Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Tracey Rowland on the Pope's Interpretation of the Council

MELBOURNE, Australia, JULY 25, 2005 (Zenit) - Many believe that "Gaudium et Spes" was the key document that shaped the life of the Church in the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council.

However, according to theologian Tracey Rowland, 40 years of post-conciliar history and reflection on the 1965 pastoral constitution have led many to conclude that the document had an inadequate understanding of culture, particularly that of the culture of liberal modernity.

The result, Rowland reckons, was the unleashing of currents within the Church that gravely harmed the liturgy and offered a false humanism ultimately destructive to the pastoral care of souls.

Rowland is dean and permanent fellow of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family -- Melbourne and author of "Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II" (Routledge).

She shared with us why a reconsideration and reinterpretation of "Gaudium et Spes," a dominant theme in the theological work of Joseph Ratzinger, is necessary to reorient the Church's encounter with liberal modernity.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Tuesday.

Q: What was Joseph Ratzinger's role at the Second Vatican Council, and how did it shape his theological views?

Rowland: He attended the Council as a peritus for Joseph Cardinal Frings of Cologne. In a famous speech, Frings launched an attack on the Holy Office and the exchange between him and Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani is often described as the most passionate debate of the Council. It is thought that the young Ratzinger contributed ideas for Frings' criticism.

As for the effect of the Council on Ratzinger, his attendance as a peritus would have given him a valuable bird's-eye view of the Catholic intellectual landscape, a knowledge of the problems faced by the Church in different parts of the world and some experience of the operation of the Curia.

I don't think, however, that the Council changed his views so much as his views shaped the Council.

Q: What is the new Pope's view of the Church's role and its relationship to "the world" as understood by the Second Vatican Council?

Rowland: The Second Vatican Council described the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Accordingly, the Church is not an entity distinct from the world but the world reconciled unto itself and unto God. This is the kind of vision one would expect Benedict to promote.

Contrary to popular perceptions, his Augustinian spirituality does not mean that he is against the world or that he believes that Catholics should crawl into ghettos.

What it does mean is that he is no Pelagian. He doesn't think that with sufficient education the New Jerusalem can be built on earth. Civics education alone, lectures on human rights, exhortations about brotherly love and the common good, will get nowhere unless people are open to the work of grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

A humanism that is not Christian cannot save the world. This was the conclusion of his fellow peritus Henri de Lubac, and Benedict has made some very strong statements against the pretensions of a mere secular humanism.

Moreover, while he is not advocating a retreat from the world, he has exhorted Catholics to rediscover with evangelical seriousness the courage of nonconformism in the face of the social trends of the affluent world.

He has said that we ought to have the courage to rise up against what is regarded as "normal" for a person at the end of the 20th century and to rediscover faith in its simplicity. In other words, one can engage the world, and be in the world, without being of the world.

Q: How has this project, laid out by the Council Fathers in "Gaudium et Spes," succeeded or failed?

Rowland: Against the background of secularizing readings of "Gaudium et Spes," John Paul II argued that the document needs to be read from the perspective of Paragraph 22. In a nutshell, it says that the human person needs to know Christ in order to have self-understanding.

No doubt Pope Benedict would agree that this paragraph undercuts some of the ambivalent language if it is taken as the lens through which the rest of the document is read. But how many of the world's Catholics, including the clergy, know about the significance of Paragraph 22?

The popular interpretation of this document was that it represented an acknowledgment on the part of the Church that modernity is OK and that it is the will of the Holy Spirit that Catholics accommodate their practices and culture, including liturgical culture, to modernity's spirit as quickly as possible.

This had the effect of generating a cultural revolution within the Church such that anything that was characteristically pre-conciliar became suspect.

Modes of liturgical dress, forms of prayer, different devotions, hymns that had been a part of the Church's cultural treasury for centuries, were not just dumped, but actively suppressed. To be a practicing Catholic in many parishes, one had to buy into the pop culture of the 1960s and 1970s.

Against this, Ratzinger has been critical of what he calls "claptrap and pastoral infantilism" -- "the degradation of liturgy to the level of a parish tea party and the intelligibility of the popular newspaper."

If the project of "Gaudium et Spes" is taken to mean "accommodating the practice of the faith to the culture of modernity," then I think that the project has been problematic in pastoral terms.

If, however, it is read more through the lens of de Lubac's "The Drama of Atheistic Humanism," then I think that the project of reaching out to so-called modern man and helping him to find himself by promoting John Paul II's theology of the body, the Trinitarian anthropology of the encyclicals "Redemptor Hominis," "Dives in Misericordia" and "Dominum et Vivificantem," and the values of the Gospel of Life in "Evangelium Vitae" and "Veritatis Splendor" -- that project has really only just begun and has a long way to go before it starts to bear fruit.

