The Spirit of Vatican II

PrayTell has already posted an excerpt on the liturgy constitution from the book What Happened at Vatican II by John W. O’Malley, SJ. Fr. O’Malley is a leading expert on Vatican II, and I recommend his book very highly. Here I excerpt from and summarize another section of the book. It  deals with the issue of the “spirit of Vatican II” and whether a corrective ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ is needed to interpret Vatican II more faithfully.

The second chapter of What Happened at Vatican II, still setting the context for the book’s main topic, is “The Long Nineteenth Century.” Fr. O’Malley is referring to a defensive mindset on the part of the Catholic Church stretching from the eighteenth century Enlightenment(s) to well into the twentieth century. This makes for a “nineteenth century” which lasted nearly 200 years. Think of the Popes prohibiting railroads and gas lamps in the Papal States, the Syllabus of Errors, the condemnation of modernists, and the silencing of progressive theologians (who were later vindicated) on the eve of Vatican II.

In one section of Chapter 2, “Genre, Form, Content, Values: ‘The Spirit of the Council’,” Fr. O’Malley points out the striking contrast between the language of Vatican II and that of preceding councils. This is relevant for current arguments about whether Vatican II should be read, relative to preceding teachings and traditions, with a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ or with a ‘hermeneutic of rupture.’ The ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ view, advocated with nuance by Pope Benedict XVI, says that it is a misinterpretation to view Vatican II as a rupture in the life of the Church. The aspect of innovation in Vatican II is now downplayed. This ‘continuity’ view calls for a return to the actual letter and true spirit of the Council, prescinding from all the mistakes and misinterpretations (and silliness and liturgical abuses etc.) of the last 45 years. The umbrella term for what went wrong in interpretation is the “spirit of Vatican II,” a spirit which allegedly went beyond what the Council intended and wrongly introduced ruptures in Catholic thought and practice. As a conservative friend of mine says about Vatican II, “The spirit killeth but the letter giveth life.”

Fr. O’Malley’s analysis of the genre, form, and content of the documents of Vatican II poses, I think, a formidable challenge to the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ view. Perhaps Fr. O’Malley downplays slightly the traditional language in the Council’s documents and overstates slightly the aspect of innovation. But his analysis makes it abundantly clear that something new and unprecedented really happened at Vatican II. The ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ folks will have to account for all this innovation. They will have to demonstrate that they are reading the entirety of the Council, not just a few favored passages taken out of context.

First, I let Fr. O’Malley speak in his own words to describe the difference in language between Vatican II and what preceded it. Second, I summarize the five categories of innovation in vocabulary he identifies in Vatican II. Then I give the last word again to Fr. O’Malley.

Through the centuries councils have made use of a range of literary genres, most of which have borrowed from the discourse of Roman antiquity. The genres in large measure were, or closely resembled, laws and judicial sentences…

Two fundamental assumptions were in play. First, councils were judicial bodies that heard cases and rendered judgment, with anybody found guilty duly punished. Second, they were legislative bodies that issued ordinances, to which were attached, as with any law, penalties for failure to comply. …

Among the many literary forms used by councils through the centuries were confessions of faith, historical narratives, bulls and letters, judicial sentences against ecclesiastical criminals, constitutions, and various kinds of “decrees.” …

[T]he councils from Nicaea to Vatican I had a characteristic style of discourse. … It consisted of words of threat and intimidation, words of surveillance and punishment, words of a superior speaking to an inferior – or to an enemy. It consisted of power-words. …

The language projected an image of the church as a stern master, and the image in turn promoted the reality and helped it self-fulfill. … But Vatican II eschewed such language. It issued no canons, no anathemas, no verdicts of “guilty as charged.” In so speaking it marked a significant break with past councils. …

Vatican II … largely eschewed Scholastic language. It thus moved from the dialectic of winning an argument to the dialogue of finding common ground. … It moved from grand conceptual schemes or summae with hundreds of logically interconnected parts to the humble acceptance of mystery. In so doing it largely abandoned the Scholastic framework that had dominated Catholic theology since the thirteenth century. …

The shift affected not one or two documents of the council but, with varying degrees of consistency, all of them. It modified the existing value system. It implicitly said, for instance, that it is more valuable to work together as neighbors than to fight over differences, as we have up to now been doing. …

The style of discourse the council adopted … can be precisely identified. … It is what the [ancient] Roman authors called the ars laudandi, the panegyric. … Panegyric is the painting of an idealized portrait in order to excite admiration and appropriation. … It is rightly described as “pastoral” because it was meant to make Christian ideals appealing. …

New ways of speaking? The implications are profound. To learn a new language so as genuinely to live within it entails an inner transformation. Much more is at stake than learning new words for one’s old concepts. To properly speak a new language means to enter fully into the values and sensibilities of a culture different from one’s own and to appropriate them.

Fr. O’Malley then examines the vocabulary of the Vatican II documents. He notes that “[w]ords of alienation, exclusion, enmity, words of threat and intimidation, words of surveillance and punishment” are absent. The church is never described as a monarchy, or the members of the church as subjects. In all this, the words of Vatican II are untypical of the conventional vocabulary of councils. Fr. O’Malley helpfully organizes the change of vocabulary into five categories, acknowledging that the categories at times blur into each other. Here is a brief summary of Fr. O’Malley’s categorization which simply lists the categories without providing his commentary of the significance of the vocabulary.

First, there are horizontal words, or even equality words. Examples are “people of God,” “brothers and sisters,” “priesthood of all believers.” And of course there is the term “collegiality.”

Second, there are reciprocity words – “cooperation,” “partnership,” “collaboration,” “dialogue,” “conversation.”

Third, there are humility words – the church is a “pilgrim” on a journey, and those in authority are “servants.”

Fourth, there are “change” words. Though the word “change” scarcely appears, there are words like “development,” “progress,” and even “evolution.”

Fifth, there are interiority words which emphasize not just external behavior or confession of truth, but inner conversion. Examples are “charism,” “conscience,” and the “call to holiness.” The opening words of Gaudium et spes show lively attentiveness to the inner sentiments of people, their “joy and hope, grief and anguish.”

All this is new. Of course there are conventional words in Vatican II emphasizing the authority of the Church, the truth of the Church’s teachings, and the obligation of Church members to assent and obey. Fr. O’Malley shows that these passages are now placed within an entirely new larger context, which cannot help but lend them new connotations.

