Wednesday, May 29, 2013

To umbrella or not to umbrella


It’s raining.
What do you do?
If you are President Obama at a press conference where you know you will be asked tough questions about the IRS, Benghazi and DOJ scandals, you do this (in contravention of military law, no less) to remind people of your office and power:
Screen shot 2013-05-29 at 11.01.53 AM
But if you are Pope Francis at a general audience and it starts to rain, you do this — because you understand your office is one of service and humility:
Screen shot 2013-05-29 at 11.02.20 AM
These two men could not be more different. And these two photos show the contrast.

Here's an interesting related article


obamapopeThere is an ancient Jewish proverb that, “The world is a staircase; some are going up and some are coming down.”
This is especially true of men entrusted with great power. In the case of President Obama and soon-to-be Pope Emeritus Benedict, the contrast of the two men’s fortunes is especially instructive. Whereas the latter is descending the proverbial staircase with grace and self-control, the former is desperately clambering up from the bottom in a futile struggle to the top. The two men could not be more different.
As the heir to the Chair of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI possessed not only tremendous temporal power but indeed the keys to heaven itself. In the frailty and weakness of his old age, he knew that he could not adequately shepherd the souls of billions toward the gates of the eternal kingdom and so he has relinquished everything to better serve his people and his God in meditation and prayer.
In so doing, he demonstrates the greatest power of all, which is the willingness to give it up.
Meanwhile, faced with tough decisions to reduce government spending due to cuts that were enacted by his own party in the Senate, Obama’s naked display of raw power is as embarrassing as it is ugly. An elder journalist has received threats from the White House staff and the Secretary of Defense is reducing our naval presencein the most troubled part of the world, for instance.
Both men entered into their respective offices with great hope and adulation, but there the similarities end. In Rome yesterday, tens of thousands crowded into St. Peter’s Square to wish Benedict a fond farewell and express their continued joy and hope for the future of the Church.
On the other hand, any illusion that Obama still believes his 2008 campaign mantra of “Hope and Change” surely has been dispelled by the events of the past week. Hope has hardly made a comeback in Washington since the election.
Double-helix staircase at Chateaux de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France which allows one to ascend without meeting someone coming down
Double-helix staircase at Chateaux de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France which allows one to ascend without meeting someone coming down
King George III wasreputed to have said of George Washington’s retirement as Commander-in-Chief, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” The same could be said of Benedict today. Meanwhile, Obama’s abilities as a leader were never equal to his ambitions and his pique in response to his failures is like the madness of George III instead of the grace and humility of George Washington or the outgoing Supreme Pontiff. Whereas Pope Emeritus Benedict is laying his life at the foot of the cross in obedience to a higher power, President Obama’s second term is shaping up to be a reprise of the worst abuses of the Nixon administration.
Napoleon Bonaparte, who was well-acquainted with earthly power, is supposed to have said, “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” Obama seems to share in this mentality, for he is desperate to avoid the obscurity which seems inevitable as his influence wanes. However, Benedict knows better, for he remembers well the words spoken at his inauguration–and which will be spoken again at the inauguration of his successor, “sic transit gloria mundi.”
All power is for naught. In the final accounting, only grace and obedience to God will be of any value.
Joshua Bowman (@prolixpatriot) joined in full communion with the Catholic Church in 2010 after many years in the spiritual wilderness. He recently moved from his beloved native Virginia to Columbus, Ohio with his growing family and writes on religion, politics, history, and geographical curiosities in these pages and on his personal blog, The Prolix Patriot

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pope: Open the door to faith 

2013-05-25 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Those who approach the Church should find the doors open and not find people who want to control the faith. This is what the Pope said this morning during Mass in the Casa Santa Marta. 

