"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch


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Sunday, 14 September 2014


Non-Christians have often asked a very good question–why do Christians adorn their churches, homes, and necks with a symbol of abasement, terror, and torture? 
 The feast of the Exaltation or Triumph of the Holy Cross provides the answer.

my source: 
Early Church Fathers, Dr. Marcellino D'AMbrosio, Catholic Church

St. Andrew of Crete shows that the feast of the victory and exaltation of the holy cross or our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was celebrated even in the era of the Early Church Fathers.  This excerpt from one of St. Andrew's discourses (Oratio 10 in Exaltatione sanctae crucis: PG 97, 1018-1019, 1022-23) is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings on September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  The corresponding biblical reading is taken from St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians (Gal 2:19-3:7-14 and 6:14-16).  
 St Andrew of Crete

We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.

Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross,life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, There would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.

Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation - very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honourable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.

The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his his triumph. We recognize it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: “Father, glorify your name”. Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again”. Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.
Here is a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father's reflections before the Angelus prayer:

Dear brothers and sisters,

On September 14th the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Some non-Christian person might ask: why "exalt" the Cross? We can say that we do not exalt just any cross or all crosses: we exalt the Cross of Jesus, because God’s love for humanity was revealed most in it. That's what the Gospel of John reminds us in today's liturgy: "God so loved the world that He gave only begotten Son" (3:16). The Father has "given" the Son to save us, and this has resulted in the death of Jesus and His death on the Cross. Why? Why was the Cross necessary? Because of the gravity of the evil which kept us slaves. The Cross of Jesus expresses both things: all the negative forces of evil, and all of the gentle omnipotence God’s mercy. The Cross would appear to declare Christ’s failure, but in reality marks His victory. On Calvary, those who mocked him said, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross" (cf. Mt 27,40). But it was the opposite that was true: it was because Jesus was the Son of God, that He was there, on the Cross, faithful to the end to the loving plan of the Father. And for this reason God has "exalted" Jesus (Philippians 2.9), conferring universal kingship on Him.

So what do we see, when we look to the Cross where Jesus was nailed? We contemplate the sign of the infinite love of God for each of us and the source of our salvation. That Cross is the source of the mercy of God that embraces the whole world. Through the Cross of Christ the evil one is overcome, death is defeated, we are gifted life, hope is restored. This is important: Through the Cross of Christ hope is restored. The Cross of Jesus is our only true hope! That is why the Church "exalts" the Holy Cross, which is why we Christians bless ourselves with the sign of the cross. That is, we don’t exalt crosses any but the glorious Cross of Christ, a sign of God’s love, our salvation and journey towards the resurrection.  This is our hope.  

While we contemplate and celebrate the Holy Cross, we think emotionally of so many of our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and killed because of their faith in Christ. This happens especially there where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or fully realized. It happens, however, even in well-to-do countries which, in principle, protect freedom and human rights, but where in practice believers, and especially Christians, encounter restrictions and discrimination. So today we remember them and pray especially for them.  

On Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, there was the Virgin Mary (cf. Jn 19,25-27). She is the Virgin of Sorrows, whom we celebrate tomorrow in the liturgy. To Her I entrust the present and the future of the Church, so that we all may always know how to discover and accept the message of love and salvation of the Cross of Christ. To Her I entrust in particular the newlywed couples whom I had the joy of joining in marriage this morning, in St. Peter's Basilica.

Friday, 12 September 2014


2. For the liturgy, "through which the work of our redemption is accomplished," [1] most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek [2]. While the liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord, into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit [3], to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ [4], at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations [5] under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together [6], until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.
[Taken from the Introduction to SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM.]
7. To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross" [20], but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes [21]. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20) .
8. In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle [22]; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory.
10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.

   [All quotations except the first are taken from the first chapter of SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM.]

3. Well aware that unity is manifested in love of God and love of neighbour, we look forward in eager anticipation to the day in which we will finally partake together in the Eucharistic banquet. As Christians, we are called to prepare to receive this gift of Eucharistic communion, according to the teaching of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon (Against Heresies, IV,18,5, PG 7,1028), through the confession of the one faith, persevering prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue. By achieving this hoped for goal, we will manifest to the world the love of God by which we are recognized as true disciples of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 13:35).
(Common Declaration of Pope Francis & Patriarch Bartholomew, May 25th, 2014)

The whole process began in France and Belgium: in France where Orthodox theologians who had fled Communist Russia and had settled in Paris met Catholic theologians who saw the necessity for a fundamental change of direction in the Catholic Church to meet the challenges of modern secularism; in Belgium where Pope Pius XI established the Benedictine monastery of Chevetogne under the direction of Dom Lambert Beauduin to be a centre of unity between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. 

I believe that both the Orthodox theologians in Paris and the Catholic theologians in Paris and Lyon were rather surprised at each other.  Their problems were similar and related.   Neither side was satisfied with the state of theology in their respective churches.  The Orthodox were dissatisfied, among other things, with the influence of Western Catholic theology on their own theologians; while the Catholic theologians were dissatisfied with neo-thomism as it had developed, because they believed it was incapable of engaging with the modern world.   Both saw the answer in an appeal to Tradition.   They believed that you can find answers to the problems of the present in the very best insights of the past.   The  Orthodox went back to the Fathers and especially to St Gregory Palamas.   The Catholics went back to the same Fathers, but especially to St Augustine of Hippo, St Thomas Aquinas and St Bonaventure, reading them in the light of the earlier Fathers.   Both sides discovered and accepted in St Ignatius of Antioch what has come to be called "eucharistic ecclesiology" and took on the task of re-interpreting later ecclesiologies in the light of this one.

  Thus, for the first time in many hundreds of years, both sides were reading from the same text, were trying to get to grips with the same problems, and had a general agreement where the answer to these problems can be found.

 Nevertheless, the Orthodox remained Orthodox and the Catholics remained Catholic, and they did not achieve the level of agreement that could be a basis for union; nor did they try to achieve anything so ambitious. However, there was enough agreement between them to enable them to converse and learn from each other without fear, though neither side was in a position to represent their churches.   The Catholic theologians were under suspicion of heresy because they criticised the modern theological establishment  by reclaiming the past, and the Orthodox theologians were also under suspicion in their own church simply because they lived in the West and were thus open to Western influences.   In fact, there were no formal meetings between these theologians as such, nor were they conscious of making history, or even of belonging to a group: they simply exchanged ideas because that is what theologians do.  And there was the liturgical week at the Orthodox Institut Saint-Serge in Paris every year to which Catholic theologians were invited.   (I went to it once.)

