March 12, 2007

The Church in A.D. 2030

On his blog, “The Cafeteria Is Closed,” Gerald has posted, “A CONVERT’S MANIFESTO: Three Years into Metanoia.”

I wrote him something in a private response, and he has invited me to modify it for public consumption. Here it is.

- - - -

The Council of Trent was a response to Protestantism and to corruption in the Church. Consistent, organized, and methodical training of diocesan priests did not exist before the Council of Trent. Although universities taught theology long before Trent, diocesan seminaries for the training of priests did not exist until after Trent.

Long after the Council of Trent, and long before Vatican Council II, the Church’s seminary systems had “mummified” the rich scholastic theological heritage into formulaic manuals.

When the “multi-heresy” called modernism reared its head in the time of Pope St. Pius X (1835-1914), an ecumenical council might have been a larger, more participated, and more effective response than the saintly pope’s list or catalogue of the propositions of modernism. As it turned out, modernism continued anyway; it grew inside and outside the Church. Our formulaic theology manuals were not entirely adequate to train priests to deal with the world as it had become and was increasingly becoming.

Vatican II opened up some risky vulnerabilities (modernism took advantage of those vulnerabilities). However, how do you face a new world without opening up vulnerabilities? How is there to be a resurrection, if there is not also an apparent defeat and death?

Up to Vatican II, we had a largely scholastic theology, and we had the “Tridentine” Mass. However, the roots of the Mass and scholastic theology were much older than Trent. Their roots were patristic. The selecting and composing of the proper prayers and texts of the Mass was a work of the patristic age. The roots of scholastic theology were also patristic roots. St. Thomas Aquinas did not suddenly appear in a vacuum: he was a student of patristic theology. Vatican II added its official conciliar weight to the already developing recovery of patristic theology. While Vatican II again validated St. Thomas Aquinas, it also encouraged us to return to the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas: patristic theology.

Let’s recall that the early patristic era was the era of Christianity displacing paganism in Europe— but that the patristic era also created and fought the great Christological heresies WITHIN Christianity.

Trent did not displace Protestantism; rather, Trent was “in-house” cleaning. Vatican II was a kind of repeat of the patristic pattern: a new strategy for confronting challenges both out in the larger world and inside the Church. The post-Tridentine, pre-Vatican-II, manual-style, scholastic theology methods and books were not enough.

I repeat:
“Vatican II opened up some risky vulnerabilities (modernism took advantage of those vulnerabilities). However, how do you face a new world without opening up vulnerabilities?”

As he was about to ascend, the Lord told the apostles to go out— vulnerably— into the hungry and hostile world. Matthew 28:18-20.
And Jesus came and said to [the eleven disciples],
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

Up until then, Jesus had restricted his presence to the land of Palestine— home of the only people who believed in the true God. Now he sent the Church outside those borders, and he went with them— “I am with you always”— into that uncharted territory. The Lord himself opened the Church to new “vulnerabilities”. Ten of the eleven suffered death at the hands of enemies of the truth, and some Christians later went on to invent something new in the history of the world: Christological heresies. Would it have been better for the Church to stay “pre-Ascensional” and locked up inside Palestine?

One last time:
“Vatican II opened up some risky vulnerabilities (modernism took advantage of those vulnerabilities). However, how do you face a new world without opening up vulnerabilities?”

Not possible!

One visitor to “The Cafeteria Is Closed” added the following comment in reference to Vatican II.
One of my Theology professors recently mentioned that if you go back and look at the history of the Church, there were periods of about 50 years of turmoil after each of the councils.

I then contributed the following.
Yes, that is the consistent historical pattern of all the major councils of the Church. However, the remainder of the consistent historical pattern has always been that after those fifty post-conciliar years the Church was more alive and vigorous than it was before each council.

Vatican Council II took place in 1962-1965. My life expectancy will probably permit me to live about fifteen years beyond the fifty post-conciliar years. God-willing, I’ll live to see the consistently repeating pattern of Church history blossom again: the Church in A.D. 2030 more alive and vigorous than it was before Vatican Council II.


Anonymous Loyolalaw98 said...

While the Second Vatican Council may have intended that the study of philosophy in seminaries would look to the Patristic roots of Thomism, that is completely opposite to what occurred.

First, by eliminating the mandatory study of Latin from seminaries on LITURGICAL grounds, the crypto-modernists undercut the study of both Aquinas and the Latin Fathers in their original language.

Second, by INSERTING an entirely new field of study into seminaries - i.e., the study of scripture using the modern critical method, without lengthening the average duration of study - the number and variety of philosophy courses was sacrificed to make up the gap.

