2 September 2009

Hermeneutics

I rather wonder whether, in the imminent dialogue betwwen SSPX and CDF, the participants will be willing to confront the problem of the status of Councils in general and of Vatican II in particular. I hope they will. But it will be a bold move. Both for those who admire it and those who detest it, the Council is the towering fact of ecclesiastical life in the last half century. Papal documents have repeatedly cited it; and more than any council ever it made an almost overnight impact on the daily prayer-life of every Latin Christian and the liturgy of every parish church (I suspect that I am one of the few whom the Council has barely touched; I accepted it as a true Ecumenical Council, but I rarely bothered to read its documents and never regarded it as the Wunderkonzil which would put all to rights; nor did I feel it was a Satanic disaster and spend my time scouring its texts for error). Any radical nuancing or relativising of the status of the conciliar documents will elicit from the liberals (who in fact, more than most, completely ignore provisions they dislike) paranoid rantings. If the participants in dialogue refer such sensitive matters to the Pontiff himself, then the full weight of the satanic malevolence of the crypto-apostates who have not reached the canonical age of retirement, and of their lackey media, will fall upon that gentle and sensitive man.

Vaticanologists have long been expert in detecting the relative status of a papal document. Where does a Motu proprio stand vis-a-vis an Encyclical or an Apostolic Constitution or a Post-synodal Exhortation? The same sophistication may need to be applied to the documents of Vatican II. As an ignorant Anglican, it would seem to me that those topoi which have featured most frequently in documents of the post-conciliar papal Magisterium, and portions appointed to be read in the Office of Readings, would take priority over portions which have been a dead letter in the life of the Church (but unfortunately it will be a great deal more complicated than that). And, above all, there has to be the hermeneutic of non-rupture: in other words, a glossing of the meaning of a document which renders it in harmony with the Tradition is manifestly preferable to a glossing which, although prima facie it might have seemed more probable, would involve an assumption of rupture.

Most Orthodox and Anglicans do not accept the Magisterium of "papal" Councils. The sort of contextualising that I describe would, in any case, be necessary in dialogue with henotically minded members of those traditions. That is why the dialogue with SSPX can be a gift to the whole of Christendom.

I hope to complete my discussion of the SSPX/CDF dialogue the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow, I hope to face up to the dodgy question of Pope Gregory's revision of the Roman Rite.

1 comment:

Patricius said...

I tend to think of Vatican II as a true Ecumenical Council (to say otherwise would be heresy in my opinion) but I would that it were treated as one of the least important ones, like one of the obscure medieval Lateran Councils that no one has heard of; the province of historians of the Church, and of historical theology. I do, however, tend to bemoan some of the documents of the Council (which I, perforce, have had to read as part of my Divinity studies) and I do in fact disagree with a lot of it. All the more reason for the, I think, theologically revisionist ''Hermeneutic of Continuity'' approach then.