All this suspicion changed for the Catholics when Pope John XXIII announced his Council and invited these very Catholic theologians to assist at the Council.  At the Council they were joined by theologians like Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Wojtyla, and they became, perhaps, the most important group at the Council, the main authors of the most important documents.   They had caught the Orthodox bug in Paris and found support during the Council from the highly organised Melkite hierarchy who would describe themselves as "Orthodox in communion with Rome."   

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of this group within the Council, nor to exaggerate the extent of their disappointment when others, who did not share their vision, gradually came to be accepted as the authentic voice of the Council, especially in the matter of liturgy which was absolutely central to their concern for the Church. In their eyes, the primary purpose of liturgical reform was to bring people into touch with the sacred, without which there can be no real religion.  Also, only by liturgical reform could the true nature of the Church become evident. Distortion of the liturgy leads inevitably to misunderstanding of the Church.  The young Joseph Ratzinger wrote:
"The decision to begin with the liturgy schema was not merely a technically correct move. Its significance went far deeper. This decision was a profession of faith in what is truly central to the Church–the ever-renewed marriage of the Church with her Lord, actualised in the eucharistic mystery where the Church, participating in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, fulfils its innermost mission, the adoration of the triune God. Beyond all the superficially more important issues, there was here a profession of faith in the true source of the Church’s life, and the proper point of departure for all renewal. The text did not restrict itself to mere changes in individual rubrics, but was inspired from this profound perspective of faith. The text implied an entire ecclesiology and thus anticipated ... the main theme of the entire Council–its teaching on the Church. Thus the Church was freed from the 'hierarchological’ Congar) narrowness' of the last hundred years, and returned to its sacramental origins" .
my source: Commonweal

   However, there were those who believed that modern humanity has "come of age" and has outgrown the need for the sacred and that emphasis must now be placed on human solidarity rather than the holy.   This latter group seemed to have gained the upper hand when interpreting the "spirit of Vatican II". However, all was not lost, because the next two popes were from that group, and liturgy was one of Pope Benedict's main concerns. 
In this article I want to concentrate on the teaching of Vatican II on the Church.   The Council's vision of the Church was very different from what had been the current teaching before the Council and was taken for granted in Vatican I; but the Council did not see it as an alternative to what had been taught before.   They were somehow related, even if the documents left to the post-conciliar Church the task of finding the exact relationship: they simply put them side by side, knowing that the new paradigm would demand a re-interpretation of the Vatican I definitions, but leaving it to others.  

It could be said that the current teaching before Vatican II sprang from an understanding of the faith formulated by canon lawyers.   Even the salvation won for us by Christ was legalistic: a satisfaction made by a man because he represented the human race, but a man who is God because the enormity of sin is measured by the dignity of the person offended rather than by the offence, and only God can give infinite satisfaction, adequate to satisfy for sin committed against an infinite God.   The Church is a perfect society, held together by jurisdiction that springs from the Pope and unites us all into one body.   Supreme power was handed by Christ to Peter, and the popes exercise this power.   Sacramental powers are given to individuals at ordination and should be exercised  in the Church but can be performed outside the Church if the priest or bishop should so will.   Hence, sacramental powers are not strong enough to hold the Church together: only papal jurisdiction can do that.   

This ecclesiology is what Yves Congar OP called "hierarchological" and what Nicholas Afanasiev called "universal" ecclesiology.   The Church is a universal organization with its centre in Rome, and dioceses are parts of the whole.   All power is centred on the Pope.   It is expressed by a Catholic theologian thus:
Christians must be more than ever one...there must be more unanimity in action than ever: one man alone can direct, one alone can teach, one alone command - Peter and his successors...If the Church wants to remain one in a world in process of unification, then the Papacy must speak often and guide all.   [J. Boyer s.j.Le Souverain Pontife, centre vital et unite de l'Eglise, 1955]
Vatican II has given us another ecclesiology which it, in turn, received from Father Nicholas Afanasiev, a Russian Orthodox theologian and canonist who lived in Paris from 1947 till his death in 1966 where he taught at Saint Serge.   He was also an Orthodox observer at Vatican II.   This is called "eucharistic ecclesiology".   Of course, the Council would no have adopted it if it had not been, beyond question, a dominant ecclesiology among the Church Fathers.

It receives its most startling expression on the very first page in the very first document that came out of the Council, on the Liturgy.   The full relevant text is given at the beginning of this article.   The Church is essentially liturgical, becoming what it is and manifesting to others its true nature in the celebration of the liturgy, especially when celebrating "the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist."   In celebrating the Liturgy, the Church is working in synergy with the Holy Spirit, so the celebration is at once divine and human, where the human is subordinate to the divine, and the divine works through the human.   In the liturgy, the Church participates in the heavenly liturgy as we are told in the Letter to the Hebrews.  Moreover, here comes the startling bit which gives us a very different picture from that given in "universal ecclesiology".   In the latter, the power is centralised in the Pope in Rome, while in eucharistic ecclesiology, it is centred in the liturgy.
10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.
This is in line with the understanding of Pope Pius XI who wrote, "the liturgy is the chief organ of the ordinary magisterium of the Church."   When we remember that, for the first three hundred years, until the Council of Nicaea, the "extraordinary magisterium" did not make a single pronouncement, and the ordinary magisterium was the only one actively operating, we realise that we underestimate the importance of the ordinary magisterium.   This is because we are used to a universal ecclesiology where pronouncements by the Pope and general councils have priority over all other expressions of Catholicism.   In eucharistic theology, it is the liturgical celebration (including the liturgical text) that has priority because of the synergy between Christ in the Spirit and the Church during the celebration.

