Reform, renewal and continuity: understanding Vatican 2

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.

Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII

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?


About Scott Anderson

Formerly an Anglican priest (ordained 1975) received into the Catholic Church in February 2012, and ordained to the Diaconate on 27th July 2013. I took early retirement, and divide my time between London and northern France. I am deeply committed to the Ordinariate as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the search for unity. Like many Ordinariate members I feel a personal gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict, together with loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. My blog tries to make a small contribution to the growth of the Ordinariate by asking questions (and proposing some answers) about the 'Anglican Patrimony'. I have always been fascinated by the whole issue of growth and decline, and therefore concerned for appropriate means of evangelisation in western Europe. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing the People of God and that we must be open to him. My love of music and motorcycles will occasionally surface in my posts. On Saturday 19th October 2013, I was ordained to the Priesthood at Most Precious Blood, Borough, by the Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, for the service of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I continued to serve the Ordinariate group and Parish at Most Precious Blood until the end of 2014. Subsequently, I helped in the care of the Ordinariate Groups at Hemel Hempstead and Croydon, and in the Archdiocese of Southwark, until the beginning of September 2015. With the agreement of my Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, the Bishop of Amiens appointed me Administrator of the Parish of Notre Dame des Etangs (Pont Remy) in Picardie, France. This appointment is to last for a year, to give the Bishop the opportunity to assess the future of the parish.
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3 Responses to Reform, renewal and continuity: understanding Vatican 2

  1. Don Henri says:

    This first married Priest in the Western Catholic Church was a former German Priest, and a former Lutherna pastor, ordained in the 50’s in the diocese of Regensburg. Two factors led to this: After WWII, the Lutheran regional Churches in Germany restructured, merging with the Reformed Churches in Länders it had not did so earlier, therefore creating a national united protestant body: the Evangelical Church of Germany. This led a number of concerned “Luthero-Catholics” (A still living specy: imagine a German Anglo-Catholicism, eg. Luther’s Small Massbook in German with Tridentine ceremonial) clergymen to ask to be received in the Catholic Church. The second factor is that the German Church has been since a long time influenced by Protestantism, and was already ready in the 50’s to accept married men as Priests. This protestant influence had far worse results in the year after the council when the madness began in some dioceses.
    We have seen married priests in the western church before: reconciled Old Catholics whose orders were valid. But the German former pastor is the first married priest actually ordained in the Western Catholic Church.
    Many parts of the Church are still reluctant to this idea, even when it’s a fact to deal with. Married Priests ordained in Czechia during communist persecutions (so as to be less likely to be suspected) were asked to transfer to the Byzantine Church after the liberation.

    + pax et bonum

  2. Don Henri says:

    I suppose also that this decision about former German Lutheran clergy was motivated by the personal knowledge Pope Pius the XII had of their situation, having been nuncio to Germany in the 30’s, the heyday of the catholic movement in the regional Lutheran Churches of Germany, particularly in the diocese of Berlin where the nunciature was situated.
    There are still some highly liturgical congregations in the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD) but of course, if they are catholic in liturgy (Eucharist called the Mass and celebrated everyday, often with much ceremonial), they are also modernist in theology, as the EKD endorse for example women bishops and gay marriage.
    The church of the 12 Apostles in Berlin is such a congregation: It sponsors an ecumenical St Michael abbey welcoming gay monks and nuns (if such a thing is even possible):

    + pax et bonum

  3. Don Henri says:

    And of course, this provision for former Lutheran clergy in Germany is still sometimes used:

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