DISSENT AND COLLABORATION AFTER VATICAN COUNCIL II
In a series of five talks on Vatican Radio Cardinal Pericles Felici outlined the Church's situation since the Council and emphasized the continuity and coherence in her teaching.
What will history have to say about Vatican Council II? What are people saying about it now? Cardinal Felici offered answers to these two very interesting questions in the third group of broadcasts which Vatican Radio arranged for its Lenten transmission. There can be no doubt that his talks attracted maximum audiences, for both speaker and subject arouse the greatest interest in all listeners.
As regards the judgment of history, the Cardinal referred to that expressed by Fr. Ludwig Hertling on the Council of Trent, which was held during one of the periods of acutest crisis that the Church has known, and decided upon measures that were very avant-garde. It would be a mistake to think that that Council represented a break with the past, as if it had announced quite new doctrine or established a new kind of holiness. The Council of Trent brought clarity to the Church, purified it, gave it courage and strengthened its sense of responsibility.
"After these first years of running-in the Cardinal said, "if we had to pronounce a judgment about Vatican II's effects upon the Church and the world, it would be hard not to speak of it as Hertling spoke of the Council of Trent". Vatican II does not represent a break in the life of the Church; on the contrary it represents continuity and coherence of doctrine, and exact formulation of the process of development of her teachings. He regards the process ofdevelopment as being marked by "fidelity to the tradition, firmness and continuity in what is essential in doctrine, and proper formulation of the same on the basis of a sound process of explanation, which must always be carried through under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church".
The innovatory developments originated by the Vatican Council II started off a movement towards that aggiornamento orupdating about which so much has been said, and so much has been wrongly said. Systems and projects of various kinds have all been thrown together, and have not so much helped to renew the Church as to work forwards a disintegration from the inside. Yet we must trust the movement for renewal, in spite of all the attacks that arise in connection with it. And our trust must be founded on precise facts, such as the undisputed one that the Church is in a continual state of renewal, through the vivifying action of the Holy Spirit, quite apart from the special contribution of the Council, which provided a fresh and vigorous impulse. But, Cardinal Felici next asked, what kind of renewal? A renewal ought to begin from the spirit and from genuine metanoia, true conversion on everyone's part, through more sincere and lively imitation of Christ the Lord.
The Cardinal addressed remarks to dissenters and innovators who have become too autonomous: "It cannot be denied that because of a number of complex facts of various kinds, some of the reforms willed by the Council have not yet been able to be put into practice in the way that many people desire. But we must not forget that altering certain structures requires alteration and transformation of certain habits of mind, and that cannot be done in a brief space of time". Haste is always a bad counsellor, and we must still have a lot of patience. Those who are challenging the Church nowadays often raise their voices without making any concrete suggestions, and they ought to " remember that it is God who gives the increase to everything, that God is so greatly pleased with a humble, faithful and obedient heart that he enriches it with graces and blessings. That is where the secret of true renewal of the Church lies".
Instead of challenge and opposition, we need collaboration in order to get real renewal, because the renovation and bringing up to date which is now so much desired in the Church, will come from the contributions which all members of the People of God, collectively and singly, can make, with intelligence and wise goodness. In addition there is one contribution which all can make, and it is the contribution of prayer and holy works. Pastors can collaborate in the effort by exercizing their difficult service of authority in a spirit of humility and charity, and the faithful will respond with the "collaboration" of obedience. "We do not obey a superior", the Cardinal added, "because of his personal prestige, but because the eye of faith allows us to perceive the Lord's person in his person, and to hear the voice of our Saviour, Jesus, in his voice". "Society and the Church are organisms which are composed of intelligent and free people", Cardinal Felici concluded, "yet they need to be guided by exact rules so as to be able to gain a common end. And that end would be unattainable if the guidelines were not respected, if the men who made up the ranks and structures failed to act with a sense of responsibility in the mission entrusted to them".
And how can each serve the Church according to his particular calling? All those who belong to the Church share a fundamental unity and common mission; diversity and plurality of ministries exist in the Church at the same time. What is the priest's vocation? "We priests should remember ", the Cardinal said in reply to this question, "that our duty and mission is to be Christ's representatives, his ambassadors, to be models of piety, obedience, chastity, holy life, and to be imbued with generous charity ".
And the laity? "Their coming of age within the Church does not release them from subordination and obedience to the bishops. On the contrary, it is in such obedience, and in their filial collaboration, that their maturity will find light and nourishment, above all when they are called by bishops or priests to cooperate in a more direct fashion with the hierarchy's apostolate. The need is not for division, not for mutual exclusion in watertight compartments, not for cliques, not for efforts to gain control... but for orderly toil, in a hierarchical pattern, in accordance with Christ's will, moving in unity towards a single end, the spread of God's kingdom, sanctification of souls, spiritual well-being for all".
In his final talk Cardinal Felici made mention of two circumstances that seem to be in contradiction with each other. The Council was held under the sign of a marvelous unity; why was it, then, that once the Council was over, so much discord broke out, so many deviations came to light in the field of doctrine, so many offences occurred against Church discipline, even against the Church's precepts? He noted that we ought not exaggerate the extent of these phenomena, and, in regard to diagnosing them, their causes are to be found in that general ferment occurring in the world today, which churchmen cannot fail to feel. It was a characteristic feature of the Council that, once alteration and renewal had been proposed, some should shut themselves up in traditional strongholds, as if through unconscious fear of novelty, while others rushed without control towards everything that was new. It is one of man's passions to replace order with confusion, tranquility with upheaval, and peace with tumult. "Yet, in spite of all," the Cardinal concluded, "we ought to look to the Council with great trust, for it is still the sign and means of unity, and we must courageously overcome the obstacles that strange phenomena have created and are creating. A mountaineer climbing a mountain is not alarmed when clouds cover the sun. He well knows that the heavenly body continues to warm and nourish the world, in spite of the mists and the darkness; it continues to send forth light, and, at the right moment its rays will break through and dissolve the thick cloud cover, in order to recreate the earth".
Weekly Edition in English
27 March 1969, page 5
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