The day's Gospel tells us that Jesus rebukes the disciples who seek to remove children that people bring to the Lord to bless. "Jesus embraces them, kisses them, touches them, all of them. It tires Jesus and his disciples "want it to stop”. Jesus is indignant: "Jesus got angry, sometimes." And he says: "Let them come to me, do not hinder them. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these." "The faith of the People of God – observes the Pope - is a simple faith, a faith that is perhaps without much theology, but it has an inward theology that is not wrong, because the Spirit is behind it." The Pope mentions Vatican I and Vatican II, where it is said that "the holy people of God ... cannot err in matters of belief" (Lumen Gentium). 

And to explain this theological formulation he adds: "If you want to know who Mary is go to the theologian and he will tell you exactly who Mary is. But if you want to know how to love Mary go to the People of God who teach it better. " The people of God - continued the Pope - "are always asking for something closer to Jesus, they are sometimes a bit 'insistent in this. But it is the insistence of those who believe ":

"I remember once, coming out of the city of Salta, on the patronal feast, there was a humble lady who asked for a priest's blessing. The priest said, 'All right, but you were at the Mass' and explained the whole theology of blessing in the church. You did well: 'Ah, thank you father, yes father,' said the woman. When the priest had gone, the woman turned to another priest: 'Give me your blessing!'. All these words did not register with her, because she had another necessity: the need to be touched by the Lord. That is the faith that we always look for , this is the faith that brings the Holy Spirit. We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it grow. "

The Pope also mentioned the story of the blind man of Jericho, who was rebuked by the disciples because he cried to the Lord, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
"The Gospel says that they didn’t want him to shout, they wanted him not to shout but he wanted to shout more, why? Because he had faith in Jesus! The Holy Spirit had put faith in his heart. And they said, 'No, you cannot do this! You don’t shout to the Lord. Protocol does not allow it. And 'the second Person of the Trinity! Look what you do... 'as if they were saying that, right? ".

And think about the attitude of many Christians:

"Think of the good Christians, with good will, we think about the parish secretary, a secretary of the parish ... 'Good evening, good morning, the two of us - boyfriend and girlfriend - we want to get married'. And instead of saying, 'That's great!'. They say, 'Oh, well, have a seat. If you want the Mass, it costs a lot ... '. This, instead of receiving a good welcome- It is a good thing to get married! '- But instead they get this response:' Do you have the certificate of baptism, all right ... '. And they find a closed door. When this Christian and that Christian has the ability to open a door, thanking God for this fact of a new marriage ... We are many times controllers of faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people. "

And 'there is always a temptation - said the Pope - "try and take possession of the Lord." And he tells another story:

"Think about a single mother who goes to church, in the parish and to the secretary she says: 'I want my child baptized'. And then this Christian, this Christian says: 'No, you cannot because you're not married!'. But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy and not to return her son to the sender, what is it? A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord! It does not open doors! And so when we are on this street, have this attitude, we do not do good to people, the people, the People of God, but Jesus instituted the seven sacraments with this attitude and we are establishing the eighth: the sacrament of pastoral customs! ".

"Jesus is indignant when he sees these things" - said the Pope - because those who suffer are "his faithful people, the people that he loves so much"

"We think today of Jesus, who always wants us all to be closer to Him, we think of the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill ... So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace. " Listen to Lydia O'Kane report  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pope: Ask If Your Life Promotes Unity or Division

The Pope explained that without the Holy Spirit the Church could not ‘accomplish the task that the risen Jesus has entrusted to her: to go and make disciples of all nations.’

 05/23/2013 Comments (1)
Stephen Driscoll/CNA
Pope Francis waves to the crowd at the May 22 general audience.
– Stephen Driscoll/CNA
VATICAN CITY — The Holy Spirit made it possible for 

everyone to hear the apostles in their own language on Pentecost, uniting people who were divided, Pope Francis said May 22, calling on Christians to witness to the faith in a way that reconciles and is forgiving.

“We should all ask ourselves: ‘How do I let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit so that my witness of faith is one of unity and communion? Do I bring the message of reconciliation and love that is the Gospel to the places where I live?’” the Pope said in his Wednesday general audience.

The descent of the Holy Spirit undid “the dispersion of peoples and the confusion of tongues” that began with the Tower of Babel, the Pope noted, explaining that the men of the time acted with “arrogance and pride” in wanting to build the tower on their “own strength and without God.”

