Friday, October 16, 2009

On the True Understanding of Vatican II

I was much encouraged by this pastoral letter of Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, USA, as reported today on the Catholic Culture site under the heading, Iowa bishop blasts ‘spirit of Vatican II,’ calls it ‘a ghost or demon that must be exorcised."

Here is the part that is quoted:

The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult? Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarreled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.
On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform,” of renewal in the continuity of the one subject – Church – which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.
The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council …
It is crucial that we all grasp that the hermeneutic or interpretation of discontinuity or rupture, which many think is the settled and even official position, is not the true meaning of the Council. This interpretation sees the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church almost as two different churches. It sees the Second Vatican Council as a radical break with the past. There can be no split, however, between the Church and her faith before and after the Council. We must stop speaking of the “Pre-Vatican II” and “Post-Vatican II” Church, and stop seeing various characteristics of the Church as “pre” and “post” Vatican II. Instead, we must evaluate them according to their intrinsic value and pastoral effectiveness in this day and age …
The so-called “spirit” of the Council has no authoritative interpretation. It is a ghost or demon that must be exorcised if we are to proceed with the Lord’s work.
Stirring stuff!


1569 Rising said...

To us simple people who reside far from the towering intellectual heights of contemporary theology in Sioux Falls, Iowa, the pastoral letter of Bishop Nickless is "stirring stuff" indeed, and fulfills all our personal prejudices (wrong word, I know, but you get my meaning).

I only wish someone would consign that damned word "hermeneutic" to the shredder of history. I realise that it is a word in everyday use in Sioux City, Forest Hall and Longbenton, indeed one can see knots of people in the shopping centres discussing the word in animated and sometimes violent groups. However, south of the Tyne, it is hardly used, apart from down the Teams on a Friday night, but I realise that it is in everyday use in Hartlepool - they think it has something to do with Herman's Newts.

That is the trouble; we used to have an English word, "interpretation", which seemed to have served a useful purpose, but that was far too straightforward for the theologians, who dug up some obscure Greek based word which only they knew, and now they are inflicting it on the rest of us simple folk.

Proposed resolution for all clerics:

"I hereby promise NEVER to use the word HERMENEUTIC when I speak either formally or informally to anyone apart from fellow clerics, and only then in a low voice"

When the great Sioux Chief, Sitting Bull, was killed in battle in 1890, was he distracted by the debates going on in the tepees about the Hermeneutics of Continuity or Dis-Continuity. The Bishop of Sioux Falls should tell us.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Lol! However hermeneutic means more than just interpretation. It means `principle of interpretation`.

1569 Rising said...


Thank you for muddying the waters - (sorry, clearing up the definition)-
I still don't know what it means. I realise a product of St Cuthbert's Grammar School and Ushaw should be able to grasp a concept, and I feel like the notorious (sorry, well known) Canon Cassidy who once said, "Every time I open my mouth, some fool speaks" "My Lad!"