For those who use the "perfect society" paradigm in their understanding of the Church, the highest way you can honour the Blessed Virgin, for instance, is by proclaiming the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption and at present, Mediatrix of all graces, as dogmas of faith.   In the eucharistic ecclesiology, the highest honour we can pay to the Blessed Virgin as a Church is her place in the liturgy.   The traditional function of dogmas is to preserve the integrity of the faith that is celebrated in the various liturgies that are used by the Church by a universally accepted formula.   To use dogmas for any other purpose is simply storing up preoblems for later.

In the "perfect society" paradigm, the movement is from the universal authority if the Pope to the local church. In contrast, the eucharistic ecclesiology re-directs our attention to the liturgical celebration which is local by its very nature.   It is here that Tradition is actually lived. Because it is grounded at grass-roots level, it takes different forms and becomes embedded in particular customs in each culture.    Catholic Tradition is not monochrome.  Because it is rooted in each place, it is like a highly varied field of flowers which, nevertheless are in harmony with one another, even if this harmony is difficult to spot.   One thing is certain: humble obedience is at the very root of our Christian understanding, and if self-protecting pride should enter into our powers of judgement, any possibility to recognise the harmony between the different strands of Tradition is lost Thus, because there is more than one way that Tradition is expressed, just as there are four versions of the one Gospel, this leads to  the formation of regional churches which share the same form of Tradition and have the  same problems.   A polychrome Church is a direct consequence of the eucharistic nature of the Church; and the universal authority of the pope has to work within this context.   

What makes the local celebration of the liturgy so significant is that, while local community will reflect local customs, spirituality and understanding of the faith, they become, by the working of the Holy Spirit, the mouthpiece of the whole Church throughout the world.   Each celebration is a local manifestation of the Church which transcends every place and includes, not only all other eucharistic communities throughout the world and throughout history, but the Church in heaven and in purgatory as well.   Just as every consecrated host is the body of Christ, identical in this to all other hosts, and all the hosts together are the same body of Christ, neither more nor less, so every eucharistic assembly is transformed by the Holy Spirit into the same body of Christ, and each part of the Church is identical to all other parts, in that each is, and all together are, Christ's body.

It follows from this that the Pope, as successor of Peter, does not give universal witness to the Catholic Faith by imposing Romanism on the other parts of the Church. Rather, he bears witness to the faith he has in common with the bishops of all other local Churches that are identical with his Church in Rome, in that each is body of Christ, as all are together.Other bishops give witness to the Catholic faith to the universal Church, some, like Archbishop Romero, through martyrdom; but it is the Pope's job as Bishop of Rome, because of the links of martyrdom that Saints Peter and Paul have with the eucharistic assembly of that city.   

It is only within this context that the definition of Vatican I is true:
9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.
So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.

This was a definition that Cardinal Newman did not believe was necessary. In the Council of Chalcedon, Pope St Leo issued a definition of the Incarnation which he required the council fathers to accept.   There was no problem because they recognised in this definition their own faith.   "Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo!" they proclaimed.   The dogma of infallibility is a poor substitute for recognising the truth of the statement of faith in love.   It could be argued that Papal infallibility only "works" within the context of ecclesial love, which is the way the Holy Spirit makes his presence known.

"Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, i rreformable."   This very controversial statement does not mean that the Pope can impose on the Church anything he likes.   After all, according to the definition, he is employing the gift of infallibility which belongs, in the first place, to the Church as a whole.  It is a statement by canon lawyers that no further legal process is necessary to verify the presence of the Holy Spirit.   This presence is due to the synergy between the Spirit of Christ and the Church, not on any legal procedure. When he speaks ex cathedra, the papal decree is sufficient guarantee that the Holy Spirit is protecting him from error.   Of course, th  ere would be a real crisis if what he imposed on the Church was not recognised by the Church.   An essential sign that he is using the Church's infallibility is that it is "received" by the Church; but this "reception" is a recognition of the Holy Spirit's activity, not a validation of the Holy Spirit's work: when the pope speaks infallibly, the infallibility of the whole Church is brought into play.  The Church will recognise this doctrine as it's own, something that is believed in already.

Now we come to the definition of Papal jurisdiction.   Vatican I decreed:
2. Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world.
3. In this way, by unity with the Roman Pontiff in communion and in profession of the same faith , the Church of Christ becomes one flock under one Supreme Shepherd

 5. This power of the Supreme Pontiff by no means detracts from that ordinary and immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which bishops, who have succeeded to the place of the apostles by appointment of the Holy Spirit, tend and govern individually the particular flocks which have been assigned to them. On the contrary, this power of theirs is asserted, supported and defended by the Supreme and Universal Pastor; for St. Gregory the Great says: "My honor is the honor of the whole Church. My honor is the steadfast strength of my brethren. Then do I receive true honor, when it is denied to none of those to whom honor is due." [51]
The definition does not show clearly why the local bishop is not just an assistant to the Pope, even though it is stated that the bishops rule as successors of the Apostles.   If "this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate", does this mean that the pope is a supreme monarch, the ecclesiastical equivalent in the West of the emperor in the East, or even his rival?   

I think the two authorities are fundamentally different, as is the nature of their authority.   In fact, one of the great causes of confusion and schism has been the confusion between civil and ecclesiastical authority, popes and bishops having wielded both kinds of power. The first belongs entirely to this world, while the second is, by its very nature, a theological reality, which means it is different in kind and in scope.   You will not find the difference in an understanding of the Church that only uses the paradigm of the perfect society; but it becomes obvious in the light of eucharistic ecclesiology.

One of the great differences in history between the West and Byzantium is the position of the Eastern emperor who simply did not have the power to fulfil his role in the West.   The legend of King Arthur is all about a local authority trying to keep order and to defend the people from Anglo-Saxon invaders after the Roman armies had left Britain.   This experience of Roman weakness became general in the West, and Pope Gregory had to take over in Italy, though always in the Emperor's name.   Without the ability to use force, civil jurisdiction doesn't work, however civilised the society.   Christ gave no physical force to his Church, no armies, no police; and his teaching on the use of authority was clearly distinct from that of civil society.   Christ put himself forward as its model and said that he was not here to dominate but to serve.

   Pope Gregory the Great was clear, when writing about the title "ecumenical patriarch" that he claimed no power that diminished the authority of his fellow bishops; but he did have a responsibility towards them: he called himself "Servant of the Servants of God".   He is quoted in the decree of Vatican I on Papal authority.   Nevertheless, I don't think Pius IX realised how different was Pope Gregory's vision from his own.   This was for the simple reason that Vatican II hadn't happened yet.   In reality, I think it is taking time for the difference to sink in even after Vatican II!

