Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Achievement of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II: Vatican II's Epistemology and Anthropology

At the opening of the Second Vatican Council, St. John XXIII on October 11, 1962 wrote: “(T)he Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a Magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.

Concerning the achievement of the Council, St. John Paul II, in his Catechism[1] for the diocese of Krakow, wrote in 1972: “If we study the Conciliar magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors of the Church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe?,’ ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but  rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church/’They endeavored to answer this question in the broad context of today’s world, as indeed the complexity of the question itself requires.[2]

            “The question ‘What does it mean to be a believing member of the Church?’ is indeed difficult and complex, because it not only presupposes the truth of faith and pure doctrine, but also calls for that truth to be situated in the human consciousness and call for definition of the attitude or rather the many attitudes, that go to make the individual a believing member of the Church. This would seem to be the main respect in which the Conciliar magisterium has a pastoral character, corresponding to the pastoral purpose for which it was called. A ‘purely’ doctrinal Council would have concentrated on defining the precise meaning of the truths of faith, whereas a pastoral Council proclaims, recalls or clarifies truths for the primary purpose of giving Christians a life-style, a way of thinking and acting. In our efforts to put the Council into practice, this is the style we must keep before our minds….In the present study, designed to help towards the realization of Vatican II, we shall concentrate on the consciousness of Christians and the attitudes they should acquire.”[3]

The Range of Vatican II: “The incorporation of the thought of Vatican II in all the Church’s previous formulations has already taken place on the basis of the historical succession of documents. Integration means something more: an organic cohesion expressing itself simultaneously in the thought and action of the Church as a community of believers. It expresses itself, that is, in  such a way that on the one hand we can rediscover and, as it were, re-read the magisterium of the last Council in the hole previous magisterium of the Church, while on the other we can rediscover and re-read the whole preceding magisterium in that of the last Council.”[4]

The Formulation of Christian Anthropology as Consciousness: Gaudium et spes #24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of self.” St. John Paul II wrote: “As the year 2000 since the birth of Christ draws near, it is a question of ensuring that an every greater number of people ‘may fully find themselves…through a sincere gift of self’”… The Council repeats this truth about man, and the Church sees in it a particularly strong and conclusive indication of her own apostolic tasks. For if man is the way of the Church, this way passes through the whole mystery of Christ, as man’s divine model… These words of the Pastoral Constitution of the Council can be said to sum up the whole of Christian anthropology…”[5]

[1] “Sources of Renewal – The Implementation of the Second Vatican Council,” Harper and Row, (1979).
[2] p. 17
[3] p. 18.
[4] Ibid. p. 40.
[5] John Paul II, “Dominum et Vivificantem.” #59.

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