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Pope: ‘The Council Fathers neither could nor wished to create a new Church’

By on Thursday, 11 October 2012

Benedict XVI at the weekly general audience yesterday (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI at the weekly general audience yesterday (Photo: CNS)

A reflection on the Second Vatican Council by Pope Benedict XVI has been published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on the eve of the Council’s 50th anniversary.

In the essay, the Pope recalls his presence at the opening of Vatican II, which he attended as a theological adviser. He both praises and criticises some of the Council’s most consequential documents, regarding religious liberty and the Church’s relationship with non-Christian religions and the modern world.

The essay is the introduction to a forthcoming collection of previously unpublished Council-era writings by then Fr Joseph Ratzinger. The collection will be published in German this November.

“It was a moment of extraordinary expectation,” the Pope writes of the procession of more than 2,000 bishops into St Peter’s Basilica on October 11, 1962. “Great things were about to happen.”

“Christianity, which had built and formed the Western world, seemed more and more to be losing its power to shape society,” he writes. “So that it might once again be a force to shape the future, [Blessed] John XXIII had convoked the Council without indicating to it any specific problems or programmes. This was the greatness and at the same time the difficulty of that task that was set before the ecclesial assembly.”

A crucial question for the Council Fathers, Pope Benedict writes, was the “relationship between the Church and the modern world”.

“From the 19th century onward,” the Church had “visibly entered into a negative relationship with the modern era,” he writes. “Did it have to remain so?”

Pope Benedict concludes that one of the Council’s best-known documents, Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, failed to offer an adequate definition of the “essential features that constitute the modern era”.

Instead, he writes, the “encounter with the great themes of the modern epoch” happened in “two minor documents, whose importance has only gradually come to light”.

The Declaration on Religious Liberty, “urgently requested, and also drafted, by the American bishops in particular”, clarified the Church’s affirmation of the “freedom to choose and practise religion and the freedom to change it, as fundamental human rights and freedoms”, he writes.

That declaration lent itself to troubling interpretations, the Pope writes, since it might seem to imply the “inaccessibility of the truth to man”, which would make religion a merely subjective matter. But he writes that the 1978 election of Blessed John Paul II, from a country where the state denied religious freedom, revealed the “inner orientation of the faith toward the theme of freedom, and especially freedom of religion and worship”.

The Pope also praises Nostra Aetate, the Council’s declaration that the “spiritual, moral, and socio-cultural values [of non-Christian religions] were to be respected, protected and encouraged”.

But the Pope writes that a “weakness of this otherwise extraordinary text has gradually emerged: it speaks of religion solely in a positive way, and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion.”

In conclusion, Pope Benedict reiterates one of his most prominent teachings about Vatican II: that it must be interpreted in continuity with the Church’s millennial traditions, not as a radical break with the past.

“The Council Fathers neither could nor wished to create a new or different church. They had neither the authority nor the mandate to do so,” he writes. “That is why a hermeneutic of rupture is so absurd and is contrary to the spirit and the will of the Council Fathers.”

  • Paul

    Jabba Papa, I will use your numeration in responding.

    1.  Whether NA is a central constitution of V2 is not the point.  It only takes a few grains of cyanide in an otherwise nourishing dinner to poison a healthy and strong body.

    2.  I wish it were true that NA 2&3 did not praise occultic religions.  It does.  It states that in one of them ‘men contemplate the divine mystery.’  They do no such thing.  Setion 2 of NA also states that a certain religion ‘can … lead people … to perfect liberation and … supreme enlightenment.’
      You will tell me that NA only states that this is what that religion teaches.
      Not so.  Suppose you are trying to get to Durham.  And suppose I say to you: “Joe’s map shows you a way to get to Durham.”  Will you not immediately reply, “Then give me a look at Joe’s map”?
      The statement in NA Section 2 takes exactly the same form.  In other words, it holds out an occultic religion as a way to high spiritual attainment.

    I have no argument with Section 4 of Nostra Aetate.  It is founded on the teaching of St Paul in Romans 9-11 in regard to the Jews.

    3.  I join you in welcoming Pope Benedict’s admission that there are serious flaws in Nostra Aetate.  I further call on him to go the whole way and remove the entire content of Sections 2&3 of that document from the corpus of Catholic teaching.  These texts cannot have the Holy Spirit as their author because the Holy Spirit does not contradict himself.

  • JabbaPapa

    1) No comment, you’re free to have that opinion

    2) That fact that Hindus “contemplate the divine mystery” does not signify that Hinduism is the source of that mystery.

    Section 2 of NA also states that a certain religion ‘can … lead people … to perfect liberation and … supreme enlightenment.’

    That’s a misquote. And the English translation is poor.

    This was likely written in Italian, so :

    Nel buddismo, secondo le sue varie scuole, viene riconosciuta la radicale insufficienza di questo mondo mutevole e si insegna una via per la quale gli uomini, con cuore devoto e confidente, siano capaci di acquistare lo stato di liberazione perfetta o di pervenire allo stato di illuminazione suprema per mezzo dei propri sforzi o con l’aiuto venuto dall’alto.

