This is really important, really helpful. There is no better scholar of Vatican II than Fr. John O’Malley, SJ, though there are many great scholars of the great council. There is no one who has studied the event of the council so carefully and explained the meaning of the council’s documents so cogently. Think What Happened at Vatican II. (See Pray Tell‘s post on that here.)
America has just posted his article on how not not interpret Vatican II. Fr. O’Malley’s ten sure-fire ways to mix up the teachings of Vatican II are:
- Insist Vatican II was only a pastoral council.
- Insist it was an occurrence in the life of the church, not an event.
- Banish the expression “spirit of the council.”
- Study the documents individually, without considering them part of an integral corpus.
- Study the final 16 documents in the order of hierarchical authority, not in the chronological order in which they were approved in the council.
- Pay no attention to the documents’ literary form.
- Stick to the final 16 documents and pay no attention to the historical context, the history of the texts or the controversies concerning them during the council.
- Outlaw the use of any “unofficial” sources, such as the diaries or correspondence of participants.
- Interpret the documents as expressions of continuity with the Catholic tradition.
- Make your assessment of the council into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In my lowest moments of tediousness and irritation with Pray Tell commenters, I suppose I could refer to the above as “ten ways to be a Pray Tell commenter.” But let it pass.
I’m confident that truth will win out, that something like O’Malley’s position will eventually carry the day. I’m not optimistic that this will happen soon. Power structures and those who inhabit them want to claim otherwise right now, and obviously that is very influential. But not long term – the sources won’t go away, and the most honest way of interpreting them will eventually emerge. Maybe not in my lifetime, but I suspect it will be. Who knows.
Read the article. Print it out. Save it for reference.
Did I say that this is really important?