Ratzinger, Vatican II and the summer of 1962

Source: vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/homepage/inquiries-and-interviews/detail/articolo/concilio-council-papa-el-papa-pope-17620/

Ratzinger, Vatican II and the summer of 1962

Benedict XVI has finished the draft for his latest volume on the life of Jesus in the tranquil surroundings of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. And he is apparently planning his fourth papal Encyclical.

Fifty years ago, the then 35 year old Ratzinger – who was teaching fundamental theology at Bonn University at the time – was again hard at work studying pamphlets, correcting drafts and preparing texts.

Back then, Ratzinger was faced with a big workload being given to him by the Archbishop of Cologne, Joseph Frings who had chosen him as his theological consultant for the Second Vatican Council and wanted his help in the busy final stages of the preparation for the big meeting.

Frigs was a member of the Council’s central preparatory Commission and as such, with his speeches and the initiatives he presented, he began to pave his way to a role as a future playmaker in the Second Vatican Council.

Thanks to Frings, Ratzinger had access as early as the spring of 1962 to the draft documents delivered by the preparatory commissions for discussion and approval in the Council. Important historical studies by Norbert Trippen and the Jesuit Jared Wicks confirm that between the months of May and September, Ratzinger analysed – on behalf of Frings – a large chunk of the material produced by the bodies involved in the Council’s preparatory phase, expressing clear and often surprising judgements.

For example, in a letter sent to Fr. Hubert Luthe – Frings’ secretary, whom he had studied Theology with in Munich – in May, Ratzinger appeared particularly enthusiastic about the material produced by the secretariat for Christian unity, the body led by Cardinal Augustin Bea which presented itself as increasingly open to dialogue with the theological Commission chaired by the Secretary of the Holy Office, Alfredo Ottaviani. The drafts signed by Bea included early versions of the future Council decrees on ecumenism and religious freedom. “If the Council could be directed towards making these texts its own,” Ratzinger wrote to Secretary Frings in May 1962, “it would have been worth it and real progress would have been made. This is where the language that is needed in our times is really spoken, a language that can also be understood by all men of good will.”

During those months, speaking on behalf of many European episcopates, Frings expressed the dissatisfaction at how the preliminary phase of the Council was unfolding. At the end of June, at Frings’ request, Ratzinger even prepared the draft for an Apostolic Constitution which briefly and with didactic clarity defined the aims for the Second Vatican Council before it began: three typewritten pages in Latin, based on the young Bavarian theologian’s realistic observation of the historical context in which the Council was convened (“the divine light appears obscured and Our Lord seems to have fallen asleep in the midst of the storm and waves of today”). The document ends with an evaluation of how current the announcement model shown by St. Paul is. St. Paul “became all things to all men” (1 Cor 9, 22) in order to bear witness to Jesus Christ.

Ratzinger’s critical appraisal of the texts produced during the Council’s preliminary phase culminated in September 1962. Less than a month before the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Ratzinger analysed the first batch of the final versions of seven texts delivered by the preparatory commissions, inspired mainly by the doctrinal bodies of the Roman Curia.

In a text Ratzinger completed in mid September – which he returned signed to the Secretary of State Amleto Cicognani, with no further additions from Cardinal Frings – the only positive evaluations eh he gave, were of two drafts regarding liturgical updates and unity with the Eastern Churches. According to the professor from Bonn University, only these texts “correspond well to the purpose of the Council set out by the Pope.” If the aim is to “renew Christian life and the adaptation of the discipline of the Church to today’s needs” it is methodologically crucial to avoid letting the Council get bogged down “in complex questions raised by theologians, which people of our time cannot grasp, becoming perturbed by them.”

All other drafts – particularly those prepared by the preparatory theological Commission chaired by Cardinal Ottaviani – are judged by Ratzinger to be “too scholarly”. One draft he dismissed particularly vehemently was the text on the preservation of purity of the depositum fidei (“it is lacking to such an extent that it cannot be presented at the Council as it is”). As concerns the text on the “sources” of the divine Revelation, Ratzinger suggested substantial changes to its structure and content. Meanwhile, the drafts concerning Christian moral order, virginity, family and marriage are dismissed with arguments based on pastoral opportunities. According to Ratzinger these texts “overwhelm the reader with their excessive use of words.” The young professor form Bonn University stated that Council documents “should provide answers to more pressing problems and should do so, as far as possible, without judging and condemning, but by using a maternal language, presenting the wealth of the Christian faith and its comforts.”

Given the help Ratzinger gave to Frings through his contributions in the preparatory phase of the Council, he certainly did not arrive at the meeting unprepared. The young Bavarian professor showed he was well aware of what was at stake at the ecclesiastical event, even before it had begun. During his collaboration with Frings, Ratzinger equipped himself with a flexible but well defined toolbox of proposals and reflections which would later give further depth to his intense participation in the adventure of the Second Vatican Council.

