Looking to the letter, not the “spirit”: On the 60th anniversary of Vatican II

Michie

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There is plenty of unfinished business from Vatican II—things the council said needed to be done, but we haven’t gotten around to doing yet.


What was the Second Vatican Council all about? With the 60th anniversary of the council’s opening now close at hand, you can still get an argument about that. Instead of consulting the “spirit” of Vatican II for an answer, my suggestion is that we take a look at the letter instead. And here surely the most reliable source is the man who convoked Vatican II, Pope St. John XXIII.

In his opening address to the bishops gathered in St. Peter’s, delivered on October 11, 1962, Pope John stated the objective like this: “The Church must once more reaffirm that teaching authority of hers.” And lest there be any doubt: “That was our reason for calling this most authoritative assembly.”

Sixty years later, who can doubt that this admirable goal remains that—an admirable goal? And not the least reason is the continuing resistance of partisans of “the spirit of Vatican II” who prefer that the teaching of the Catholic Church be forever in flux.

People who think that way sometimes quote St. John Henry Newman’s famous saying, in the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, that “to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” They ignore his dictum in the same work that a doctrinal development “to be faithful, must retain both the doctrine and the principle with which it started.”

There is, however, plenty of unfinished business from Vatican II—things the council said needed to be done, but we haven’t gotten around to doing yet. A case in point is what the council said—in Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the Church—about creating a means for qualified lay people to express opinions:

Continued below.
Looking to the letter, not the “spirit”: On the 60th anniversary of Vatican II
 

Landon Caeli

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There is, however, plenty of unfinished business from Vatican II—things the council said needed to be done, but we haven’t gotten around to doing yet. A case in point is what the council said—in Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the Church—about creating a means for qualified lay people to express opinions:

By reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have, the laity are empowered—indeed sometimes obliged—to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church. If the occasion should arise, this should be done through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose. (LG 37)

What I find interesting, is that some of the most staunch opponent's of Vat II, express the spirit of it the most of all - by speaking out publicly against it as laity.

Is that irony? Or some kind of paradox... IDK. :)
 
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chevyontheriver

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What I find interesting, is that some of the most staunch opponent's of Vat II, express the spirit of it the most of all - by speaking out publicly against it as laity.

Is that irony? Or some kind of paradox... IDK. :)
The 'letter' of Vatican II is pretty darn good. I've thought so since the early 1970's when I actually read the documents, and on all of my re-reads. A few infelicitous words here and there, but where the rubber hit the road it was good.

I'm re-reading the liturgy documents now, and if only we had implemented what the council Fathers asked for we would not be having liturgy wars. Oh well. We got what we got instead.
 
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