Friday, November 14, 2008

Synod's view of post-Vatican II Church (part 4)

WARNING: What you are about to read can be categorized as "ranting" and/or "raving."

The more I study the Synod's working document, the more red flags pop up in my mind - no sooner do I finish researching for one post than an idea for another crops up. Perhaps this will be the last in this series, perhaps not. There is much more that can be said. In particular, I am noticing the Synod's tendency to exalt the "dialogue" and active aspect of the Scriptures almost at the expense of the intellectual and exegetical meaning. When exegesis is mentioned, it is usually in the context of unresolved exegetical "difficulties," reminding us that we are not a people of the Book, or by way of reminding us that we can have to not just read it put the Word into action, like in this awkward quote from section 23: "Revelation in the Bible can therefore be said to be an encounter between God and people who, in experiencing the one and only Word, actually together "do" the Word." Together we "do" the Word? I guess I get what it is trying to say, but can you imagine any statement being more imprecise or open to multiform interpretations? "Do" the Word?

An overriding problem I have with this document is that it is very obviously rooted in the worldly-humanist optimistic view of the Church's role in the world that was so prominent after the Council and is exemplified in Gaudium et Spes. According to this view, the Church since Vatican II has been a phenomenal success, the aspirations of the Council Fathers have all been vindicated and everybody is much better off now than before 1963. This also tends to go hand in hand with a very worldly-oriented view of the Church's mission. Take a look at section 58: "The Word of God [is] the source of grace, freedom, justice and peace and the safeguard of creation." Only one of those terms, grace, has an unambiguously theological meaning. All the rest are worldly terms. When it says freedom it means political freedom, justice means social justice, peace means international brotherhood, and safeguarding creation means ecology (if you don't believe that it is referencing ecology, check section 10, where the Synod very seriously raised the "pastoral implications" of the "relevant questions concerning natural law, the origin of the world and ecology").

Peace is a good thing. Ecology is a good thing. Justice is good. But they are not the essential concerns of the Church (whose mission is the sanctification of souls), and we are not helping anybody if we reduce the place of the Scriptures or the Church to be just a tool for the improvement of worldly, earth-bound institutions and relations. Scriptures is given to tell us about Christ. It is not some kind of universalizing book of platitudes that tells us all about how to attain world peace and reduce our carbon footprint. Now the Pope is coming out with an encyclical on social justice. Unless he is prepared to reshift the whole man-centered emphasis in social justice theology that has prevailed in the past thirty years (and I doubt he is), then why do we need another statement on social justice? Don't we have enough stuff on social justice? I think this goes back to my other theory about the modern Magisterium thinking it just has to churn out documents periodically the way a Congress keeps turning out new laws. This is contrary to the traditional stance that the Magisterium and Papacy were there to make pronouncements and definitive declarations when things needed clarification, not to be cranking out encyclicals every few months just for the sake of publishing something.

The Synod's document has some interesting things to say about the post-Vatican II Church. The most amusing of these is the Synod's labeling of the post-VII years as "a season of plentiful fruits" (5). That's a good one! What are these fruits exactly? This is another one of those buzz words like "richness" that are often used to refer to the outcome of the Council but which lack substance. When I think of "fruits" of the Council, I think of 80% of Catholics disbelieving in the Real Presence, Obama-voting Catholics, empty convents, nuns in suit-pants, New Age monks, lax bishops (though they're getting better recently), heretic priests, homosexual seminarians, Protestant Church music, table altars, and everything that goes along with them. But I am just a private amateur theologian and historian, and what I say doesn't matter or have any authority. But let's see what the Synod's "fruits" are:

"A renewed appreciation of the Bible in liturgy, catechesis, and more importantly in exegetical and theological studies" (5) Two thoughts: one, they obviously mistake putting more readings in the liturgy for "renewed appreciation." The two are not necessarily the same (see here). Second, the idea that there is a greater appreciation for the Scriptures in exegetical and theological studies today is laughable--these are the two regions where heresies concerning the meaning of Scripture abound the most.