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14 comments on “Ratzinger, Vatican II and the summer of 1962

  1. Both Romano Amerio and Marcel LeFebvre were party to the preconciliar schemae.

    Their published works, taken alongside the quotes reported in the Gianni Valente article, ought to put paid to the notion that Fr. Josef Ratzinger / Josef Cardinal Ratzinger / Benoit XVI is even ontologically capable of dealing squarely with the issues which absorb the abiding interest and deepest concerns of the members of this forum.

    Anyone who states Benoiot XVI is not a radical liberal /; Modernist, exactly as defined and condemned by Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi, is smoking crack.

  2. chris torey on said:

    Hear, Hear, gpmtrad.

  3. Long time lurker, thought I’d chime in on this issue…

    It seems to me that Ratzinger has been “tempered” somewhat while in office as Pope. Consider: One could hardly imagine that he would be the one to relax the restrictions on the Tridentine Rite of the Mass. As Cardinal he made disparaging comments against it; as Pope it seems he’s been given deeper understanding. For that alone I am eternally grateful.

    • Santous,
      Agreed. When Benedict XVI was elected, it was noted by some that he was one of the more conservative candidates, and a sigh of relief was heard. We could have had a much worse result from that conclave. It is an historical fact that those of a less-than-perfect Catholic mindset have experienced a conversion of some sort on being elected to the Papacy. The Grace of God works wonders … literally. Benedict XVI is certainly a Pope who is torn two ways. There is his liberal past and the liberal/modernist disposition of the Vatican bureaucracy and the clergy of the world at large, and there is his desire (obvious, however hesitant and weak) to correct some of the abuses and extreme corruption which the Church has experienced. This latter desire is manifested in his public freeing of the Tridentine Mass, his expressed desire to only give Communion on the tongue (though not always enforced), etc.. He is likely very conflicted and is greatly in need of our prayers.

      • Lucas, even Cardinal Ratzinger had to admit that the Latin Mass had never been ‘put down’, as it were. So, in effect, he “freed” nothing, later on, as pope. Same as walking up to a lovely young thing striding down the boulevard and telling her, “You’re free, now!” as she heads into the bank to roll over some CDs on her way to lunch with her travel agent to plan a worldwide visit to all the greatest art galleries.

        If she is a refined, educated lady, she will pleasantly evaluate you, thank you ever so much for your concern, smile upon you and say, “But I already am, my good man.”

        ( Luc, I’d like to write more useless tosh but the most stunning blonde has just parked her Benz in front of the local office of the East Branch of the West Bank of the Lower Mississippi, not a hundred yards from me! And she is now exiting the vehicle, headed for the door….. I AM SO OUTTA HERE, DUDE!! )

        • gpmtrad,
          Good luck with that blonde. I wouldn’t try the line, “Your free now,” if I were you.

          Granted that Benedict XVI, as a theologian who lived through the events in question, must know and had to admit that the Tridentine Mass was never “put down.” Nevertheless, the statement that the Latin Mass had been outlawed was a common accusation and a standard ploy used with those who didn’t know the facts. I’m thinking of attacks from the pulpit at the Novus Ordo. It was at least a common misconception. The Pope’s act of publicly and officially destroying that arguement against us and publicly stating that any priest in the world had the right to say the Traditional Mass, and that the faithfull had the right to request it, was a definite act counter to the liturgical “reform,” besides being a vindication of what the SSPX had always claimed. So I still maintain that it was an act in favor of tradition and the conservative position.

          Are you back yet, or did she offer to give you a ride in the Benz?

          • In “Open Letter to Confused Catholics”, Lafebvre documents how truly impossible it was for a priest pre-2007 to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. The rabidly liberal bishops would travel the world over and descend upon any priest who dared to stay true to timeless tradition and unchangeable dogma, and make their lives a living hell. Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum precisely to allow every priest in the Latin Rite to offer the Traditional Latin Mass without permission from his bishop, thus freeing the rite from the toilet of liberalism and humanism, infused into the Church through Vatican II.

            Honestly, if there weren’t the TLM to attend, I don’t know what I would do. The Novus Ordo makes a mockery of offering atonement for Christ’s sacrifice to the Father, so much so that I feel ashamed/dirty to be a part of it.

          • Yeah, ya gotta be able to think on your feet, Luc. It also helps to practice the maxim for ultimate success they taught us in management school…

            Dress British, Look Irish, Think Yiddish.

            Worked like a charm! ( Almost…. )

            Before racing outta my office I quick put on a Beatles wig, slapped on a Pat Buchanan Halloween mask, ran up to her with plastic flowers and asked if she’d like to take me do lunch at Le Chic Cordon y Vin after her bank meeting.