In eucharistic ecclesiology, the fullness of the Church is the diocese, a sacramental organism with apostolic roots and a continuous tradition  from apostolic times reflected in its liturgy, with Christ in the Spirit acting in synergy with and through its members whose varied gifts make up one body as they celebrate the Eucharist, living in communion with their bishop who represents Catholic unity across time and space. 

Read the quotations from Sacrosanctum Concilium at the beginning of this article to understand the intimate relationship between Christ and the Church during the course of the Liturgy and how his presence reaches right down into the of the heart in all who are open to receive him.   The liturgy is always local, celebrated where there are people.   At the same time, these local eucharistic assemblies are the voice and visible expression of the whole Church throughout the world and time, united by the Holy Spirit to the rest in sacramental unity in such a way that each Mass is celebrated by the universal Church in union with Christ.  

The Eucharist makes the Church, and where the Eucharist is, there is the Church.   Because in the Eucharist the Church transcends time and place, the local church, by its very nature as a eucharistic reality, cannot be separated from the universal church because it concelebrates with all other churches every time it celebrates Mass. Pope, patriarchs of all shapes, sizes and loyalties, bishops, priests and faithful are all united by the Holy Spirit in the Mass whether they like it or not.  In October, 2001, a Vatican document bearing the signatures of various Cardinals and initialled by Pope John Paul himself stated that  "the Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession."   This church did not accept the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) nor any other council since, but has been found perfectly orthodox in its faith by the Vatican.   Hence, it is a true particular church of orthodox faith in spite of lack of full communion for such a long time.   This is because the Eucharist makes the Church.   It does not mean that union with the Pope is not necessary: it becomes even more necessary because it is the logical consequence of that unity with the universal Church to which they are united in the Eucharist.   However, due to circumstances outside their and our control, they do not see this, and we pray with them for eventual full communion when our disagreements have been resolved.   Nevertheless, this example shows the utmost importance of the local church as celebrant of the Eucharist and presence in one place of the universal Church.

If the emperor's power, like all secular legal authority, was based on physical power to enforce, what is the basis of ecclesial authority?   "As the Father sent me, I also send you," said the Lord.   God's power, both to create and redeem is the power of his love.   It is a kenotic love that begins in the Trinity, where the Father loves the Son into being from all eternity through the Spirit who also expressses the Son's kenotic love for the Father.   Creation is God "allowing the universe to be", "loving the universe into being", and salvation is our share in the Cross.   The reality behind Canon Law is the love of God, first and foremost, his love for us by which he keeps us in existence and redeems us, and then, our love for him in faith.   

At first, there was no legal system in the Catholic Church, only the command to love one another as Christ has loved us.  However, a system of law was necessary, but it has to work within a Christian context, respecting the nature of the Church.   The connection between a Canon Law based on Love and eucharistic ecclesiology can be appreciated in this passage on the place of love in the Christian life according to St Augustine:
 Love then in the inspired and grace infused understanding of Saint Augustine is not only an interior love of self (in cardia), but also a love of God and love of neighbor, in whom God also dwells. Saint Augustine in furthering his understanding of love and the shortcomings of the Platonists adopts the Pauline understanding and appreciation of the Church’s fullest expressionof love in the celebration of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Church’s life, because it not only recalls the origins God’s love, but is a constant source of renewal and fulfillment for life in Christ Jesus. Both Saint Paul and Saint Augustine share the notion that celebration of the Eucharist, through fellowship, and agape are the definitive forms of the worship of God., the spiritual worship-logike lateria (Romans 12:1) that transforms all who believe in Christian fellowship into a transcendental love that not only unites man and God, but man with all of God’s creation.
In Saint Augustine’s developing eschatology and understanding of the proper relationship between the love of God, each other and the Sacraments he will concur with Saint Paul, “ my brothers, by the mercies of God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”(Romans 12:1 ) In this manner Saint Augustine also echoes Saint Paul’s teachings and goes on to say” this is the sacrifice of Christians; that we, though many, are one body in Christ.” In Augustine’s proclamation of this unity of the ecclesial body, Augustineclearly emphasizes the unitive love of the Eucharistic Sacrament as it is known by the faithful,and how the Church clearly offers the sacrifice of Christ’s love for all of the faithful.
This insistence on sacrifice- a “making sacred”- expresses for Saint Augustine through the teachings of Saint Paul the existential depth implied in the transformation of our human reality as taken up by Christ. (cf. Phil 3:12). Saint Augustine in accepting and transforming the notion of love into a transcendent reality and a dimension of God’s flowing grace embraces a Pauline transformation of faith that calls, or rather commands others to love not just themselves andGod, but also each other as transformed manifestations of the Father’s love and redemptionthrough the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and the eschatological transformation brought about as a result of the Paschal Mystery.Saint Augustine’s notion of love as a participation in the life of God is intrinsically tied to thenotion that all are called to live a life of grace to reflect the image of the son of God (cf. Romans8 29ff). For Augustine all of our thoughts, deeds actions, and emotions are to be found in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which embodies love and joins all believers with God and his cosmological existence. Saint Augustine in seeking a viable understanding of the truth under the concept of divine love maintains that the Christian lifestyle is a living of our whole lives inthe process of conversion and journey towards fulfillment with God’s love and mercy. He again is reflective of Saint Paul in this precept, “The glory of God is the living man.” (cf. 1 Cor 10:31)and is later reaffirmed by Saint Irenaeus, “...the life of man is the vision of God.”The enduring notion of love therefore for Saint Augustine is one that is not one that develops in personal and collective solitude, but rather through the collective rituals and celebrations of the Church’s Sacred Mysteries as vehicles that bridge the historical and the anticipatedeschatological reunion of Christ’s Church and all of the faithful believers into an ever deepening and in a sense probing the mystery of God’s love and divine nature on a level that will only manifest itself through personal death and union with God, and the finite conclusion of the world as we know and understand it.   
[St Augustine,Love and Eschatology by Hugh J. McNichol M.A.,K.H.S]

Thus, St Gregory the Great saw his service to the Church as a service of love.   Love always respects the other; and papal jurisdiction over the bishops and everyone else must involve respect for the reality of their position.   It is an authority that does not lessen theirs but increases it, making it more secure.   Only with jurisdiction based on and expressing love can a pope and a patriarch or bishop exercise jurisdiction over the same people in synergy with one another without fear of conflict, because both are bound, by the very nature of the Church, to respect the other's ministry.   Indeed, the pope and bishop will not only respect one another but will be eager to obey one another in so far as it is compatible with the will of God.   In this vision of the Church, the power of pope, patriarch, bishop and priest can only be measured in terms of how many peoples' feet they can wash!!