"An ever increasing number of new readers and ministers of the Word of God" (5). i.e., because we have a severe priest shortage and the offices of Acolyte and Lector are all but extinct.

"A greater availability of ways and means of modern communication" (5). Granted, that is a good thing, but this is supposed to be about positive experiences that are "a result of the dynamic activity of the Word of God" in the 40 years since the Council. What does the fact that we have modern communication have to do with the implementation of the Council and how can it be listed as a positive fruit of the post-Conciliar Church? There is not even a remote connection. They just wanted another "fruit" to put on their list so it wasn't too short.

"An interest in the Bible in the field of culture" (5), i.e., to compensate for the fact that it is increasingly not taken seriously in the field of theology.

Here's an amusing view of the post-Conciliar Church: "The People of God have a growing consciousness of the importance of liturgies of the Word of God, prompted in part by the reference and revision of them in the new Lectionary" (33). If they do have a growing appreciation of the importance of liturgy, then why are liturgies in so many parishes such a debacle? However, in the same paragraph the documents admits that homilies "could clearly stand improvement" and that Bishops often "lack interest" in the "riches" of the liturgical books.

Here's a good one from section 40: "Undoubtedly, the Lord is owed praise for the fruits produced after the Second Vatican Council, one of which is the commitment of a great number of exegetes and theologians who study and explain the Scriptures according to the sense of the Church and interpret and present the Word, written in the Bible, within the context of living Tradition." Did it really just praise theologians for their faithful exegesis and interpretation of the Bible in the context of Tradition? That would be like congratulating the Jesuits for their orthodoxy or commending the English hierarchy for their support of Summorum Pontificum! It is simply not true! There are many good Scripture scholars out there to be sure, but I think the vast majority of Scripture scholars in the Church today are working under the heretical misunderstanding of Dei verbum 11 and have a very restricted view of inspiration. A pastor not far from here recently lost many congregation members by preaching that the Scripture pretty much meant whatever you wanted it to mean. There is an immense poverty in the Church with regards to faithful interpretation of Scripture, and I think this is one reason for the modern Church's weakness. But, this has been the trend since Vatican II: close seminaries and religious houses and allow heretical preaching all over and then pat ourselves on the back and talk about what a rich harvest we are reaping!

The following quote is a little disturbing: "Because the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us the Spirit is prompting us to meditate on the new itinerary which He intends to pursue among the people of our time" (40). The document does not go on to state exactly what this "new itinerary" is, but I have to wonder, why are the "people of our time" so special that we need a new itinerary? Was the old itinerary not good enough? Are we different than all our ancestors who came before? The Synod apparently thinks so, and this is in keeping with the Future Church vision of many of the Council periti, that modern man is too sophisticated for the old ways.

Well, that's enough for now. Suffice it to say that the Synod is still playing the same, tired old Emperor's New Clothes game, declaring the Church more glorious and fruitful because of the Council when in reality we are impoverished and weak.

"I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead." Apoc. 3:1


Alexander said...

So it seems, according to this, that there is an increase in people reading Scripture, studying Scripture, reading Scripture at Mass, more people delving into theology, and I take it that the renewed appreciation for catechetics they mentioned is because lay people are doing this.

In short it appears they are praising these so-called fruits because lay people are now doing lots and lots of things; never mind that heresy and abuse have risen – it’s the quantity of the matter that makes it count as a “fruit.” As long as everyone gets to participate, no matter how much in error or how much abuse is fostered, its a "fruit."

Mark said...

The wording is vague for a purpose (not a good purpose). It provides "weasel words" which allows the writer to claim to meet the letter of doctrine, while appealing to those in heresy to those who wish to hear such things.

It's not preaching the Gospel, it's mumbling.

I've seen this before on the local level. But as you've noticed, the truth can be parsed-out.