Pope Francis addressed the crowd of around 50,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. His talk was dedicated to examining the phrase from the Creed, “We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” The talk was part of an ongoing series of reflections during the Year of Faith on the Creed that was started by Benedict XVI.

The Holy Father stated that the previous line of the Creed on the Holy Spirit has “a deep connection” to the mission and characteristics of the Church that he was dwelling on.
The Holy Spirit “gives life to the Church, guides her steps. Without the presence and the incessant action of the Holy Spirit, the Church could not live and could not accomplish the task that the risen Jesus has entrusted her: to go and make disciples of all nations,” the Pope explained.

For that reason, he focused his reflection on three ways that the anointing of the Holy Spirit changes people, marks the Church and prepares it to evangelize.

“Sometimes it seems that what happened at Babel is repeated today: divisions, the inability to understand each other, rivalry, envy, selfishness,” the Holy Father observed.
He asked the crowd to think about the questions, “What do I do with my life? Do I bring unity? Or do I divide with gossip and envy?”

“Bringing the Gospel means we in the first place must live reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity, love that the Holy Spirit gives us. Let us remember the words of Jesus: ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,’” the Pope said, quoting John 4.
The second way the Spirit prepares believers to share the Gospel is by instilling courage in them, he told the crowd.

“Here is another effect of the Holy Spirit: courage — the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of Jesus to all, with self-confidence, in a loud voice, in every time and in every place,” he said.

“And this happens even today for the Church and for each of us,” Pope Francis insisted, urging people to “never be closed to this action!”

“Because evangelizing, announcing Jesus, evangelizing brings us joy! It energizes us. Being closed up within ourselves brings bitterness. Proclaiming the joy and hope that the Lord brings to the world lifts us up!” the Pope proclaimed.

But all of this is not possible without a “faithful and intense relationship with God,” the Pope said as he moved into his third point.

“I will only mention a third element, but it is particularly important: a New Evangelization. A Church that evangelizes must always start from prayer, from asking, like the apostles in the Upper Room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Without prayer, our actions become empty and our proclamation soulless; it is not animated by the Spirit,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged Christians to entrust themselves to the Holy Spirit because he “enables us to live and bear witness to our faith and enlighten the hearts of those we meet.”

He finished his thoughts on the connection between the Church and the Holy Spirit by recalling Benedict XVI’s statement that the Church today “especially feels the wind of the Holy Spirit that helps us, shows us the right path, and so, with new enthusiasm, we are on our journey, and we thank the Lord.”

At the end of the audience, the Pope also offered a special message to the Catholics in China, who will celebrate the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians on May 24.

The Pope said: May they proclaim Christ, “dead and risen, with humility and joy; be faithful to his Church and the Successor of Peter; and live their everyday lives in service to their country and their fellow citizens in a manner consistent with the faith they profess.”

