In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REFORM WITH THE HELP OF JUXTAPOSITIONS: A CHALLENGE TO THE INTERPRETATION OF THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II Henk Witte* Why are conversion and reform in view of the unity of the Church not a constantly ongoing matter? Why is it that church renewal seems to stagnate? Does this possibly have to do with the way in which elements of reform and renewal were presented in the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council and finally were presented in its documents? Juxtaposition can be considered to be the method or strategy the council used in presenting the elements of reform and renewal. Juxtaposition also characterizes many conciliar statements. The main focus of this contribution concerns the question whether this method did not encumber the reception and interpretation of Vatican II with heavy baggage. Did it not cause several sterile debates in the post-conciliar period and does it not still continue to provoke them? Juxtapositions are a challenge to the interpretation of the council. How should we deal with them in order to encourage and implement the renewal Vatican II had in mind? In order to answer these questions, first a clarification is needed in terms of understanding the phenomenon of juxtaposition. How can it be discovered in the council as a corpus of texts and as an historical event? The juxtaposition strategy had considerable influence on the reception and the interpretation of the council. A second topic concerns the question of how this influence came to the fore. Finally, we will discuss how to deal with juxtaposition in a fruitful way. Before we deal with these questions, a short introduction will determine the position of this contribution in the recent debate on the interpretation of Vatican II. We recently noted the fiftieth anniversary of the announcement of the council by Pope John XXIII. This implies that only the generation of the faithful over 60 or 65 years of age has living memories of the council. Sometimes an appeal to these memories appears to justify a rather esoteric inward knowledge of the ‘spirit’ of the council that is used subsequently as a main criterion for the interpretation of the statements of the council.Younger generations of the faithful need an alternative access to The Jurist 71 (2011) 20–34 20 * Tilburg School of Theology, Tilburg University, Netherlands the council. Recent contributions on the interpretation of the council by, among others, Ormond Rush, Christoph Theobald, Gilles Routhier, and Peter Hünermann are well aware of the necessity of formulating a short summary of the council, a ‘canon of the canon,’ which contains and discloses the council’s intention, and shows the unity and the coherence of its sizeable corps of texts.1 Pope Benedict XVI himself contributed to the discussion by introducing the distinction between “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” and “a hermeneutic of reform” in his Christmasaddress to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005. The pope advocates a hermeneutic of reform as a model that guarantees continuity of principles and allows “some kind of discontinuity” on the level of contingent matters which refer to specific concrete historical situations.2 Although Benedict XVI’s observations are important in view of a sound interpretation ofVatican II, they do not supply, strictly speaking, a key to the documents of the council as a whole. Searching for such a key, Christoph Theobald focuses on the principle of ‘pastorality’ from Pope John XXIII’s opening speech, which he considers to be closely connected to the principle of ‘ecumenicity.’It implies that the dogmatic teaching in itself is and should be truly pastoral and truly ecumenical. By focusing on this principle, Theobald succeeds in connecting the initial concentration of the council on the Church, and reform with the help of juxtapositions 21 1 Ormond Rush, Still Interpreting Vatican II: Some Hermeneutical Principles (New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2004); Karl Kardinal Lehmann, “Hermeneutik für einen künftigen Umgang mit dem Konzil,” in Zweites Vatikanum—vergessene Anstöße, gegenw ärtige Fortschreibungen (Quaestiones disputatae 207), ed. Günther Wassilowsky (Freiburg-Basle-Vienna: Herder, 2004) 71–89; Christoph Theobald, “The Theological Options ofVatican II: Seeking an ‘Internal’Principle of Interpretation,” Concilium (2005) 4, 87–107; Peter Hünermann, “The...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 20-34
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.