Ratzinger at Vatican II: A Pope Who Can & Cannot Change by ProQuest


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                                  Ratzinger at Vatican II
                                             A	Pope	Who	Can	&	Cannot	Change
                                                                                 John Wilkins

                                       any years ago I started looking                        both to other religions and to secular culture were all in
                                                                                              urgent need of reforming scrutiny by the council fathers. At
                                       for a copy of Joseph Ratzinger’s                       the time, the future Pope Benedict was counted as one of
                                       Theological Highlights of Vatican II,                  the most influential “progressives” (to use a term Pope Paul
                                                                                              VI himself used). Coming together from various theological
                            then long out of print. Copies were as rare                       starting points, these thinkers forged an informal coalition
                            and as prized as gold dust, but eventually                        dedicated to Pope John XXIII’s call for change in the church’s
                                                                                              approach to the larger world. Indeed, Highlights features a
                            I found one in Chicago, among the office                          masterly exposition of the doctrine of episcopal collegiality,
                            bookshelves of a university professor who                         the key structural reform affirmed by the council (and so far its
                                                                                              greatest unfulfilled legacy). This doctrine was overwhelmingly
                            was kind enough to photocopy the pages                            approved in a straw poll of the bishops on October 30, 1963.
                            for me. Now Paulist Press has done us all a                       No one had expected them to embrace so wholeheartedly the
                            favor by reprinting Highlights in an attractive                   notion that the church is governed not by pope and Roman
                                                                                              curia, but by all the bishops in union with the pope. Yet the
                            and compact format ($16.95, 265 pp.). Every                       council came to understand collegiality to be in line with
                            page of this short book repays a reader’s                         Jesus’ commission to the community of the twelve apostles,
                                                                                              with and under Peter.
                            close attention.                                                     Collegiality, writes Ratzinger in Highlights, is the council’s
                               Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was just thirty-five years   answer to the “most important” question confronting the third
                            old in 1962 when the Second Vatican Council began. Already        session—papal centralism. “Even the person indifferent to
                            known as a brilliant theologian, he attended all four sessions    religion,” he declares, “sees the papal primacy as an obstacle
                            as peritus, or expert, to Cardinal Joseph Frings, archbishop of   to the union of Christendom.” The doctrine of collegiality
                            Cologne. Following each session, Ratzinger wrote an account       is the corrective to a one-sided emphasis on the functions of
                            and analysis of the theological debates among the bishops,        the papal office. The church is governed by the college of
                            giving his verdict on what had been achieved. These four
                            pamphlets make up the book, and they still have the fresh-
                            ness about them of that springtime of the church. Almost
                            every page breathes “the spirit of Vatican II”—the spirit that
                            Ratzinger, as cardinal prefect of the Vatican Congregation for
                            the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) from 1982 to 2005, would
                            later denigrate. In a useful and workmanlike introduction, Fr.
                            Thomas Rausch maintains that the author’s views, “with a
Commonweal . June 4, 2010

                            couple of exceptions, have remained remarkably consistent
                            over the years.” That assessment appears to be the triumph of
                            an ideological opinion over the evidence of the text, which
                            for the most part proves the exact opposite.
                               As far as the young Joseph Ratzinger was concerned, epis-
                            copal collegiality, papal authority, the liturgy, the question
                                                                                                                                                                  cns photo from reuters

                            of religious freedom, ecumenism, and the church’s approach

                            John	Wilkins was editor of the London Tablet from 1982 to
                            2003. Funding for this essay was provided by a grant from the
                            Henry Luce Foundation.
                                                                                              A different perspective

bishops, who hold their authority by divine right, not by papal     to be “a counterpart” to
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