France: Rescuing Vatican II

Source: FSSPX News

Enzo Bianchi is the founder and the lay prior of an interreligious monastic community of men and women, in Northern Italy.

With the approach of the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican Council II (1962-1965), initiatives designed to commemorate the event are multiplying.  This celebration, however, does not necessarily promise to be a glorious one.  The dearth of vocations and the desertification of parish churches, due to a precipitous decline of religious practice, hardly inspire panegyrics.  Instead it is a matter of rescuing the council by going on the defensive with statements of this sort:  “Vatican II didn’t intend that,” or “Without Vatican II it would have been worse.”  Or even more astonishing:  “Vatican II has not yet been understood.  Fifty years afterward, we still have to assimilate it.”  This is what the French bishops tried to do during their formation session, and the Lenten preachers at Notre-Dame in Paris are still trying.

Four cardinals and some sixty bishops gathered in Albi from January 22 to 24, 2010, for their annual formation session.  The objective was a “careful rereading of the Council so as to continue its implementation and to help the Christian people to discover its evangelical depth”, according to the press release of the French Bishops’ Conference (Conférence des évêques de France, CEF).   The many reforms and transformations that followed the Council were likewise the subject of reinterpretation, especially those that occurred during the ten years immediately after Vatican II.

Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré of Albi, president of the doctrinal committee of the bishops’ conference and organizer of the session, explained:  “Vatican Council II is the one that produced the most documents;  we have to disengage from them the main ideas, what would stand out if one were to reread them in three hundred years.”  He continued:  “We are beginning to reflect on the fiftieth-anniversary celebrations.  It is important for us, the bishops, to prepare ourselves for it, to reflect on what sort of initiatives we can take.”

For his part, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris and President of the CEF, has organized a series of Lenten conferences at Notre-Dame on the theme, “Vatican II, a compass for our times.  More than forty years afterward, what has become of the Council?”  For it is important to “sensitize Christians to the contemporary relevance of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.”  “Through these conferences,” the cardinal continued, “we wish to offer everyone some keys to understanding and assimilating this heritage, so as to activate its capacity to work for the Church of the twenty-first century.”

During the first in this series of conferences, “which aren’t supposed to be instructional catecheses but rather an aid for Christians who are faced with all sorts of philosophies and beliefs,” Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, Auxiliary Bishop of Paris, declared that at Vatican II, “for the first time [emphasis ours], because the time had come, the Church described, in the light of revelation and of her historical experience, who that man is whom God was pleased to address ‘as a friend’ (Dei Verbum 2).  This man, the man to whom God speaks, is the one who knows the temptation of atheism.”  The atheism that Cardinal König called “the goad of the Council”.

COMMENTARY: The expression “for the first time” is particularly noteworthy: indeed, the preacher supposes that Vatican II achieved in the 20th century what none of the preceding councils had been capable of. Further on he declares: “For the first time since her first expansion, it has been possible (for the Church) to see herself as she was made by the Word of God who took flesh in Jesus, and see her own action in men’s hearts. She found herself free from the cumbersome friendship of princes and states, free from the need to give to nations their consistency. The Council has thus been able to dissociate her from human forms of society, not – and this is the sensitive point – not by isolating her, but rather, on the contrary, by fitting her into the course of the history of men. For human history is in the hand of God beyond all appearances.  It is in this light, I believe, that we must understand the term “adaptation”, an imperfect translation of aggiornamento (…).” According to Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort, then, the council has freed the Church from human forms of society, all the while inserting her in the course of human history. In short, since Vatican II, we have a Church that has been both separated and inserted! That certainly is a “sensitive point”!

He attempts to solve this paradox with a hymn to liberty and charity: “Today, forty-five years after the close of the Council, we understand better than ever that the strength to accomplish this work is not to be found in exterior support, social pressure, in cultural traditions, or in the law of the State. It resides in the hidden resources of our liberty inhabited by grace, jostled by the Word of God which shoves us  and mobilizes us; it is to be sought in the communion of the Church in which we bear one another from the first to the last among believers and in the charity, the love which causes us to desire that each one of our brothers and sisters may one day taste the joy of the communion of which we have a foretaste. By means of the Second Vatican Council, the Church has, in a way, got a better hold on herself so as to take better action to further the work of God.” The words “in a way” are meant to attenuate the profound disrespect of this statement for the magisterium prior to the council, echoing as it does his previous declarations: “for the first time since her first expansion, it has been possible (for the Church) to see herself as she was made by the Word of God” and “for the first time, for indeed the time had come, the Church has described in the light of Revelation and her own historical experience, who man is, to whom God was pleased to speak ‘as to a friend’.”

Without ever quoting directly the criticisms made by Traditionalist circles, Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort alludes to them several times, but only in order to reject them as “prejudicial opinions” or as inappropriate forms of irony. It is instructive to note that Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the Curia on 22 December 2005, in which His Holiness puts the interpretation of the council as continuity in contrast with the interpretation of the council as rupture, did not get the attention of the preacher , although his theme was precisely “Vatican II, old or modern?” Concerning this last point, it must be said that Enzo Bianchi’s invitation to the second conference on the “Word of God and the Sacred Scriptures” sets this year’s Lenten recollection at Notre Dame in a perspective which does not favour the interpretation of the council as continuity. In fact, Bianchi is the founder and the lay prior of an interreligious monastic community of men and women, in Northern Italy, in Bose. Besides his interest in ecumenical dialogue, he is known for his concern for dialogue with non-Christian religions (especially with Judaism) and his opinions on social problems. In 2007, Vatican specialist Sandro Magister described him in these terms: “Of the theoreticians who interpret Vatican II as a “discontinuation” and a “new beginning”, the most opposed to the Pope’s decisions are the founder and prior of the monastery in Bose, Enzo Bianchi, and Christian history specialist, Alberto Melloni.”

Moreover, it is interesting to note that those invited to preach successively at Notre Dame in Paris have all written on Father Henri de Lubac: Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort (Anthropologie et mystique selon Henri de Lubac, Cerf), Father Denis Dupont-Fauville, Enzo Bianchi’s collaborator (L’Eglise mère chez Henri de Lubac, Parole et silence), and Father Matthieu Rougé who will preach on 14 March on the liturgical reform (he contributed to the collective work Henri de Lubac, la rencontre au coeur de l’Eglise, Cerf). Father de Lubac, an expert at the Second Vatican Council, had been directly aimed at by Pius XII in his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), after the publication, in 1946, of Surnaturel, Etudes historiques, a work which the Holy Office suspected of modernism. (Sources: apic/La Croix/CEF -DICI, issue number 211, 6 March 2010)

On the same topic :

France: Warning Call from the Society of St. Pius X's District Superior
Italy: Viva il Concilio, a promotional site for Vatican II