Response to Brendan FoleyMarch 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: Cardinal Franc Rode, Franc Cardinal Rode, Gene Burns, Giuseppe Alberigo, Greek philosophy, John W. O'Malley SJ, Joseph Komonchak, Second Vatican Council, The Bologna School, The Frontiers of Catholicism, Vatican Congregation on Religious Life, Vatican Council II, Vatican II, Vatican II: Did Anything Happen?
Since I don’t get too many comments about my blog posts, I thought I would express my appreciation to Brendan Foley for his response to my March 9 entry, “The Rupture of Inculturation?” by writing back.
Brendan suggests that I don’t seem to know very much about Vatican II, and mentions that he himself took a course on Vatican II with Joseph Komonchak. Komonchak, as I mentioned in an even earlier blog, co-edited the great five-volume history of Vatican II, along with Giuseppe Alberigo. Since I certainly did not take such a course, it seems likely that Brendan knows more, perhaps even a good deal more, about Vatican II than I do.
Brendan, as I read him, doesn’t understand my criticism of a talk given at the 2008 Stonehill Conference on Religious Life in which Franc Cardinal Rode, the prefect of the Vatican congregation on religious life, argues that there is a right and wrong interpretation of Vatican II. Why, Brendan wonders, do I think that Rode’s condemnation of the “wrong” hermeneutic is aimed at Komonchak’s reading of Vatican II as an event. Komonchak himself would say that some readings of Vatican II are wrong–those of the Lefebrvists, for example. I must admit, I hadn’t thought of the Lefebrvists. Brendan has a point here. I should have said I’d never heard any of the progressive Catholics I hang out with use the word “rupture” to characterize the Council.
All that notwithstanding, I want to assure Brendan that it isn’t the Lefebrvists that Cardinal Rode is addressing in his Stonehill talk. It’s the “Bologna school” historians who advanced the interpretation of Vatican II as an event (and US women religious). John W. O’Malley SJ introduces his chapter in Vatican II: Did Anything Happen? (Continuum 2008) with the details of a presentation by another Vatican official, Camillo Cardinal Ruino. In this presentation Ruino welcomed a new book on the Council as a counterpoint to–“indeed, the polar opposite”–of the interpretation that had previously monopolized conciliar historiography. As such, the new book would move the church on to a “correct” interpretation of the Council. In this presentation the Cardinal singled out the Bologna school as the principal and most influential creator of this incorrect understanding (52-53). O’Malley continues:
“…the Bologna school and especially Alberigo are being singled out as the great propagators of a history of the council that badly distorts it and that must be opposed. Other scholars are being criticized for a similar approach, but Alberigo and his colleagues are the ones most often mentioned by name…
O’Malley then elaborates on these attacks:
“I do not see that Alberigo and others who have used ‘event’ as an instrument to interpret the council have given it the radical meaning that their critics attribute to them…Nowhere in the Alberigo volumes is there the slightest suggestion that “new beginning” meant in any way a rupture in the faith of the Church or a diminution of any dogma” (54-55).
And while O’Malley does not mention Komonchak by name at this point, the volume begins with Komonchak’s Henri de Lubac lecture given at St. Louis University in 1997, “Vatican II as an Event.” Komonchak knows that since he is Alberigo’s co-editor, the “wrong” interpretation of Vatican II–Vatican II as rupture– is being projected onto his work.
Lastly, let me respond to Brendan’s observation that if I were to learn more about Greek philosophy, I would realize that some things really are either right or wrong. Perhaps, Brendan; perhaps. On the other hand, pre-Enlightenment philosophy may not provide the most effective tools for understanding as massive and complex an event as the Second Vatican Council. Almost twenty years ago the historical sociologist Gene Burns published a penetrating study of Vatican II, The Frontiers of Catholicism (Princeton 1992). In it he argues compellingly that the legacy of Vatican II is ambiguous. And indeed, here we are, still fighting about what it means, almost half a century after it ended. Perhaps while I’m boning up on the Greeks you should take a look at Frontiers.