    “siano” is not a declarative such as “can” or “may be able” — it’s a present perfect subjunctive, which means that Buddhism claims that men may do this through following the religion. Nostra Aetate does not agree with this claim, although the 1960s English translator perhaps did.

    Suppose you are trying to get to Durham.  And suppose I say to you: “Joe’s map shows you a way to get to Durham.”  Will you not immediately reply, “Then give me a look at Joe’s map”?

    I’ve already pointed out my agreement with this aspect of these doctrines, as has the Holy Father.

    Why belabour the point ?

    3) I join you in welcoming Pope Benedict’s admission that there are serious flaws in Nostra Aetate.  I further call on him to go the whole way and remove the entire content of Sections 2&3 of that document from the corpus of Catholic teaching.  These texts cannot have the Holy Spirit as their author because the Holy Spirit does not contradict himself.

    That’s not how doctrinal theology works — instead, an Encyclical clarifying how these teachings should be understood, or some other form of clarification, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, should be looked for — you can’t just “cancel” a Catholic teaching.

  • JabbaPapa

    No — the invisible Church of Christ is greater than the visible Catholic Church — you’re reading it backwards.

  • Sweetjae

    Right on the head!!! The Church founded by Christ is way bigger than the visible Catholic Church…..meaning God has bound salvation to His Sacraments but He is NOT bound by His Sacraments…meaning God can save anybody that pleases Him even outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church.

    SSPXs interpretation of the Church is a truimphalistic and exclusivist church.

  • Sweetjae

    All the good points were already covered by Jabba anywyas, the postVII Church didn’t stop to preach that other religions as false religions rather non-Catholics (Christian congregations) when they separated from the Catholic Church they didn’t separate fully and remained in them some truths (like the Holy Truine God, Deity of Jesus Christ, His Redemption on the Cross, Incarnation etc) that we can not just throw away just because they belonged to a false religion of Protestantism.

    Moreso, when you do the REAL evangelization of these ‘outsiders’ (the way ultraTrads looked at them) one just can’t do or say anymore that their religion is false in their faces. The very purpose of evangelization has been defeated already we are just inviting a religious war. The Holy Spirit commanded us to PLANT SEEDS not convert, that’s His job not ours.

  • Sweetjae

    Ok Jabba, I’m quilty but I only reply the same when provoked. Anyways, where does it say that the apparition at Garabandal is approved officially by the Catholic Church? Jabba don’t just claim you are correct without producing a single iota of evidence. It looks bad. If you can’t produce, then sadly Jabba you are greatly mistaken as well. Up to now I’m still waiting for you and Benedict to provide one. Well?

  • Sweetjae

    WHERE DOES IT SAY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS APPROVE THE APPARITION AT GARABANDAL.??? Until you answer that simple question you are looking like an ******!

  • Sweetjae

    Up to now still waiting for the citation showing the approval of the Church….hmmmm 3 days passed…maybe someone from the Vatican misplaced it, dear Benedict!

  • Sweetjae

    Furthermore Jabba, sadly you as well are quilty of ad hominem attacks to people in other threads which absolutely ridiculous and unworthy of you. Furthermore, the burden of proof is on your shoulders with Benedict to prove that Garabandal apparition is indeed approved officially by the Church until otherwise you have nothing.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    For God’s sake! I know what I am saying.

    Card. Ratzinger EXPLICITLY wrote about the VISIBLE Church.

    Please read Dominus Iesus. If you prefer not to have your ideological assumptions disturbed, I will dig out the exact section and post it here.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

  • Sweetjae

    Still waiting! For you and Jabba to provide just one iota of evidence that says the Church has approved the Garabandal apparitions yet still none! Google it of you want, there are Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, La Sallette, Pontmain, Knock, Banneux, Beauraing, Faustina, Miraculous Medal, even Betania…….NOWHERE is Garabandal, in fact the Church put a NEGATIVE DECISION on it!

    Then tell us you and Jabba are right???belittling my position and question?? So who is with no credibility now, chap?

  • Sweetjae

    Your inability to read serves you no good like asserting that Garbandal is an approved apparition without any evidence whatsoever to back it up, everybody knows who you really are, Mr. Carter!

  • JabbaPapa

    For God’s sake! I know what I am saying.

    I actually even had a minor revelation about this last week …

    Besides :

    Dominus Iesus :

    Furthermore, the salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through his Spirit, extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity.

    In conclusion, the action of the Spirit is not outside or parallel to the action of Christ. There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God, realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: ‘No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit’.

    Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in
    perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true
    particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy,
    which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

    The Christian faithful are therefore not … free to hold that today the Church of Christ nowhere really exists

    To state the inseparable relationship between Christ and the kingdom is not to overlook the fact that the kingdom of God “even if considered in its historical phase” is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality.  In fact, “the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries” must not be excluded.

