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Benedict Cites Legacy of Vatican II

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Benedict XVI, who has dedicated much of his pontificate to shaping the Church’s understanding of the Second Vatican Council, devoted one of his last public addresses to recalling his experiences as an expert consultant at Vatican II, praising some of its major documents and lamenting widespread distortions of its teachings.

The pope made his remarks Feb. 14 in his annual address to clergy of the Diocese of Rome. Although he had cited deteriorating “strength of mind and body” in explaining his historic decision to resign at the end of February, Pope Benedict, who turns 86 in April, spoke for 46 minutes, delivering a highly-structured talk without notes.

Pope Benedict said that popular understanding of Vatican II has been long distorted by its coverage in the press, which presented the council as a political struggle for “popular sovereignty” in the Church. This “council of the media” was responsible for “many calamities, so many problems, so much misery,” the pope said. “Seminaries closed, convents closed, liturgy trivialized.”

But the pope said that the “true council,” which was based on faith, is today “emerging with all its spiritual strength,” and he called on his listeners to “work so that the true council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realized and the church is really renewed.”

The talk gave Pope Benedict a chance to underscore one of the major themes of his pontificate almost at its end. In a landmark speech during his first year as pope, he had proclaimed the importance of reading Vatican II in continuity with the Church’s millennial traditions, not as a radical break with the past. His efforts to promote such interpretations have culminated in the current Year of Faith, which opened last October on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II.

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One thought on “Benedict Cites Legacy of Vatican II

  1. The view of Vatican II that Benedict XVI asserts is certainly open to debate — perhaps as a participant at Vatican II, Benedict XVI has a psychological need to rationalize the negative aspects of that event.

    Hermaneutic of continuity?

    Fact is there seems to be no continuity!

    A mere 10 years prior to Vatican II Pope Pius XII foresaw and rejected in the strongest terms ideas which became part and parcel of the Vatican II “reform” implemented, not by the media, but by the Vatican itself.

    A cursory reading of Pius XII’s two encyclicals “Humani Generis” (1950) and “Mediator Dei” (1947)– issued barely a decade prior to Vatican II — indicate a definite rupture that occurred at Vatican II.

    In “Humani Generis” Pius XII rejects in the strongest terms “false eirenism” which translated into Vatican II “ecumenism”. Pius XII states:

    “11. There are many who, deploring disagreement among men and intellectual confusion … desire to do away with the barrier that divides good and honest men; these advocate an “eirenism” according to which, by setting aside the questions which divide men … reconciling things opposed to one another in the field of dogma ….

    “14. In theology some want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers, to bring about a return in the explanation of Catholic doctrine to the way of speaking used in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church.

    They cherish the hope that when dogma is stripped of the elements which they hold to be extrinsic to divine revelation, it will compare advantageously with the dogmatic opinions of those who are separated from the unity of the Church and that in this way they will gradually arrive at a mutual assimilation of Catholic dogma with the tenets of the dissidents.”

    In “Mediator Dei” Pius XII rejects in the strongest terms liturgical practices that became part and parcel of the “New Mass”:

    62. … But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device.

    Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table form; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See.”

    A more careful reading of “Humani Generis” and “Mediator Dei” would bring this discrepancies into greater relief.

    Again — it was not media distortion but the actual change in teaching on the part of the Vatican that was the cause of confusion amongst the Catholic laity -not to mention licensed Catholic theologians dissenting from Catholic doctrine with impunity.

    And not to be overlooked: theologians who were under censure and silenced by Pius XII were theological advisors at Vatican II — du Lubac, Rahner, Kung.

    In light of the above, Benedict XVI’s assertion would be appear somewhat disingenous.