Treasures Old and New: Vatican II is to be Understood and Interpreted within a Hermeneutic of Continuity
Was the Council a break with past teaching, something entirely new, or was it a continuation, a freshening, of the trajectory of the truth as taught by the Church from its beginnings?
In discussing the Second Vatican Council much has been made about the difference between those who view that Council and its teaching through either a hermeneutic of continuity or a hermeneutic of rupture.
Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - I recently attended a forum where a theology Professor gave an address on Vatican II to a group of Deacons. It was meant to be a tribute, in light of the Councils' fiftieth anniversary, to the importance of the Council. For the most part, his thoughts were insightful and well presented.
However, in the question and answer session which followed his talk, something emerged which points to a serious challenge faced by the Catholic Church as she engages both her mission of the New Evangelization (ad intra) as well as her task of leading a new missionary age (ad extra).
I use the Latin terms for "from within" (ad intra) and "from without" (ad extra) intentionally. Such phrases often accompany theological discourse and debate. The question and answer session following the talk was no exception. What became clear was that terms - and what one means by them - really matter.
The term "New Evangelization" was coined by Blessed John Paul II and has been embraced as a foundation for the pastoral work of Pope Benedict XVI. It refers, among other things, to the evangelistic and catechetical work so desperately needed within the whole Catholic Church.
It acknowledges the fact that many people in the pews need to encounter the Risen Lord. They then need to hear the fullness of the Gospel as taught authentically and authoritatively by the teaching office (the magisterium) of the Catholic Church. Finally, they need to embrace that teaching in a way which is reflected in a unity of life.
Sadly, we must acknowledge that there are many sacramentalized Catholics who have not been evangelized. Further, there are many Catholics who do not really know what their own Church teaches. Much of our "catechesis" - instruction in the faith- since the Second Vatican Council - has been inadequate.
Thus, the Catholic Church has committed its resources to reawakening the faithful through an encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ. Further, the Church seeks to re-evangelize and re-catechize the faithful so that that they can consciously choose to live their lives as Catholic Christians in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world into which they have been sent on mission.
I use the phrase "New Missionary Age" to refer to the unchangeable task of the Catholic Church, through her members, to bring the whole world into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is to lead to incorporation into the Church, which is His Body.
The Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued in 200 and entitled "Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church" stated this with simple clarity. Here is just one sentence:
"It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God."
The Prefect of that Congregation, the author of this document, was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. He is now Pope Benedict XVI. His continual reminder to the faithful of the missionary vocation of the Church "ad extra" is one of the hallmarks of his papal Magisterium.
The speaker and I had an interesting discussion concerning the importance of that letter and what it really says. We strongly disagreed. I may return to that disagreement in a future article. In this one I want to zero in on another term he used, this one was an Italian word.
The speaker enthusiastically used the term "aggiornamento" when referring the Second Vatican Council. The word was used by Blessed John XXIII as he charged the Council Fathers in their important work. Loosely translated, the word means to bring something up to date. We would both agree on that.
However, as to what that term means as it relates to the teaching of that Council in the light of the two millennia of the Church history - and its relationship to the teachings of past Councils - now that is where our discussion revealed a strong disagreement. It also led to a lively discussion and debate.
This all relates to another theological term, "hermeneutic". A hermeneutic is a lens through which we view or interpret something of importance. In discussing the Second Vatican Council much has been made about the difference between those who view that Council and its teaching through either a hermeneutic of continuity, seeing proper reform in light of that continuity, or a hermeneutic of rupture.
In other words, was the Council a break with past teaching, something entirely new, or was it a continuation, a freshening, of the trajectory of the truth as ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Year of Faith News
- WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Me, Myself, and I, How to Overcome the Unholy Trinity
- TUESDAY HOMILY: Christian Perfection
- Does the Lord Really Mean We Are to Be Perfect?
- Pope Francis On Gospel of Life Sunday: Let Us Say Yes to Life!
- SUNDAY HOMILY: The Happy Priest - Thoughts on Fatherhood
- Taking Custody of Your Heart
- OMG! LOL! NOT.
- MONDAY HOMILY: When it Comes to Love, Super-size It
- Holding the Treasure in Earthen Vessels
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?