Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Criteria to understand Vatican Council II according to Blessed John Paul II

Blessed John Paul II himself has indicated the criteria that should orient “the dynamics of the teaching” of the Second Vatican Council, (1) which are neither limited to a simple literal assessment of the documents, already quite delicate, nor to a static doctrine. They are:

1. “This universal Council is a kind of milestone, an event of the utmost importance in the two thousand year history of the Church and, consequently, in the religious and cultural history of the world.” (2)

2. “The Council must be understood in its continuity with the great tradition of the Church, but at the same time we must receive from the doctrine of the Council a light for the Church of today,” (3) and “in accordance with the demands placed on it by the ‘signs of the times.’” (4)

3. “Just as the Council is not limited to the documents alone, neither is it completed by the applications that were devised in the years of its unfolding.” (5) “A new period opens to our eyes. It is the time of the profound unfolding of the conciliar teachings.” (6)

4. “It is necessary, above all, that our minds  be in harmony with the Council so that putting into practice those things that were ordered by it,  those things hidden in it – or as it is generally said, implicit in it – may become explicit in the light of the actual experiences and demands of new circumstances.” (7)

5. “It is urgent that the fertile seeds which the Fathers of the Ecumenical Council, inspired by the Word of God, sowed in the good ground (Mt 13:8-23) – that is, the important teachings and pastoral deliberations – should sprout in a dynamic and living style.” (8)

6. “The Council … has defined what the mission of the Church is in this actual stage of History.” We must “concentrate all our efforts on the correct - that is to say, authentic - interpretation of the conciliar magisterium as the indispensable foundation for the subsequent self-realization of the Church.” (9)

7. “The theological interpretation of the conciliar doctrine must take into consideration all the documents in themselves and in their relation with the others, which will allow the exposition of the proposals of the Council in their complete meaning and full context. Special attention must be given to the four major Constitutions, keys to the interpretation of the other Decrees and Declarations.” (10)

8. The Church has traced the principles of her action in the fundamental Declaration Dignitatis humanae of Vatican Council II, and it is to this document that we must always refer for a true and lasting spiritual peace within nations.” (11) 

1. John Paul II employs the term in his Closing Speech of the International Congress on the Application of Vatican Council II, Sono molto lieto (February 27, 2000, no. 5). The cited texts follow the French version given by the Vatican Information Service.
2. First radiomessage of John Paul II Urbi et OrbiUnum solummodo verbum of October 17, 1978; in the same sense, see the Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei in the form of a motu proprio, of July 2, 1988, n. 5b.
3. Final speech of the Roman Synod Exeunte coetu secundo, December 7, 1985, n. 5; in the same sense, see the Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei in the form of a motu proprio, of July 2, 1988, n. 5b.
4. Speech on events of France, Dieu soit loué, June 1980.
5. Unum solummodo verbum.
6. Sono molto lieto, n. 9
7. Unum solummodo verbum.
8. Ibid. 9. Dieu soit loué.
10. Exeunte coetu secundo.
11. Ci ritroviano, speech to the sacred College of December 22, 1980, n. 8.
Adapted from an article first published in the magazine Catholica, Paris, Spring 2009