Thursday, 18 April 2013

Are you a complaining, gossiping resister to the Spirit of Vatican II?

Over the last few days the little summaries of Pope Francis' daily sermons have included admonitions against calumny (and of course false witness is a serious sin), gossip (criticising others behind their backs) and those who want to turn back the clock on Vatican II.

It is hard to judge just who Pope Francis' targets are with some of these remarks, since the full text of his homilies are not available.

Still, not unsurprisingly, some, including Archbishop Nichols of Westminster have turned these three strands into an attack on Catholic bloggers and traditionalists, arguing that we 'destroy unity' by sharing news (it's gossip if it travels outside the magic inner circle and I'm someone who feels they shouldn't have to follow the social media?), and complaining about episcopal failures, amongst other crimes.

Sad to see clericalism rear its ugly head so strongly!

Co-responsibility of the laity

Now as regular readers will be well aware, I'm no great fan of Vatican II..  The fruits of the Council that we see in the devastation of the Church in the West suggest to me, as to many traditionalists, that the continuing triumphalist interpretation of it is generally unmerited.

 But I do see some positives in it, and one of them was the recognition of the important role the laity should play in the Church.

We've seen the devastating effects clerical secrecy has had on the Church.

Pope Francis commented in his homily on complaints that the correct behavior for a Christian, according to the Vatican Radio report, is:

"First, "do not judge anyone" because "the only Judge is the Lord." Then "keep quiet" and if you have something to say, say it to the interested parties, to those "who can remedy the situation," but "not to the entire neighborhood." "If, by the grace of the Holy Spirit – concluded Pope Francis - we succeed in never gossiping, it will be a great step forward" and "will do us all good".

But, as I've pointed out previously, we are not 'judging' when we call someone out for what is objectively a sin, or dispute a prudential judgment.  We shouldn't of course, claim to know the state of their soul of course.  But should we stay silent when someone publicly does something that is objectively wrong, like vote for gay 'marriage'?  Of course not!

And should we stay silent when those in authority refuse to act?

Where we become aware of a sin privately, the first step is of course to rebuke the person privately.  But Scripture tells us it doesn't end there.  If our first attempt at correction fails, we should bring in someone more authoritative.  And if that too fails it is time to go public.

The situation is different though when the sin is public already, for Our Lord's example teaches that tolerance is not a virtue!

Nor is the situation different when it comes to issues open to debate, such as pastoral strategy.  There does, of course, come a point where we must simply obey, and so so without grumbling or complaining.

But where Church law is not followed, where the action - or inaction of our leaders seems to us to be leading the flock astray should we stay silent?  Is speaking up on these issues mere gossip?

I think not.

We need to act with charity of course, and consider our own motivations carefully and prayerfully.

Yet those in authority also need to recognise the reality that Canon Law gives Catholics, lay and clerical, a positive right to make their views known.

Turning back the clock?

Finally, do we really have to believe that Vatican II was a 'beautiful work of the Spirit', a 'great grace', and that resistance to some of its approaches is about stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit?

The then Cardinal Ratzinger took a rather more sardonic view of the status of Councils of the Church in his Principles of Catholic Theology, even quoting St Gregory Nazanzus on the Council of Constantinople in 381:

"To tell the truth, I am convinced that every assembly of bishops is to be avoided, for I have never experienced a happy ending to any council; not even the abolition of abuses...but only ambition or wrangling about what was taking place."

Back then the now Pope Emeritus suggested that Councils have to be judged on their fruits: some proved important for their doctrinal and other formulations; others have, in the long run, proved to have been utterly irrelevant to the life of the Church.

Where does Vatican II fit in this spectrum?  Personally I think much of its pastoral approach has failed because it grappled with the wrong problem:  focused on coming to terms with modernity, the Council Fathers and their advisors failed to realise that in fact the era of modernity was about to end, symbolically in 1968.  And in a post-modern world, the secularization of liturgy and practice was to prove a disaster.

Yet there are some positives that I think will yet emerge from a correct reading of the Council: the recognition of the role of the laity; more positive relationships between Catholics and other Christians; and that genuine ecumenism that seeks the reconciliation of the groups closest to the Church for example.

The challenge for us now is not to indulge in nostalgia, for, as the Pope was perhaps trying to suggest, the the clock can never really be turned back.  Few traditionalists, for example, really want to see a return of the super-fast low masses that were the main experience of my mother's generation.

Rather, we have to discern what truly is a grace arising from the Council, and what should be discarded as pastoral prescriptions that have not stood the test of time, or are unsuited to the present age.

The task, as Pope Francis points out, is not to make Vatican II a monument, for as Pope Benedict pointed out, a Council is not an end in itself, but rather 'an instrument in the service of the Church'.

The task now is to assimilate what is useful from Vatican II, discard what is not, and move on.

But then again, maybe I really am a negative, Holy Spirit resisting purveyer of gossip and should stop blogging forthwith...

**Things I for one wouldn't resist!

That said, there a few things from Vatican II that are yet to be implemented, that I for one certainly wouldn't resist.

Just to start at the beginning, with Sacrosanctum Concilium, how about:
  • Popular devotions of the Christian people, provided they conform to the laws and norms of the Church, are to be highly commended (SC 13);
  • No person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority (SC22);
  • The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites (SC 35)
  • Concelebration is restricted to a limited list of cases such as the Chrism Mass, Synods, etc (SC 57)
  • Pastors of souls should see to it that the principal hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in Church on Sundays and on more solemn feasts (SC100);
  • The treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and cultivated with great care (SC 114);
  • The Church recognises Gregorian chant as being especially suited to the Roman liturgy.Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services (SC116); and
  • The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem (SC 120).
***Other blog responses

And for some other responses to the Archbishop's claims, take a look here:
  • William Oddie at the UK Catholic Herald argues Archbishop Nichols is stretching the Pope's comments well out of context;
  • Pat Archibold at the National Catholic Register; and
  • Fr Ray Blake.

1 comment:

Catholic Mission said...

Vatican Council II says all need to convert for salvation (AG 7).And here is Pope Francis saying the same thing ?

“It is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church”-Pope Francis

Pope: Mass on Feast of St. George

2013-04-23 Vatican Radio