Fr. O’Malley concludes Chapter 2:

When both genre and vocabulary are taken into account they convey a remarkably consistent message. The message is that a model-shift has occurred, or better, is struggling to occur. Genre together with its appropriate vocabulary also imbues Vatican II with a coherence lacking in previous councils. …

This coherence was immediately recognized by commentators on the council and was often expressed in the vague term “spirit of the council.” “Spirit” here meant an overriding vision that transcended the particulars of the documents and had to be taken into account in interpreting the council. … Through an examination of “the letter” (form and vocabulary) it is possible to arrive at “the spirit.”

Excerpted and summarized from John W. O’Malley,  What Happened at Vatican II (Cambridge MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 43-52.


  1. Huh? First you stated that “The ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ folks will have to explain how they account for all this innovation. They will have to demonstrate that they are reading the entirety of the Council, not just a few favored passages taken out of context.”

    Then you cite an entire passage from a book that merely plucks words at random from the texts of the documents of Vatican II without any context, in blatant contradiction to your thesis that it’s the continuity folks that are doing it.

    Is this supposed to be funny?

    1. There’s an empirical question here, which deserves a measured answer, and not mere unfocused hostility: are those key words genuinely plucked at random from the conciliar documents, or do they form a genuinely representative portrait of what the Council stood, and stands, for?

      1. But the fact that you’re asking that question is evidence that the quoted passage’s citations are void of context. Your empirical question is merely a request for context, which proves my point.

  2. Mr. Duch – have you ever read O’Malley’s book? Your comments on this and other blogs reveals your utter ignorance of liturgy or even basic catholic historical development.
    There is a movement afoot to “revise” the history of Vatican II – some revisionist history is good; but most revistionist history reveals an ax to grind; a fundamentalist attitude; a need to ideologically rewrite the actual events. Why? fear, need to control, change is disturbing, etc.
    There are a few basic accepted and agreed upon histories of Vatican II – most historians agree that the ecumenical council was both continuity and disruption – both/and….the heart of catholic tradition and theology.
    The issue with the “hermeneutic of continuity” is that it rewrites the council based on an ideology – not a professional analysis of what happened over four years; it is not a balanced analysis. Compare the words of Ratzinger during the council with his attempts to rewrite history now….who is really picking and choosing?

    Statement from the recent Celebration Liturgy Conference by Sr. Teresa Kane: “One of the real tensions is between the vision we have of community and a governance that is monarchical. I have been with bishops who say, ‘We are not a democracy.’ And the question to the bishop is, then, what form of governance are we? And do we not respect cooperation and participation and inclusion?”

  3. ctd…..The hermeneutic of continuity diminishes the council’s vision around collegiality, subsidiarity, empowering bishops’ conferences to prepare their own liturgical worship, ecumenism, ecclesiology, etc.

    The church is not the hierarchy – quote from Rev. Komonchack – who, BTW, is another expert Vatican II historian.

  4. Actually, yes I have read the book, and it’s what sparked my interest in traditional Catholicism in the first place. Kept it too long from my parish’s library, in fact.

    I agree that there is a movement afoot to revise the history of Vatican II, but that is because a lot of the history of Vatican II has been manufactured or dumbed down until it isn’t factually accurate. Start asking folks in America what Vatican II was about and the most common response you’ll get is “it did away with Latin” or “it made Mass in the vernacular” or something along those lines. Could you please give examples of specific events at the council that have been rewritten ideologically by liturgically conservative folks? I think you must be talking about differing interpretations of documents from the Council. I can’t imagine that anyone could be taken seriously if they started claiming that actual events did or did not happen, in the age of fact-checking. Maybe you’d care to revise your statement.

    Also, is there a particular basis for your (implied) disagreement with what I’ve written in posts #1 and #3, above? I mean, apart from the ad hominem attacks on my intelligence and knowledge. Or if you don’t want to address the subject of this article and my posts on this page, could you please inform me which of my comments elsewhere display my ignorance of liturgy and historical development, and explain why?

  5. I need to weigh in with big-time doubt on the whole concept of the “hermeneutic of continuity.” At worst, it’s sheep’s clothing for the hermeneutic of obstruction which followed every council. Some people don’t want to change, and they’ll throw up every resistance to it, looking for justification later.

    The largest piece of evidence for not exalting continuity at the expense of other values is the spiritual life itself. Jesus didn’t ask the apostles to ease themselves out of their professions catching fish and collecting taxes. Sometimes metanoia demands an all-out conversion. You leave behind old ways. You embrace Christ and his mission as fully as possible.

    That said, individuals, groups, and societies find themselves in situations of upheaval when adherence to traditions is comforting. We have to read the signs of the times. With Catholicism floundering in Europe after two world wars within the substrate of a cold war, with 30% Mass attendance in the US, are we at a point when reattachment to a 1950’s sensibility is really what’s called for? My sense is that we have a responsibility to reach out to the 70-plus percent. In order to do that, I’d say we have to get outside the box. The time for continuity was in the 19th century when most Catholics were still in the pews. Vatican I dropped the ball and opted for ecclesiastical navel-gazing instead. Vatican II was on the right track. And we need more of it, not timidity.

    1. Bravo, Todd! You’ve talked about a “hermeneutic of obstruction” before, but I think it’s only now that I understand what you mean in context.

  6. I don’t want to attack your intelligence and knowledge, Mark. I do want to open your mind up to the possibility that the hermeneutic of continuity argument might be no more than a paper doll.

    What if Vatican II, as Bill de Haas is trying to show you, deliberately made a break with the past? What if Vatican II deliberately decided to eschew the values and attitudes of bygone ages in favor of a Church that wants to embrace collegiality and a different mode of evangelization which is not based on imposing ideas but on logical persuasion? What if your preconciliar ideas are no longer valid in what is now a different context?

    In the broad vision of a Church which entered an Ice Age at the Council of Trent and had to endure a rapid melting at Vatican II, it is entirely possible that all that you cling to is not only demoded but is no longer tenable in today’s enlightened Church. I say this, once again, not to attack you but to challenge you to think seriously about the positions you espouse. Do not take them for granted. Examine them under a microscope to see if they can stand up in the light of developments in theology and eccelsiology.

    You may be surprised.

    1. You’re making an argument that Bill is not making, but I think Bill misunderstands what “hermeneutic of continuity” means. It doesn’t mean that we ought to view what happened at Vatican II in a different light. It means that we should view its texts in a different light–that which is in keeping with tradition. It’s not rewriting history; rather it is a textual criticism in light of well-established history. So, one of its tenets would be to avoid reading into the Council changes which it did not mandate or to avoid using a perceived “Spirit,” even if it exists, as a license to impose.

