The Hermeneutic Of Blindness

Found wanting: Second Vatican Council

Read on the usual Rorate the report concerning a talk held by Father Berg, FSSP superior. Father Berg tries, like the FSSP as a whole, to square the circle, and unavoidably fails to persuade.

The main messages Father Berg sends are in my eyes two: a) the Council radicalised the conservatives as well as it did the progressive, and b) none of the two opposing sides tried to follow the “difficult” path of the much-abused “hermeneutic of continuity”.

As to the first point, we do not have the script, but I would be curious to know whether Father Berg brought some evidence of the supposed “radicalisation”. Unless and until Father provides evidence, I think it much fairer to say the Conservatives haven’t radicalised themselves in the least, but have simply kept the position the Church always had. It is a contradiction in term to accuse he who hasn’t changed of having radicalised himself simply because other people have done exactly the same.

As to the second point, Father puts himself in an argumentative cul-de-sac with his very words: if Vatican II had been the fruit of orthodox thinking, the “hermeneutic of continuity” wouldn’t have been difficult at all; but the Council was exactly that: revolutionary and disruptive, hence the mess that followed it.

The Council must, says Father, be interpreted in a spirit of continuity with the past. Of course it must; every Church document must be read in this way, and it would be utterly Un-Catholic to even attempt anything else. But exactly here lies the problem. When examined with a hermeneutic of continuity in mind, the Council documents appear gravely wanting: muddled, duplicitous, wrong, or outright stupid.

There is no way you can reconcile white with black and keep it white. There is no way you can, say, reconcile religious liberty as seen before and after Vatican II and say it is the same. It just isn’t. Therefore, one must read the Conciliar documents in a hermeneutic of continuity and conclude they are seriously flawed documents.

I am all in favour of a hermeneutic of continuity. Again, I do not think any other approach is possible. But exactly for his reason I think all documents produced by that disgraceful exercise in marketing and populism must be put in the attic and substituted for newly written documents addressing the relevant issues without ambiguities, and able to stand the test of being read with a hermeneutic of continuity and found not wanting.

Odd, isn’t it, that by the encyclicals and other documents from pre-V II Popes problems of “hermeneutic” were never a big issue? Perhaps because they were clearly written, and orthodox, in the first place?

Vatican II was the fruit of the flawed (nay: heretical) ideology that took possession of it pretty much from the start of the official works. Its documents are nothing but the unavoidable consequence of this original flaw. Consequently, they must be discarded and their place taken by new documents, which are written in sound orthodox language and transmit sound orthodox Catholic values rather than trying to please everyone, but particularly the wrong crowd.

It’s exactly their reading in an Hermeneutic of continuity that demands it.


Posted on June 10, 2013, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Brilliant blog. You’re right in saying that all this talk about ‘the Hermeneutic of Continuity’ shows that there’s something inherently flawed in the VII documents. If there wasn’t why is there a need to constantly insist that they must be read in the light of the past.

  2. Thank you for this (I was waiting for it). It makes me wonder, though, if Pope Benedict XVI had any intention of writing a document that would in effect rewrite and summarize Vatican II in clear, unmistakable language that would show its supposed continuity with Tradition. He was such an advocate of the hair-pulling hermeneutic of continuity, I wonder if he took any pains to demonstrate it in writing (I’m not counting the random sound bites in its defense).

    • I think Pope Benedict was smarter than trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. Any detailed analysis of the right meaning of the V II must perforce expose their contradictions and doublespeak.


  3. vermontcrank1

    The easy thing to do is to stand-up and identify strong opponents of a particular position as extremists while posing as an example of the reasonable individual but that never gets to the crucial point about truth.

    I’d like to read his whole remarks to be better able to make a judgment of what he said but the FSSP is known for being non-confrontational while maintaining unity – and that is one acceptable way to have responded to the modern crisis.

    • Yes, the position of the FSSP is, in itself, perfectly legitimate. The Oratorians here in London follow the same path. The problem arise, I think, when one tries to defend the indefensible whilst letting the orthodox appear, in a way, “radicalised”.

      They aren’t radicalised, simply orthodox.

      And they are right.


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