Monday, 17 October 2011

Revolution 1

Robert Mickens, that bête noir of so many blogs, has written in the current edition of The Tablet of a new book published recently in Italy Mal di Chiesa, or Church Sickness.
The author is veteran Vatican journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, who covered the Council for the Ansa news agency and then worked two years (1983-85) as assistant editor of L'Osservatore Romano. Svidercoschi says the Catholic Church is ailing right now, not because Vatican II went too far, but because it was a "revolution, left only half done". His 120-page booklet is only one of a number of recent publications by committed Catholics here in Italy who are voicing alarm over the direction Pope Benedict appears to be taking the Church.
The word "revolution" is a telling one. For years the Church has been reassuring us that what happened in the 1960s was a "reform". The word "revolution" has tended to be used by those who resisted the changes, such as the eminent Michael Davis, and has been considered a very controversial term. So it is interesting to read the word being used by someone on the other side.

It really would seem to be only now that we are becoming able to get a bit of distance on the whole Vatican II episode and look at it with something like historical dispassion. Recently I completed a book which had to deal with that period (among others), and I felt that I could not just write another yah-boo account of the period; there have been far too many of these, from Xavier Rynne onwards, with a simplistic division of the parties in the council into 'goodies' and 'baddies', according to one's perspective.

Regular readers of this blog will probably be able to guess my own perspective fairly readily. But I did not want to make yet another Aunt Sally of those who differ from me: that does little to serve the cause of truth, and if my own perspective is to have any value at all it has to rest on truth.

Those of my persuasion are far too liable to caricature the 'liberal' wing in the 1960s as being deliberately malicious destroyers of two thousand years of history, enfants terribles who had managed to seize the wheel and had turned the Barque of Peter onto dangerous rocks, just to see what would happen. The 'liberals' were apt to caricature those of a traditional persuasion as being power-hungry despots with no care for the poor, or the Gospel; deliberate train-wreckers of reform, lacking vision, lacking faith, resisting all change simply on principle.

If we are to understand this period with hope of enlightenment, then we must firmly set aside such caricatures and try to start from the principle that all parties were zealous Christians who truly sought to do God's will.


Tom Piatak said...

Thanks for this wise post.

GOR said...

In his 1985 interview with Vittorio Messori which resulted in the book The Ratzinger Report, the future pope made a number of points about the Council which are telling. One point regarded the original intent of Pope John XXIII that the Council should seek to present Catholic Doctrine in terms more relevant to a changing and changed world. But that did not mean changing the Doctrine – as some would subsequently claim and promote.

He noted that the Council Fathers were “firm in their faith” to begin with. Even the initial rejection of the prepared schemata by the Fathers did not imply a rejection of the underlying truth, but a criticism of “the inadequate way of expressing it and certainly also against some definitions that had never existed up to then and are considered unnecessary even today.” The Council was to be pastoral, not dogmatic, and it appears that the schemata did not reflect this – hence their immediate rejection.

But it is the ‘firmness of faith’ of the Fathers that it indicative. They were starting from a solid foundation, not creating something new. We can discuss, argue and even disagree about aspects of the Faith – as the Church has done from the beginning – but always from a solid and unchangeable base.

Messori notes that then Cardinal Ratzinger once quoted Cardinal Dopfner’s remark that the post-conciliar period resembled “a huge construction site”. But someone later added that it was a construction site “where the blueprint had been lost and everyone continues to build according to his taste.” And the blueprint is the depositum fidei which we lose sight of at our peril.

“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

Sue Sims said...

Father: what's the book called and when will it be published?

B flat said...

Father, my experience was of the Council being prayed for publicly, and regarded as an extraordinary, wonderful, event for us in the Church to witness.
Documents were published, translated, and studied. They lit no ardent fires in me, but I thought that was my negligence.
The Mass seemed to be changing, bit by bit - but it was the Mass, after all. The maniples went, along with the beautifully printed and bound books used at the altar, replaced by loose papers and temporary translations, missalettes, and other signs of the changing "Pilgrim Church". Then the Missa Normativa was launched on the parishes, their faithful clergy and people, as the new way they were to pray.
I had no views, because I had no independent knowledge, of either liberals or conservatives. All I knew was that those who had care of me and hundreds of millions like me in the Church, had decided that I was not to live and pray in the way that generations who had longed to achieve union with God, from whom many had been acknowledged as Saints, had lived and prayed. We must all now follow a new order. That New Order has brought the Church of Rome to her present condition.
I don't care whether those responsible for this thought they were serving God honestly, and caring for the souls entrusted to them. Nor do I, or did I, think they were power-hungry. After all, my characterisation of them would change nothing, and bring me no comfort at all. But I did ask myself: Which member of a commission, committee, or council, feels he is fulfilling a pastoral responsibility when fighting his corner in a committee meeting or assembly? That is not a place for shepherds of souls, nor for priests. Yet all dioceses sprouted these new bodies evidencing their new christian activism. And that is where bishops spend most of their time and energy.
In spite of all the words, studies, and publications, what remained of the Catholic Church for laypeople in most of England in 1970, if compared to the situation twelve years earlier, is very similar to the situation for Catholics in 1549 compared to 1535.

Matthew M said...

Excellent comment, I salute you.