Monday, December 10, 2007

Is Vatican II fading into the sunset?

The Toledo Blade has an interesting article on Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical Spe Salvi ("Saved by Hope"). The link to it can be found by clicking on this entry's title. Here is an especially interesting part of the article:

One especially noteworthy element of the encyclical, both Father Bacick and Mr. Gaillardetz said, is that Pope Benedict makes no reference to the Second Vatican Council and its influential document Gaudium et Spes, Latin for “Joy and Hope,” yet repeatedly cites fifth century saint Augustine.

Both Father Bacik and Mr. Gaillardetz said Augustine’s views on hope are “more pessimistic” than the Vatican II document.

The frequent references to St. Augustine “reveals him as an Augustinian theologian,” Father Bacik said. “That is becoming clearer and clearer.”

“This shows Pope Benedict’s preference for early Christian writers,” Mr. Gaillardetz said. “He cites Augustine 13 times but it is striking that the most influential document of Vatican II, about how the church should engage the world in solidarity with the joy and hope of ordinary people, is not cited once in his encyclical about hope.” (emphasis mine)


It is interesting indeed, and I've read about this fact elsewhere, that Pope Benedict does not quote the Second Vatican Council once in Spe Salvi. Not once. In John Paul II's Fides et Ratio, released in 1998, Vatican II is mentioned 14 times in the encyclical itself. Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict's first encyclical mentions the Second Vatican Council only three times. Is it a sign of the times? Or are we reading too much into it? It is of such significance, being that it has been a staple of Vatican documents to refer back to Vatican II, that it can hardly be something unintentional. Pope Benedict knows full well of Gaudium et Spes yet wrote an entire encyclical on hope without mentioning the council document touching on the same topic.

Notice, also, that St. Augustine is described as being more pessimistic than Gaudium et Spes and Pope Benedict is showing he is a firm Augustinian. Is Pope Benedict being grouped in as a Augustinian pessimist? I hope so, not because we have anything to be pessimistic about but rather because there is nothing especially pessimistic about St. Augustine's theology. I would call him more of a realist, an orthodox theologian firmly rooted in the truths of our Faith. There was no compromise. He did not state something in order to please anybody. If it was true, he said it (or wrote it). The question wasn't about subjective comfort but more about truth. And the truth of our Faith is never pessimistic, we who believe in so great a Redeemer Who has overcome this world! There has never been more reason for hope and the Christian is the only one who has true hope.

It may be a sign of the times, a turning tide. Pope Benedict XVI makes the traditional Latin Mass the extraordinary Roman rite liturgy thus giving it a full, official status in its own right. He concerns himself with bringing traditionalists back into the fold. He then writes an encyclical without one mention of the Second Vatican Council. Could it be there is a renewal taking place?

There is also rumor of a document to be released very soon by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the topic of evangelization (as CWNews.com has reported). The report is that this document will take Dominus Iesus, that document which created such a stir in the world, a step further - basically saying that since the Catholic Church is the means of salvation, we ought to seek to bring others into communion with her for their salvation.

Let us all pray, and hope, that the many heresies which have had free rein in the Church are coming to an end; that there is a cleansing and strengthening taking place, an enforcement of the truths of our Faith. Pope Benedict XVI appears to be fighting for the splendor of the truths of our Catholic Faith and for the good of the Church. May the our Almighty Lord grant him strength, courage and perseverance.