      Regarding your “enlightened Church” claim, how do you know you’re smarter than Aquinas or de Sales or the laity and rest of the Church that came before the Council? Don’t you think that’s being a little bit presumptuous and prejudiced against those that have gone before? I have thought seriously about these issues, but I’ve also read the texts of the Council, and I cannot say that much of what I see in the Catholic Church today remotely comes from its documents.

      Speaking of logical persuasion vs. imposing ideas, I don’t recall reading about asking laity or having logically persuasive discussions with them about whether to replace the 1962 missal. Yet it seems that the same generation that imposed the new mass is now fighting the imposition of a different translation on grounds that it is being imposed. That strikes you as enlightened? Funny how people see…

  7. It must be said that O’Malley, in this book and elsewhere, gives due weight to continuities. But he is making an argument (a very strong one) that the overwhelming conclusion that must be drawn from the evidence is that something new happened at Vatican II. He happens to be an expert both in the history of Councils and in the history of rhetoric, which means he knows a whole lot more about how words are used than many of us can legitimately claim to know. He is not cherry-picking a few words to make his case.

    Mark, I don’t see how you can have read his book and still think his argument is specious. The big question is not whether he’s right, but what you make of it. What are the implications? To cry foul because Anthony has excerpted a few quotes from the book is not an argument; he has not misrepresented the book in quoting it.

    1. I didn’t say that O’Malley didn’t give weight to continuities or that O’Malley’s argument (the book as a whole) is specious. I said, in so many words, that Father Anthony’s claim that the quoted excerpt puts the burden on conservatives to prove that they are not doing exactly what the quoted excerpt is doing–taking words out of their context and assembling a worldview from them–is specious.

      In other words, Fr. Anthony is cherry-picking a passage from O’Malley–a passage which happens to cherry-pick words from Council documents–in order claim that those who subscribe to a hermeneutic of continuity view must prove they are not cherry-picking. That’s what I’m taking issue with.

      1. Mark, what you are saying is confused and confusing. You are not saying O’Malley’s argument is specious, but you are saying that his use of texts is irresponsible? Why? Because his conclusions differ from those of the Pope?

        You say O’Malley is cherry-picking. This is sheer nonsense. The man has studied the entire corpus, and counted the words, for Pete’s sake. No, you have to change your ground there. It’s not tenable.

        I would respond that O’Malley’s use of texts is highly responsible: he is reading them in historical context, in theological context, in light of the full corpus of documents, and in their interrelationship with events. To read them in light of a narrow ideology would be irresponsible, but he is not doing that.

        You continue to rail at Anthony for having taken excerpts from the book, but he could hardly reproduce the entire work! Maybe you can explain better what you mean by putting it in positive terms.

      2. An example of O’Malley’s cherry-picking:

        “First, there are horizontal words, or even equality words. Examples are “people of God,” “brothers and sisters,” “priesthood of all believers.” And of course there is the term “collegiality.”

        —Yes, those words appear in Vatican II documents, but in what context were the words used? Without context, any conclusion may be drawn.
        This method is used over and over again. This is what I am referring to as cherry-picking. Words used without context, then fused together to create some overall “Spirit,” which is then used to authorize actions not found with the Vatican II texts.

        Of course not all of O’Malley’s book uses this method, but Father Anthony has picked this one to make his point, without making reference to any of O’Malley’s deference to continuities. That is why I say Fr. Anthony has cherry-picked.

        Finally, Fr. Anthony levies the charge of cherry-picking against his opponents:

        “The ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ folks will have to explain how they account for all this innovation. They will have to demonstrate that they are reading the entirety of the Council, not just a few favored passages taken out of context.”

        Do you still not get what I’m saying? I’ve quoted the passages for you now.

      3. Mark, thanks for explaining. It seems that what you are objecting to is rhetorical or literary analysis per se. There, your argument is perhaps not with O’Malley, but with an entire field of study—a discipline, if you will. I am left wondering, though, if you really understand what O’Malley is doing with his examples or by talking about the nature and frequency of such expressions in the documents. In a more general sense, I wonder how anyone can object to literary or rhetorical analysis while supporting the summons to attend to the texts themselves, which is precisely what the Pope has asked for, as I understand it.

        You see, O’Malley has done something very astute here. Those who wish to overturn certain ideas about the council have proposed that the distinction is between the “spirit” and the “actual texts.” Well, O’Malley has studied the “actual texts” and demonstrated that the “spirit” is not something extraneous or sloppy imposed on them, but something integral and legitimate arising from them. This is why, I think, Anthony has perceived that in the pursuit of the important question of how to interpret the Council, the contribution of O’Malley changes the game.

      4. Rita —

        Every document has a spirit that is real and arises from the words. It doesn’t follow that the spirit of the document overrides its text or allows the reader to infer all sorts of things that the writer of the text would have said if only asked.

        When you say some are wanting to overturn ideas, you are implying that those ideas have been firmly established. We are a mere half-decade out from the Council. Who’s to say that the Holy Spirit came down and inspired the views that directly followed the Council? What if we’re just now getting it, so to speak?

        But back to the question at hand –the question isn’t really whether the documents of Vatican II have a spirit, the question is “So what?”

        If I tell an employee that he’s done a poor job and he needs to make corrections to certain work habits, the employee is not free to make policy changes to the entire company, based upon language that demonstrated that I was clearly in the mood to make changes.


      5. Mark, you’ve changed the argument. “Spirit yes, so what?” isn’t what anybody has been saying to date. In fact, you’ve missed the point of this book and this thread. You are making up the facts as you go along. There is nothing more I can say under the circumstances.

  8. This book confirms my option that Vatican II was a change of emphasis ( new spirituality). The hermetical life, Benedictine Rule, mendicant Orders, and the Jesuit & apostolic orders changed emphasis for the broader Church when their spiritualities dominated.

    For example, The Life of Anthony, a 251-356 CE hermit saint, is one of the seminal books of Christianity spirituality. The hermits life was held in highest esteem for several centuries, and revived afterwards in various times and places. Yet today hermits are very rare. Some people find it very difficult to understand how a desert saint who evidently never went to Mass for decades could be a Catholic.

    As O’Malley notes, the spirituality promoted by Vatican II had much in common with the spirituality of the Church Fathers and the spirituality of the Renaissance, both influenced by the humanisms of their day. It contrasted with Catholic spirituality of the long nineteenth century.

    Some advocates of Vatican II have tried to stamp out pre Vatican II spirituality, e.g. being against ANY Latin hymns or chant. In reaction some have tried to make the spirituality immediately prior to Vatican II as superior to spiritualities before and after. That is equally bad intolerance IMO.

    Canon 214 says the faithful “have the right to follow their own form of spiritual life, provided it is in accord with Church teaching.” My commentary says priests may not impose their spirituality upon their parishes.

