Not all was utopian in the Church before Vatican II, even if since the Council she has grown increasingly dystopian. The danger we face today is to fall into the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Not everything that came after the Council can be simplistically explained away as a direct result of the Council, be that thing good or bad. The Council occurred at a particular point of time in history and culture, and the implementation of its decrees was a distinct phenomenon, which acted almost as a corrective to the deficiencies of the conciliar texts in the eyes of their implementers, and certainly as an interpretation of those texts according to an agenda that was not easily reconciled to the express will of the majority of the Council Fathers.
Should we have had a Council in the 1960s, of all decades? Well, as we shall soon discover with Covid, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
In 1956, two issues of the New York monthly, The Catholic Mind, ran pieces on issues confronting apostolic sisters’ congregations at the time. In the April edition, Sr Mary Emil IHM, of the only-recently-defunct Marygrove College in Detroit (from which a cornucopia of books have since been digitized and added to the Internet Archive), addressed in her article, among other things, “The Vocation Crisis:” Continue reading “Vocations before the Council—A Snapshot”→
TODAY IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION date of A Limerickal Commentary on the Second Vatican Council, a recent little labour of love of mine. It publishes for the first time a typescript set of limericks written by anglophone bishops during the Council.
Apart from being very witty, they offer an insight into how some celebrities and issues were being received among at least some of the bishops at the Council. They are a sort of para-commentary to be read alongside the formal, academic commentaries. They remind us that the Council Fathers were men with their own thoughts and insights, and not an ideologically-uniform body. It humanizes the Council just a little. Continue reading “Shameless Self-Advertising”→
Sydney seems to have a hotter summer than I remember from my youth. There were hot days then of course, but it seems more unrelentingly hot now. Global warming? Or has absence disacclimatized me?
This trip to Sydney was planned in haste, a result of the slings and arrows of outrageous monastic life. This visit I find myself more engaged by the city’s colonial history. My reverend nephew—also sojourning in Sydney at present for some restorative rest with the family—and I have visited a number of colonial houses both private and public. For example, there was Elizabeth Bay House, a compact but grand house with now-lost extensive gardens, and Vaucluse House, more modestly grand and still with substantial gardens. The former is very much an house, the latter feels far more an home. My reverend nephew prefers the house, my reverend self prefers the home. Make of that what you will.
These are the busiest few days of the Church’s year, liturgically at any rate. Yet it would be a dangerous sort of monastic life that did not often a sacristan and cantor time for reading and reflection, however brief.
There will be many excellent posts about these sacred days, so I shall leave it to my betters to provide them. Instead a providential piece of reading this morning, taken up by chance to accompany my breakfast, is worthy of sharing and reflection. Dom Michael Casey OCSO is an Australian Trappist, from Tarrawarra Abbey outside Melbourne. He is a writer on spiritual and monastic topics of significant renown, his wisdom tempered by common sense and the absence of cant or flowery piety. When I saw his name in the contents of March’s edition of The American Benedictine Review I knew I had found something to read over porridge and toast.
The article is really an interview, “We Have Lost the Love of Learning”; Michael Casey OCSO in Conversation with Bernhard A Eckerstorfer OSB. Its content and target readership are monastic but there are some universal principles nevertheless. What follows is a deliberately and unapologetically selective set of quotations which, however, do not suffer from the lack of fuller context. The selectivity is purely to highlight the points that resonate most clearly with me and seem to merit sharing. Continue reading “A Triduum Post Not About the Triduum”→
In the past 24 hours a previous post here, Vale Vatican II from last September, has received some attention on two very worthwhile, tradition-minded websites: Liturgy Guy and 1 Peter 5. I am grateful and gratified because these are sites which hold clear views directly expressed but season them with intelligent commentary and coherent argument.
As so often on a wide range of websites, religious or otherwise, the comments’ section—the combox for short—reveals a less attractive side to debate and argument. No doubt most of these commenters are decent people of faith, capable of high emotion in defence of the Church and its faith and worship, and brave enough to stand up and be counted for it. However, some of them, invariably laity, while so bold and beautiful in the profession of their faith, sometimes fall into the trap that the internet lays for us: indiscretion. Continue reading “A Late-Night Counsel to the Bold and the Beautiful”→
Two documents, both episcopal but both quite different, have captured my attention these last few weeks. The first was the motu proprio of Pope Francis, Magnum principium, devolving primary responsibility for the liturgical translations to bishops’ conferences. It has already been dealt with on this site here and here and here, but one thing from it lingers in the mind: that “great principle” of the title, which is really something of a great misrepresentation:
The great principle, established by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, according to which liturgical prayer be accommodated to the comprehension of the people so that it might be understood, required the weighty task of introducing the vernacular language into the liturgy and of preparing and approving the versions of the liturgical books, a charge that was entrusted to the Bishops.