Read more:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013



A week ago yesterday Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton turned his back on children across his state by signing into law a bill that allows same-sex couples to participate in the institution of marriage. Dayton signed the bill during a ceremony held on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday following its passage in the Minnesota State House (75-59) and Senate (37-30). 107 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
Although Governor Dayton told those in attendance that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness certainly includes the right to marry the person you love,” there was no indication that he nor the thousands of ‘marriage equality’ supporters in attendance were cognizant of the fact that the law discriminates against polygamists, pedophiles and relatives who just want to “marry the person(s) they love.”
Perhaps this embarrassing oversight didn’t cross the minds of those who voted for the law, which now defines marriage as a contract between “two people.” Then again, maybe it was intentional. Maybe those who voted in favor of the law are just a bunch of bigots. Regardless, as it stands today, Minnesota is now the 12th state in the union and 1st in the Midwest to ignore science, cast aside the biological differences between men and women, and redefine marriage along gender neutral lines.
“It is the height of irony,”said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, “that the Minnesota legislature decided, and the governor signed into law, the redefinition of marriage just after we celebrated the unique gifts of mothers and women on Mother’s Day.”
“Instead of strengthening [motherhood and fatherhood] the Minnesota legislature’s decision to redefine marriage weakens motherhood and fatherhood, and so strikes a blow to all children who deserve both a mother and father.”
The decision of gay rights activists to pressure Minnesota lawmakers into supporting a law they know will lead to the total loss of religious freedom and, as some LGBT activists contend, the eventual destruction of marriage all together, comes a mere six months after Minnesotans narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Although opponents of that amendment said it wasn’t necessary because Minnesota law already supported the traditional definition of marriage, their innocent-sounding claims were nothing more than duplicitous entreaties meant to trick marriage supporters into staying home and not voting.
Noting the surreptitiousness of their arguments, Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, issued a press release last week. In it, Brown claimed that marriage redefiners “always intended to redefine [marriage] at the soonest possible moment.” He later argued that “legislators who voted to redefine marriage were foolish to do so. They cast a terrible vote that damages society, tells children they don’t deserve a mother and a father, and brands supporters of traditional marriage as bigots.”
Recognizing that defenders of marriage are now facing an uphill battle, Archbishop Cordileone encouraged people to work even harder. “We know that now is the time to redouble our prayers, efforts and witness. The truth of marriage is not going away.”
“We know what it takes to work toward a culture of life even in the midst of laws that work against us,” he added. “The same is true for rebuilding a culture of marriage. No matter what the horizon may bring, we will continue in charity and truth to stand for justice and for the most vulnerable among us.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

BEFORE HE WAS POPE - St. Augustine

I heard His voice calling me (back) in 1985.  The last minute of this video speaks profoundly of God's desire that we understand that He is always with us and we have only but to hear . . . and act.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Article Expanding On Benedict's Return

Pope Francis welcomes Pope Emeritus Benedict on his return to the Vatican

This photograph makes my heart swell with joy and with hope.  In the most difficult times we have ever lived in, God gave us what we most needed.  We have two living Popes - One to lead us and pray WITH us and one to pray FOR us.

Benedict XVI returns to the Vatican

Benedict XVI returns to the Vatican

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

April 19, 2013
Up to the final days of his pontificate, Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of interpreting the Council in continuity with what came before it.
In one of the last acts of his pontificate, Benedict XVI gave an address to the clergy of the Diocese of Rome on the Second Vatican Council.  In the address he drew a distinction between what he termed the Virtual Council, or Council of the Media, and the Real Council or Council of those who actually produced the documents.  He observed that since the Council of the Media was accessible to everyone (not just to students of theology who studied the documents), it became the dominant interpretation of what happened at Vatican II, and this created “many disasters” and “much suffering.”  Specifically, he mentioned the closure of seminaries and convents, the promotion of banal liturgy, and the application of notions of popular sovereignty to issues of Church governance.  He concluded, however, that some 50 years after the Council, “this Virtual Council is broken, is lost.”
From what comes across my desk in theological literature there is still a lot of life in the Virtual Council, though it is true that it holds no enchantment for young seminarians or members of new ecclesial movements. Thus, the Church of the future, as a matter of demography, will be more closely oriented to the documents of the Real Council.  

The end of the “Virtual Council”
When Blessed John Paul II lay dying he said to the youth who had travelled to Rome to offer their prayerful support: “I have searched for you, and now you have come to me, and I thank you.”  Less irenically he might have said, “I have tried to get through to you, notwithstanding layers and layers of deaf and dumb bureaucrats, and now that I am dying, the fact that you are here means that at least some of you understood, and this is my consolation.” Similarly, Benedict seemed to be saying to the clergy of Rome, notwithstanding all the banality, all the pathetic liturgies, all the congregationalist ecclesiology, the Virtual Council of the Media has lost its dynamism.  It is no longer potent.  It no longer sets the course of human lives; it no longer inspires rebellion.  It too has become boring and sterile. 