If only enough popes had been able to distinguish the kind of power they had from the kind of power emperors and kings had, deciding to preside in love!!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Like his predecessor John Paul II, Benedict XVI was present at all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. Whereas Karol Wojtyla took part as a bishop, the young Joseph Ratzinger did so as a theological expert. During and after the council he taught successively at the universities of Bonn (1959-1963), Münster (1963-1966), Tübingen (1966-1969), and Regensburg, until he was appointed Archbishop of Munich in 1977. In 1981 he became prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post he held until the death of John Paul II in April 2005. 

In his many publications Ratzinger continued to debate questions that arose during the council and in some cases expressed dissatisfaction with the council’s documents. In this respect he differs from Pope John Paul, who consistently praised the council and never (to my knowledge) criticized it. The material conveniently divides into three stages: his participation at the council, his early commentaries on the council’s documents, and his later reflections on the reception of the council. And then there are his changing reactions to the four great constitutions: on the liturgy ( Sacrosanctum Concilium ), on revelation ( Dei Verbum ), on the Church ( Lumen Gentium ), and on the Church in the modern world ( Gaudium et Spes ). 

At the council, Ratzinger was much sought after as a rising theological star. He worked closely with senior Jesuits, including Karl Rahner, Alois Grillmeier, and Otto Semmelroth, all of whom kept in steady communication with the German bishops. The German Cardinals Josef Frings of Cologne and Julius Döpfner of Munich and Freising, strongly supported by theologian-bishops such as the future Cardinal Hermann Volk, exercised a powerful influence, generally opposing the schemas drawn up by the preparatory commission under the guidance of Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani and Father Sebastian Tromp, S.J. 

Late in the first session Ratzinger was named a theological adviser to Cardinal Frings, a position he held until the end of the council. Many of his biographers suspect that he drafted Frings’ speech of November 8, 1963, vehemently attacking the procedures of the Holy Office. In combination with other events, this speech undoubtedly influenced Paul VI to restructure the Holy Office and give it a new name, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

During the first session, several official schemas were distributed by the preparatory commission with the expectation that the council fathers would accept them, at least in revised form. The German contingent were generally content with the proposed document on the liturgy, but reacted adversely to those on revelation and the Church and sought to replace them. 

With regard to revelation, Ratzinger agreed that the preliminary schema was unacceptable and should be withdrawn. At the request of Cardinal Frings, he wrote an alternative text, which was then reworked with the help of Rahner. To the annoyance of Ottaviani, three thousand copies of this text were privately circulated among the council fathers and experts. Yves Congar, though generally sympathetic, called the Rahner-Ratzinger paper far too personal to have any chance of being adopted and criticized it for taking too little account of the good work in the preparatory schemas. Gerald Fogarty calls it a barely mitigated synthesis of Rahner’s systematic theology. 

Notwithstanding the rejection of their schema, Rahner and Ratzinger had some input into the new text prepared by the mixed commission named by Pope John XXIII. Both were appointed as consulters to the subcommission revising the new text. Rahner strongly advocated his personal position on the relation between scripture and tradition. Ratzinger helped in responding to proposed amendments to the chapter dealing with tradition; he also had an opportunity to introduce modifications in the chapter dealing with the authority and interpretation of scripture. 

On the Church, Ratzinger joined with the German bishops and his fellow experts in getting the idea of the Church as sacrament deeply inscribed into the constitution ” a concern to which Frings spoke on the council floor. Both Ratzinger and Rahner served on the subcommission that revised the formulations on collegiality in articles 22 and 23. Ratzinger was also appointed to a team for redrafting the schema on the Church’s missionary activity for the last session of the council. He worked closely with Congar in defining the theological foundation of missions, a theme on which the two easily found agreement. Congar in his diary characterizes Ratzinger as “reasonable, modest, disinterested, and very helpful.” He credits Ratzinger with coming up with the definition of missionary activity that was accepted and also with proposing the inclusion of a section on ecumenism in the document. Others credit him with devising a footnote that allowed Latin America to be included as a missionary region even though its people had been previously evangelized. At discussions of Gaudium et Spes in September 1965, Ratzinger voiced many of the criticisms that would later appear in his books and articles: The schema was too naturalistic and unhistorical, took insufficient notice of sin and its consequences, and was too optimistic about human progress. 

All in all, we may say that Ratzinger belonged to the inner circle of theologians whose thinking prevailed at Vatican II. Still in his thirties, he as yet lacked the public standing of Congar, Rahner, and Gérard Philips. In the early sessions he collaborated very closely with Rahner and the German Jesuits in opposition to the Roman School, though he spoke with moderation. As the council progressed, Ratzinger became more independent. He made an original and important contribution to the document on missions and mounted a highly personal critique of the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, reflecting his preference for Augustine over Aquinas and his sensitivity to Lutheran concerns. 

During the council and the first few years after its conclusion, Ratzinger wrote a number of commentaries on the conciliar documents. While making certain criticisms, they express his agreement with the general directions of Vatican II and his acceptance of the three objectives named by John XXIII: renewal of the Church, unity among Christians, and dialogue with the world of today. He welcomed the rejection of some of the preparatory schemas, chiefly because they were phrased in abstract scholastic terms and failed to speak pastorally to the modern world. He appreciated the council’s freedom from Roman domination and the openness and candor of its discussions. 

As a member of the progressive wing at the council, Ratzinger taught at Tübingen with Hans Küng and joined the editorial board of the progressive review Concilium , edited from Holland. In 1969, after the academic uprisings at Tübingen, he moved to the more traditional faculty of Regensburg. Then in 1972 he became one of the founding editors of the review Communio , a more conservative counterpart of Concilium. His theological orientation seemed to be shifting. 

