A Response to Enrico Morini
(Please see Enrico Morini's essay at Sandro Magister's blog.)
The word "rupture" comes from the Latin rumpere, which means “to break”. In order to rupture something, that thing must be broken; violence is done to the thing being ruptured. This meaning is very different from a mere change or reform or shift in emphasis. To rupture something does not mean to just make a change; it means to change it by doing violence to it. It is not a change for the better, but for the worse. When a man’s spleen ruptures, his life is in danger. When a bone is ruptured the limb is rendered useless.
When the Holy Father mentioned the “hermeneutic of rupture”, he contrasted it not with a “hermeneutic of continuity”, as the popular parlance of that phrase would seem to suggest, but with the term, “hermeneutic of reform”. Pope Benedict XVI, by making this contrast, clearly indicates that he was using the word rupture in its proper sense. Reform does not do violence to its subject; rather it is intended to improve it or repair it. That is the opposite of rupturing.
When the post-Vatican II developments are styled as a “rupture” by the Holy Father, he means, quite clearly, that violence has been done to the subject, which is this case is the rather vast field of all things Catholics, including worship, discipline and canon law, theology, Catholic education, Church government, the role of the modern Magisterium, etc. This was, to say the least, a radical notion on the part of Pope Benedict XVI. He is the first post-Vatican II pope to admit in no uncertain terms that violence has been done to the Church militant since the Second Vatican Council.
However, this is certain to set at unease those who have promoted the innovations in the wake of Vatican II. The Holy Father has accused them of doing violence to the Church militant. There are two possible courses of action for the liberals: either disagree with the Holy Father, or justify the violence done as a necessary step in the development of Church discipline and Christian doctrine. In the debate at Sandro Magister’s site over the Second Vatican Council and the traditionalist critique, the liberals haven’t attempted the former, simply because it’s impossible to deny that there has been violence done to the Church. However, the latter has been used to various degrees.
An attempt to justify the violence done by the “hermeneutic of rupture” is contained subtly in Cavalcoli’s, Biffi’s, Rhonheimer’s, and Arzillo’s essays, but the historian Enrico Morini takes it to a new height, not by thankfully dismissing the arguments of the “rupturists” as one side of some sort of dialectic of doctrinal development (analogy?), but as something welcomed and necessary in order to recover the Catholicism of a bygone, but "happy time". We really shouldn’t expect anything less from someone who openly embraces the “Bolognese school”, the liberalism of which did the most rupturing to the Church in the modern age.
What is surprising is that Morini, to prove his point, attempts to redefine the meaning of the word “rupture”. Morini writes:
It is not true, in my view, that there are no ruptures in the tradition of the Church. There was one interruption, precisely at the passage from the first to the second millennium, with the transition imparted by the "Lorraine-Alsace" reformers (like Pope Leo IX, as also two of the three legates in Constantinople in the aforementioned 1054, Cardinal Umberto and Stefano di Lorena, a future pope) and by the "Gregorian" reform, and then by an eminently philosophical approach to theological truths and by the overwhelming interest in canon law (already lamented by Dante Alighieri), at the expense of Scripture and the Fathers, at the height of the Middle Ages. Not to mention the Tridentine reform, with the rigid dogmatization – even going beyond the presuppositions of the medieval Church – as well as the "confiscation" of Scripture from the ordinary faithful, up to the apotheosis of the pontifical "monarchy" in Vatican I, relegating even further to the background the profile of the undivided Church of the first millennium. This should not come as a surprise: precisely because the Church is a living organism, its tradition is subject to evolution, but also to involutions.
Yes, Morini is actually making the claim that the Clunaic, Gregorian and even the Tridentine reforms were “ruptures”. He makes shifts in theological emphasis into wholesale ruptures! If he is using the term in its proper sense, in the sense that the Holy Father uses the term, he is telling us that these reforms were anything but reforms, but in fact did violence to the Church. The reforms after the Council of Trent did violence to the Church? Such a claim is simply too absurd to give it any extended or serious attention. Suffice it to say that Morini has turned the word “rupture” upside down and has forced it to mean its exact opposite!
The object of doing so, though, is less absurd because it points to the real intentions of, not just the “rupturists” after the Council, but of those intimately involved in the Council, those working behind the scenes helping to draft the very documents, themselves. It is summed up by the word aggiornamento, which was aimed at the recovery of the Church of the first millennium, a “happy time” “because it was nourished by reciprocal communion among the Churches”. Morini assures us that it is not a return to an abstraction or a myth of the past, and admits that these abstractions and myths have caused heterodoxies. Morini tells us that the Church of the first millennium doesn’t have to be reduced to abstraction or myth because we already have an explanation of the first millennium Church in the works of the Church Fathers.