In this particular address Benedict divided the documents of the Council into two broad categories: first, there were the documents inspired by what he called the “Rhineland alliance”—the network of young theologians from France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and Austria. These were the documents on the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), on the Church (Lumen Gentium), on Scripture, Tradition and Revelation (Dei Verbum) and on ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio).  In some ways these documents were mopping up the unfinished business of the First Vatican Council, which was brought to an untimely end by the Franco-Prussian war.  Certainly, the theology which underpinned these documents had been developing in the decades between the two world wars and did not suddenly crop up at the Council.

While the members of the Rhineland alliance were interested in ecclesiology and liturgical theology, ecumenism and scriptural exegesis, the Americans wanted a declaration on religious liberty to deal with their politico-theological problems, the French were similarly concerned with the whole complex phenomenon of modernity, and yet others, deeply horrified by what had happened to the Jewish people in ostensibly Christian countries, saw the need for some statement about the covenant of the Old Testament and Judaism in general.  As a consequence, the documents Dignitatis HumanaeNostra Aetate, and Guadium et Spes became a second “very important trilogy.”

Revelation and ecclesiology
Of all these documents the two closest to the heart of Ratzinger/Benedict were DeiVerbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, and Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.  As a young conciliar peritus (expert theological advisor), Professor Ratzinger was involved in the drafting of Dei Verbum, and his patron Cardinal Frings also intervened extensively in the debate on this document.  Ratzinger’s reflections on these interventions were published in an article in the Communio journal in 1988.  In this article he recalled Cardinal Frings’ argument that when one speaks of the two sources of revelation as Scripture and tradition one is right at the level of epistemology; we do experience what revelation is from Scripture and from tradition.  Nonetheless Frings also argued that the “Scripture and tradition two sources formula” was false if looked at from a metaphysical perspective, since both Scripture and tradition flow from revelation as their common source.  The problem with the epistemological focus is that “if one does not hold that revelation precedes its objectification in Scripture and tradition, remaining always greater than they, then the concept of revelation is reduced to the dimensions of the historical and simply human.”
In Dei Verbum the Fathers of the Council overcame various theological problems by holding that Christ himself is the revelation of God the Father to humanity and that both Scripture and tradition flow from this revelation.  Dei Verbum is thus a classic example of how the Council reformed an area of theology which had given rise to a rather large number of problems from at least as far back as the 16th century. 

In particular, in an article published in 1969 in Herbert Vorgrimler’s Commentaries on the Documents of the Council, Ratzinger stated that in the drafting of Dei Verbum the Council Fathers were “concerned with overcoming neo-scholastic intellectualism, for which revelation chiefly meant a store of mysterious supernatural teachings, which automatically reduces faith very much to an acceptance of these supernatural insights.”  This was the archetypically SuÁrezian account of revelation which contemporary historical scholarship (see for example, the work of John Montag), now regards as a reversal of the position of classical Thomism.  For SuÁrez, revelation did not disclose God himself, but rather pieces of information about God.  When Ratzinger was a student the SuÁrezian account was dominant, to such a degree that when he criticised it in his habilitation thesis, preferring the position of St. Bonaventure, he was forced to withdraw the criticism or suffer the penalty of not passing the thesis.  At Vatican II, however, the Council Fathers were persuaded of the merits of the approach advanced by Cardinal Frings, which had no doubt been influenced by the ideas of the young Professor Ratzinger.

While Dei Verbum addressed the topics of Scripture, tradition and revelation, Lumen Gentium focused on ecclesiology.  The “reform” engendered here was one of moving away from a primarily juridical account of the Church focused on the distinction between clerical and lay members to an understanding based on multidimensional relationships. 