In 1975 Ratzinger wrote an article, on the tenth anniversary of the close of Vatican II, in which he differed from the progressives who wanted to go beyond the council and from the conservatives who wanted to retreat behind the council. The only viable course, he contended, was to interpret Vatican II in strictest continuity with previous councils such as Trent and Vatican I, since all three councils are upheld by the same authority: that of the pope and the college of bishops in communion with him. 

Two years later Ratzinger became an archbishop and a cardinal, and then in 1981 cardinal prefect of the Congregation of the Faith. In an interview published in 1985 he denied that Vatican II was responsible for causing the confusion of the post-conciliar period. The damage, he said, was due to the unleashing of polemical and centrifugal forces within the Church and the prevalence, outside the Church, of a liberal-radical ideology that was individualistic, rationalistic, and hedonistic. He renewed his call for fidelity to the actual teaching of the council without reservations that would truncate its teaching or elaborations that would deform it. 

The misinterpretations, according to Ratzinger, must be overcome before an authentic reception can begin. Traditionalists and progressives, he said, fell into the same error: They failed to see that Vatican II stood in fundamental continuity with the past. In rejecting some of the early drafts, the council fathers were not repudiating their doctrine, which was solidly traditional, but only their style, which they found too scholastic and insufficiently pastoral. Particularly harmful was the tendency of progressives to contrast the letter of the council’s texts with the spirit. The spirit is to be found in the letter itself. 

Some consider that the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, composed in the final phase, should be seen as the climax of the council, for which the other constitutions are preparatory. Ratzinger takes the opposite view. The pastoral constitution is subordinate to the two dogmatic constitutions ” those on revelation and the Church ” which orient the interpreter toward the source and center of the Christian life. The constitution on the liturgy, though not strictly dogmatic, was the most successful of the four constitutions; the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes was a tentative effort to apply Catholic doctrine to the current relation of the Church to the world. 

The first document debated in the session of 1962 was on liturgy. In his early commentaries Ratzinger praises it highly. He applauds its efforts to overcome the isolation of the priest celebrant and to foster active participation by the congregation. He agrees with the constitution on the need to attach greater importance to the word of God in Scripture and in proclamation. He is pleased by the constitution’s provision for Holy Communion to be distributed under both species and its encouragement of regional adaptations regulated by episcopal conferences, including the use of the vernacular. “The wall of Latinity,” he wrote, “had to be breached if the liturgy were again to function either as proclamation or as invitation to prayer.” He also approved of the council’s call to recover the simplicity of the early liturgies and remove superfluous medieval accretions. 

In subsequent writings as a cardinal, Ratzinger seeks to dispel current misinterpretations. The council fathers, he insists, had no intention of initiating a liturgical revolution. They intended to introduce a moderate use of the vernacular alongside of the Latin, but had no thought of eliminating Latin, which remains the official language of the Roman rite. In calling for active participation, the council did not mean incessant commotion of speaking, singing, reading, and shaking hands; prayerful silence could be an especially deep manner of personal participation. He particularly regrets the disappearance of traditional sacred music, contrary to the intention of the council. Nor did the council wish to initiate a period of feverish liturgical experimentation and creativity. It strictly forbade both priests and laity to change the rubrics on their own authority. 

Ratzinger in several places laments the abruptness with which the Missal of Paul VI was imposed after the council, with its summary suppression of the so-called Tridentine Mass. This action contributed to the impression, all too widespread, that the council was a breach rather than a new stage in a continuous process of development. For his part, Ratzinger seems to have nothing against the celebration of Mass according to the missal that was in use before the council. 

In his earliest comments on the constitution on divine revelation, the young Ratzinger spoke positively. The first sentence appealed to him because it placed the Church in a posture of reverently listening to the Word of God. He also welcomed the council’s effort to overcome the neurotic anti-Modernism of the neoscholastics and to adopt the language of scripture and contemporary usage. He was pleased with the council’s recognition of the process by which scripture grows out of the religious history of God’s people. 

In his chapters on Dei Verbum for the “Vorgrimler Commentary,” Ratzinger again praises the preface as opening the Church upward to the Word of God and for emphasizing the value of proclamation. While continuing to note the success of the first chapter in emphasizing revelation through history, he faults its survey of Old Testament history for excessive optimism and for overlooking the prevalence of sin. Some attention to the Lutheran theme of law and gospel, he remarks, would have enriched the text. The theology of faith in the constitution, in his estimation, is consonant with, yet richer than, that of Vatican I. Ratzinger’s discussion of tradition in chapter 2 shows a keen appreciation of the difficulties raised by Protestant commentators. He interprets this chapter as giving a certain priority to scripture over tradition and praises it for subordinating the Church’s teaching office to the Word of God. But he faults it for failing to recognize scripture as a norm for identifying unauthentic traditions that distort the gospel. 

The elder Ratzinger speaks from a different perspective, more confessionally Catholic. While still regarding the constitution on divine revelation as one of the outstanding texts of the council, he holds that it has yet to be truly received. In the prevalent interpretations he finds two principal defects. In the first place, it is misread as though it taught that all revelation is contained in scripture. Ratzinger now makes the point that revelation, as a living reality, is incapable of being enclosed in a text. Tradition is “that part of revelation that goes above and beyond scripture and cannot be comprehended within a code of formulas.” 

The neglect of living tradition, according to the cardinal prefect, was one of the most serious errors of post-conciliar exegesis. The other was the reduction of exegesis to the historical-critical method. In an article about contemporary biblical interpretation, he comments on the seeming impasse between exegetes and dogmatic theologians. Offering a way out of the dilemma, the council teaches that historical-critical method is only the first stage of exegesis. It helps to illuminate the text on the human and historical level, but to find the word of God the exegete must go further, drawing on the Bible as a whole, on tradition, and on the whole system of Catholic dogma. “I am personally persuaded,” he writes, “that a careful reading of the whole text of Dei Verbum can provide the essential elements of a synthesis between historical method and theological hermeneutics.” But unfortunately the post-conciliar reception has practically discarded the theological part of the council’s statement as a concession to the past, thus allowing Catholic exegesis to become almost undistinguishable from Protestant. 

