John Paul II, Vatican II and Humane Vitae
“In June 1959, the ante-Preparatory Commission established by John XXIII had written to all the world’s Catholic bishops, superiors of men’s religious orders, and theological faculties, asking their suggestions for the Council’s agenda. Many bishops submitted outlines of internal Church matters they wanted to discuss; Bishop Karol Wojtyla sent the commissioners an essay – the work of a thinker, not a canon lawyer. Rather than beginning with what the Church needed to do to reform its own house, he adopted a quite different starting point. What, he asked, is the human condition today? What do the men and women of this age expect to hear from the Church?
“The crucial issue of the times, he suggested, was the human person: a unique being, who lived in a material world but had intense spiritual longings, a mystery to himself and to others, a creature whose dignity emerged from an interior life imprinted with the image and likeness of God. The world wanted to hear what the Church had to say about the human person and the human condition, particularly in light of other proposals – “scientific, positivist, dialectical” – that imagined themselves humanistic and presented themselves as roads to liberation. At the end of 2,000 years of Christian history, the world had a question to put to the Church: What was Christian humanism and how was it different from the sundry other humanisms on offer in late modernity? What was the Church’s answer to modernity’s widespread “despair [about] any and all human existence’? (...)
“Karol Wojtyla’s submission to the Ante-Preparatory Commission reflected the imprint of his first four decades of life: the Nazi Occupation and life in Stalinist Poland; his experience in the classroom and the confessional; his effort to grasp ‘God, inscrutable in the mystery of man’s inmost life’ through his poetry, his plays, and his philosophical essays. There are overtones of Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk and the Rhapsodic Theater in Wojtyla’s discussion of the relationships of the sacred and the worldly. His experience with his young couples resonate through his proposals for a lay apostolate that embodies Christian humanism in venues the clergy cannot reach. (One can even hear an echo of kayak paddles on the Mazurian Lakes in Wojtyla’s proposal that canon law be changed so that ‘attendance at Mass on a portable altar… fulfill the Church’s requirement for Holy Days and Sundays’ without special permission.)
What was singular and, to use an abused term in its proper sense prophetic about Wojtyla’s proposal was its insistence that the question of a humanism adequate to the aspirations of the men and women of the age had to be the epicenter of the Council’s concerns. There would be much talk before, during and after the Council about ‘reading the signs of the times.’ Here was a thirty-nine-year-old bishop who, having done precisely that, had put his finger on the deepest wound of his century so that it could be healed by a more compelling proclamation of the Gospel.”
And what did he do with the other fathers of Vatican II?
1) He was moved up from the back door of St. Peters: “At the beginning of my partaicipation in the Council, I was a young bishop. I remember that at first my seart was right next to the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica. From the third session on – after I was appointed Archbishop of Krakow – I was moved closer to the altar….
“Thus by the third session I found myself a member of the group preparing the so-called Thirteenth Schema, the document that would become the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes. I was able to participate in the extremely interesting work of this group which was made up of representatives of the Theological Commission and of the lay apostolate. I will never forget the meeting at Ariccia in January 1965. I am personally indebted to Cardinal Gabriel-Marie Garrone for his fundamental help in drafting the new document…. I am particularly indebted to Father Yves Congar and to Father Henri De Lubac. I still remember today the words with which the latter encouraged me to persevere in the line of thought that I had taken up during the discussion. This happened when the meetings were taking place at the Vatican. From that moment on I enjoyed a special friendship with Father De Lubac.”
A Philosophical Perspective of Vatican II:
2) “Vatican II is a demonstration-model of the phenomenological method employed on an international scale. It exemplifies the final developmental stage, postulated by Husserl, of an intersubjective phenomenology which would take its point of departure, not from individual subjectivity, but from transcendental intersubjectivity. Vatican II, accordingly, offers a unique application of a universal transcendental philosophy in the field of religious reflection for the practical purposes of moral and social-cultural renewal.”
Simply put: “The use of phenomenology at the Council has not touched the substance of Catholic doctrine, but it has given it a whole new tonality. The effect has been much like transposing a piece of music from C-major to C-minor. Or, to use an even more apt analogy, like the intellectual adjustment necessary to move from an industrialized society into an age of electronics. This psychological ‘gravity shift’ is essentially to a radically new modality, particularly in the domain of theoretical conceptualization. … Why? … to serve the practical, pastoral renewal of the Church and ultimately, of contemporary mankind.”
Yet again: To render the Revelation of Christ and the entire Magisterium of the Church as Kerygma. As Pope Francis said it in Evangelii Gaudium #164:
In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal. The kerygma is Trinitarian. The fire of the Spirit is given in the gorm of tongues and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection, reveals and communicates to us the Fathers’ infinte mercy. On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation musts ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’ This first proclamation is called ‘first’ not because a it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment. For this reason too, ‘the priest – like every other member of the Church – ought to grow in awareness that he himself is continually in need of being evangelized.’
“We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more ‘solid’ formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaninglful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines the work of catechesis, therebvy enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responsidng to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart. The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonyious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelizal All this demands on the part of the evangelizer certain attitudes which foster openness to the message…”
3) The above being so, Wojtyla wrote that the teaching of Vatican II that is the same “doctrine” as-always - but in a new “key” – must be “re-read” … in the whole previous magisterium of the Church, while on the other [hand] we can rediscover and re-read the whole preceding magisterium in that of the last Council. It would seem that the principle of integration, thus conceived and applied, is indirectly the principle of the Church’s identity, dating back to its first beginnings in Christ and the Apostles. This principle of identity operated in the Council and must continue to do so, integrating the whole patrimony of faith with and in the consciousness of the Church.”
4) And this is a large point. What is conceptual as “doctrinal” now fits into an experiential “consciousness” as meaning that comes from the dynamic of faith as an exodus of the “I” of the believer in receiving the Word of God [the Person of Christ]. That is, the consciousness that the Church has of Christ in history is always the same (of Christ) but develops and grows through history. Wojtyla explains this in his “The Acting Person” where the experience of sensible reality is the ground of abstract and objectifying doctrine where the experience of the “I” going out of self in faith engenders a consciousness of self –becoming-another Christ.
5) This became Gaudium et Spes #24 where the traditional [objectified] anthropology of individual substance of a rational nature became “man, the only earthly being, God has made for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” And this is the Christian and metaphysical anthropology of HV #12 in the new key.