With reference to the notion of sacramental relations, Henri de Lubac emphasised that the sacramental form of relationality is one that ties together the Church as the mystical body of Christ with the Church as the historical people of God.  Moreover, the Church not only links the visible with the invisible, time with eternity, but also the universal and the particular, the Old and New Covenants. This link between the invisible and visible elements of ecclesial communion constitutes the Church as the sacrament of salvation.  Thus, in chapter 1 of Lumen Gentium one finds the following declaration:

Christ, the one mediator, set up his holy Church here on earth as a visible structure, a community of faith, hope and love; and he sustains it unceasingly and through it he pours out grace and truth on everyone.  This society, however, equipped with hierarchical structures, and the mystical body of Christ, a visible assembly and a spiritual community, an earthly church and a church enriched with heavenly gifts, must not be considered as two things, but as forming a complex reality comprising a human and divine element.  It is therefore by no mean analogy that it is likened to the mystery of the Incarnate Word. 

Concomitant with this move away from a focus on a juridical notion of the Church, with its primary distinction between priestly and other religious members on the one side, and lay members on the other, was the Council’s endorsement of a universal call to holiness. 

Notwithstanding this affirmation of a variety of spiritual missions in the life of the Church, some lay and some clerical, Lumen Gentium nonetheless affirmed the authority of the Petrine Office and the sacerdotal priesthood.  There was nothing in this document that could in any way justify the subsequent attacks on the papacy and the priesthood which were some of the more infamous products of the Virtual Council in the decade of the 1970s and beyond.

“Theological Star Wars”
In 1972, Joseph Ratzinger, along with Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac, founded the theology journal which they named Communio.  It would be too simplistic to describe it as a response to the Virtual Council because in addition to the Virtual Council there was also the Council of other Conciliar periti who, as the 1970s wore on, closely associated themselves with the rival journal Concilium.  The English historian Philip Trower has described the intellectual battle between the two different interpretations of the Council as presented in the pages of Communio and Concilium as “a theological star wars” played out over the heads of the faithful.  In other words, what people in parishes received as the “teaching of the Council” was often the residue of ideas floated by the former periti in one or other of these journals.  Since the Concilium interpretations were often a lot closer to the interpretations of the Virtual Council, during the final years of the pontificate of Paul VI they tended to dominate.

However, in 1985 Blessed John Paul II called a synod to reflect on the various interpretations of the Council, and following this synod the Communio ecclesiology began to receive strong magisterial endorsement.  Pope Benedict obliquely referred to this in his address to the clergy of Rome.  Speaking of the concept of communion, he remarked that although, philologically speaking, it was not fully developed at the Council, it was nonetheless as a result of the Council that “the concept of communion came more and more to be the expression of the Church’s essence, communion in its different dimensions: communion with the Trinitarian God—who is himself communion between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—sacramental communion, and concrete communion in the episcopate and in the life of the Church.”  In this address he added that the application of the Communio ecclesiology to the life of the Church is “not yet complete” and that “more needs to be done.”

Interpreting Gaudium et Spes
The Conciliar document which was least acceptable to Ratzinger/Benedict wasGaudium et Spes.  Along with Cardinal Walter Kasper and others he argued that a major problem with this document is that it was poorly drafted.  In particular the first sections were not well integrated with the later sections.  The anthropology of the first section has been described as “merely theistically coloured,” whereas the anthropology of later sections is explicitly Trinitarian.  It is well known that Blessed John Paul II was deeply influenced by paragraph 22 of this document and that this particular paragraph looks as though it was lifted almost word for word from an earlier work of Henri de Lubac’s.  Paragraph 22 is explicitly Christocentric. Ratzinger/Benedict also strongly approved of Paragraph 22 and described the document as a whole as offering a “daring new” theological anthropology which he endorsed, although he thought it had not been well articulated.