However, here’s the problem: Morini never bothers to provide a picture of the first millennium Church that isn’t an abstraction or a myth. He simply reduces the desired result of this aggiornamento as a return to unity, collegiality, pluralism and a reformed liturgy. He never tells us why the aberrant abstractions and myths followed on the heels of the Council. He never tells us why the desired return to this first millennium Church, which is apparently so clearly painted by the Church Fathers, didn't happen. If it is so easy to achieve this aggiornamento, based on the picture provided by the Church Fathers, why was there an emergence of these aberrant abstractions and myths, with their heterodoxies, after the Council? It doesn’t seem as though this question ever occurred to Morini.
At the root of Morini’s thought is the false and dangerous desire of aggiornamento, which ignores the fact that Christian doctrine and discipline progresses forward, from the less clear to the more clear. What is being denied by Morini and the “rupturists” is the principle of doctrinal development that was so well explained by Blessed John Henry Newman. The simple fact of the matter is that the Church has progressed from that “happy time” to a MORE happy time because there have been many reforms throughout the history of the Church. These reforms introduced changes that repaired misconceptions, corrected errors, clarified various doctrines contained in the deposit of faith, and deepened the sacerdotal lives of the faithful.
It is here that we perceive why it was necessary for Morini to turn the word “rupture” upside-down to mean the opposite. Since these reforms, that included the Clunaic, Gregorian and Tridentine, reformed rather than ruptured what came before, what came before is still contained, albeit changed for the better, in the subject reformed. Morini ignores the fact that the writings of the Church Fathers, his window into the first millennium church, were preserved, not because of a string of ruptures that if they were ruptures in the proper sense of the word would not have been capable of preserving anything of the subject intact, but because of a string of reforms that preserved them and made them available to contemporaries. What would have happened to the writings of Boethius if it hadn’t been for the twelfth century scholastic reform? What would have been the fate of the Rule of St. Benedict without the Clunaic Reform? What would have happened to the ancient codices if it weren’t for the Gregorian reform?
The reason why myths and abstractions, accompanied by heterodoxy, emerged after the Council, is because the purveyors of aggiornamento were looking for the first millenium Church where it did not exist. They were left with nothing but abstractions and myths because that is all their sources, the scholarship of historians and various experts, could provide. If they had only looked to the Church as the source, they would have discovered the first millenium Church as it has progressed, in the liturgy, doctrines and devotions that existed at the time. That source is a guaranteed source, because the guarantee is the efficacy of the Holy Ghost.
Aggiornamento makes the troublesome claim that a return to a former understanding or a former practice is something good and reasonable. What this amounts to is a denial of the work of the Holy Ghost, Who works through history to move man to a deeper and clearer understanding of Christian truth, and a deeper experience of the divine. Aggiornamento is a stuffy conservationism that denies the progress of Christianity. Traditionalists, and not the liberals, are the truly progressive Catholics!
Take, for example, Morini’s backhanded compliment of Summorum Pontificum as a welcomed return to the “liturgical pluralism” of the first millennium Church. If liturgical pluralism is the ideal to be achieved, why did the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost in the second millennium move toward liturgical uniformity in the Roman Rite? Even now, the idea of “mutual enrichment”, despite what traditionalists might think of the notion, proves that liturgical pluralism isn’t a principal inherent in the Holy Father’s thinking behind Summorum Pontificum. Morini would like the Extraordinary Form to remained encased in amber, and the ordinary form to stay away from any influences from it, lest it spoil his rosy liturgical pluralism. Morini is a stuffy liturgical conservationist who would rather see cobwebs encase the Church's various liturgies in order to retain the illusion of some kind of return to his "happy time".
If the changes in Christianity over the centuries are purely the products of human innovation, then it is understandable to observe and make the conclusion that some or many changes were mistakes. In this hypothetical, changes in the history of the Church could well be “ruptures” that ended a “happy time”. However, if the Church is guided, not just in the first millennium, but throughout the whole history of the Church, to include the second millennium as well, by the Holy Ghost, then can we speak of these changes and developments as being mistakes, or having done violence to what came before? Absolutely not! To say such a thing is blasphemy, for the Holy Ghost does not make mistakes. But this is what aggiornamento does! It posits that the Holy Ghost has not reformed the Church militant, but has led us to an unhappy time. It is not aberrant abstractions or myths that have given us the post-Vatican II heterodoxies; it was simply aggiornamento.