Q: In what sense is there continuity or discontinuity between in the views of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II -- a major contributor to "Gaudium et Spes" -- in regard to the Church's interaction with "the world"?

Rowland: I think that there will be continuity in the sense that Benedict would no doubt agree that a de Lubacian-type reading of "Gaudium et Spes" is desirable -- that culture is not theologically neutral, that we have a choice between a civilization of love and a culture of death, and that Christ and a Christian anthropology are needed to rescue us from a web of cultural and moral practices which destroy human integrity and foster nihilism.

However, one difference in nuance is that Benedict is less inclined to use a particular rhetorical strategy favored by John Paul II.

To give an example, John Paul II once said that the Church of the Council "saw itself as the soul of modernity." He then defined modernity as "a convergence of conditions that permit a human being to express better his or her own maturity, spiritual, moral and cultural." The problem here is that this is not what most people think of when they hear the expression "modernity"; and it is certainly not the reading one finds in the many scholarly accounts of this cultural phenomenon.

From what I have read, Benedict doesn't adopt this intellectual strategy. When Benedict talks about modernity he doesn't try to redefine the common meaning. This is perhaps because he thinks that there is little rhetorical advantage in presenting the Church as modern when the postmoderns are so busy being critical of modernity. It simply aligns Catholics with a position whose popularity in on the wane.

A second way I think the papacies of the two might differ is that whereas John Paul II concentrated on ethics and anthropology -- and hence the central themes of "Gaudium et Spes" -- it is possible that Benedict will take a more ecclesiological focus, concentrating on themes in "Lumen Gentium" and the [Vatican II] decree on ecumenism as well as dealing with the whole territory of liturgy.

In the "City of God," St. Augustine wrote that in the composition of the world's history under divine providence there is a beauty arising from the antithesis of contraries -- a kind of eloquence in events, instead of in words.

Comparing the two papacies there is a kind of historical eloquence in that Wojtyla, the Pole, is elected to see off the Marxists and focus on the promotion of an alternative Christian anthropology, while the German Ratzinger is elected to contend with problems created by, among others, Luther and Nietzsche.

This papacy may well be focused on healing the wounds of the Reformation that began in Germany, and fighting what Benedict calls the "dictatorship of relativism" whose intellectual lineage is also strongly Germanic.

There is a definite divine beauty and playfulness in this.

[Tuesday: Benedict XVI, Thomism and liberal culture]

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Benedict, Vatican, Modernity, Gaudium et Spes, Rowland

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 250 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Priestly Identity: Crisis and Renewal (Part 1)
Catholic Online

Al Qaeda...afraid of Benedict's message!
Hugh McNichol

Benedict XVI...calling all to hope...
Hugh McNichol

Perfect Women
Cheryl Dickow

Papal Palm Sunday Address - 'Enough With the Bloodshed'
Catholic Online

Spotlight on China
Catholic Online

Papal Homily for Palm Sunday
Catholic Online

Holy Week...Holy Time!
Hugh McNichol

Mary and Motherhood
Cheryl Dickow

The Void
Paul Sposite

Islamic violence wounds the global community!
Hugh McNichol

The Seven New Deadly Sins!
Hugh McNichol

Catholic benefits include Catholic principles!
Hugh McNichol

Remembering Father Alfred Kunz
Matt C. Abbott

David vs Goliath
Theresa Lisiecki

Happy Lent!
Paul Sposite

Diplomacy...Vatican style!
Hugh McNichol

Sub umbra Petri! (Under the Shadow of Saint Peter)
Hugh McNichol

Cuba...a neonascent Church!
Hugh McNichol

Kids in Conflict
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On the Writings of St. Augustine
Catholic Online

The Relevance of Lourdes at 150
Catholic Online

Hillary...what would Saint Norbert say!
Hugh McNichol

Lent...questions, answers and involvement!
Hugh McNichol

Mary, Mother of all Humanity, Hic et Nunc!
Hugh McNichol

Catholics...WAKE UP!
Hugh McNichol

Catholic Brotherhood with the People of the Covenant
Hugh McNichol

Have mercy on us O Lord! - Ash Wednesday
Hugh McNichol

Vote early, vote Catholic!
Hugh McNichol

Christ, our global Alpha and Omega!
Hugh McNichol

Being Catholic means...total affirmation of being Catholic!
Hugh McNichol

Seeing the World through New Eyes
Sarah Reinhard

Emulating the Angelic Doctor!
Hugh McNichol

Priests defend, commend Archbishop Raymond Burke
Matt C. Abbott

Saint Paul...a continued example of radical conversion!
Hugh McNichol

A renaissance of faith, reason and global cooperation....
Hugh McNichol

Cardinal Rigali's Homily at Life Vigil
Catholic Online

Angelus: On Christian Unity
Catholic Online

Silencing the Pope
Catholic Online

Papal Homily on Feast of Christ's Baptism
Catholic Online

Education and Gender
Catholic Online

The ignominy of Roe vs. Wade
Hugh McNichol

Papal Message for World Day of the Sick
Catholic Online

Angelus: On Christian Unity
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Planned Lecture at La Sapienza
Catholic Online

