Friday, December 28, 2007

NCR: It's V2 or Trent, can't have both

I read the same editorial in the National Catholic Reporter as Father John Zuhlsdorf did, but he caught something I didn't:

If liturgy has characteristically been below the radar for most Catholics, opponents of Vatican II knew from the outset that the one way to preserve Trent was to halt liturgical reform.

As Father Zuhlsdorf observes: "Vatican II wanted to 'preserve Trent.' Unless, of course, the editor truly sees that Vatican II constituted a break with the ecclesiology of Trent. That would be a devastating (and stupid) admission."

Well, you might think it was just a slip--except the same editorial repeatedly pits the ecclesiology of Vatican II against that of Trent: and, as Father Zuhlsdorf observes, that is a "devastating and stupid admission."

Stupid because its not true. Again, as Father Zuhlsdorf catches, in his acerbic commentary, the editorial makes much of how Trent described the Church as a "perfect society" and had a "vertical" ecclesiology (and the editorial writer seems not to understand what that means; not impeccable, but complete, insofar as everything she needs, she has--and that is manifestly true of the Church: she has Christ!), and then how Vatican II was about "pilgrim people" and "Body of Christ"--to which Father Zuhlsdorf responds, "Why cannot the Church be seen as more than one thing at the same time?"

It's stupid because perpetuates a cartoonish understanding of Church history and belief, especially of Trent itself. To use the kind of language that the NCR crowd understands, it is to divide the Trent of history from the Trent of fevered progressive paranoia, and to make the latter what counts!

And devastating, because a lot of folks who, for various, differing reasons might have had sympathy with the NCR crowd on liturgy, the direction of the Church, and the meaning of Vatican II, are being led by a Pied Piper off the cliff. According to NCR, it's Vatican II or Trent, can't have both. And for NCR, it's out with Trent.

It has been a favorite tactic of many so-called "progressive" folks to marginalize their opposition as rejecting Vatican II. Don't tell me they didn't, I saw it over and over, as a seminarian, from people who should have known better.

Well, guess what? Now other folks can accuse said progressives of rejecting Trent, because the NCR let the cat out of the bag!

The trouble with that is it's not Catholic. It's intellectually incoherent. And if seeing these two councils in opposition did have any merit, the only possible conclusion that could be reached would be to validate the claim, made by critics of Vatican II (either in implementation or in substance), that since Vatican II was merely a "pastoral" council, its work need not be seen as infallible. I hesitate to bring that up, because I really, really, don't want to get into a discussion of that, it's too abstruse for this casual setting, I really, really don't want the advocates of that position to have a forum here, and I don't have the time or energy to respond. But I bring it up for this reason: if you tend to agree with NCR in general, then you really, really, don't want this anti-V2 crowd to be right, do you? Well, according to this NCR editorial...they are.

Meanwhile, that leaves Pope Benedict as, gasp, the moderate: he embraces both Trent and Vatican II, and he also happens to be a real scholar, he knows his stuff, and he also happens to have been a real pastor, and he also happens to have been there at Vatican II, and, ahem, he also happens to be the Successor of Peter! No wonder the National (so-called) Catholic Reporter seems to be getting rather shrill.

Only a few weeks ago, it came down on the side of conferring holy orders on women, despite Pope John Paul II declaring the reservation of holy orders for men an infallible, irreformable doctrine. Does NCR really think that's going to be overturned? How? Far more likely is that, as they and others quibble over whether John Paul really defined it as infallible, then one of his successors, with or without a council, will give them the most high-church, "monarchical" old-style infallible declaration of the matter possible, and then where will they be?

One wonders what the future holds for the NCR. Surely the NCR has noticed they don't have many friends left among the bishops: the only one they seem to be able to point to is Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who I have no doubt is a holy man, but is theologically rather extreme. And after Gumbleton, who else do you have? How about that African bishop, who joined up with the Moonies after he got married? Hmm, that's promising, isn't it?

The future doesn't look bright for the "vision" the NCR trumpets; either the NCR will become more shrill, and fade away into irrelevance, or at some point, someone will yank it back toward reality.


Anonymous said...

To reject Trent -- a church council, a gathering of the bishops -- clearly is to reject the collegiate vision of church leadership.

Heh. Just sayin'.

Dad29 said...

Well, Father, they have ADVERTISERS.

You want to find a layman's position with a church? You have to read NCR's want-ads.

Who needs friends if you have cash-flow?

Jeff Miller said...

It is funny how both rad trads and progressives both see Vatican II as a radical break.

It just shows such laziness not to see it in the context of development with other councils.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Yes, true; but advertisers expect someone to see and respond.

I predict--not so daringly--that the number of clergy who will be consulting the NCR want ads is on the decline, and will continue so, unless NCR makes a change.

Constantine said...

It's interesting how those who invoke the "Spirit of Vatican II" avoid any reference to the documents of the Council. How does NCR explain the following language right at the outset of Dei Verbum: "Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love."

Seems to me that "following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent" involves a hermeneutic of continuity, not rupture. Am I right???