Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, warns us against extremist views concerning the Second Vatican Council. There are those in both the traditionalist and progressive camps that see the Council as a “rupture”, believing that there was a radical break with the Catholic past. Pope Benedict, by contrast, has spoken of “the hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in continuity.” Archbishop Müller said, “Outside this sole orthodox interpretation unfortunately exists a heretical interpretation, that is, a hermeneutic of rupture, [found] both on the progressive front and on the traditionalist” side.What the extremists have in common, he said, is their rejection of the Council: “The progressives in their wanting to leave it behind, as if it were a season to abandon in order to get to another Church, and the traditionalists in their not wanting to get there”, seeing the council as a Catholic “winter”.
For many of us in the Ordinariate the Second Vatican Council is especially precious, but we should not imagine that our reconciliation with the worldwide Church only became possible because of its reforming work. The following remarkable obituary of Pope Pius XII was penned by the late Cardinal John Heenan.
To the world at large, the Pope stood as a figure apart, speaking words of peace, involking blessings upon a stricken world. But to Catholics he was naturally much more. His wisdom brought the practice of their faith into line with the stress of modern life. One of the most far reaching of his reforms was his entirely new approach to the discipline of fasting before receiving Holy Communion.
His was always an original approach; for example, he authorised bishops to arrange for the celebration of Mass in the evening, as well as in the morning. Thousands of peoploe who could never be at Mass except on Sundays are now able to enjoy the spiritual benefits of frequent Mass, and Holy Communion.
He was not only original but courageous in his enterprise. To take one isolated example: he allowed a convert clergyman to be ordained priest, although a married man.
Thus we see what Pope Benedict means when he stresses the “hermeneutic of continuity”. The far-sighted courage of his predecessor Pope Pius XII in dispensing the “convert clergyman” and allowing a married man to be ordained, has brought joy to hundreds of former Anglican clergy, married men, but able to be ordained as Catholic priests. Thus the renewing reforms of the Council are to be understood, and put into practice, within the great stream of faith and teaching which comes to us down the centuries from the Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles.
Finally, does anyone know who this “convert clergman” was? Did he come from the Church of England, or another part of the Anglican Communion? And was Pope Pius XII the first Pope to dispense from the vow of celibacy in this particular situation, and thus allow for the ordination of a former cleric to the Catholic priesthood?