One searches in vain through the conciliar decree on the liturgy for anything that adequately justifies this bold assertion. Whoever drafted this for the pope got away with quite the deception. Continue reading “Vale Vatican II: Moving On”→
It had not been in mind to comment on the latest chapter of papagate, in which Pope Francis has declared, we are told, that the liturgical reform is irreversible. Many commentators have weighed on the papal address, not least Frs Z and Hunwicke, Christopher Altieri at Catholic World Report and Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture. Though they share the same general interpretation of the papal speech they are not identical in their approach to liturgy; so reading them together makes for a balanced orthodox approach to the situation. (Feel free to add others you have found in the comments’ section below.)
However I followed one link to the infamous Pray Tell blog, and a commentary by Fr Anthony Ruff OSB of that monastic bastion of modernism modernity, Collegeville. He approached the papal address in a rather canny way, by examining its sources. He gives a running score of the sources cited in both the text proper and its footnotes. His tally is tabulated thus: Continue reading “The Magisterium and Nostalgia: Pope Francis on Liturgy”→
A brief thought on the ongoing, and troubling, impasse over Amoris Laetitia, and the dubia submitted by i quattro cardinali seeking clarification of controverted formulations in and implications of the papal exhortation.
Sandro Magister today wrote of what he described as “the calculated ambiguity of the text, which has opened the way to a multiplicity of interpretations and applications, some of them decidedly new with respect to the age-old teaching of the Church.” This was part of his introduction to an essay by Claudio Pierantoni which finds a parallel to the current crisis of confusion in the early Church.
However it strikes me that we can find not merely a parallel with but also the origin of the present situation. Magister is almost certainly right in detecting a deliberate ambiguity in Amoris Laetitia (AL). However, it is probably not so very surprising that this is so. AL seems to embody a hermeneutic of ambiguity that can find its roots in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. One does not need to be a scholar to recall the many ways in which ambiguity has been read into conciliar texts, or extracted form them, in order to justify innovations in liturgy, theology and ecclesial life that the majority of the Council fathers would not have countenanced if they had been presented to them at the Council itself.
This conclusion is easily reached even without recourse to the new historiography and hermeneutics which are upsetting the deeply entrenched status quo when it comes to interpreting the Council. One need only read the 1966 classic, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, by the Divine Word missionary, Fr Ralph Wiltgen SVD. Released while the dust of the Council was still settling, and written from a liberal perspective, it is disarmingly frank in its innocent-faced revelations about the machinations of the northern European faction at the Council, including “compromises” in drafting the texts of the conciliar documents. The ambiguity of these documents was clearly planned by their theologian drafters, it not by their episcopal promulgators.
This “calculated ambiguity” in the conciliar documents begat the ambiguity today in AL. This time, however, lessons have been learned and it seems that some are prepared to confront the ambiguity in order to nip its deleterious effects in the bud. No one of sound mind wants to revisit the chaos and trauma of the post-conciliar confusion.
More often than not, magisterial formulations allow room for future doctrinal reflection and elaboration (not change) by stating the barest minimum necessary to counter error and safeguard truth. The Magisterium never tries to say more than is necessary. It has a most un-German terseness and economy of language. Words are carefully chosen, having often been fought over, precisely in order to avoid ambiguity and the chaos that would almost certainly arise from it in the future.
If the Council fathers can be said to have failed, or made a mistake, at all it is certainly in this, if not elsewhere: that they failed to do the work of thrashing out the formulations to the extent they should have. In order to prevent an ever-lengthening Council, and the atrophy that might arise from this, they accepted all too readily the compromise texts placed before them by the periti, in which, as is now often admitted, “time bombs” of ambiguity had been carefully hidden. Desperate to keep up with the swinging sixties, they raced ahead of God.
The fathers ate sour grapes and the children’s teeth have been set on edge. Or what they sowed we have been painfully reaping ever since. AL is part of this conciliar harvest. It seems prudent at the very least that some pastors of the Church have learned the bitter but prophetic lesson afforded by Cardinal Ottaviani and are politely but firmly working to ensure that the teeth of the next generation will not also be set on edge, that they will a richer and more abundant harvest to reap than that sown with studied ambiguity, however good its intention. We all know that adage will tells us which road it is that is paved with good intentions. And would that Pope Francis might note the bitter lesson afforded by Pope Paul VI.
On the tube back from a lively supper after Cardinal Sarah’s important speech last night, it struck me that perhaps the conference had peaked already. Certainly in terms of an immediate and practical legacy, last night’s speech is unlikely to be bested.
However, the proceedings today were a salutary reminder that Cardinal Sarah’s vigorous and specific exhortation—for a return to the centuries-old tradition of priest and people sharing a common orientation to the east and to the Lord during the Liturgy of the Eucharist—is itself the fruit of recent scholarship and pastoral reflection on the reforms implemented in the wake of Vatican II and which claim the Council as their warrant and justification. It was just such scholarship and reflection that we were treated to today.
In the latest issue of The Tablet (22 August) there is a letter from the composer and former director of music for Portsmouth diocese. Here it is:
Melanie had suggested that children be taught more traditional Eucharistic hymns because of their (undeniably) fuller theological content and catechetical utility. Mr Inwood is clearly not impressed, perhaps because if all parishes switched to traditional hymns there would be little work for him to do.