Ambiguities (letter)

Ambiguities (letter)

Philip Robinson

Before George Simpson ("Vatican II ambiguities", May AD2000) concludes that the documents of Vatican II are not ambiguous, I recommend he reads The Murky Waters of Vatican II, referred to by a recent correspondent. Fr D.H.Duggan SM, in the same issue, recommends the reading of The Rhine Flows into the Tiber by Fr. Wiltgen SVD.

From day one of Vatican II there were ambiguities. Let me quote from page 77 of Iota Unum by Romano Amerio: "The (Pope's) opening speech. Ambiguities of text and meaning. Here we find three versions of 'the very hinge on which the Council turns: how Catholic truth, without attenuations or alterations, but at the same time in such a way that the minds of our contemporaries are aided in their duty of assenting to it'."

The Latin, literally translated into English, reads: "It is appropriate that this certain and unchangeable doctrine, to which faithful loyalty must be shown, should be examined and expounded in the manner which the times demand."

The Italian translation (L'Osservatore Romano, 12 October 1962) becomes in English: "But this too should be studied and expounded through the forms of enquiry and of literary expression belonging to modern thought".

While the French translation gives us: "This doctrine ought to be studied and expounded following the methods of research and presentation which modern thought uses."

The author concludes (pp. 101-102): "Leaving the Council behind. Ambiguous character of the conciliar texts. It is highly significant - that, although the Council, as is customary, left behind it a commission for the authentic interpretation of its decrees, that commission never issued any interpretations and is never referred to by anyone. The post-conciliar period was thus devoted to the interpretation of the Council rather than to its implementation.

"Since the authentic interpretation was lacking, those points on which the mind of the Council appeared uncertain and open to question were thrown open to dispute among theologians, with the resulting grave damage to the Church's unity which Paul VI deplored in his speech of 7 December 1968. The ambiguous nature of the conciliar texts thus provides support both for a novel and a traditional interpretation, and generates a whole hermeneutical enterprise of such importance that we cannot but make a brief reference to it here".

In that speech (7 December 1968) Paul VI said "The Church is in a disturbing period of self-criticism, or what would better be called self-demolition - It is almost as if the Church were attacking herself".

Holt, ACT

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