  9. Mark – you stated: “It doesn’t mean that we ought to view what happened at Vatican II in a different light. It means that we should view its texts in a different light–that which is in keeping with tradition. It’s not rewriting history; rather it is a textual criticism in light of well-established history.” My strong statement about historical evolution stands – “well established history” – as defined by whom? as interpreted by whom? The weakness of your stance is at this crucial juncture – every historian and even church tradition changes…there is no immutable tradition. In fact, would posit that your definition of tradition is closer to traditionalism. You make no mention of my both/and argument. Examples where the continuity hermeneutic breaks down – collegiality….Vatican II clearly had a majority of bishops that understood this concept…the curia and two popes have significantly “disrupted” this concept. Fr. Anthony has clearly shown in great detail how SC and other documents clarified that conferences of bishops decide on liturgy and the pope confirms it. JPII/B16 have disrupted this. Unfortunately, this disruption has major impact on all of liturgy and “disrupts” the principles set up by the council and acted upon by Paul VI.
    Liturgy – I make a distinction between the SC principles as laid out in the council and how these principles are implemented. There is a significant difference between 2400 bishops and the decisions today by a small…

  10. cont….group. Comparing the liturgical changes of Vatican II – moving to a vernacular liturgy across all language groups, the expansion of ministry, the use of scripture/homilies, etc. and this initial effort in english-speaking conferences to “do something” to the Roman Missal is like comparing apples to oranges.

    The continuity are the dogmas and beliefs – it is our eucharistic tradition as lived out in various ways by various parts of the worldwide church – yet, it is the same eucharist and the same lord. The continuity argument, in my opinion, misses the substance and focuses on the accidental – how much latin; literal translation vs. dynamic equivalence (oh yeah, another disruption), unified liturgy among all language groups when that makes little pastoral sense and violates the principles laid out by SC. Accidentals – focusing on how much is in latin; how literal is it (as if latin assures a higher level of vertical worship), are we facing the community or the east? do we have chant or local musical expression? do we have communion in the hand or only in one form?

    Vatican II looked at the whole liturgical history of the church – most of the accidents I have named would not have been found in the 1st century church? Tradition does not mean keeping all liturgy that existed post Council of Trent of the Missal of Pius V.

    Finally, comment that we do not view VII in a different light; we view its documents in a differrent light? Would suggest – makes no sense.

  11. I don’t think we should become fundamentalists as it regards the reading and implementing of Vatican II. We’re not in 1965, 1970, 1980, 1990 or even 2000 anymore. If the reality of the Church today corresponded to all the rhetoric and optimism that many in the Church had about the outcome of the Council for the Church, the hermeneutic of rupture would not be so questioned and criticized today and by many in high places in both the arena of theologians as well as bishops and ultimately the Pope himself. The reality today is that the Church is dying in many places and is in disarray and has been so since the close of the Council. We’re under attack more so now than in the past 40 years. This doesn’t mean that Vatican II should be jettisoned, only a faulty hermeneutic. Obviously some rupture with bad practices was needed, but Vatican II changed no doctrines or dogmas it only modified theology, spirituality and administration and emphasized some aspects of being Church that were never called into question doctrinally or dogmatically prior to the Council, but only neglected. Certainly it promoted dialogue with the world, separated Christians and other religions and even atheism and agnosticism. It set a modern agenda in this regard. But even in all of this, only emphasis and style changed, not doctrine or dogma. In terms of school of discontinuity, it would be better to describe it as many scattered schools some more extreme than others. I think the same could be said about the school of continuity as well.

    1. Well said, Father. I like what you said a few days back, as well:

      “The legitimate interpretation of Vatican II as with all other Councils and Magisterial developments is one built upon the “hermeneutic of continuity” which means develop from what preceded not rupture from it.”

      It has become clear that some of our older folks only had one change in them. Once they got it how they liked it, regardless of what VII actually said, they could stomach no further change. The freedom fighters have become the old guard, and cannot take a lick of criticism about how things have been done since the Council.

      Thank God for Vatican II, and thank God for priests like you, who are happy to finally get around to implementing the Council’s actual mandates, not just the whims and predilections of some from the 1970s.

  12. I understand that the extraordinary synod in 1985 already gave us an authoritative interpretation of the council.

  13. Amazes me how folks who were not even born before the end of the council know exactly what the “Council’s actual mandates” were – not just the whims and predilections of some from the 1970’s.

    You really do live in fantasy world about Vatican II of your own making. Liturgy has developed during the whole history of the catholic community – specific to VII, important contributions began in the early 20th century and were further reinforced by Pius XII in 1943, 1948, leading to changes in the Triduum and setting up valid scriptural/biblical research.

    Again, you are entitled to your opinion but you have no facts. Whims – guess the original ICEL was a 1970’s whim – although started by Paul VI before the end of the council (that was the 1960s); that same ICEL worked for 20 years on a new revised missal that was approved by all 11 english speaking conferences by 1998. (can’t stomach change – ICEL always planned change. Fact – in 1998 Estevez and small curia group sat on this approved missal for four years working behind the scenes in secret – facts appear to support that it was this group that could not “stomach change’).

    Finally – just love your papal pronouncement of “what VII actually said” – based on what; birdie talking in your ear? pablum regurgitated via EWTN or Fr. Z? How do you know what VII “actually said”? All of us agree that VII was continuity but many of us would also say that the reform2 is a disruption and violation of 4200 bishops in…

    1. The fact of the matter is that until the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council receives a definitive and systematic interpretation at the highest level of the magisterium – and preferably at the personal initiation of the Holy Father – there will be very little possibility of implementing its documents in a comprehensive and authoritative way. Vatican II emphatically, and even pointedly, presented and understood itself as a ‘pastoral Council’ and eschewed the notion of being dogmatic. Its documents do not present themselves according to the form and rule of dogmatic Councils by way of condemnatory, clarifying canons and solemn definition in chapters. Because of this, it has been frustratingly difficult to implement the Council without stirring up a hornet’s nest at every turn, precisely because the documents say so many things to so many people.

      What really needs to be done, what demands to be done, is to look at the documents of Vatican II through the hermeneutics of theology and tradition. What further distills the divine mystery according the theological truth hitherto elucidated by the Church? And following this, what represents organic growth in tradition? We all need this hard study of Vatican II and the conversations it will elicit, all the time recognizing that the Church is and always has been one. We cannot dispense with or dilute our dogmas and doctrines without losing the clarity and guidance of revealed religion.

  14. Bill – just a clear unemotional analysis of the documents as promulgated should be fine. There’s stuff in there to please and displease everyone.

