NCR has an excellent article by John C. Sivalon, M.M. on the upcoming “assault” that is expected on theologians as the Vatican starts the “year of faith.” Fr. Sivalon does a nice job in outlining how different factions in the church view Vatican II. Something we pointed out in a similar way here last week.
The hermeneutic of mission sees in the documents of Vatican II an attempt by the Church to rediscover in its past the kernels of fresh understandings and ecclesial structures that respond more authentically and relevantly to what the Council called the modern world. This hermeneutic sees the Council Fathers confirming tradition as a foundation upon which faith can continually build and grow as its context changes. It also sees God as continually present in history and culture, graciously offering new perceptions for understanding and interpreting the fullness of revelation.
The hermeneutic of retrenchment, on the other hand, sees in the documents of Vatican II the restatement of ossified doctrines in language that can be understood by the modern world. The hermeneutic of retrenchment regards tradition as a wall which functions to deter erroneous understandings. It also tends to see the modern context of the world negatively, often assigning to it labels such as secularism, relativism or pluralism. As Benedict says, “whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, …” The hermeneutic of retrenchment, hence, longs for the past; for an idealized age of Christendom.
Ricky Manalo, CSP, a Paulist priest recently pointed out at a gathering in New York. something valuable about Vatican II that we so easily forget. Vatican II was the church’s response to MODERNISM. But within that council, POST-MODERNISM was beginning to climb into their present day. In some ways, Vatican II was outdated before it even began to be implemented, and yet, much of it was such a breath of fresh air for the church and was well received not merely by Catholics but by the general population.
I have no pre-conciliar experience being born in 1970. My students also do not have that experience either. What we long for is not a retrenchment theology, which reaches back to a time before we could fathom. Nor do we long for renewal theology. Renewing modernism isn’t what’s called for here.
Fr. Sivalon continues his thought by bringing up what he believes is the Vatican’s next move towards insuring retrenchment:
Thus, the action against LCWR and the other actions against loyal voices of faithful Christians open to discerning God’s wisdom in modern culture, should be seen as initial forays of shock and awe to soften the strongest areas of resistance, before the actual onslaught begins. That major assault is scheduled for October of 2012, with the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” The first working paper (Lineamenta) for this synod clearly sets forth the target of “New Evangelization.”
But will this Synod be a reaction to post-modernism or just more thoughts on modernism? It seems to me that we’re still addressing matters from 100 years ago.
Guess what? Few care.
Speaking for myself, I would simply say that what I hope for is something that looks forward rather than back to the 1960s or long before that. What we need is an Ecumenical Council that meets not for renewal but for progression forward into a new age. The Post-modern age has moved well beyond modernism. A quick look at art world even show us how much. What I long for these days is a church that can stop arguing with itself and instead draft an argument for simply believing in Christ today. Why should anyone, young or old, consider Christ in a post-modern world? My students more easily chuck religion altogether in favor of rational science because religion these days, especially the Christian religion, looks quite irrational, from the loony evangelical Christians, to the inner fighting in Catholic circles, to the liberal Protestants who cam’t seem to define themselves well either. It’s why so many eschew religion and simply pick Jesus or some amorphous kind of deism to follow privately. While this lacks community, a needed element of religion in my opinion, participating in community often comes at too high a cost and the search for a good community takes too long and often falls well short of expectation.
Often a priest friend of mine likens his job as a pastor to being the first mate on a ship. The ship is sailing well and everyone’s having a good time on board doing their jobs or simply enjoying the ride. But then he looks back and finds the captain in the back of the ship with a shotgun blowing holes in the back of the boat. Now we’re taking on water and the ship in sinking and we’re going nowhere fast.
Not to point fingers, but it seems to me that there’s not much creative and exciting leadership on either side here. Instead we have one voice saying that the progressive nature of this council hasn’t yet been completely implemented.
To which I would reply “Great! That means we’re only about 150 years behind!”
The other side says, “Ugh! Why did we even have that council? They screwed everything up! We need to look back before the council for the true church and just wasn’t that a grand time for Catholics?”
To which I would reply, thanks for pushing us back another 100 years or so.
It seems to me that we need the young to rise above all the arguments from the past two generations and actually define what it will mean to be Catholic. The problem is that the co-opting has already begun with folks from both camps trying to snatch up folks from either side and keeping them firmly entrenched.
Perhaps what the church really needs is to not open a window as they did with Vatican II, but to open the doors and welcome the voices of the young who are outside of our experience for the most part and to listen to their longings and what they wish to express. The young will need a plan to bring the church into the PRESENT–not the future and certainly not the past—because we are the church right now and we need the church to address the problems of the present age, not the past.
So we need to let go of our agendas and simply listen. Time to drop the retrenchment and drop the renewals and move into progressive ministry that addresses Christ in PostModern culture.
Or we can allow the church, to become an old dinosaur that’s stuck in the mud, unable to move beyond itself or speak to a new age.
That indeed will be tragic. I hope I can continue to contribute to a more progressive conversation, but most of the time I’m labelled as “too conservative” by those in renewal camps or “way too liberal” by those who seek retrenchment.”
That leads me to believe that I’m on to something–and the students who are active and who keep out of the firestorm and simply worship, serve and profess their faith in so many ways in the postmodern world today, just might be able to save this church.
And I pray that they do.