Some folks have the idea that Vatican II represents some sort of break with the Church’s tradition. Having read the documents produced by the Council, my opinion is that nothing could be further from the truth. But Catholics really ought to know this anyway. Just as we must read the Bible “within the living Tradition of the whole Church” (CCC §113), we must treat the documents of an ecumenical council in the same way. That context is essential for properly understanding what the Church teaches us.
In Fides et Ratio §58, Pope John Paul II says basically the same thing.
With the use of historical method, knowledge of the works of Saint Thomas increased greatly, and many scholars had courage enough to introduce the Thomistic tradition into the philosophical and theological discussions of the day. The most influential Catholic theologians of the present century, to whose thinking and research the Second Vatican Council was much indebted, were products of this revival of Thomistic philosophy.
Far from constituting a break with the past history of the Magisterium, the Council was profoundly shaped by that past. The Holy Father continues, in §61:
In the years after the Second Vatican Council, many Catholic faculties were in some ways impoverished by a diminished sense of the importance of the study not just of Scholastic philosophy but more generally of the study of philosophy itself. I cannot fail to note with surprise and displeasure that this lack of interest in the study of philosophy is shared by not a few theologians.
Keep in mind here that JPII played a prominent role at Vatican II. It seems reasonable to conclude that the abandonment of Thomism and of Catholic philosophy generally was not consistent with the aims of the Council, and that consequently the poverty of Catholic education since then is not the fruit thereof but rather a revolt against it. So the break with the Church’s tradition isn’t to be found in what the Council produced, but rather in the responses by some people to the Council.
Leave a Reply