The hermeneutic of continuity

I don’t normally go for the controversial on here, but this is a brief exception for the sake of the Year of Faith. Recently I’ve been getting the Tablet sent to me weekly (much to the bemusement of my parish priest) which is fun for the odd lunchtime game of ‘heresy spotting’, besides which, I am more than happy to take a copy off their hands if it means someone else doesn’t get it. However, living in the rarefied Catholic air of Balham, you forget the nonsense that goes on in some parts of the Church. So, I was happy to read Fr Tim Finnegan’s response to the Tablet editorial on the Second Vatican Council, which also led me to Fr Z’s excellent response.

It is still a commonplace among many lay people that “Vatican II changed things” and ultimately, they have been let down, because they have not received the formation they should expect from the Church. Returning to the four Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council is a wonderful opportunity for us to wake up and take adult formation really seriously. This should not be an option in parishes! It should be the heart of the life of our communities. The seven-year-olds we have in our classes I am sure understand the Faith better than many adult Catholics.

A classic example of a failure to accept the hermeneutic of continuity (and not some Tablet spin on the phrase) is the paraphrased Vatican documents by Bill Huebsch. If you have not come across them, stay right away! It is an extremely interesting exercise (which I had the chance to do in a seminar this summer) to compare, for example, the actual Opening Address of John XXIII and the Bill Huebsch paraphrased version. The agenda is utterly blatant. Sadly, the people reading this stuff without the necessary formation are being duped into a false understanding of the Council. As Fr Tim Finnegan says so well:

In fact, a return to the texts of the Council will reveal to many younger people that the Council was not what the Tablet and others have pretended. It is full of sober orthodox teaching entirely in continuity with the tradition of the Church which has over the years been obscured by the mythical construction of a non-existent version of Vatican II.

Don’t read the paraphrases and dubious commentary! Read the texts…

About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

6 responses to “The hermeneutic of continuity

  • Lesley Brennan

    I have to disagree!! Although I am all in favour of reading the full texts, I found the Bill Heubsch narratives invaluable in making the whole idea of the Vatican II documents accessible when I was doing a recent course. The average lay person would not go near the Vatican II documents so a ‘taster’ or version they can actually understand is a benefit and not something to be ridiculed. The average catholic does not read the Tablet and so would not be worried by the adverse comments made.

    • transformedinchrist

      Hi Lesley,
      I confess I have only read his paraphrasing of John XXIII’s Opening Address. But the significant alterations he made to this text would suggest to me that there are similar alterations in the others. I agree that it is important to explain in simple terms the teaching of the Council. But, if a text promises to do this, while actually altering or obscuring what the documents really say, I think this is doing much more harm than good.
      I’m not aware of any faithful, ‘simplified’ version of the Council documents…or a guide like Christopher West’s guides to the Theology of the Body for example, but if they do not exist, they should be written!
      Thank you for your comment 🙂

  • 1catholicsalmon

    Oh dear, I have used a quote in one of my essays from B. Heubsch! Thanks for the information. B. H. books were recommended on another course I attended. Obviously I am not in the know.

  • Bea

    It would be great if we could all read the texts, but they can be hard going sometimes! Are there any good, easy to read texts that summarise the documents well?

    For example, there have been many series and texts on theology of the body, we have the wonderful YouCat that makes the CCC more accessible to younger people. The documents can be made more accessible (without compromising the truth) to those who want to know the Church’s teaching, but get just a little nervous when faced with the full original texts!

  • Clare Vardon

    In the diocese of Arundel and Brighton there is a 4 year initiative (leading up to the diocesan Golden Jubilee, but fitting nicely with the Year of Faith) where parish groups discuss parts of the key Vatican II documents – only excerpts but taken from the original documents.

  • Paul Rodden

    I have to agree with Lesley.

    Some would argue that the Flannery translation is worse than Huebsch’s paraphrase, because one’s ‘duped’ into thinking it’s an official translation. They would say the Abbott translation (out of print for many years) is the only sound one and, no doubt, there are even some who’d think the original Latin’s the only version worth reading…

    As to Christopher West, he’s been vilified as a Theology of the Body heretic by Janet Smith, Dawn Eden, and Alice von Hilderbrand, whilst vigorously defended by Michael Waldstein and David Schindler… All big names in Christian Personalism and ToB.

    To whom should we, non-experts, listen?

    From my experience in Southwark Diocese, and attendance at Faith Movement meetings on-and-off over the years, not a few of Fr Finigan’s upper middle-class groupies – clerical and lay – although orthodox to the core, are pedantic, pastorally immature and sadly, as a consequence, quite toxic in a parish setting.

    Lesley is right about how much of this idealistic waffle is simply out of touch with the laity because it’s on ‘transmit’ alone.

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