  15. Let me take another tack that may not be so scholarly, but I hope casts a light on an aspect of this discussion not addressed, (at the risk of sending this highly interesting discussion down a rabbit hole, which is not my intent!)

    Mark gives voice to a great many people when he decries “Words used without context, then fused together to create some overall ‘Spirit,’ which is then used to authorize actions not found with the Vatican II texts.” I know the discussion has been pretty focused on liturgy, which is appropriate for this blog, so the discussion has mentioned things like use of Latin, mass attendance and the like. But for many, the biggest changes have been in the practice of morality and lifestyle.

    Is it possible that the following reasoning has been used by many in the aftermath of the Council? 1. VII used a language not of anathema sit, but of an invitation to dialogue. 2. Since this is new language, the Council heralds a new Church, unlike the old Church. 3. Huzzah! Birth control for everyone! Abortion can be a sacrament now! No more listening to mean bishops or that dusty old Scripture that condemns divorce or homosexual acts!

    And could it be that our current Holy Father is emphasizing continuity right now (regardless of what he wrote during the Council) because he believes it to be the best and most pastoral way to warn people off of the life-ruining aspects of conclusion #3 above? Just askin’.

  16. I must admit, as someone who was heavily involved in more “progressive” liturgy in the 80’s and early 90’s (I sang and played pop-style music better than anyone else in my parish, as I had become proficient in evangelical and Pentecostal groups before I converted to Catholicism), I backed away from it once I realized that the culture represented in that music may have communicated a message that I did not intend. When I finally realized that I do NOT control the subtext or connotations of a particular genre of music simply by playing it in church or adding Catholic words, I became a lot more careful in my choice of music at mass.

    What I noticed immediately when I began to choose less pop-style music is that I lost the adulation and plaudits of a significant segment of the congregation.

    It very well could be that those who argue against the hermeneutic of continuity in regard to Vatican II are doing so because the Holy Spirit is burning in them with the fire of love for souls who need to be set free from bondage. But repeatedly it seems to me that the conclusions they come to are the very ones which win them the adulation and plaudits of the world and its passing fancies.

  17. Ben,

    This is a very said pair of posts, if I may say so.

    You try to imply that birth control is a result of Vatican II. Absolutely not. Paul VI’s commission on the subject was nothing to do with the Council. You won’t find it treated in the Council documents. The commission was a reaction to the advances of modern medical science, in the same way as the Vatican has tried to keep up with science in other fields. Tragic that Paul VI ignored its findings.

    Then you commit the usual sin of lumping abortion in with birth control. The two are completely different areas. It is perfectly possible to be in favour of artificial contraception, as the vast majority of Catholics are, and at the same time to be appalled by abortion, which the vast majority of Catholics are. It is high time that we (and the Church) stopped associating these two areas as if they had anything in common.

    To return to liturgy, you say What I noticed immediately when I began to choose less pop-style music is that I lost the adulation and plaudits of a significant segment of the congregation. How sad, once again, that this statement gives away the fact that you were actually doing it in order to receive adulation and plaudits.

    There is a huge amount of liturgical music out there which is not pop style but not chant or polyphony either. You obviously haven’t found it yet. To demonize one end of the spectrum by advocating the other end as a model is not a safe way to argue.

    1. +JMJ+

      I’ll repeat what I mentioned in a previous thread, that Gaudium et Spes part II (Some Problems of Special Urgency), chapter 1 (Fostering the Nobility of Marriage and the Family), number 51, says that “sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.”

      The footnote there says: “Certain questions which need further and more careful investigation have been handed over, at the command of the Supreme Pontiff, to a commission for the study of population, family, and births, in order that, after it fulfills its function, the Supreme Pontiff may pass judgment. With the doctrine of the magisterium in this state, this holy synod does not intend to propose immediately concrete solutions.”

      1. It’s worth noting that the majority of the commission were actually in favor or breaking with Vatican II in allowing all sorts of artificial contraception not merely chemical ones. Paul VI made the only responsible decision that he could, and I am certain that the Holy Spirit guided him.

      2. +JMJ+

        Ioannes – right, the authority ultimately rested with Pope Paul VI, exactly as GS said it should. The “teaching authority of the Church” (I mean authentic magisterium, which in this case was the Pope) “pass[ed] judgment” against birth control by artificial means, despite what the non-magisterial commission thought.

  18. Paul,

    Abortion and contraception are linked because contraception often acts as an abortifacient and because the dissent to the latter legitimizes dissent toward the former.

    “Pop-style” is somewhat ambiguous but in an ecclesiastical context can be used to describe everything from “Sing a New Church,” to “Eagles Wings” to “Gather Us In” and “We are Called”. I like the Colbert spoof on “King of Glory” Here is something that does not seem to square well with the Doc. on the Liturgy: and would cause many to long for a low Mass.

  19. Paul, I’m sorry my thoughts saddened you, but I thank you for engaging me in conversation. I might learn something in the process.

    To begin with liturgy, I guess I am not surprised you drew the conclusions you did based on what I wrote. Rather than saying I “lost the plaudits” I should have talked in terms of the feedback I was getting from parishoners and how it changed from adulation to polite questioning. [Although in retrospect, there may have been a part of me that wanted to “perform” rather than lead in worship, but avoiding the pop-style music really cured me from those misplaced motives.]

    And I did not immediately switch to “chant and polyphony” as you imply, I never even mentioned chant and polyphony in my posts. I just chose fare with a more traditional bent from the OCP missalette and avoided the music with a more pop style. After a few years I occasionally threw in some chant and polyphony if I was able to train my choir to sing it well. The purpose of my post was not to advocate only one end of the “spectrum” as a model, but to share an observation about culture. My highest calling as a church musician was to assist in leading a worshiper to think about God in both his goodness and his severity, to experience God both in mercy and in justice, to think seriously about the sacrifice of the cross and the demands that Jesus’ love places on us to put aside our own wants and be conformed to his demands. Pop-style music hindered that goal…

  20. …at least I thought that pop-style music had the potential to hinder that goal, in a segment of the population, perhaps a significant segment. I did not want to risk placing a stumbling block of that kind in anybody’s way.

    As for the artificial birth-control/abortion link, my experience as the member of many a pro-life apostolate (CCL, HLI, PRI, etc.) in nearly 3 decades as an adult Catholic leads me to link these two evils as two horns of the same beast. Anyone who uses the pill may have aborted several of their own children, as every popular version of the pill has an abortifacient back-up effect that may kick in if it fails to stop ovulation. Every faith community and nation in the world that has allowed artificial birth control has ended up approving abortion in some way, if only for the “hardship” cases. No Christian group approved of artificial contraception before 1930. If “scientific advancement” can change Church teaching on a moral issue, which issue is next?