Pope's Letter to Jesuits' 35th General Congregation
Catholic Online

Fr. Cantalamessa - Behold, the Lamb of God!
Catholic Online

That We May Be One, and Never Lose Heart
Catholic Online

Sowing Hope in Sierra Leone
Catholic Online

God-incidences are the gift of kairos moments
Mary Regina Morrell

St. Augustine's Last Days
Catholic Online

Liturgy: When There's a Medical Emergency
Catholic Online

Marriage and Celibacy: Love's Link
Catholic Online

Developing a Global Catholic Awareness
Hugh McNichol

Rooms in My Father's House
Cheryl Dickow

Resolutions for New Year 2008
Chris Anthony

Keep teaching Holy Father!!!
Hugh McNichol

Dangers of anti-Catholic academic extremism....
Hugh McNichol

The liturgy war
Matt C. Abbott

Some Answers to a Few Common Questions about Vocations
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Developing a Global Catholic Awareness
Hugh McNichol

Christmas reflections
Chris Anthony

The Lasting Contribution of The Servant of God Pope John Paul II
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

No more bobble-head Jesus'!
Hugh McNichol

Pope's Address to Baptist World Alliance
Catholic Online

The Virgin Without Sin
Catholic Online

Cardinal Vingt-Trois on His New Mission
Catholic Online

Archbishop Forte on Religion & Freedom: Part 1
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Chromatius of Aquileia, Pope, Benedict
Catholic Online

Pope's Address for Consistory of Cardinals
Catholic Online

Trafficking in Lives
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict - On Hope
Catholic Online

The Hidden Costs of Gambling
Catholic Online

A Vital, Life-Giving Message
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Christianity's Contribution
Catholic Online

Youth and Fashion's Modest Twist
Catholic Online

Papal Homily at the Consistory
Catholic Online

Love, Marriage and Happy Kids
Catholic Online

The Virtue of Obedience: Our Duty, Our Crown
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Vere dignum et justum est!
Hugh McNichol

Pope's Address to Bishops of Kenya
Catholic Online

Democracy in Danger in Venezuela
Catholic Online

The Life-Sapping Human Virus
Catholic Online

'You Alone Are The Lord': A Brief Summary of Catholic Teaching
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Sacred Time...Come Lord Jesus!
Hugh McNichol

How Christ-like are we in our lives?
Chris Anthony

A Retreat for Today's Christian Woman
Cheryl Dickow

Pope Benedict - On Trust in God
Catholic Online

God and Caesar Seen From Down Under
Catholic Online

Praying the Luminous Mysteries for our Clergy
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Culture's Pressure on Our Girls
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

Papal Message on the Common Good
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - St. Jerome on the Bible
Catholic Online

What Every Parent Should Know About 'The Golden Compass'
Catholic Online

Cardinal Poupard on 'Populorum Progressio'
Catholic Online

A Richer Liturgical Translation: Interview With Bishop Roche
Catholic Online

U.S. Bishops' Statement on War in Iraq
Catholic Online

The 'Golden Compass' is no treasure for children
Mary Regina Morrell

Bishop Skylstad's Address to U.S. Bishops' Fall Meeting
Catholic Online

Rewarding Failure
Catholic Online

On St. Martin of Tours
Catholic Online

Undermining Parents
Catholic Online

God...our theological E.F.Hutton!
Hugh McNichol

The Secular Vs. Religion?
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Jerome
Catholic Online

The Scourge of Poverty
Catholic Online

Sons and Daughters of God...EQUALLY!
Hugh McNichol

On Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Catholic Online

Why Dads Matter
Catholic Online

Archbishop Chaput on Citizenship and Evangelization
Catholic Online

God Created Man for Life, Not Death
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for November
Catholic Online

Imposing 'Tolerance'
Catholic Online

Evangelizing a Digital World
Catholic Online

A Turn to the Fathers: Interview With Father Robert Dodaro
Catholic Online

Aborting Viable Lives
Catholic Online

Women Religious on Human Trafficking
Catholic Online

Chicago law firm fights for civil rights, against death culture
Matt C. Abbott

Fr. Cantalamessa - The Pharisee and the Publican
Catholic Online

Media Benefits and Dangers
Catholic Online

On the Call to Martyrdom
Catholic Online

'You Alone Are The Lord': A Brief Summary of Catholic Teaching
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

John Crosby on Von Hildebrand's Understanding of the Person
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Ambrose of Milan
Catholic Online

On Peace, Missions and Justice
Catholic Online

Address of Holy See on Religious Liberty
Catholic Online

Recovering subtle signs of our Catholic Identity!
Hugh McNichol

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on 'Populorum Progressio'
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Eusebius of Vercelli
Catholic Online

Christ's Parable About the Need to Pray Always
Catholic Online

Prostitution: Legal Work or Slavery?
Catholic Online

Escaping Poverty: Interview With Archbishop Silvano Tomasi
Catholic Online

Congratulations to His Eminence John Cardinal Foley!
Hugh McNichol

Giving Ourselves Completely to Mary
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

The 'Courage' to go 'Beyond Gay'
Matt C. Abbott

When Bioethics Turned Secular
Catholic Online

Confession Comeback
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On Hilary of Poitiers
Catholic Online

Reemergence of Global Catholic Identity!
Hugh McNichol

Father Cantalamessa on the Leap of Faith
Catholic Online

Month of the Rosary
Catholic Online

Why Technology Needs Ethics
Catholic Online

Cardinal Lozano Barragán on Future of Health Care
Catholic Online

How Can Catholics Understand Mary as Co-Redemprix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate?
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

New Saint Book is Visually Stunning and Filled with Detail
Lisa M. Hendey

Papal Homily in Velletri
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa Analyzes Relationship
Catholic Online

Wednesday'a Audience - On St. Cyril of Alexandria
Catholic Online

Holy See Address to U.N. General Assembly
Catholic Online

Homily From Red Mass in Washington
Catholic Online

Pope Remembers Cardinal Van Thuân
Catholic Online

Faith in Politics
Catholic Online

The brave monks of Myanmar
Chris Anthony

On Lazarus and World Hunger
Catholic Online

Fighting the Good Fight: Resisting Temptation
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Media frenzy buries U.N. goals

Holy See Statement on Climate Change
Catholic Online

China's Seven Sorrows
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On Chrysostom's Social Doctrine
Catholic Online

Vatican Message to Muslims for Ramadan
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa on the First World and Lazarus
Catholic Online

Angels, God's Messengers in a world of fragile peace and Broken promises!
Hugh McNichol

Memo to Mrs. Clinton: Why Not Baby Bonds When Life Begins?
Deacon Keith Fournier

Reorienting the Mass
Catholic Online

Report Card on Religious Freedom
Catholic Online

On Wealth and Poverty
Catholic Online

A Response to Hitchens' 'God Is Not Great'
Catholic Online

Vetoing children's health care?

The ideal family
Joseph Sinasac

Who does the judging?
Dennis Heaney

One mistake away

The Big House ban

In praise of the parish

Text of the USCCB statement for Respect Life Sunday 2007

The Outstanding Purity of Our Blessed Mother
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Educated flock

Religion and politics

Facing a door to the future
Dennis Heaney

A long debate

Who Are the True Progressives?
Deacon Keith Fournier

Petraeus offers a dose of reality

Insurgence
Robert Storr

Papal Address at Vespers
Catholic Online

Papal Coat of Arms Still Relevant
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Address at Heiligenkreuz Abbey
Catholic Online

On Loving Jesus as Mary Did
Catholic Online

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos on 'Summorum Pontificum'
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On the Trip to Austria
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa on the Joy of Fatherhood
Catholic Online

Commentary on Artificial Hydration and Nutrition
Catholic Online

Vatican on Nutrition to Patients in Vegetative State
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Q-and-A Session With Youth in Loreto
Catholic Online

Take a Risk, Follow Your Call: the challenge of a lifetime!
Sisters of Bon Secours

Papal lessons

Family matters

Lessons from a tragedy
Dennis Heaney

Shopping blues
Joseph Sinasac

Marriage Breakdown: Expensive and Divisive
Catholic Online

Her darkness was a warning

Wednesday'a Audience - Gregory of Nyssa on Perfection
Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 11:1-10
1 A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
1 [Of Solomon] God, endow the king with your own fair judgement, the son ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 3:1-12
1 In due course John the Baptist appeared; he proclaimed this message in ... Read More

Reading 2, Romans 15:4-9
4 And all these things which were written so long ago were written so ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 4th, 2016 Image

St. John of Damascus
December 4: Saint John Damascene has the double honor of ... Read More