In combination with the virtual monopoly of historical-critical exegesis, the neglect of tradition leads many Christians to think that nothing can be taught in the Church that does not pass the scrutiny of historical-critical method. In practice this meant that the shifting hypotheses of exegetes became the highest doctrinal authority in the Church. 

Over the years Ratzinger has had a great deal to say about the dogmatic constitution on the Church. In his earliest observations he contends that it did well to subordinate the image of Mystical Body to that of People of God. The Mystical Body paradigm, much in favor under Pius XII, makes it all but impossible to give any ecclesial status to non-Catholics and leads to a false identification of the Church with Christ her Lord. The image of People of God, he contends, is more biblical; it gives scope for recognizing the sins of the Church, and it indicates that the Church is still on pilgrimage under the sign of hope. For similar reasons he supports the theme of Church as sacrament. As a sign and instrument, the Church is oriented to a goal that lies beyond herself. 

In his early commentaries Ratzinger shows special interest in episcopal collegiality. The apostles, he believes, constituted a stable group under Peter as their head, as do the bishops of later generations under the primacy of Peter’s successor. Collegiality, in his view, favors horizontal communication among bishops. Behind collegiality lies the vision of the Church as made up of relatively autonomous communities under their respective bishops. The rediscovery of the local church makes it clear that multiplicity belongs to the structure of the Church. According to the New Testament, Ratzinger observes, the Church is a communion of local churches, mutually joined together through the Body and the Word of the Lord, especially when gathered at the Eucharist. Bishops, as heads of particular churches, must collaborate with one another in a ministry that is essentially communal. Not all initiative has to rest with the pope alone; he may simply accept what the body of bishops or some portion of it decrees. 

Ratzinger was less upset than some of his fellow theologians by the “Prefatory Note of Explanation” appended to the third chapter of Lumen Gentium to clarify the doctrine of collegiality. This note supplied a number of necessary elucidations, even while tipping the scales somewhat in favor of papal primacy. Its importance should not be exaggerated, because it is neither a conciliar document nor one signed by the pope. Although the pope evidently approved of it, it was signed only by the secretary general of the council. 

Ratzinger at this stage of his career contended that the synod of bishops established by Paul VI in September 1965 is in some respects collegial. The majority of the members are elected by the bishops, and it is called a synod, a term evoking the structures of the ancient Church. The synod, he said, is “a permanent council in miniature.” He likewise characterizes episcopal conferences as quasi-synodal intermediate agencies between individual bishops and the pope, possessing legislative powers in their own right. Writing for Concilium in 1965, he called the conferences partial realizations of collegiality and asserted that they have a genuinely theological basis. 

At Vatican II there was a division of opinion about whether or not to treat Mariology in a separate document. With the general body of German theologians, Ratzinger supported the inclusion of Mary in the constitution on the Church, as finally took place. Unlike Bishop Wojtyla, he was wary of Marian maximalism and apparently averse to new titles such as “Mother of the Church.” Moved partly by ecumenical considerations, he applauded the restraint of the council in its references to Mary as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix. 

Ratzinger in these early commentaries praised the constitution on the Church for its ecumenical sensitivity. It overcomes the impression that non-Catholic Christians are connected to the Church only by some kind of implicit desire, as Pius XII had seemed to teach. Read in conjunction with the decree on ecumenism, Lumen Gentium gives positive ecclesial status to Protestant and Orthodox communities. For Ratzinger, the Church is Catholic, but it is possible for particular churches or ecclesial communities to exist irregularly outside her borders. Some, such as the Eastern Orthodox communities, deserve to be called churches in the theological sense of the word. 

Throughout his later career Ratzinger has continued to write extensively on the issues raised by Vatican II’s constitution on the Church. He frequently returns to the theme of the Church as People of God, which had been a topic in his doctoral dissertation. In calling the Church by that title, he now says, the council was not using the term “people” in a sociological sense. From an empirical point of view, Christians are not a people, as may be shown from any sociological analysis. But the non-people of Christians can become the people of God through inclusion in Christ, by sacramental incorporation into his crucified and risen body. In other words, the Church is the People of God because it is, in Christ, a sacrament. Here, too, we must note a serious failure of reception: Since the council, “the idea of the Church as sacrament has hardly entered people’s awareness.” 

Ratzinger is not opposed to the ecclesiology of communion that came to the fore at the 1985 synod on the interpretation of Vatican II. Thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is communion with the whole Body of Christ. But he notes that “communion” has become, in some measure, a buzz word, and it is frequently distorted by a unilateral emphasis on the horizontal dimension to the neglect of the divine. Indeed, it is also misused to promote a kind of egalitarianism within the Church. 

The early Ratzinger attached great importance to the council’s retrieval of the theology of the local church. Since 1992, however, he has contended that the universal Church has ontological and historical priority over the particular churches. It was not originally made up of local or regional churches. Those who speak of the priority of the particular church over the universal, he says, misinterpret the council documents. On collegiality, the older Ratzinger points out that according to Vatican II the bishop is first of all a member of the college, which is by nature universal. He is a successor of the apostles, each of whom, with and under Peter, was co-responsible for the universal Church. Bishops who are assigned to dioceses participate in the direction of the universal Church by governing their own churches well, keeping them in communion with the Church Catholic. The synod of bishops, in Ratzinger’s later theology, is no longer seen as a collegial organ or as a council in miniature; it is advisory to the pope as he performs his task. In so doing it makes the voice of the universal Church more clearly audible in the world of our day. 

A similar shift is apparent in Ratzinger’s view of episcopal conferences, which he had earlier characterized as collegial organs with a true theological basis. But by 1986 he says: “We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis; they do not belong to the structure of the Church as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function.” It is difficult to deny that on episcopal conferences, as on the synod of bishops, the cardinal retracted his earlier positions. 

One of the most contentious issues in the interpretation of Lumen Gentium is the meaning of the statement that the Church of Christ “subsists in” the Roman Catholic Church. Some have interpreted it as an admission that the Church of Christ is found in many denominational churches, none of which can claim to be the one true Church. Ratzinger asserts the opposite. For him, “subsists” implies integral existence as a complete, self-contained subject. Thus the Catholic Church truly is the Church of Christ. But the term “subsists” is not exclusive; it allows for the possibility of ecclesial entities that are institutionally separate from the one Church. This dividedness, however, is not a desirable mutual complementarity of incomplete realizations but a deficiency that calls for healing. 