    I see the hermeneutic of continuity as crucially important. I feel that real links between the generations were disrupted by the happenings of the 1960’s and 70’s. As a kid growing up in the early ’70s I saw every marriage in my neighborhood break up in the space of 5 years. I want my children’s marriages to last. If choice of music can play some small role in the moral choices people make, then these issues are important to discuss.

  21. To my mind the “spirit” of Vatican II is not the same thing as the “hermeneutics of rupture” (an unconstructively polemical term).

    When I have heard people (usually at the parish level) base their argument on the “spirit” of the council, it has almost always been that the Council was moving in a certain trajectory and that it was permissible to anticipate the next development in doctrine, ethics, or praxis based on that trajectory even if such anticipation violated the exact wording of the council. For instance, it was told to me that the goal of the liturgical reforms was to bring back the liturgy of the sub-Apostolic period, a time where the prayers of the liturgy were largely improvised. Therefore, it was permissible for priests to improvise the prayers of the mass almost withouth limit, despite the fact that the letter of the council document forbids it. I would doubt that most serious theologians would buy that argument.

    The hermeneutics of rupture (for lack of a better term) is in my experience exemplified by the chaplain of the university where I once studied. His Ph.D. at Louvain was on Vatican II documents, so he’s not really a loose canon, and I have a great deal of respect for him.

    1. cont’d
      He told a group of us that when the Church wants to change something in its teachings it goes about doing so by expressing the traditional content, saying that it is valid, and then introduces the new idea, which, though not contradictory to the old does not necessarily need to follow it logically. The first part of the formulation is merely a conceit to acknowledge the idea of unchanging teaching, but what is really important to take to heart is in the novel second part.

      I thus see the “Spirit” and “HOR” as different. I think that the late Cardinal Dulles does here as well:, where he also reminds us of the episcopal synod of 1985 and its principles for sound interpretation of the council documents. It the synod’s teaching, both of these interpretations are invalid as one must not oppose the spirit to the letter and one must accept the documents in toto, i.e. all parts of the document are valid and must be accepted in unison, and in the light of tradition. Of course there is new content in the Vatican II documents. One would have to be an idiot to conclude otherwise; that’s not what the hermeneutics of continuity/reform folks are about, and they cetainly aren’t the ones in favor of looking at “a few favored passages taken out of context,” (You can really test my patience, Fr. Anthony.).

      Don’t miss:

  22. Ben,

    I think we need a proper definition of “pop style”.

    John Finn quotes “Sing a new Church” (presumably to the hymntune Nettleton?), “Eagle’s Wings” and “Gather us in” as examples. None of those are in what I would describe as pop style at all. The first is a hymn tune, the second is sub-Broadway musical style (not the same as pop music at all), and the third is a modal melody in folk style (in the older meaning of the word) with an accompaniment that can be “popped” up but of itself is not pop music.

    It may be that none of these fit with your definition of pop music either. But nevertheless, to use “pop style” as a catch-all attribute for much recent music that you don’t like is not rigorous enough for the purposes of debate.

    1. You also said every popular version of the pill has an abortifacient back-up effect that may kick in if it fails to stop ovulation.

      This, I am afraid, is urban myth. Some pills act as in a way that is often described as abortifacient (but see below), others do not. It all depends on the chemical composition of the product in question.

      Some pills prevent conception occurring either by preventing ovulation occurring and/or by preventing fertilization taking place. That is not abortifacient, it is contraceptive. No new individual life is created.

      Other pills create conditions which prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum from taking place. This can be described as abortifacient, though in my view this is a rather emotive term for a phenomenon that occurs naturally far more often than actual implantation does. Many women miscarry because of a failure of implantation, yet we do not call that an abortion. We call it a miscarriage, and there is no stigma attached to it. Many women do not even know that they have miscarried because this happens at a very early stage.

      This may be semantics, but a pill that induces a miscarriage is not the same as a pill which would cause an implanted ovum to abort. That would truly be abortifacient.

      I think we need more rigour and less emotion in discussing this topic, rather than throwing incorrect generalizations around.

      And I apologize to our moderators for going off-topic.

    2. Fair enough, Paul. Of the three hymns cited, I would only classify “Eagle’s Wings” as being close to what I mean by a pop-style, but you are more accurate in calling it “sub-Broadway.” The other two hymns I would not object to so much on a musical basis as I would the words. The text of those treacly hymns seems to me outdated doggerel not worthy of singing at mass.

      I guess I was using the term loosely in order to tell my “conversion story” in regards to Church music. There is much more to the story, but I thought it related to the post about the Spirit of Vatican II. Regardless of how you define it, isn’t there a problem with bringing styles into Church music that have connotations inappropriate for mass? I was heavily into the “sub-Broadway” style there for a while in the 80’s and 90’s, but I have since reduced my use of such music because I think it is distracting. Perhaps people are so used to it now because it is so common, but I find myself having to set aside the “out-of-context” thoughts that fly through my mind when a song like this starts up, and I would like to clear away such obstacles for others when I am responsible for choosing music for mass.

      I won’t continue the birth control discussion with you, not because I think you are correct (obviously), but because this is probably not the right forum for this discussion. Apologies to the moderators for straying from liturgical topics.

  23. John Finn said Abortion and contraception are linked because contraception often acts as an abortifacient and because the dissent to the latter legitimizes dissent toward the former.

    I do not accept the truth of this assertion for one moment.

    As already stated in this thread, it is perfectly possible to be in favour of contraception (and see my reply to Ben above) while being opposed to abortion. The two are completely different cases, and to say that one necessarily leads to the other is a stretch too far. Many men and women practise contraception with a clear conscience but would be horrified at the prospect of procuring an abortion, which they would view as murder. I say again, we need to stop associating the two in debate.

  24. Paul said: “As already stated in this thread, it is perfectly possible to be in favour of contraception (and see my reply to Ben above) while being opposed to abortion.”

    Not for a Catholic.

    Paul VI links the two in HV #14.

    “Pop” music is derived from “popular” music and I was specific in pointing out that I was speaking in an ecclesiastical context. The pieces I listed differ from one another but are “pop” in the sense that they are included in the hymnals compiled by the big publishers and are frequently used.

  25. I wonder if the comments above are debating the wrong question? The question that seems to be being debated is: should we interpret VII as a continuity or as a discontinuity (rupture) with the councils that have proceeded it?

    Most of the comments above seem to advocate one or other of these hermeneutical lenses.

