The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Monday, January 16, 2006

Vatican II and the Church- Part I

Congar the Flower Child?

Kudos to the people over at the Nouvelle Theologie ( blog for leading me to this link:

From Commonweal Magazine Nov. 22nd, 2002

This is a very good article by F. Joseph Komonchak on Congar and his influence on Vatican II. It really is a must read in full to be appreciated. I will only comment on certain aspects of it.

The gist of the article concerns a journal that Father Yves Congar, O.P. kept throughout Vatican II. Unfortuneatly, in my humble opinion, it also shows the extreme naivete and contempt (or at least forgetting) of the past that characterized this generation of theologians.

The first quote I would like to address:

Years later, Congar’s continuing wonder at it all leads him to hyperbole. Some bishops came to Rome with only hesitant, half-guilty thoughts about ecumenism, but then in conversation discovered how many other bishops were thinking along the same lines: "When the bishops discovered that they were pretty much in accord, the Catholic Church converted to ecumenism in minutes, in hours at most. It was quite extraordinary."

Why did it change in minutes (granted, the author says that Congar is using hyperbole, but Congar was there)? Was it because the traditional Catholic position (i.e. the traditional doctrine of the Church that Pius XII defined in Mystici Corporis) was something to be ashamed of? Maybe it hampered the bishops' status as members of civil society since they still clung to this medieval doctrine? Was the change merely a matter of no longer wanting to be unpopular in the sight of the modern world?

The next quote:

The council ends with its fourth session (September 14 to December 8, 1965). As the conclusion approaches, Congar attends an unprecedented ecumenical service of the Word celebrated at Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls. A Protestant, a Catholic, and an Orthodox read from the Scriptures; Pope John has been dead for two years and Pope Paul VI presides and leads the common prayer. (Some churchmen are heard to grumble about violations of the prohibitions of shared worship with heretics and schismatics.) Congar notes the warmth and sincerity with which Pope Paul tells the observers how much the council has learned from them, has benefited from their participation, even in the formulation of texts. "We have come to know each other a little better," the pope says. "We have begun again to love one another."
As Congar leaves the ceremony, he stops and kneels over the tomb of Saint Paul: "I talk to him. I talk to him about Luther, who wanted to reaffirm ’the Gospel’ for which Paul had struggled. I ask of him, I almost tell him he has an intervene in this new stage, to guide the pope and us all." It is fitting that the ceremony took place where it did: "John XXIII announced the council at Saint Paul’s, at the end of the week of prayer for unity. The council ends in the same place. John XXIII must be pleased."

"I talk to him about Luther...." Why didn't he just talk to him about Arius while he was at it?

What most disturbs me about how this is that along with his contemporaries, Congar expected the Holy Spirit to descend upon this assembly and cure all of its ills. Never mind the condemnations of the past or why they took place. Never mind the differences in doctrine. What came out of Vatican II were certain phrases in certain documents that can be construed to say that for God, the visible Church is just an afterthought. A lot of the discourse of Vatican II was driven by naive optimism and over-enthusiatic sentimentality:

At the second session (September 29 to December 4, 1963), the council begins discussion of the schema on ecumenism, a "historic day," Congar writes in his diary, "a moment of grace." He sits with the [Protestant] observers during the Mass beforehand "in order to be in communion of prayer with them. They feel it very much....It is a great moment for me."

This was also the deep flaw of the "puppy-love" actions between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenegoras as well: not dogmatic, based on feelings of fraternal "love", and ultimately very shallow. You cannot leap-frog over centuries of division by one charasmatic event. Like the flower children who wanted to change the world after Vatican II ended, the main flaw of these churchman was the inability to face the reality of the real world head-on. These differences were not just "structures of sin" or "misunderstandings"; in the end they determined how people believed and approached God for centuries.

My generation grew up in the aftermath of all of this, and the good feeling is for the most part gone. Most ecumenical dialogue has broken down into talk-shops where old buddies get together to chat but not much else gets done. All the while, Christianity itself, and the Church in particular, is becoming more and more irrelavent to the society at large and even to its own faithful. Like with the New Left, the comrades got tired of the revolution and began to settle into what the French call the " champagne gauche". The shallowness of their politics, like the shallowness of the outpouring of "good vibes" coming out of Vatican II has for the most part degenerated into opportunism and indifference.


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