Page 12, 16th June 2000

16th June 2000
Page 12
Page 12, 16th June 2000 — Father David McGough

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Locations: Rome


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Trinity Sunday Dent 4: 32-34 & 39-40; Romans 8: 14-17; Matthew 28: 16-20

TODAY WE celebrate the Holy Trinity: the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This central mystery unfolds the continuing presence of God in our lives. "Go, make disciples of all the nations. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit... and know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time."

The final words of Jesus do not present the Trinity as a mystery to be solved, but as a life to be lived. We are no longer strangers, seeking to understand God from a distance. Through baptism we become one with Christ, sharing with Him a life that is lived with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The words of St Paul, describing our life in the Trinity, are full of movement. "Everyone moved by the Spirit is a Son of God." As the Spirit moves in our hearts, we are embraced by that love with which the Father has loved the Son before the foundation of the world. We are no longer the slaves of guilt and fear, hiding ourselves from God and from others. The isolation which can neither entrust itself to God, nor receive his love.

is ended. "The spirit you have received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again. It is the spirit of Sons, and it makes us cry, Abba, Father!

Our minds alone can never measure the Trinity. and yet our hearts long for the life it promises. We long to share with Christ the strength he drew from the Father. In the Father and Son, we see a love that is perfectly given, perfectly received_ For this we long. This we share with the Father and Son. We long for hearts that understand, that can love as Christ loved, forgive as Christ forgave. This is ours as the Spirit leads us into the mind and heart of Jesus.

There is much that lies beyond our understanding. This we know: that in Christ we are the children of God. With him, we share the life of the Trinity. Long ago Moses challenged a chosen people to reflect upon the wonder of their being.

"Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire as you heard it... Has any god taken to himself one nation... as the Lord has done for you?" These words related to Mount Sinai, when God gave himself to his people in a law written on tablets of stone.

Wonderful though this encounter was, the people remained at a distance, awaiting the words entrusted to Moses. In Christ Jesus. the Word made flesh, the word of God has been written into our very nature. With Christ, our life is hidden in the Father. Through the Spirit, we, who were so far removed from God, are made one with hint. Trinity is indeed a mystery to be lived.

BEFORE .4 CONGREGATION Of Clergy took over our parish it was in large part run by a radical feminist who kept talking about "the spirit of Vatican II" when she wished to justify some project or change in liturgical law that seemed to me to infringe the rubrics of the Missal.

Could you explain to me what this expression "the spirit of Vatican II" really means?

F1/ NNILY ENOUGH, while dining in Rome recently under the heraldic arms of Cardinal Wolsey in his old haunt near the Piazza delle Cornacchie, this precise subject came up in a conversation with a youthful Jesuit theologian.

We both agreed that there was nothing wrong per se with the expression but that sometimes alarm bells rang when it was used in some situations. We found upon further. enquiry that even in our short experience of church the expression "the spirit of Vatican II" sometimes appeared as a solemn excusatory preface to some awful pronouncement, pastoral infelicity or liturgical abuse. My Jesuit companion that evening pointed out that the good thing about the phrase was that it could at least he referred to the council.

The debate is won when we are arguing about the reception of the council. I then suggested that some people who do speak of 'the spirit of Vatican II" do so because they cannot bring themselves to read, digest or accept the actual texts of Vatican II. A case in point came to mind in the way the phrase was used by one prominent Scottish priest recently to justify his rejection of this pontificate. Odd really given that the present Pope was one of the architects of the said council.

Our convivial Jesuit actually came up with an astonishing account of the origins of the phrase. There were in fact two councils convoked, scheduled and reported between 1962 and 1965. "Not many people know that," he whispered in Michael Caine fashion. In fact not many people who had votes at the official council knew that. The first, the official one, was the council as it was understood by the bishops who attended it, framed its discussion items, made interventions and promulgated the written documents published today in such collections as Abbott, Flannery and Tanner.

The second unofficial council may be called the para-council. Here the Jesuit said he was borrowing the phrase of the great theologian, Henri de Lubac, later named a cardinal for his pains. Now in the liquid lunches of this latter species of convocation lies the true origin of the phrase "the spirit of Vatican II". This was the "council of the Spirit" run in the bars and trattorias around Rome while the real council was going on, and it was convoked by people working in the media, attended by clergy of local prominence and other experts in some relevant field like liturgical demolition. All these had one thing in common: they wished

to see a revolution in Catholicism, a kind of year zero before which all was corrupt and unreliable and after which all was to be refashioned according to an agenda of their own creation. The sentiment is ably and inimitably expressed by the Scottish priest I referred to earlier when he said on TV recently: "I think the best thing would be for the Church to die and the rise again, like Christ. Its present structure and machinery has to end." Malcontents, be they Lefebvrists or spiritans, usually arrive at the same conclusions. The Para-council spiritans are not really interested in Classical Christianity what they look forward to is the kind of world envisaged by John Lennon in his song Imagine: "Imagine there's no heaven/ No religion too" in substance then a world bereft of the reign of the First Commandment. When an atheist friend of mine called Prava feels a rush of explicit faith coming on, it is Lennon that she puts on the CD. And it has to be said that Imagine was regarded as the manifesto of Seventies reformers, A chorus of para-council theologians has been assailing the people of God for 30 years now with what the council should have said. They announced Year One of the true Christianity that had been betrayed for the previous 20 centuries. Now taking over a parish say, after a para-council

ideologue has had his or her runaround is frequently like being asked to preach Judaism at the headquarters of the SS. One bishop's secretary, renowned for his diplomacy, was told to move to a certain parish which had been dominated for 20 years by a para-council presider (they don't like being called priests) and was given two books to introduce to the parish the Roman Missal and the Lectionary! The able secretary told me that what the people of God had been privileged (forced) to accept was "creative liturgy" (cubic exercises in egotism), "spontaneous testimonies" (how I became a saint in 24 hours), "demolition spirituality" (let me tell you why we have ruined the church your grandparents paid for), readings from the prophet Gibran (or how we can soothe the pain of a Christian upbringing), excerpts from the diary of Geri Spice (or why I am no longer a chico latino) and Eucharistic elements sponsored by Wonderloaf all these are the hallmarks of the para-council.

Despite poor credentials, theologians of the para-council are always granted a simpering hearing by gushing journalists in the modern media. Hans Kung is a case in point. The question that remains is which council will prevail in time? We don't know. All we can say is that the fruits of one are sterile (they produce no vocations and inspire no young people) but the fruits of the other are seen in the movements. Our faith tells us that the true council will prevail of course, but the reader should be aware that he may well have to wade through the debris left by other para-council presiders in the parishes of these Isles for a little while to come. The "spirit of Vatican II" is a legitimate phrase in itself but when the reader hears it, he is perfectly within his rights to question its user as to his or her sources in Vatican 11. If they can't furnish a text of Vatican II, they can't claim the spirit of Vatican II.

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