In the sphere of Mariology, Ratzinger laments what he sees as another misunderstanding of the council. The inclusion of a chapter on Mary as the culmination of the constitution on the Church, he believes, should have given rise to new research rather than to neglect of the mystery of Mary. He himself has overcome certain reservations about Marian titles that he had expressed at the time of the council. It is imperative to turn to Mary, he believes, in order to learn the truth about Jesus Christ that is to be proclaimed. 

The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes in final form was primarily the work of French theologians. The German group did not control the text. At the time of the council Ratzinger already noted many difficulties, beginning with the problem of language. In opting for the language of modernity the text inevitably places itself outside the world of the Bible, so that as a result the biblical citations come to be little more than ornamental. Because of its stated preference for dialogue, the constitution makes faith appear not as an urgent demand for total commitment but as a conversational search into obscure matters. Christ is mentioned only at the end of each section, almost as an afterthought. 

Instead of replacing dogmatic utterances with dialogue, Ratzinger contends, it would have been better to use the language of proclamation, appealing to the intrinsic authority of God’s truth. The constitution, drawing on the thought of Teilhard de Chardin, links Christian hope too closely to the modern idea of progress. Material progress is ambivalent because it can lead to degradation as well as to true humanization. The Cross teaches us that the world is not redeemed by technological advances but by sacrificial love. In the section on unification, Gaudium et Spes approaches the world too much from the viewpoint of function and utility rather than that of contemplation and wonder. 

Ratzinger’s commentary on the first chapter of Gaudium et Spes contains still other provocative comments. The treatment of conscience in article 16, in his view, raises many unsolved questions about how conscience can err and about the right to follow an erroneous conscience. The treatment of free will in article 17 is in his judgment “downright Pelagian.” It leaves aside, he complains, the whole complex of problems that Luther handled under the term “ servum arbitrium ,” although Luther’s position does not itself do justice to the New Testament. 

Ratzinger is not wholly negative in his judgment. He praises the discussion of atheism in articles 19-21 as “balanced and well-founded.” He is satisfied that the document, while “reprobating” atheism in all its forms, makes no specific mention of Marxist communism, as some cold warriors had desired. He is enthusiastic about the centrality of Christ and the Paschal mystery in article 22, and he finds in it a statement on the possibilities of salvation of the unevangelized far superior to the “extremely unsatisfactory” expressions of Lumen Gentium 16, which seemed to suggest that salvation is a human achievement rather than a divine gift. 

With regard to this constitution, the later Ratzinger does not seem to have withdrawn his early objections, notwithstanding his exhortations to accept the entire teaching of Vatican II. But he finds that the ambiguities of Gaudium et Spes have been aggravated by secularist interpretations. The council was right, Ratzinger maintains, in its desire for a revision of the relations between the Church and the world. There are values that, having originated outside the Church, can find their place, at least in corrected form, within the Church. But the Church and the world can never meet each other without conflict. Worldly theologies too easily assimilate the gospel to secular movements. 

In scattered references here and there in his interviews, Ratzinger mentions at least three specific deviations in the interpretations. 

In the first place, Gaudium et Spes did make reference to signs of the times, but it stated that they need to be discerned and judged in the light of the gospel. Contemporary interpreters treat the signs of the times as a new method that finds theological truth in current events and makes them normative for judging the testimony of Scripture and tradition. 

Secondly, the pastoral constitution may have erred in the direction of optimism, but it did speak openly of sin and evil. In no less than five places it made explicit mention of Satan. Post-conciliar interpreters, however, are inclined to discount Satan as a primitive myth. 

Finally, Gaudium et Spes refers frequently to the Kingdom of God. Enthusiastic readers prefer to speak simply of the kingdom (without reference to any king) or, even more vaguely, to the “values” of the kingdom: peace, justice, and conservation. Can this trio of values, asks Ratzinger, take the place of God? Values, he replies, cannot replace truth, nor can they replace God, for they are only a reflection of him. Without God, the values become distorted by inhuman ideologies, as has been seen in various forms of Marxism. 

Undeniably there have been some shifts in Ratzinger’s assessment of Vatican II. Still finding his own theological path, he was in the first years of the council unduly dependent on Karl Rahner as a mentor. Only gradually did he come to see that he and Rahner lived, theologically speaking, on different planets. Whereas Rahner found revelation and salvation primarily in the inward movements of the human spirit, Ratzinger finds them in historical events attested by scripture and the early church fathers. 

Ratzinger’s career appears to have affected his theology. As an archbishop and a cardinal he has had to take increasing responsibility for the public life of the Church and has gained a deeper realization of the need for universal sacramental structures to safeguard the unity of the Church and her fidelity to the gospel. He has also had to contend with interpretations of Vatican II that he and the council fathers never foresaw. His early hopes for new mechanisms such as episcopal conferences have been tempered by the course of events. 

Notwithstanding the changes, Benedict XVI has shown a fundamental consistency. As a personalist in philosophy and as a theologian in the Augustinian tradition, he expects the Church to maintain a posture of prayer and worship. He is suspicious of technology, of social activism, and of human claims to be building the Kingdom of God. For this reason he most appreciates the council documents on the liturgy and revelation, and has reservations about the constitution on the Church in the modern world, while giving it credit for some solid achievements. 

The contrast between Pope Benedict and his predecessor is striking. John Paul II was a social ethicist, anxious to involve the Church in shaping a world order of peace, justice, and fraternal love. Among the documents of Vatican II, John Paul’s favorite was surely the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes . Benedict XVI, who looks upon Gaudium et Spes as the weakest of the four constitutions, shows a clear preference for the other three. 

Although the Polish philosopher and the German theologian differ in outlook, they agree that the council has been seriously misinterpreted. It needs to be understood in conformity with the constant teaching of the Church. The true spirit of the council is to be found in, and not apart from, the letter.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. , holds the Laurence J. McGinley Chair in Religion and Society at Fordham University.

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