Bishop Schneider: Proposals for a Correct Reading of the Second Vatican Council.

For a correct interpretation it is necessary to take account of the intention manifested in the conciliar documents themselves and in the specific words of the conciliar Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. Finally, it is necessary to discover the thread leading through all the work of the Council, which is the salus animarum, that is, the pastoral intention. This, in turn, depends on and is subordinate to the promotion of Divine worship and the glory of God, that is, it depends on the primacy of God. This primacy of God in the life and all the activity of the Church is shown unequivocally in the fact that the Constitution on the Liturgy intentionally and chronologically occupies the first place in the vast work of the Council. The seven essential notes for pastoral theory and practice are found exactly in the Constitution that deals with the worship of God and the sanctification of men, in n. 9 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and they are: 1. The urgency to preach Christ to non-believers so that they may be converted; 2. The greatest care about preaching the doctrine of the faith; 3. The essential role of penitence in the life of the Church; 4. The sacraments as principal means of salvation and sanctification, where the Eucharist occupies the central and culminating place; 5. The integrity of moral doctrine; 6. The apostolate of the lay faithful in the Church and in human society; 7. The universal vocation to holiness.

The characteristic of rupture in the interpretation of the conciliar texts is shown in the most stereotypical and widespread way in the thesis of an anthropocentric, secularizing, or naturalistic shift by the Second Vatican Council in regard to the preceding ecclesial tradition. One of the most well-known manifestations of such a confused interpretation was, e.g., the so-called Theology of Liberation and the subsequent devastating pastoral practice. The contrast between that theology of liberation and its practice, and the Council, appears evident in the following conciliar teaching: “the proper mission that Christ has entrusted to His Church is not of the political, economic, or social order: in fact, the end that he has set is in the order of religion.” (GS, 42). The same document then says that the nature and the mission of the Church are not tied to any particular political, economic, or social system. (ibid.) The Constitution Gaudium et Spes quotes the following words of Pius XII:

Its divine Founder, Jesus Christ, has not given it any mandate or fixed any end of the cultural order. The goal which Christ assigns to it is strictly religious. . . The Church must lead men to God, in order that they may be given over to him without reserve…. The Church can never lose sight of the strictly religious, supernatural goal. The meaning of all its activities, down to the last canon of its Code, can only cooperate directly or indirectly in this goal. (Pius XII, Address to the International Union of Institutes of Archeology, History and History of Art, March 9, 1956: AAS 48 (1965), p. 212)

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