Saturday, 23 June 2012
Vatican II: 50 Years of Failure or Fruition?
Glancing through the Universe Catholic Newspaper (which I received free this past week) I came across an article by Fr Sean McDonagh in which he evaluated the Survey conducted in Ireland by the Association of Catholic Priests in February of this year. It indicates that 75% of Catholics say Catholic sexual teaching has no relevance. This rises to 82% among 25-34 year olds. 87% of Catholics think Holy Communion should be given to those who are re-married after divorce or in a stable relationship after divorce. This rises to 92% among those aged 35-54.
When one looks at these indicators is it possible to say the Church has been renewed in the last fifty years? No Executive Board or CEO of any organisation would claim business is on the up when its workforce is shrinking and many of those who remain are in revolt. The shrinkage of the Church is undeniable: Mass attendance and priestly ordinations are falling; schools, convents and seminaries are closing. The revolt is indicated in the Survey from Ireland, and the CDF’s ‘Dialogue with the deaf’: the LCWR in the USA (or the ‘Magisterium of Nuns’) as described by Cardinal Levada here. This shrinkage and revolt do not indicate renewal to me, but decimation. From where does such decimation arise?
I think it started as much with Person-centred Psychology and Non-Directive Counselling / Therapy as with existentialism. These were highly attractive in the post-war years and remain so simply because they facilitate concupiscence, which is fundamentally an orientation toward the self; they allow man to fall into self-focused extremes and to dissent from the Church under the misuse of ‘Do not judge’, distorting the Biblical injunction which forbids the judging of people by making it an injunction not to judge actions, such as abortion. Thus began the rejection of Church teaching in morality in order ‘not to judge’, with dissenters claiming to be acting in ‘loyal dissent’ –actually a contradiction in terms and more accurately expressed as ‘loyal disloyalty’. Thus the spirit of freedom from external authority so as to self-actualise in autonomous, self-direction took off.
This spirit seems to have infiltrated the Council by deliberate intent, cf. Fr Schillebeeckx, Dutch magazine De Bazuin, No. 16, 1965: “We will express it [ambiguity?] in a diplomatic way, but after the Council, we will draw the implicit conclusions." (“We have used ambiguous phrases in the Council and we know how we will interpret them afterwards” is another translation of the same statement). This spirit of autonomy necessarily replaces the Rock of Peter with the shifting sands of self-directing autonomy.
I have to say I think good fruits have come from the Council, which I accept was an authentic act of the Magisterium: the laity truly experience themselves as members of the Church, and have a magisterial teaching which declares they have a genuine (and primary) apostolate of their own: that of being the leaven in the world. We are also able to pray and work alongside our Non-Catholic brethren (inter-communion being excluded) while at the same time holding to the Council’s teaching that
the separated Churches and Communities ...though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church...
For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. (Unitatis Redintegratio, 3. Vatican Council II, emphasis added).
...all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it...
Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfil their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ. (Dignitatis Humanae, 1. Vatican II, emphasis added).
Sadly, excesses and distortions appear to have grown alongside the good fruits, perhaps because of the ambiguities Schillebeeckx infers were written into the texts. As a result, laity began to be used as pseudo-clerics, standing shoulder to shoulder with the priests in the sanctuary and sitting shoulder to shoulder with them in Committee rooms. And we have encouraged them in this, rather than in the Council’s actual call for them to be the leaven in the world of media, medicine, education, factories and fields etc., where they are the Church’s indispensible front-line apostles. At the same time, religious indifferentism threatened to take hold as a result of misunderstanding ecumenical activity, prompting a loss of the Council’s statement that while other communions can give access to salvation, their efficacy to do so flows from the Catholic Church.
I suggest there is a need for us all to value and promote the laity’s proper, authentic role as the leaven of society if we are to truly value the lay state; that there is a need for the clergy to grow in the valuing of their primary role of teaching, sanctifying and governing while assisting and guiding the laity in their apostolate in the world, and a real need to restore what is identifiably Catholic in our worship (Latin and the ad orientem orientation, as per Sacrosanctum Concilium 36, 54 and 116). We might also consider restoring a right understanding of the Church as the One True Church and of the Papacy, setting prudent limits on the idea that a Pope must consult at every stage of every decision. He may indeed be one of the Bishops, but without him, even the collective College of Bishops has no authority (Lumen Gentium 22).
Rome might well remind us all that the Deposit of Faith is unchanging; that the Faith taught and preached by Trent and Vatican I is still the Faith to be taught and preached today; that while we can develop our understanding of Tradition it can never be developed in such a way that it stands at odds with Trent and Vatican I. Let Rome remind us, in the words of Pope John XXIII in opening Vatican II, that
...from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a Magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character. (Opening Speech to Vatican II, Pope John XXIII).