Show Me the Text!

This solution is as simple as it is elegant: lots of theologically liberal and even heretical Catholics claim that they’re acting in accord with the “Spirit of Vatican II,” and that somehow Vatican II demands this sort of new theology.  David Mills offers a simple solution in First Things:

Catholics faced with an invocation of Vatican II, or the Spirit of Vatican II, or the Vision of Vatican II, or almost any phrase that includes the words “Vatican II” but does not include the words “documents of,” should simply say “Show me the text,” and keep asking it until they get an answer. They have to keep repeating it with the calm intensity of a lawyer asking the defendant the question that will convict him if he answers.

To prove this, Mills discusses a recent example from real life, where the head of Boston College’s Theology Department made a number of, frankly, bizarre theological assertions without any possible support.  It’s become a bit of a joke within Catholic circles because this self-inflated professor calls Pope Benedict an Austrian (in an attempt to argue that this is the reason the pope cares about Sacred Tradition, because Austrians are a nostalgic people), perhaps suggesting just how familiar he is with the real world of Catholicism (since, of course, Benedict isn’t even Austrian).

 Anyways, this professor, is one Fr. Massa, S.J. (of course), and he’s the author, I kid you not, of the self-important book, The American Catholic Revolution: How the ’60s Changed the Church Forever.  My hunch, without reading the book, is that Fr. Massa’s grasp of the shifting dynamics and loyalties within the Church is as keen as his geography.  In any case, the precise area that Mills uses his “Show me the text” argument isn’t Massa’s geography, or his nostalgia towards the 1960s as the Catholic decade par excellence.  Rather, it’s his disturbing theology:

A great majority of Catholics (once) thought of the church as outside of time altogether — that what they did on Sunday is what Jesus did at the Last Supper, and early Christians did in the catacombs. Vatican II attacked this notion of the church as providing a timeless set of answers to life’s questions about meaning. 

This second statement is just patently false.  Massa is claiming that Vatican II attacked a notion it never attacked.  In fact, as Mills shows in the First Things article, Massa is claiming that Vatican II attacked a notion it explicitly endorsed.  It’s Massa, not faithful Catholics, who’s on the wrong side of Vatican II.  Let me repeat something in case it was missed: Fr. Massa, who can’t seem to speak intelligently (or at least, accurately) on either the pope or the Second Vatican Council, is the Dean of Theology at Boston College.

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