As a consequence of the drafting issues and of the under-developed theology in some areas, Gaudium et Spes tended to give rise to two different interpretations of the relationship of the Church to the world and two different pastoral strategies.  In short-hand terms they could be described as the Christocentric Trinitarianism of John Paul II and Benedict, and the correlationism of theologians such as Edward Schillebeeckx.  Both care about the “world” and regard it as the theatre of salvation.  Neither favours a retreat to the ghetto.  However, one looks for points of convergence between the faith and contemporary fashionable philosophies, the other is much more sacramental in its orientation and seeks to transform the world, to “restore all things in Christ.”
Another way to put this is to say that the correlationist strategy tends to separate “Christian values” from “Christian sacraments” and to find points of agreement between the so-called “Christian values” (distilled from actual belief in Christ and participation in the sacramental life of the Church) and non-Christian values.  The most common example of this is the promotion of Christian philanthropic projects.  The idea is that the “sacramental stuff” is a private matter for private consumption while working for social justice is a public enterprise.  Today it is becoming increasingly common for Catholics who find themselves in debates with atheists to refer to the philanthropic works of the Church as a justification for the Catholic faith.  Atheists typically respond with indignation because it is quite clear to them that it is possible to have philanthropy without being burdened by Christian morality.
Ratzinger took the atheists’ point in an article he published in 1969 on the subject of human dignity in Gaudium et Spes.  He suggested that according to one reading ofGaudium et Spes (one might call it the Virtual Council reading, though he didn’t use that expression in 1969), there is no reason why the average person of good will should suddenly be burdened with the story of Christ.  In other words, some readings ofGaudium et Spes raise the question: does the Incarnation actually make any difference?
If one zeroes in on paragraph 22 and treats it as the hermeneutical lens through which the remainder of the document is studied, then the Incarnation is absolutely central and not something that can be distilled.
In his Trinitarian encyclicals (Redemptor HominisDives in Misericordia, and Dominum et Vivificantem) John Paul II followed through the logic of this paragraph with the development of a theological anthropology which became one of the most significant theological achievements of his pontificate.  Ratzinger/Benedict was completely behind this project.
Lessons in liturgy
In his own pontificate, however, Benedict focused more on the problem of Virtual Council interpretations of Sacrosanctum Concilium than on secularist renderings of Gaudium et Spes (which John Paul II had gone a long way toward resolving, at least at the intellectual level).  In his books A New Song for the LordFeast of Faith, and The Spirit of the Liturgy, and in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, Ratzinger/Benedict offered a remedial liturgical theology.
In his address to the clergy of Rome he also offered the following summary of the Virtual Council’s approach to the liturgy:

There was no interest in liturgy as an act of faith, but as something where comprehensible things are done, a matter of community activity, something profane. And we know that there was a tendency, not without a certain historical basis, to say: sacrality is a pagan thing, perhaps also a thing of the Old Testament. In the New Testament it matters only that Christ died outside: that is, outside the gates, in the profane world. Sacrality must therefore be abolished, and profanity now spreads to worship: worship is no longer worship, but a community act, with communal participation: participation understood as activity. These translations, trivializations of the idea of the Council, were virulent in the process of putting the liturgical reform into practice; they were born from a vision of the Council detached from its proper key, that of faith.

If one combs through the many homilies and articles and books written by Ratzinger/Benedict for comments on the Council the consistent thread running through everything is that the Conciliar documents need to be read with a Christocentric Trinitarian accent.

The central message of Dei Verbum is that Christ is the revelation of the Father to humanity; the central message of Gaudium et Spes is that the Incarnation explains what it means to be human; the central message of Sacrosanctum Concilium is that worship is about an encounter with God, a participation in the life of the Trinity, not mere duty parade; and the Communio theology implicit in Lumen Gentium is thoroughly Trinitarian.  When it comes to the relationship between the Old Testament and the New, it is Christ who is the bridge.  Even “the sacred mystery of the unity of the Church…finds its highest exemplar and source in the unity of the Persons of the Trinity: the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, one God.”

There is nothing at all in this Trinitarian hermeneutic about Vatican II being a romance between the Holy Spirit and the Zeitgeist of the 1960s. 

(Note: The treatment of Dei Verbum in this article is a redaction of a longer article on Joseph Ratzinger’s Hermeneutic of Reform published in Polish in the journal Ethos of the Catholic University of Lublin.)
About the Author
Tracey Rowland

Professor Tracey Rowland is Dean and Permanent Fellow of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family (Melbourne). She earned her doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge University and her Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. She is the author of Culture and the Thomist Tradition after Vatican II (2003), Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (2008) and Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (2010).