If the Church is to return to Her roots, to the firm foundation - philosophical foundation - on which she has relied in past centuries to combat heresy - look for a concurrent restoration of both the study of Latin and Scholastic philosophy in our seminaries.

Here, Pope Benedict XVI may be of greater good than his predecessor. Pope John Paul II, saint that he was/is, was NOT a Thomist. Karol Wojtyla was a phenomenologist ala Husserl. Josef Ratzinger is a Thomist in the old, safe and solid sense of that term.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Loyolalaw98, I agree with you. I wish to emphasize your first point and draw out its further validity: the Second Vatican Council did not intend the lacunae that seminaries subsequently perpetrated.

Yes, Wojtyla was not a Thomist. However, Wojtyla brought Ratzinger to prominence, and that appears to have been quite instrumental in our now having "Ratzinger the Thomist" as pope. (May I join you in saying, "Deo gratias"?)

Through much of the twentieth century we prayed for the conversion of Russia. I believe the prayer of the Church and the rise of Wojtyla were certainly part of the fall of the Soviet union.

I say, "Yes!" to a your proposal of "a concurrent restoration of both the study of Latin and Scholastic philosophy in our seminaries"-- together with patristic exegesis of Scripture.

One of the practical challenges to U.S. seminaries today is that men are "hearing" God's call to the priesthood after college, rather than before college. The result is that U.S. dioceses do not have such men spend four "undergraduate" years (formerly called "minor seminary") in the study of philosopy before sending them on to theology (formerly called "major seminary"). Those men receive only one or two years of "undergraduate" courses in both philosophy and theology before they go on to "postgraduate" theology.

I wrote my present blogpost after reading Gerald's "Manifesto" that concludes with the following explanation of his motive.

Terms such as "Novus Ordo Church", "Novus Ordo Catholics" will not be tolerated anymore. This is not an SSPX/SSPV/Sedevacantist hangout. If you think the Pope isn't the Pope, the Pope is a "heretic", "suffers from a modernist mind", the Second Vatican Council was "evil" and so forth, go sell crazy somewhere else.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

With complete respect for the indispensable value of scholastic philosophy, I point out the battle against the major Christological heresies in the early Church was waged by patristic theology rather than scholastic philosophy.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Loyolalaw98 said...

Fr. Stephanos,

I concur with ALL your comments. Many many years ago, almost twenty, I had the honor of being a student of the late Fr. Newman Eberhardt, C.M.. He was a professor of philosophy, church history, and patristics at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo. In my life he was the wisest man I have met to date!

He always used to say that there "are no new ideas after Machiaavelli, only old error in new clothing.."

Your point that "the battle against the major Christological heresies in the early Church was waged by patristic theology rather than scholastic philosophy" was one that he would frequently make.

In fact, a favorite past time of orthodox seminarians at St. John's, at least at that time, would be to ask Fr. Eberhradt's opinion about the latest heresy du jour being taught in our theology, liturgy, or scripture classes. (Never mentioning the other faculty member directly as this would offend Fr. E's Christian charity). Invariably, Fr. Eberhardt would refer us to a Church father, or early council of the Church, that would directly refute what was being taught in the other class.

Oh with what glee we would wait to "correct" the neo-modernism in Class "B" with the truth of the Fathers' from Class "A."

7:43 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

"Fr. Newman Eberhardt, C.M. ...a professor of philosophy, church history, and patristics at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo. ...the wisest man I have met to date!"

One of my dogma professors, a fellow Benedictine, once said to us in class, "St. Anselm of Canterbury was the last intelligent Benedictine."



7:51 AM  
Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

Satan thrives on confusion. This is a constancy in Church history.

A greater constancy is the that the Holy Spirit ALWAYS prevails.

Throughout salvation history, it's a constant cycle of Man fails and God saves. The result of this cycle is that Man is drawn closer to God (a Paschal mystery kind of thingy).

Bad things initially resulted from Vatican II. So what? We are now starting to see it's authentic fruit.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

The ACTUAL texts, ACTUAL words, ACTUAL teachings, ACTUAL policies of Vatican Council II are not the sources of the post-conciliar ills.

The sources of the ills are in the manner of interpretation and the manner of implementation.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is completely predictable. Vatican II could have said anything at all, but no matter, those in power simply cannot admit it was a disaster of epic proportions.

It's very easy to say the ACTUAL words are not wrong. The ACTUAL words are so general and vague they could mean anything. That's precisely the problem.

The church will go on in some way, but it will not look as it has in the past at all. I'm not sure how it will look and no one else is either, except God.

I do know that we will eventually learn to tell the truth again and we, as a church, will pay and pay and pay until we do. Truth Himself will allow no less by His very nature.

6:19 PM  

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