    Surely the answer to the question is, both? If this being the case, the question then becomes to what extent each hermeneutical lense influences our interpretation.

    As O’Malley and others note, the documents of VII are in themselves full of juxtapositions, reflecting a wide range of (often competing) ideologies.

    I would suggest that it is difficult to deny that both the hermeneutic of rupture and of continuity have a role to play in forming balanced interpretation.

    As O’Malley notes (p 114) the leaders of the progressive majority frequently referred to the fact that their viewpoints were ‘in continuity with tradition.’

    Conversely, it is difficult to avoid the obvious fact that there are elements of rupture or discontinuity in the documents – for example the ‘style’ of the documents referred to in the original posting.

    I would suggest however that to exclusively advocate one of these hermeneutical lenses would be a mis-interpretation.

    I would also suggest therefore that the debate should be centred on achieving a balanced hermeneutic that reflects elements of both continuity and rupture.


  26. cont.

    The period since VII has seen the pendulum swing firstly to the rupture lense, and in more recent times back towards a stronger sense of continuity. Dare we hope it might come to rest in a central space which takes account of both lenses?

  27. Chris – well written, well analyzed and expressed. Would also like to see us land somewhere in the “middle” – if I can borrow from US politics.

    Yet, when you look at certain specific areas – liturgy, governance, ecumenism, ecclesiology – I am not sure that my experience would say that we started with rupture and are now moving too far to continuity?

    Liturgy – VII/SC/other documents actually built on the tradtion and history that had been obscured for hundreds of years. In that sense, it set up mechanisms to “continue” pastoral liturgical development. At its core, the principles were continuous….but starting with JPII and by 1996, the curia began to “disrupt” the principles, the language, the expressions, the collegial approach established by VII. Would suggest that ICEL and its 1998 missal was a perfect example of the “middle” – what LA and Vox Clara brought was a disruption – some would argue to the point of illegitimacy across many areas – governance, pastoral liturgy, ecumenism, etc.

    Any way, think you can get my direction and how it would apply to the other areas. So, strongly agree that VII and its hermeneutic is both/and…but strongly suggest that since the mid-1980’s, we have seen a small group “disrupt” the continuity in service of an ideology, in response to unarticulated/proven fears, etc.

  28. This is a fascinating thread, I must say! Not only because of the wide range of views on the subject, but truly, what I think will go a long way toward finding the appropriate hermeneutic(s) for beginning to more fully implement the Council, which, I think is what we all desire.

    One thing that I would throw in to the mix for consideration is that, by and large, most all people actively in engaged in this implementation today grew up in the post-conciliar Church. And when I say, “grew up,” I also include those who were formed theologically.

    Those who study theology now have no personal context for the insanity that was going on immediately preceding the Council, or that which followed.

    Though I can appreciate a moderate amount of “context” needed to understand the Documents, I’ll also point out that none of us were alive to have personally experienced VI, or Trent, or any of the other Councils, either. So, just as understanding the errors of Arius help us to appreciate Nicaea, that doesn’t mean that without having lived through it, we can’t understand how to accurately implement what the Fathers said or intended– it’s in the text.

    Some would even say that not having been so closely wrapped up in the Council as it was happening actually allows for a more dispassionate discussion of what resulted– there is no “agenda” to push, if you will.

  29. People often (mistakenly) talk about the post-Vatican II Chruch as if there are two different Churches. To my mind, the truths expressed at Vatican II were true even for the Church before 1963.

  30. Who came up with a hermeneutic of continuity? Benedict spoke of hermeneutics of “rupture” and of “reform”. Rupture, or discontinuity, is the lens of Lefebvrists, who see the post V2 liturgy as a break from the Tradition that justifies their own break from obedience. I suppose it could apply to some liberals, but their liturgy seems better described as “reform”, to use Benedict’s words. But where did the hermeneutic of ‘continuity’, as an excuse for rolling back the reform, come from? As it is being used here, it sounds like a reworked hermeneutic of rupture, which I find puzzling.

    On another note, the Spirit of V2 builds on John XXIII’s call for a council as like “a New Pentecost.” His image of throwing open the windows to let the Spirit blow through a barricaded Church built on the Pentecost imagery. The Council as an event where different factions within the Church united to proclaim the Gospel is every bit as important as the documents. Those documents should lead us to that Spirit, not to another defensive posture using archaic forms to avoid engaging the world.

    1. +JMJ+

      Pope Benedict used the phrase “hermeneutic of reform” in footnote 6 of Sacramentum Caritatis:

      “I am referring here to the need for a hermeneutic of continuity also with regard to the correct interpretation of the liturgical development which followed the Second Vatican Council: cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 44-45.”

      As for who the “hermeneutic of rupture” refers to, I think his 2005 address makes that clear:

      “The hermeneutic of discontinuity … asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

      “These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council’s deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.

      “In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.”

    2. The passage in SC to which the footnote refers:

      “The difficulties and even the occasional abuses which were noted, it was affirmed, cannot overshadow the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal, whose riches are yet to be fully explored. Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities.”

      IOW, the post conciliar liturgy comes out of the pre conciliar liturgy. The continuity of the reformed liturgy with its predecessors needs to be acknowledged, even if there are “difficulties and even occasional abuses.”

      This is very different from what Fr Anthony describes above: “This ‘continuity’ view calls for a return to the actual letter and true spirit of the Council, prescinding from all the mistakes and misinterpretations (and silliness and liturgical abuses etc.) of the last 45 years.” Such a “continuity view” fits in better with what Benedict calls discontinuity, which is very confusing. At least to me.

      And I already have enough confusion in my mind. Thank you Jeffrey for the citations. Clearly Benedict was referring to some of the more liberal interpreters of the reform (though not the architects of it). I still think the Lefebvrists are the best example of a hermeneutic of rupture.

      1. +JMJ+

        Yes, both the Lefebvrists and the “more liberal interpreters of the reform” adopted a “rupture” mindset in a way, the former to their displeasure, the latter to their pleasure.

        You’ve confused me with your third paragraph.

        Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2005 address, explicitly mentioned “innovation in continuity” as a positive quality of the “hermeneutic of reform”, which he also called (in 2005) “renewal [in] continuity.”

        He ascribes the “hermeneutic of reform” to Bl. John XXIII (from his opening address), and then summarizes: “It is clear that this commitment to expressing a specific truth in a new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital relationship with it.”

        Then he lists several instances that denote positive innovation since the time of Council. He follows them with this:

        “It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church’s decisions on contingent matters – for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible – should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself.”

        He gives the example of religious freedom: there’s a right and wrong way to regard it.

