul II had withdrawn the ban on the old Mass (though Benedict XVI said that it had never really existed) and urged the bishops to show "generosity" to the Faithful who felt themselves attached the Old rite. Generosity was not forthcoming when Benedict XVI responding to a petition of 70 000 Catholics not affiliated with the SSPX, gave all believers a legal right to the Mass in the now officially legitimized " Extraordinary Use " and gave each Roman Catholic priest the right, without any further authorization, to celebrate the holy Mass in the old form to celebrate. He himself when serving as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith at least twice celebrated the old Rite, including the Easter High Mass once in the circle of theSt Peter’s Fraternity in Wigratzbad and once at an annual meeting of the lay association Missa Pro Tridentina. His current decision, he gave on his own conviction - motu proprio -, but it also fulfilled one of two conditions attached by the SSPX to establish dialogue.

To belong to the Church and reject the Mass of the Pope? No!

The problem that the Brotherhood still has to recognize the validity and legitimacy of the "new Mass". What they must no doubt must recognise contrary to their current practice is that every Catholic's “Sunday obligation” is met they attend a celebration of the new Mas, provided that they are actually celebrated according to the books of the church. Other acts of recognition may be required, such as the use of the consecrated Host in the tabernacle which originate from a Novus Ordo Mass or the receiving Communion in the Mass of the local bishop. The idea is absurd that someone could belong to the Catholic church, but reject going to a Papal Mass and out of his hand receiving Communion. That must be clear to the SSPX. Concelebration cannot be required as the Council stressed.

The demand for "full acceptance of all the conciliar texts" sounds strange, however, coming from the mouths of priest who openly express their contempt for the extraordinary use, ie the old Mass. So, to cite just one example, a prelate, Dean and Cathedral Vicar, to the question of a believer asked if he would not even once use the first Eucharistic prayer, the Roman canon,replied: "To summarize, I would not even do this under torture ". One should know in this context that the Council of Trent specifies excommunication of anyone who accuses this canon of being defective.

The second condition of the SSPX, the lifting of the excommunication, the Pope fulfilled only when it was no longer put forward in the form of a condition, but as a humble request. Also, the Pope stated the excommunication was not invalid from the outset, but it is now ended in its effect.

"Adoption of the Second Vatican Council" will be a condition of the Church on the SSPX in the future talks. So has Pope Benedict XVI formulated it in his letter to the world’s bishops on March 10. The German Bishops' Conference who have by canon lawn no right to authorize or prohibit anything made the conditions for a dialogue stricter, by talking about "complete acceptance" of the Council. But what does "acceptance" mean? Here lies the second problem of the SSPX, but also that of most of their opponents. Adoption can mean the council is not treated like a robber synod and put in the dock (as was done Lefèbvre), but it is legitimate, convened and presided over by the Pope and thereby to respect its declarations, constitutions and decrees as a legitimate act of the highest ecclesiastical authority.

“Fully accept", but it may also mean full and unconditional agreement to all the decisions of the council. So the call to the SSPX from the German Bishops' Conference sounds, and it will be understood by many in this way. This understanding, however, is wrong. If it were correct, then should a significant part of today's Catholic theology professors and also bishops be excommunicated, and if not at least suspended. Because they do not even think of such a complete adoption of the Vatican as they require from others. Those in glass houses should not throw stones. Even the small council compendium of Karl Rahner and Herbert Vorgrimler cheerfully censured those texts of the Council which do not comply with their own theological ideas. I will cite some examples of open dissent and disobedience, which have so far never faced sanction.

1. First, there is the denial of credal sentences, repeated in the Second Vatican Council, but which already have been defined by previous Councils, and belong to the firm belief of the Catholic Church: the doctrine of the Divine Trinity, the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ and his virginal conception, the nature of the cross of Jesus' death as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins which is formulated in the words of Jesus at the Last Supper and is the central point of all the apostles are preaching. The council used the word "Mass" about twenty times. The application of "God's Song of the Servant " of the prophet Isaiah to Jesus, is a topos of Christian preaching in the Acts of the Apostles. By disputing this interpretation by Catholic theology professors (including one Guardini Prize), and even bishops will of course also render obselet the interpretation of the Mass as a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Christ and thus the concept of "Mass" . The sacrificial character of the Mass was made a dogma by the Council of Trent. And the Second Vatican Council used the word "Sacrifice of the Mass" about twenty times.

The necessity of the Church for salvation needs again to be recognised.

2. The Second Vatican Council speaks of the necessity of the Church for salvation and of the sole mediation of Jesus Christ and formulated it thus: "Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved" The fact that Christ, always keeps open salvation iw taught by the highest authority of the church with the gift of infallibility in faith and morals, is also stressed by the Second Vatican Council. Nevertheless, a skeptical relativism and pluralism of today is represented by a significant number of theologians. One can so proceed.