    The invisible Church is clearly described as “greater than” the visible Church, if by “greater than” we are referring to membership questions per se.

    Mystically, they are of course substantively identical.

    BTW

    Footnote 56 : The interpretation of those who would derive from the formula subsistit in the thesis that the one Church of Christ could subsist also in non-Catholic Churches and ecclesial communities is therefore contrary to the authentic meaning of Lumen gentium. “The Council instead chose the word subsistit precisely to clarify that there exists only one ‘subsistence’ of the true Church, while outside her visible structure there only exist elementa Ecclesiae, which “being elements of that same Church” tend and lead toward the Catholic Church”

    I have ONLY been repeating the Catholic doctrine concerning these matters in my ongoing disagreement with you over these questions.

  • JabbaPapa

    OK — although the Church is officially neutral on the question (sorry, I was misled by false information online), there is strong enough positive evidence not to be unfavourably disposed — not that one should necessarily subscribe to the more literalist interpretations.

    I can also attest that the physical description of the Virgin given by one of the seers is accurate.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Message to sweetjae.

    You have directed several personal insults to me on this and another thread. I will not be replying to you again, whatever the provocation. It truly is not worth my time corresponding with you.

  • JabbaPapa

    Sorry — Garabandal has actually been neither condemned nor approved, and the position of the successive Bishops has been one of neutrality.

    I was misled by some false information that I saw somewhere.

  • Sweetjae

    Why? Are you not aware of your personal insults to me too! You are the first to draw yet you have the audacity to complain, typical Lefebvrist, anyways I know when someone wants to dodge.

  • Sweetjae

    Apology accepted. Anyways I would like to give my apologies if I have offended you or anyone, not my intention. thanks Jabba.

  • Sweetjae

    As usual Benedict Carter is pleading for life to his indefensible position.

  • Sweetjae

    Ok let’s forget the insults from both sides (which you started), just provide evidence to support your claim that the apparitions in Garabandal is approved by the Catholic Church. Simple, right?

  • Paul

    Your erudition is indeed impressive.
    My point is a very simple one and I stand by it.  V2 introduced a fundamental change in the way we Catholic Christians see the occultic religions.  The change is the direct antithesis of biblical truth.  We thought we could cozy up to kingdoms other than the kingdom headed by Jesus. 
    That is how we got ourselves into a mess.
    Our church can and will heal, but it will only do so by returning to the truth of Divine Revelation.  You have a problem with the prospect of our church admitting it was wrong on a non infallible teaching.  I don’t.
    However you argue it, I prefer to stay with the word of God, and with Catholic teaching up to V2. 
    Praise God, Pope Benedict has signalled the beginning of our healing.

  • Paul

    JabbaPapa,
     
    Are you saying that Sections 2&3 of Nostra Aetate are NOT an affirmative statement in regard to the occultic religions of the world?

    And that an affirmative statement does NOT constitute praise?

    And that to praise a religion is NOT to praise its gods?

    And that to praise the gods of the nations is NOT the direct antithesis if Divine Revelation?

    Because if so I suggest your thinking is too subtle to be helpful in the quest for truth.  Jesus did not say, Blessed are the erudite.  He said, ‘Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.’

  • JabbaPapa

    Are you saying that Sections 2&3 of Nostra Aetate are NOT an affirmative statement in regard to the occultic religions of the world?

    That is correct.

    No Catholic is bound by statements deriving from translation errors, particularly where they may have been deliberate attempts to protestantise the Church in the English-speaking world, which we KNOW that many UK and US Bishops attempted between 1950s and 1980s in particular, and as some continue to attempt even til present day.

    And that an affirmative statement does NOT constitute praise?

    There is no such affirmative statement, therefore no such “praise”.

    And that to praise a religion is NOT to praise its gods?

    No such “praise” is provided by the Encyclical.

    And that to praise the gods of the nations is NOT the direct antithesis if Divine Revelation?

    This question is therefore irrelevant.

    Because if so I suggest your thinking is too subtle to be helpful in the quest for truth.

    It’s not really that subtle :

    false premise > false conclusion

    The false premise in question is the awful English translation of Nostra Aetate

  • Paul

    JabbaPapa,

    Oh dear.  This is very disingenuous language. 

    I have to leave it with you because I am not satisfied that you are being intellectually honest.

  • Paul

    JabbaPapa,
     
    My apology for the ill considered critical comment below.  I’ve tried to ‘collapse’ it but without success.

    I can believe what you say about the bad English translations of NA 2&3, but are you not stretching logic to infer that this teaching is not an affirmative statement?
    After all, Pope Benedict’s recent comments are premised on it being so, as were the Assisi meetings conducted by Popes in 1986, 2002 and 2011, all billed as follow throughs to NA 2&3.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    To readers:

    I have never claimed that Garabandal HAS been approved by the Church. As usual, I am asked idiotic questions by the individual below.