      2. Fr Anthony describes the “continuity view” with the words “return” and “prescind”. These words suggest a rupture. Why such a “return” if there is not something missing from the present that could be found in the past?

        A “continuity” hermeneutic should see the reforms of the last 50 years as in continuity with the past. This is very different, to my eyes, from getting rid of all the stuff and starting over again, which is what Fr Anthony describes. (I may have exaggerated the emphasis)

        Is that what confused you? Your response rightly emphasizes continuity and discontinuity as elements of reform, which is why a “hermeneutic of reform” is not a hermeneutic of continuity or of discontinuity. But the value of the present liturgy seems to me to be the point of all this.

      3. +JMJ+

        I think it is possible to “return to the actual letter and true spirit of the Council” without introducing a rupture; it reorients the direction of liturgical reform. I really don’t see how “rupture” is the first possibility to come to mind when re-considering the reform.

        I do think there are things missing today that were present before the reform. Whether they are of enough value to restore, I cannot tell, although I could certainly give my opinions on the matter: I think the restoration of certain things that were discarded would be wise and beneficial to the spirituality of the Church today. Vatican II gave a general description of things to be excised from the liturgy, and I think it is not unreasonable to say that the official reformed liturgy over-applied that description to things which need not have been snipped.

        Whether the “continuity” hermeneutic starts from the perspective of 1963 or 2010, I do not know. I doubt it treat every “institutionalized” element of the liturgical reform as necessarily “in continuity” with what came before it. It’s very possible (and it has happened before) that approved liturgical changes are later rescinded because they did not turn out to be as effective or appropriate as they were thought to be.

      4. “The difficulties and even the occasional abuses which were noted, it was affirmed, cannot overshadow the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal, whose riches are yet to be fully explored.”

        Jeffrey, it is not possible to “return” without turning around, which is a rupture. Such language is not the language of continuity, but of change. A hermeneutic of continuity expresses the same idea with “continuing reform.” Same changes as you suggest, simply seen with a different understanding of what is happening — no repudiation of the present, but still an attempt to retrieve what was good from the past.

        Of course, a hermeneutic of reform, which sees both continuity and discontinuity, was the preferred hermeneutic in the 2005 speech. That was why I initially asked about the source for “the hermeneutic of continuity.” It is an addendum to the speech, and its context clearly is the continuity of the post conciliar rite with the pre conciliar.

        (I hope you have read the Tablet article by Eamon Duffy referenced below. It describes Benedict as using a hermeneutic of disruption!)

  31. Question: Given the above discussion, it appears that the best of the liturgical development was guided by ICEL – yet, in 1998 after all 11 english conferences had approved this new missal; a small curial group intervenes with JPII blessing (?) backed by Ratzinger (?); basically suppresses this new missal (by what aurhority? is this not rupture?); changes the rules (again, by what authority and for what reasons?); and now secretly moves forward with a curial designed and translated missal. Does this procedure really meet and articulate what you have quoted from B16 above?

    1. My sense is that the liturgical renewal has riches “yet to be explored.” That does not exclude the possibility that a translation of that renewal can be deeply flawed. Whether that is the 60s translation or the upcoming translation, or both, does not mean that the Roman reform itself does not contain those riches.

      And the development process is undoubtedly full of abrupt changes that look like rupture — but if they never see the light of day, those ruptures are in the process, not in the liturgy.

    2. +JMJ+

      I don’t see how it could be called a “suppression”, since the Missal was never approved or promulgated by Rome. The “small curial group” was the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was it not? Regardless of their size, regulation of the liturgy at the highest level is their purpose, and it would appear that their intervention did have the approval of Card. Ratzinger and Ven. Pope John Paul II.

      I would guess this act had the authority of the pope behind it, who has supreme authority in this sort of matter, like it or not.

      I don’t see this as rupture. I do see elements of the 1998 Missal as rupturous (?), introducing certain novelties (mostly in the form of every-increasing variety) to the Rite.

      1. +OMG+

        Actually, Jeffrey, it was NOT the Congregation, but officials of the Congregation – and there is a world of difference!

  32. This might add some more light to this discussion – just posted online by The Tablet; article by Eamon Duffy:

    You are right – utltimately, as Fr. Anthony has said elsewhere, it is within the power of the pope to make these changes. But, are they wise? He has his own opinion? His own experience? But, should this overrule conferences of bishops; the lived experience of millions of catholics?

  33. From Duffy: As Ratzinger wrote in his memoir, Milestones: “ … I was dismayed by the prohibition of the old Missal, since nothing of the sort had ever happened in the entire history of the liturgy.”

    Ratzinger was quite wrong. Here’s Pierre Jounel:

    What would you say to those people who don’t want to know the Missal of Paul VI, and to those who, while respecting it, regret that it was imposed to the exclusion of the Tridentine Missal?

    “I would say to them that they use computers, that they live with the instruments of the culture of their time, and that they have no reason to get stuck on the 1570 date when the Missal of Pius V was promulgated. Why should the liturgy be frozen then, when it had been periodically renewed up to that date? These people lack historical knowledge. Msgr Lefebvre was absolutely convinced that the ancient formula for Confirmation goes back to the time of the apostles, when in fact it only dates back to the 13th century.”

    Jounel then goes on to demonstrate how Paul VI followed exactly the same procedure with his Missal as Pius V had with the Missal and Breviary in 1570, Clement VIII in 1595 with the Roman Pontifical, Pius X with the psalter of the Breviary in 1911, and Pius XII with the Holy Week rites in 1955. In all these cases, the previous usage was abrogated and replaced by the new. This is, he says, the Church’s constant practice.

    1. And furthermore – when the Mozarabic or Beneventan or old Gallican rites were suppressed and the Roman rite imposed upon them, this would have been a rupture for the Catholic clergy and people in those lands, wouldn’t it have been? A Beneventan monk in one manuscript (I think 11th century) oddly wrote down the Gregorian chant propers followed by the Beneventan musical setting – why both? Historians speculate that he was so pained to see his tradition go down the tubes, he had to preserve some of it for posterity. Or maybe they kept doing their own music, contra legem, for a while.

    2. My understanding is that Abp. Lefebvre eventually insisted that his group use the 1962 missal. The 1962 missal is not the same as the 1570 one. A fair amt. of simplification had already taken place (read for your week-to week comparison between the 1962 rites and the rites only a few decades earlier).

  34. Thanks, Paul …… was going to cite the same liturgical timelines.

    But, guess that does not apply to the current pontiff…..more hermeneutic of disruption.

  35. I love the way that Vatican II still sparks so much debate and shakes things up. In my opinion the Council took us back to the beauty of the early Church, before we got too “Roman” but many will disagree!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *