Monday, November 9, 2009

Vatican II And The Liturgy

In our last entry in the ongoing Vatican II series, we discussed the initial victories that gave the Rhine cadre of innovators their power positions among the other Council Fathers. Now, we need to look at how this started to play out.

Remember all those schemas (draft documents) we talked about before? Fr. Wiltgen recounts how they were initially distributed. As you read the remainder of this post, keep in mind Amerio's citation of Blessed John XXIII's comments of September 1962, which spoke of the "superabundant richness of a doctrinal and pastoral kind" that arose from the original preparatory work.

Three months before the opening of the Council, Pope John circulated the first seven schemas among the Council Fathers. Right after that, a group of 17 Dutch bishops got together at s'Hertogenbosch to talk them over. The first four dogmatic constitutions ("Sources of Revelation," "Preserving Pure the Deposit of Faith," "Christian Moral Order," and "Chastity, Matrimony, the Family, and Virginity) were all seen as inadequate. All these guys thought the the liturgy schema was a much better product.

These Dutch bishops, all firm Rhine camp folk, decided to send out a commentary to the other Fathers that bashed the first four schemas and pushed for the liturgy to be moved to the front of the conciliar agenda. The commentary was published anonymously, but you're probably familiar with its author: Fr. Ed Schillebeeckx. You know him, right? He was the whackjob Dominican whose heretical ideas on the Eucharist were condemned in Mysterium Fidei and whose Christology was formally condemned (I'm pretty sure) by John Paul II back in the early 80s.

Fr. Schillebeeckx blasted the four schemas as "representing only one school of theological thought." The liturgical schema was "an admirable piece of work." In fact, Wiltgen relates that he went so far as to suggest that it would be better that the four schemas in question be completely rewritten. Per Fr. Wiltgen, "Such complete revision was, in fact, the real aim in view."

Once this anonymous commentary was sent out to the Fathers, other bishops submitted petitions to the Holy See asking for consideration of the four schemas to be postponed and for the liturgy to be the first subject brought forward. It's no surprise that Cardinals Lienart, Alfrink, and Frings of the Rhine group were very much in favor of this. After a private audience with the Council Presidents, Blessed John acquiesced to this request.

Question: Does it give you pause to know that a guy like Fr. Schillebeeckx had this much influence on the participants at an ecumenical council of the Church?

Next time (and I sincerely hope it will be sooner than our last interval), we'll look at what went into the drafting of the liturgical constitution and what our commentators think of its contents and consequences.

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