That should be “In Defense of
Pope Benedict and the Latin Mass.”
The Week has recently published a hit peace on the new Mass and Vatican II by Michael Brendan Dougherty. Ostensibly it is praise of Pope Benedict and his support of the Traditional Latin Mass–well deserved praise, I must say, of the Pope Emeritus’ promulgation of Summorum Pontificum.
But then there is this:
Benedict’s intervention was not perfect. His intellectual attempt to save the Council and the new Mass from criticism with a “hermeneutic of continuity” was a noble failure. If the council intended continuity, why did it throw every aspect of Catholic worship up for possible revision in its documents? Why was the council swiftly followed by the worst spasm of iconoclasm in the history of the church — a tearing down of altars, images, statues — and a hasty revision to nearly every part of Catholic life?
Interesting rhetorical questions, which Dougherty does not answer. But the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy is a nice spinning lure that always hooks the fish.
It just illustrates how Benedict XVI is so often used and abused in order to push one agenda or another. Calling Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic of continuity a “noble failure” and brushing it off with a wave of the hand also illustrates why I am not a traditionalist.
Traditionalists (and I quite generally consider myself one) are not going to agree unequivocally with the notion that the hermeneutic of continuity was a noble failure. Looking through this article and the titles of other articles by the author, it seems apparent to me that the author is not an expert in conciliar hermeneutics. His expression of the hermeneutic of continuity as a noble failure is an understandable oversimplification of what I consider to be the truth. The truth is that the careful reading and implementation of the council in continuity is an oftentimes challenging task, but one that competent people need to undertake according to their abilities for the sake of the internal healing of the wounds of discontinuity. It’s easy enough to see the Council as discontinuous– the very fact that we need to speak of hermeneutics in order to locate the council within Tradition speaks to that. It is a call and a challenge to Traditionalists to be part of the discussion that locates the Council within Tradition, rather than to reject it a priori. At the same time, i don’t think this discussion needs to involve the 80 year old woman whom I talked with the other day, or the uneducated miner that lives in Wisconsin. These people should be able to trust their pastors without having to do the challenging work of theology.
It is the case that those of a Traditionalist disposition are more likely than those of other dispositions to wish to ignore the Council (to subscribe to the “hermeneutic of forgetfulness” as one man put it to me). I find this understandable, but I believe it is an error. The fact that this error is prevalent, however, should not be turned into a indictment of the whole lot, because the error is by no means ubiquitous or even predominant outside of SSPX circles.
My tolerance for those who think that hermeneutics that place the Council within the Tradition of the Church are doomed to failure comes in part from how I see the Council as being in continuity. I do not think that all that is necessary is to read the Council and the post-conciliar magisterial documents to appreciate the continuity. I think it is necessary to set out to discover the continuity. Thus, for instance, the term “partial communion” can very easily be read in a sense that I do not think is in continuity with the Tradition, in a way that says that someone can be somewhat in the Church and somewhat out of the Church, not by being in the Church in one mode but not in another mode, but by sharing in some elements of the Church but not others. For the term “partial communion” to be read in continuity with the Tradition, I think it’s necessary to read it as a communion of similitude (as Cardinal Journet also suggested). Since I read partial-communion as a term that does not change the Church’s self-understanding of her relation to those tragically severed from actual communion with her, I am naturally very sympathetic with those who hold the Traditional view of the Church’s relation to those tragically separated from her, and I am less inclined to feel fellow-feeling for those who see Vatican II as expanding the boundaries of the Church so that a great many people are somehow in the Church without sharing entirely in her faith, sacraments, and governance. But many proponents of Vatican II will emphasize “partial communion” as if it were “actual communion,” and many who hold that it is necessary to share publicly in the Church’s faith, sacraments, and governance to be actually part of her Society are deeply skeptical of the ability of Vatican II to be read in continuity. Since I put doctrine over politics, I am inclined to feel closer to those who hold the position that I think is found in the Tradition but are skeptical of more recent formulations than I am to feel close to those who embrace the authorities that made wholeheartedly the recent formulations but reject what I consider the Traditional doctrine.
Of course, ideally I prefer it if all Orthodox Catholics accepted the entirety of the modern magisterium and the entirety of the Tradition. One step at a time. We’ll reach that appoint eventually. Catholics of good will are converging.. That’s my conviction.
I saw an example of just this in the comboxes at the Register this week. A poster asserted that the Doctrinal Statement Benedict was requiring of the SSPX was the composition of “modernist heretics”, as Benedict had previously said what a benefit an SSPX apostolate would have to the Church. (Full disclosure: I was involved in this thread.) Conclusion: real Benedict supports the SSPX, but when he asserts the primacy of Magistrrium he’s being outdone by forces.
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Well stated, Mr Anthony. Very thoughtful. You seem to ride a line of reasoning that many perplexed, vexed but also patient Catholics might also find themselves riding (or want to)… the thin line between the hermeneutics where charitable people can “set a while” and converse peaceably until what is “appropriate and fitting” finally becomes apparent, or, even perhaps that moment when The Holy Spirit Himself decides to reveal Certainty to us in a sudden rush. How I would love the latter to occur, but I’d settle for the much more likely former… so patience and charity must be our torches till one of those blessed days occur. Yet, I wonder if we have the luxury of time… modernity has completely enveloped the West and persecutions are enveloping the Middle East, making the world a very difficult place to call oneself a Christian and try to live it. (a hard enough thing to do on a clear day!) A softer, sneakier variety of persecution is enveloping the West, as well, in modernity’s wake– a secular full court press designed to muffle and ultimately smother the remnants of the once Christian culture. Yes, we may want to find our way to unity sooner, rather than later. The House Divided Principle is fairly consistent and reliable.