Vatican II and Benedict XVI

Vatican II and Benedict XVI

Jim Howe

The editor in chief of Britain's leading Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald, writes that "the personal writings of Joseph Ratzinger offer a dazzling interpretation of Catholicism that, unlike Vatican II, might actually succeed in reviving it" (August AD2000).

All the recent popes have given Vatican II their full endorsement and pledged to carry forward its work. Vatican II is the way forward.

Thompson says the "dazzling" future lies not with Vatican II, and implies Benedict XVI might even agree. I am staggered by this shift in "Catholic" thinking that finds a willing audience, as editors of this stature know the preferences of their readers.

Does Thompson really imply that the popes were only giving lip service to Vatican II but really believed it to be less than "orthodox?" Or is he implying Benedict and John Paul had different appraisals of Vatican II?

Benedict XVI has certainly stressed his intention to carry on the work of John Paul II. The authentic Catholic sensibility is to be on the side of Peter, to stand with Peter even as a little child (as Jesus indicated to his disciples) with a heart full of love, of reverence, of faith in his words and in the words of Jesus' vicar on earth.

When we, in the interests of "orthodoxy," start to find excuses for not accepting the teaching magisterium, and start to take a casuistic approach, then I think we are drifting nearer to the position of the progressive theologians than we realise.

To oppose Benedict XVI's "Remnant" to John Paul II's "New Springtime" may look like a fascinating hermeneutic but it loses sight of Benedict's major orientation of continuity. Why shouldn't a remnant be a step on the way to a glorious springtime, as the tiniest buds prefigure, after the tree has lost all its flowers and even its coverage of leaves in a bleak winter of uncertainty.

Nor should we be too certain as to the composition of that "remnant." The tax collectors and the prostitutes ended up getting in whilst the Pharisees missed out. "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes..." (Jn 3:8). Are we looking to a remnant full of surprises (of the Spirit) that will usher in the glorious new springtime?

Rostrevor, SA

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