The Pope has been busy this week, even as he takes to using a moving platform, a la Blessed John Paul II, to reduce the amount of walking he has to do in processions etc. The picture of him above (Reuters) is from a report in the SMH highlighting tomorrow's opening (which you can watch live streamed on XT3) of the Australian pilgrim house in Rome, Domus Australia, jointly funded by Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Lismore dioceses (hmm, what an interesting self-selection. Could those, perchance, be the dioceses in this country seriously committed to actual orthodoxy???!).
Pope Benedict XVI has also announced a 'Year of Faith' to start in October next year on the anniversary of the opening of Vatican II in a Motu Proprio Porta Fidei.
Putting VII in its place?
It's hard to resist the idea that the intent is finally to put to bed the dominance of Vatican II - and utter disregard for all that came before it - in modern Catholic thinking.
As such, it is another shot fired in the war between traditionalists and those advocating continuity on the one hand, and those arguing for a radical break in the history of the Church (liberals) on the other - the latest developments on which on the intellectual front are chronicled in the latest of Sandro Magister's Chiesa blog.
The Motu Proprio has three main themes:
- the continuity of the faith and God's presence throughout the history of the Church;
- the importance of good catechesis on the actual content of the faith, with a paean to the importance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; and
- the need to actually spread the faith through active evangelization.
The Motu Proprio itself of course does emphasize the value of Vatican II - when correctly interpreted:
"They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.” I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”'
But it makes several comments on the history of continuing witness in the Church, in direct opposition to those who have chosen assorted arbitrary dates (the legalization of Christianity under Constantine; the dark ages; the triumph of nominalism in the fourteen century; Trent; etc) as the beginning of the start of the rot.
Indeed, in his Sunday homily this week VIS News says that he:
"...explained that the mission of the Church must be considered in the light of "the theological meaning of history. Epoch-making events, the rise and fall of great powers, all lie under the supreme dominion of God. No earthly power can take His place. The theology of history is an essential aspect of the new evangelisation, because the men and women of our time, following the tragic period of the totalitarian empires of the twentieth century, need to rediscover a global vision of the world and history."
Catechesis and knowing the actual faith
The Pope also stressed the importance of knowing the faith, presenting the Catechism of the Catholic Church as one of the key fruits of Vatican II. He points to the importance of Catholics knowing the Creed by heart (something being undermined in most Australian dioceses by bishops and priests desperate to avoid having the laity say words like 'consubstantial' in the new translation of the Nicene Creed).
He suggests that:
"...the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here, in fact, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history."
The third key theme, unsurprisingly, is the need to actually spread the faith, and give a renewed focus on mission. It is pretty clear I think, that this Pope is using the catchphrase of the New Evangelization to attempt to return the Church to its proper mission focus - again in stark contrast to those who for the last fifty odd years have advocated the view that any variety of faith (or even none) is just fine, all will be saved, and missionary work is old-fashioned and should be dumped in favour of action for social justice now.
Should be interesting to see how it all plays out.