The Rupture of Inculturation?

March 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In my last post, I held forth about a talk by Cardinal Rode, head of the Vatican office behind the current  investigations of American Catholic sisters.  I was struck by his use of the word “rupture” to describe the “wrong” interpretation of Vatican II. Never in my life have I heard anyone but Cardinal Rode (et al) describe Vatican II as a rupture. Event, yes. Paradigm shift, yes. Rupture? Never.

I am also struck by the conclusion of the cardinal’s talk, where, to explain what gives him hope for the future of religious life, he recounts the thunder of applause that greeted a talk he gave just after the election of John Paul II in 1978 in which he criticized the communist regime in Slovenia.  What gave Rode and his listeners courage to confront falsehood, we learn, was fidelity to the new pope. Just so, if we are to reform religious life, we must adhere to what John Paul II taught yesterday and what Benedict is teaching today. (p. 21).

Never mind the curiosity of using an event that occurred a third of a century ago under a regime that collapsed twenty years ago in a country most Americans couldn’t  find on the map if their lives depended on it to conclude a talk in Boston Massachusetts in 2008. Consider instead the spectacle of using such a Eurocentric story to illustrate fidelity to John Paul II.

I am not a big JPII fan. But one thing I do give John Paul credit for is his understanding of the critical place of the Global South in the future of the church. So if we’re confronting a rupture here, it’s one between this profound insight by John Paul II and  Benedict’s fixation on Europe, its secularization, its schisms, its ideal past.

One story about a talk in Slovenia in 1978 may seem like thin evidence on which to argue that the current papacy is oblivious to the future of the church. But to get the whole picture, shift your attention now to Vatican efforts to reform the liturgy. In an article in NCRonline, John L. Allen reports on comments by the papal liturgist, Msgr. Guido Marini. Msgr. Morini has said that the pope will be patient in reforming the liturgy; nothing will be forced on the church, at least not yet. At a conference in Rome, though, the pope’s liturgist did seem to call into question some Vatican II liturgical reforms,–among them, active participation by the laity in the liturgy (!!) and “greater ‘inculturation,’ meaning adjusting the church’s rites to reflect local cultures.”

Now you may have noticed that the word “inculturation” doesn’t figure massively in discussions of liturgy in the US. It is used frequently, however, in discussions of the church in the Global South. And when Catholics in Africa and Asia and Latin America use the term, they aren’t just referring to drumming and dancing at Mass. They’re talking about the reconfiguration of Catholicism by their cultures. For an especially compelling example of this,  see From Crisis to Kairos: The Mission of the Church in the Time of HIV/AIDS, Refugees, and Poverty by Nigerian Jesuit theologian A. E. Orobator (Paulines Publications Africa 2005).

The people Father Orobator writes about don’t seem awfully focused on   fidelity to the pope. For them, their faith in Jesus and the Gospel is what enables them to survive and keep their brothers and sisters alive in the face of war, destitution and epidemics. Let’s pray that the profound role the church plays in their survival doesn’t get ruptured anytime soon.


1 Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. Hmmm… Have you been following interpretations of Vatican II very long?
    You may want to look into the Lefebvrites sometime, along with many other groups like those following “Pope Pius XIII” (might actually be the Lefebvrites as well of some branch though). Interestingly, I thought you had listened to Fr. Komonchak, though I suppose he didn’t have too much time to go over that much at the talk you saw him at. I took a class under him specifically on Vatican II and its history though, and the Lefebvrites came up a good bit as the most extreme end of the “rupture”/”Vatican II is Heresy” groups, on another end of the spectrum of course are those who appeal to “the spirit of Vatican II” (meaning “what I want Vatican II to have said”) exclusively while ignoring the actual documents.

    However, based on this and your previous post (by the way your link to the Cardinals message currently leads to a broken page, so it unfortunately does not assist in understanding what is precisely going on, though the attempt is appreciated) I’m not entirely sure what you are upset about and how you think it so deeply goes against the ideas of Komonochak and his use of the ‘event’ interpretation. It also might be helpful for you to read up a bit on the history of philosophy, you might learn that ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, including in the way of ideas as incompatible, has been around since long before the Enlightenment, indeed since before Homer (though, of course, the Homeric Greek understanding of all things is rather different from strict translation into our ideas). Though, especially in the Catholic Tradition, we do also put great importance in ideas of “both- and” for many matters such as “Christ is BOTH Divine AND Human”, “BOTH Real AND Symbol”, “BOTH One AND Three”, etc. But there is still room for “wrong” and “right”, for instance it IS ‘wrong’ to murder, or IS an morally evil act, not BOTH a morally good act AND a morally evil act to commit murder (though maybe some of the proponents of war would like to believe so).

    But indeed, Komonchak himself would seem to forward the idea that the hermeneutics of discontinuity IS a wrong line of interpretation, though so is the strict hermeneutics of continuity which some like to talk about, as opposed to the hermeneutics of reform which Pope Benedict XVI has forwarded, and as I recall Komonchak had a slightly altered idea he believed was correct, though it played closer off of the hermeneutics of reform, which would go along the lines of the “Both discontinuous AND continuous” in a very particularly interpreted fashion.

    Still though, it would seem you yourself are forwarding that the Cardinal is using a ‘wrong’ way of interpreting the matter of interpretation, not that you and he could be BOTH right.

    You are also mistaken if you think there isn’t a considerable amount of discussion about inculturation of the Mass in the U.S. by many both in and vastly outside of the field of Liturgical Theology on all sides of the matter. However, I don’t think there will be an attempt to in any way go against the reforms of the Mass at Vatican II, though we are constantly in a process of working things out, including excesses in both directions (Vatican II, after all, neither said “Now make sure the Mass is precisely the same in every parish right down to the same closing hymn” nor “let it be completely unrecognisable as any way related from parish to parish”).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: