The Ambiguities of the Council

A reader writes:

Hey Mark, have you read anything about the recent comments by Cardinal Kasper that Vatican II was “deliberately ambiguous”? Some traditionalists are making a lot of noise about this.

One, whom I consider a friend, Dr. Phil Blosser, has this article:

Although he cites Sungenis at one point (just to say he reported on the story), he seems to raise some valid questions.

So, I’d like to hear what more mainstream Catholic voices like you and Jimmy Akin have to say about this, and what it would mean if it were true.

Anyway, I’d love to know what you think.

You know Phil too? Small world! A very fine man. We’ve had lunch on a couple of occasions, if memory serves, when he’s made the haj out to Seattle. And we have a mutual friend, a Chestertonian, who spent a happy evening once years ago, wandering around DC with Bob Sungenis, smoking cigars (if I recall the story correctly).

I don’t know how “mainstream” I am nor what my view is worth particularly, but since you ask–and I *am* Irish–here it is: Meh.

From what I gather, Kasper’s remarks about ambiguity signal to folks like Phil that lefties were at work in the Council watering things down and allowing dissent to seep into the Church. That’s one possible read and I can respect their jitters. But I don’t share them. Certainly, there were all sorts of conflicting agendas at the Council as there have been at every council the Church ever held. Councils are moments in the life of the Church where, in the fine phrase of Fr. Robert Barron, the Church “holds herself in suspense” while she makes up her mind about something. While that process goes on, all sorts of things are in play and one of the things that happens is that the Church sometimes puts off for another day certain definite statements or plans. That’s because (particularly at an intensely pastoral council like V2) what the Church is attempting is nothing less than this:

So it has always seemed obvious to me that it is not news that the Council was deliberately ambiguous about certain things. Indeed, I’m kind of puzzled by the notion that this is an admission, much less a shocking one.

For my part, I don’t have many issues with the council itself. Rather, I think the blunder was in the implementation of the Council and, in particular, the mistake notion of “keeping alive the spirit of the Council”. Again, cribbing from Fr. Robert Barron, the problem with this approach to the Council is that it is like Peter suggesting to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration that we build booth and live there forever. But the point of mountaintop experiences is to come down from the mountain and *do* something. “Keeping alive the spirit of the Council” boiled down to remaining in a permanent state of suspense: “ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (as Paul warns). The papacy, from JPII to Francis, has steadfastly resisted this and with good reason: the faith has to be enfleshed in action, not endlessly debated. There’s plenty to enflesh even *with* the stuff left ambiguous by the Council.

That’s my take anyhow. Say hello to Phil for me if you talk to him.

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