Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Free thinking and the Second Vatican Council

Lent 2016: Day 28

For AdTheLad

The fourth week of Lent approaches its end, past the half-way mark and I'm beginning to feel a sense of sadness that this dear old friend of mine for 25 years, will soon be over. At Christmas, with its excesses of food and drink, I sense Lent looming, months away still, the first few days are hard but then I get back into the swing. And with each passing year it becomes less about the body and more about the spirit.

AdTheLad took me to task about my comments regarding the spiritual search, when, he says, the answer is 'right under my nose', meaning the Catholic Church. Searching for absolute truth is not something that can be accomplished by any one person in any one lifetime, I would argue, and Scriptures and their interpretation are but one starting point from which one can but begin the journey - and a journey that is unlikely to end in a satisfactory conclusion.

Are we right to search? The pre-Vatican church was against free thought or attempts to independently seek answers to spiritual questions. The Second Vatican Council introduced much change; some clearly visible (Mass in the vernacular, priest facing the congregation, no altar rails etc) and some - as I wrote about in my Lenten blog posts from three years ago (final part here) to do with the very heart of Catholic theology.

The Second Vatican Council has divided the Church. There's the Traditionalist wing, the most extreme of which (the Sedevacationists) claim that an Anti-Pope has been sitting in the Vatican these past 50 years, and the Liberal wing, who find their more open and accepting vision increasingly difficult to sell to those who want simple answers.

The Second Vatican Council opened the door to ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue while reducing the accent on pious ritual and the role of the priest as intermediary between God and Man.

Since the death of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church in Poland has tended to drift back towards a pre-Second Vatican Council form, albeit without the Latin or the altar rails. Communicants can still choose to receive the Host in their hands rather than having it placed on their tongue. But in terms of theology, the voice of openness, inclusivity and dialogue that I would hear at the Dominican Abbey in Służewiec is being drowned out by the less tolerant voice of Radio Maryja, which dangerously mixes nationalist politics into the Catholic faith.

Reading Fr Tischner or Fr Heller does give hope that the Polish church is still capable of producing excellent minds, capable to reaching out to all those who sincerely seek. Following Fr Tischner's commentaries on the post-Second Vatican Council catechism, I found that I learned much that was new and useful on my spiritual journey. It is easier to journey with such books at one's side than to make everything up on one's own.

This, I think, for me is crucial - not to wander off entirely on one's own, but to read deeply and broadly, watch your own opinions take form over time, become more sophisticated, able to answer ever tougher questions. But still, at the end of the course, we will be only a tiny way further along that great path from Zero to One. And here's my biggest gripe with selling of salvation - it's a one-shot solution, a three-score (now more commonly four-score) and ten attempt at doing right in exchange for an eternity in paradise. Would that it were so simple...

This time two years ago:
Getting ul. Karczunkowska ready for Biedronka opening

This time three years ago: God's own risk

This time four years ago:
A third of the way through Lent

This time five years ago:
Balancing surfeit and shortage

This time six years ago:
Congruent consciousness


adthelad said...

Dear Michał,

What I'm about to write is off the top of my head (while being a tad tipsy) so please bear this in mind.

I very much appreciate you trying address to my concerns, which I posted to you in a private email, but I have to say I feel you have missed the point (yeah, I know, everyone's a critic, but we have to start from somewhere :) ) You write:

"Searching for absolute truth is not something that can be accomplished by any one person in any one lifetime, I would argue, and Scriptures and their interpretation are but one starting point from which one can but begin the journey - and a journey that is unlikely to end in a satisfactory conclusion."

Wrong, wrong, wrong!! It's something that many people achieve in their lifetimes. I know this as a fact as I have met such people. Truth shone from them more from any star and I was privileged to be in their company.
The crux of the matter is whom does one accept as an authority. I can only say 'suck it and see'. Yes, that does involve investigation, but it also involves trust. As you noted regarding the second Vatican council, we are called to enquire. I remember as a 10 year old being told by the priest at my Polish school in the UK to always challenge my faith. However, that didn't mean I ought to be self centred. One should always be open to the perceptions of others and not only to one's own. This is why I directed you to the many testimonies and factual discoveries made by others. Naturally, I was disappointed you perceived them to be ramblings, however, I put that down to the restrictions you perceive on your time rather than any contemplation you might have afforded to their testimonies.

"I am the way, the truth and the life" - that statement by Jesus (bow of the head) is either false or true. If the Church is the body of Christ as it claims to be, however scarred, blemished and disfigured it might appear, I would suggest that a more humble, loving, and committed approach to the gifts afforded by the sacraments, and the graces they entail, would shed more light upon your search than you can presently conceive.

Unfortunately, I myself have been carrying a cross of guilt most of my life which as prevented me from committing completely and it is one that is as much psychological as spiritual. Is this the place for such admissions? Perhaps not. Still, I hope that this brief exchange might pique you interest as well as spur me on to repairing the hole within me and fixing my own life.

Wishing you all the best (and hoping what I've written will make some sense when I revisit it in a more sober state),
warmest wishes,

adthelad said...

You write - "Would that it were so simple..."

Either you're having a laugh or it would appear that the 'I know better' approach has led you into thinking there's an intellectual solution to your problem which you couch in words on spirituality.

This blog's writer doth protest too much, methinks, instead of applying the tenets and seeing where they lead :)