3. There the celibacy of priests, indicated as a precious gift , whose maintenance priests and believers are urgently and insistently implored to pray for . Is it an unfortunate coincidence that I have never heard in the last forty years, a call to prayer, let alone a common prayer in the church which has been concerned with this?

4. The daily celebration of Holy Mass for priests is no longer self-evident. In some places priests have made single celebrations impossible, while the council writes, "the daily celebration of the work of our redemption is strongly recommended. It is also not necessary for believers to be present for the celebration to be an act of Christ and the Church. Who of those who demand "full acceptance" of all the conciliar texts have accepted the texts cited here?

5. And when the decree on the formation of priests said that young theologians should learn "with Saint Thomas as a master" "to more deeply speculate on the mysteries of salvation", it is also obvious that this remained a pious wish.

6. As a touchstone for the recognition of the Second Vatican Council often the position on the Decree on the Church and the world, Gaudium et Spes, is cited. One of the duties contained the constitution reads: "Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law." In the Königstein statement, the German Bishops' Conference many years ago stated the opposite. A similar statement was published by the Austrian bishops in Mariatrost. Few pastors have publicly criticized "the sin of the bishops" (Cardinal Schönborn) Many priests and teachers of theology are resolutely opposed to the quoted phrase of the Vatican Council.

7. The council has banned any liturgical innovation that will not be justified by "safely anticipated" spiritual benefits. It has confirmed Latin as the language of the Roman liturgy, and permitted the use of the vernacular only for parts of the Mass – the liturgy of the word was meant. It has indicated Gregorian chant as the specific choral of the Church and supported the idea that the faithful would be able to sing their respective Latin texts. It said that the priest "at the head of God's people" bears prayers to God, and not that the direction of his prayer is reversed and he faces the people. That the priest is not the host of the Communion but the first reception, who administers the gift which he has received, gives rise to the understanding that the Communion of the Faithful takes place after the priest. No council father would also come up with the idea bring about the disappearance of the Nicene Creed, which connects us with all the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches and which the Protestant confirmation candidates today learn, and replace it by the Apostles Creed. But this has happened. It was formerly the case that any Catholic who went to the Mass memorized the great creed. "Full adoption of the Council"?

The greatest difficulty seems to the SSPX to be the decree on religious freedom, which for the SSPX which seems to contradict at its core the traditional teaching of the Church seems to contradict it. That it can be consider a break, can the SSPX and passionate defenders of the new church teachings on religious freedom such as Ernst Wolfgang Böckenförde agree. For some, this is an argument for breaking the illicit nature of the new hypothesis for the other an argument against the binding nature of Tradition. Indeed, the Council fathers failed to relate the doctrine of this Decree to tradition. Only the introduction states that the doctrine of religious freedom, "does not depart from the traditional Catholic doctrine of the moral obligation of individuals and societies towards the true religion and the only Church of Christ." This means that any interpretation of this new doctrine, in opposition to this sentence is contrary to the intentions of the Council if one can speak here of a specific intention. In this case, therefore, any harmonization efforts mist be supported, as mainly in France has been attempted with success (notably in the Roman dissertation of Basil Valuet, a monk of the Abbey at Le Barroux, which bears the title "Le droit à la liberté religieuse dans la tradition de l’église? ") In any case it seems that the challenging of the traditional doctrine of "the obligations of society towards the one true Church" stands in opposition to the council text which follows. Only a "hermeneutics of the Council" (Benedict XVI) can assist and lead to a consensus. The dialogue, which started here is laborious. In the best case, it will lead to a deepening of the Church's doctrine of civil freedom of public worship. However, this is matter of disagreement, without any practical significance.

For multi-religious societies, the principle of tolerance applies

The religiously homogenous state has long lost its status as "societas perfecta". We live in a global multireligious society, as Gorbachev saw clearly when he said of the Communist Party that ideological homogeneity is not possible anymore. For such a society, Pope Pius XII formulated the tolerance principle. The situation is comparable to the lifting of a half millennia old ban by the Church of loaning money at interest, which was then, for example, passionately opposed by the Dominicans. The only thing was: interest in a modern monetary economy is no longer the same as the interest rate, which I require as a loan to a brother who is in distress.

The difference for the SSPX is no longer a question of whether but why they will turn to religious freedom - freedom of religion, either based on personalism or from the needs of the common good. The result is the same. Also a purposeless dispute about principle. But this is the idea of Wittgenstein: "A wheel which by rotating does not turns others does not belongs to the machine.

The success of the talks with the SSPX is far from certain. But from the outset to describe the matter as "unlikely" is not appropriate. Where it comes to the power of the Holy Spirit works through a reconciliation, Christians are not given to pessimistic or optimistic calculations of probability, but to pray and to seek a miracle. The Christian faith is a faith of miracles. It relies on the word of the Lord: " If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?."
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