Bishop Barron on Vatican II: Intellectual Masterpiece or Glib White-Washing?

In the video at the foot of this post, Bishop Robert Barron mounts a spirited & intelligent defence of Vatican II and Pope Francis. I suppose the fact that he feels the need to do so says something in and of itself. That said, and irrespective of numerous criticisms levelled at Bishop Barron which I will not go into here, I find him a brilliant communicator and a real son of the Church who I love, admire and respect. He is an intellectual in a field where that has sadly become a rare thing and he stands out because of that fact. 

His love of Jesus and the Church comes across beautifully in his orations and is communicated in his work with Word on Fire in a way which has brought many to the faith.

I have relied personally on many of his videos as tools for catechesis in Apologetics, RCIA and in youth ministry. He has a knack for explaining the practical, logical reality of the Catholic faith and also its beauty and mysticism in a really accessible way.

In short, I know there are problems, but I am a fan.

Watching this video I find his argument compelling. It makes sense. It feels Catholic. His integralism is a position I have always held and it is what I want to believe about the Church. It was what we all seemed clear about when Pope Benedict XVI was enthroned at St Peter's. But the last seven years have presented a catalogue of division and confusion with the filth in the hierarchy floating to the surface, many extremely problematic individuals being promoted by the Pope himself, distinctive voices pronouncing positions very clearly in contradiction to the faith have grown increasingly louder and more prominent. Are we to simply ignore all this?

Bishop Barron argues that accepting a percentage of the Second Vatican Council but not all of it makes you less Catholic not more Catholic. But I fear this approach (which I desperately want to accept) fails to recognise and address elements of the council which clearly caused problems. And not just for Taylor Marshall, Timothy Gordon and Church Militant, three popular targets for the USCCB at the moment it seems! 

Some examples would be Dei Verbum no. 8, which seems to suggest Scripture & Tradition are at the whim of the Zeitgeist. Lumen gentium no. 8, which directly led to the excellent CDF document Dominus Iesus in order to clarify the ambiguity therein. Similarly Nostra aetate poses huge problems for many Catholics. Indeed, this has been one of the most significant points of conflict between the SSPX and the Holy See.

Back in 2016, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, told a German newspaper that Nostra Aetate is not dogmatic and therefore no Catholic is bound to accept it as such. This would appear to contradict Bishop Barron's assertions here?

The full quote reads thus:
Nostra Aetate does not have any dogmatic authority, and thus one cannot demand from anyone to recognize this declaration as being dogmatic, this declaration can only be understood in the light of tradition and of the continuous Magisterium. For example, there exists today, unfortunately, the view — contrary to the Catholic Faith — that there is a salvific path independent of Christ and His Church. That has also been officially confirmed last of all by the Congregation for the Faith itself in its declaration, Dominus Iesus. Therefore, any interpretation of Nostra Aetate which goes into this [erroneous] direction is fully unfounded and has to be rejected.”
Also, Fr. John Hunwicke cites Archbp. Pozzo’s preamble to the quote from the above linked article about something that happened during the Second Vatican Council, specifically about Nostra aetate:

“The Secretary for the Unity of Christians said on 18 November 1964 in the Council Hall about Nostra aetate ‘As to the character of the declaration,  the Secretariate does not want to write a dogmatic declaration on non-Christian religions, but, rather, practical and pastoral norms’. [We are free to disagree with “pastoral norms”.] Nostra aetate does not have any dogmatic authority and thus one cannot demand from anyone to recognise this declaration as dogmatic. This declaration can only be understood in the light of tradition and of the continuous Magisterium. For example, there exists today, unfortunately, the view – contrary to the Catholic Faith – that there is a salvific path independent of Christ and His Church. That [he apparently means “The unfortunate existence today of such an unCatholic view”] has also been officially confirmed last of all by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith itself in its declaration Dominus Iesus. Therefore any interpretation of Nostra aetate which goes into this direction is fully unfounded and has to be rejected”. 

Father Z commented that "It is not disobedience to desire clarifications about really hard questions that result from documents that are fraught with controversial points and that are not dogmatic." Does any of this correspond with Bishop Barron's position in this video?

Whatever way you spin it, such machinations demonstrate beyond doubt that Bishop Barron is painting a pretty picture here and ignoring all the worrying confusion that existentially surrounds Vatican II. Further, what concerns me is that such theological debate and nuance is far beyond the concern of most Catholics. This means that the faithful are left with confusion. You can witness it every day online, division, confusion, Priests contradicting each other, bishops at odds over doctrine, a lack of clarity about what we actually believe and what that should manifest in our lives. 
With a break down in sanctity, corruption in the Church hierarchy seemingly running rife, Pope Francis making all kinds of strange statements, can we really afford to be so glib about Vatican II and Pope Francis? Can we really just dismiss those who suggest there might be a problem here so easily? Does this serve justice or our Lord to do so?

People need clarity - they deserve clarity. Our Lord promised nothing less and so it is essential that our bishops speak clearly with one voice, especially when teaching on faith and morals. That is the opposite of this.

I am a Catholic because the faith makes sense in a real way in my life. Even if you ignore the spiritual side entirely (which I don't recommend), the philosophy and logic are incredibly practical and efficacious in building cohesive, fair, just family and society. But the power and beauty of our wonderful faith are being increasingly obscured, the lines blurred, the truth hidden, by a lack of clarity.

I love Bishop Barron's calm, reasoned approach. But is he right? Is his assessment of the intellectual young Bergoglio following de Lubac factual or a romanticised white-washing, especially taking into account the evidence of the last seven years? Or is Bishop Barron being wheeled out simply as "damage control"? Please do let me  know what you think in the comments!



Comments

  1. Not too long ago in relative terms a book that had minor faults or a theme interpreted as harmful was placed on the index and the Faithful forbidden to read it. Looking at some of the works previously placed there (The Three Musketeers for instance) one might disagree with their prohibition but that is not the point. The Church thought it necessary and good to do this for the good of souls. From this it can be easily seen that Bishop Barron's admonishment that "...accepting a percentage of the Second Vatican Council but not all of it makes you less Catholic not more Catholic" is rot. Given some of the nonsensical, not to say heretical, content in the Council documents, the only Catholic position to take is to reject them as a whole. Obviously everything in the documents cannot be rejected because they repeat previous dogma and doctrine for the most part, but just as you would not drink a glass of wine with just a little poison in it neither should you accept the documents of the last council and for the same reason. They are a danger to your spiritual health.

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