            She appraised me cooly. Then she just put her iPhone to her ear….

            There was a court appearance order waiting for me back at my desk at the office….

            • Sorry to hear that, gpmtrad. It was probably the wig. A little outdated, don’t you think?
              Try roses next time, and don’t wear the Halloween mask into the court room.

              Just a suggestion.

  4. He needn’t go so far as to declare it anathema, which might create even more chaos and damage. Since V2 was a pastoral council and not a dogmatic one, its results, conclusions, changes and recommendations can be set safely aside and tacitly ignored on those grounds. I believe it would be better to use this more “organic” approach of rolling things back as opposed to blowing them up.

    • Santous, I think we think alike.

      McDee, I couldn’t disagree more with your proposed solution, at least in the concrete. We must avoid all extremism (I’m talking of anything that’s really excessively too far the other way) or we risk being dismissed as simply extremists who like to see how far we can push and only look for the sensational. I’m not explaining myself very well. What I mean is that it is possible to err on the right as well as on the left. Both extremes are wrong, though they are opposites. There is a ditch on both sides of the road, if you know what I mean.

      That being said, I’ll admit that it may prove effective to use a sort of shock-treatment to get our point across. If, due to our continued disagreement with Rome, we were to be declared schismatic (God forbid), I would propose a massive pilgrimage of trads to the Vatican to pray for the Pope. That should make them think ;)

      Asfor Vatican II, Santous is right, it was pastoral, and the only statements which are dogmatic are those which simply re-state infallible statements from the past. To reform the Church, however, I think it will be necessary for the Pope to make some statement pointing out the failures of Vatican II, the fact that it made no infallible statements of itself, and revealing the liberal influence which caused this immense failure. The council itself does not need to be declared anathema, though the false liberal/modernist teachings which sprang from its ambiguities must be declared heretical, pernicious, and condemned. Please note that we don’t really know what Bishop Fellay has said to the authorities in Rome with whom he has been discussing dogma, theology, and liturgy for these past years. These discussions have remained confidential, as they should be, but Bishop Fellay certainly hasn’t been going there to drink tea or chat about the world cup of soccer. We also know that he isn’t a push-over, or he would have signed an agreement a long time ago.

  5. McDee,
    I agree. I would just like to stress that to demand that the Pope declare VII anathema in its entirety would be quite rash. First, the position is probably unsound from a theological point of view, since some of it’s statements were doctrinally sound, though their essential usefullness might be in question since they only re-stated what had already been said by previous Popes and Councils. The entire Council can basically be ignored since it was only pastoral in nature, and we can look to previous councils for any questions of doctrine, but to simply declare it anathema in its entirety would probably prove dangerous. For one thing, the modernists would probably then turn arround and say that all of the doctrines which VII reiterated are now condemned (you know how they like to twist everything and spread confusion).

    As for waking Benedict XVI up, it is only a matter of time. Even if we have to wait until the Pope wants to appoint more cardinals and realizes that there are no suitable clergy to choose from (oh, unless he wants to appoint someone from the SSPX … ). You get my point. If all else fails, it’s just a waiting game. Still, I doubt that Bp. Fellay has been doing nothing. We really don’t know how strong his language has been in these discussions. All we do know is that after over two years of talks, Rome said, “well thats nice, but we would really like you to sign this and agree not to criticise Vatican II.” Um, they don’t get it, do they? Modernists can have such thick heads, with a one track mind inside, focussed on “defend the council, defend the council, … “

  6. Oh well, we could argue about what we think Bp. Fellay should do until we’re blue in the face, as my Mother would say.

    I prefer to keep it light, even when discussing things that are deadly serious. It helps to keep the stress down. It is, I believe, a doccumented fact that there are or have been Freemasons in very high positions in the Church, and have you ever read AA-1025: The Memoirs of an Anti-Apostle? It is the memoirs of a man who was placed in the Church by the communists. He entered the seminary, was ordained a priest, and worked to subvert the Church from within. I haven’t been able to determine the authority of the book as I can’t find any documentation, but what is interesting is that almost everything which it describes as the communist plan for the corruption of the Church has occurred with the exception of the removal of the pews and setting up tables seating twelve persons each for Mass. The really scary part of the book? This man who wrote this memoir is the one thousand, twenty-fifth agent to be sent to infiltrate and corrupt.

    Still, we can not say that such and such a cardinal or bishop is probably or certainly a communist without having hard evidence, as that would be rash-judgement, and it is evident that even those who are not infiltrators in Rome have been corrupted or tainted by the liberalism which, though it did not have its origin at Vatican II, was freed and set loose at that fatefull gathering.

    As for your last statement, you have never been more right. Anything can happen.

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