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Andreas R. Batlogg SJ {*}

Vatican II facing the sell-out?


From: Stimmen der Zeit, 11/2011, P. 721 et sequ.
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


In October 2009 it was asked at this place, "Is the last council a 'matter for negotiations'? Are you allowed to haggle, as in a bazaar, over individual texts of the between 1962-1965 adopted documents?" What followed was a quotation from a statement of the German bishops, dated 5 March 2009: "The documents of Vatican II belong indispensably to the Catholic tradition." "The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962." None other than Benedict XVI had written this down in a letter of 10th March 2009 to the bishops throughout the world, where he explained his policy toward the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, namely the lifting of the excommunication of four schismatic bishops. A "creeping undermining and dismantling" of Vatican II was indicated as a threat in the above-quoted text: "The unity of the church is and must be the legitimate concern of the Pope - but at what cost? Even at the cost that Vatican II is devalued or bisected?"

There is now some evidence that this will happen - with unpredictable consequences not only for what is called "Legacy of the Council", which fifty years later will be commemorated for whole three years, from 2012 to 2015. Provided that this will happen, the reputation of the pope would also be damaged. He was not only personal theological adviser to the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings but also official peritus at Vatican II. Joseph Ratzinger's theological biography is closely interwoven with the council.

After all in all eight rounds of talks between October 2009 and April 2011 of a joint study commission composed of experts of the Society of St. Pius X and of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on 14 September 2011 the Vatican press office released now a statement. Its task was to "identify and study the essential doctrinal difficulties in the controversial issues, and to clarify the positions of the two sides and their respective motivations." This goal had been achieved. The CDF regards "as fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See ... the acceptance of the text of the Doctrinal Preamble". "This Doctrinal Preamble (which was handed over on 14 September 2011) defines certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation Catholic doctrine, which are necessary to ensure faithfulness to the Church Magisterium and 'sentire cum Ecclesia'."

The press release does not say which "doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation" are meant. Just as the content of the "Preamble" was kept secret. But all believers are entitled to know its content.



Also the following sentence of the CDF's statement is irritating: "At the same time, it leaves open to legitimate discussion the examination and theological explanation of individual expressions and formulations contained in the documents of Vatican Council II and later Magisterium."

An official response of the Society of St. Pius X, which the Vatican expects in the next few months, is still pending. A canonical solution in terms of its future position is dependent on it - as "result of a possible and desired reconciliation," as the declaration ends. Do not those people ultimately betray Vatican II as a whole who expose "individual terms and wordings", which are indeed the expression of a multi-year decision-making process, to a "legitimate discussion" - without specifying how far this can go? Do both sides really mean the same thing when they speak of a "Pastoral Council"? Is the obligatory nature of the Second Vatican Council's doctrinal decisions equally clear to all parties?

The theologian Wolfgang Beinert, who regularly attends the meetings of the "Schülerkreis" of Pope Benedict in Castel Gandolfo, said in the Munich Kirchenradio that a "return" of the SSPX is hardly imaginable. Each of the two sides had "to commit, so to speak, theological suicide" in order to be accommodating towards the other party. Ecumenism, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience remain the three most important "cruxes". If one of the two parties "(leopards) changes its spots", it loses its face - and its credibility. Is it not shameful that "minimum demands" were proposed to the head of the SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay? "For the Vatican and the Council," said Beinert, "tradition begins with the Holy Scripture and also includes the first millennium of church history - e.g. the reform of celebrating the Eucharist draws on it. While the traditionalist today date basically the beginning of tradition to the High Middle Ages. Then, the Tridentine Mass is indispensable. But it comes from a different spirit, and the question is: Is it the same spirit to which the two parties are committed?" Already Paul VI and John Paul II have pointed to this broad tradition.

Concessions in individual formulations are the one thing; already this would be bad enough and, ultimately, a sellout; not to mention the constant derogatory everyday rhetoric of the Pius Brothers, who since 1962 suspect everywhere only decay. The other issue is the "Spirit of the Council". It cannot be solved by intellectual verbal acrobatics as e.g. "Hermeneutics of the Rupture", which the SSPX takes for granted, or "Hermeneutics of the Reform" or "of the Discontinuity", of which the pope has spoken repeatedly. If the Pius Brothers "do not accept the Council", Cardinal Joachim Meisner said unexpectedly clearly, they "must stay outside." And he emphasized that the Church would "not let them go", even if they rejected the preamble. Whatever decision they take - there is much at stake, and the room for manoeuvre is very small.


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