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REFORM AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE: AN ECUMENICAL ENDEAVOR Catherine E. Clifford* These words are written almost fifty years to the day that the small, rotund , and unassuming man of faith, Pope John XXIII, chose against all expectation to convene the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II will go down as one of the most momentous events in the history of the church in the second millennium. Fifty years on, and having passed the threshold of a new millennium, we are still receiving the advance of that council , still interpreting, and yes, still debating its meaning. Indeed, the context of the church has changed since the close of Vatican II, and many new questions have emerged, questions not anticipated by the council. While we cannot look back naively at the conciliar teaching for answers to all questions facing the contemporary Church, we can and indeed must find there some insights that can serve us as the churches continue to grow together toward full, visible unity. The council marked a decisive and authoritative entry of the Catholic Church into the modern ecumenical movement. The manner in which the Church moves forward in its ecumenical engagement continues to be shaped, for better or worse, by the manner in which we receive and interpret the theological groundwork laid at Vatican II for its engagement in the common search for ecclesial unity. This essay proposes a reflection on the process of doctrinal development1 unleashed by the Second Vatican Council—a process which has The Jurist 71 (2011) 35–58 35 * Faculty of Theology, Saint Paul University, Ottawa 1 The development of doctrine is understood here in the broadest sense. Without restricting our reflection to the narrower category of “dogma,” we wish to consider how growth in understanding and changing historical perspectives invite us not only to new insights , but also points to the necessity of new forms of expression in the church’s teaching and life. This is very much in line with the “hermeneutics of reform” described by Pope Benedict XVI in his discourse to the Roman Curia of December 22, 2005, which does not imply an abandonment of traditional principles, but rather seeks to build upon them in an effort of fidelity. See: “Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia,” (December 22, 2005), at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/ december/documents/hf_ben_xvi_spe_20051222_roman-curia_en.html.Seealso,Joseph Komonchak, “Novelty in Continuity: Pope Benedict’s Interpretation ofVatican II,” America (February 2, 2009) 10–16. The overall debate on “continuity” or “discontinuity” as principles for the interpretation ofVatican II seems to introduce a false dichotomy that obscuresthenatureanddynamicsofdoctrineitself .Foramoreextensivediscussion,see:John 36 the jurist not yet concluded, and which continues today in the diverse forums represented by the bi-lateral theological dialogues between the divided churches, as well as in the important multi-lateral conversations of Faith and Order. We will look to the writings of the Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian, Bernard Lonergan, for some important clues to understanding the nature of this development. To conclude, we will suggest very briefly some important implications this ongoing development might have for the future of theology and canon law. 1. The Self-Correcting Aspect of Ecumenical Dialogue It is worth returning to Pope John XXIII’s announcement of the SecondVatican Council in order to understand that the council he envisioned was to be something new and unprecedented in the Church. By this, we do not mean to suggest that he intended to propose something completely novel. Indeed, he himself expressed a desire to return to the ancient tradition of the Church, to the conciliar and synodal tradition that had been largely forgotten within the Latin Church since the end of the Middle Ages. “We have resolved,” he said, “to return to certain ancient forms of doctrinal expression and wise ordinances of ecclesiastical discipline that, in the history of the church, in a period of renewal, have produced extraordinarily efficacious fruits for the clarification of ideas, the strengthening of religious unity, and the revival of Christian fervor . . . ”2 It is not insignificant that good Pope John XIII wished to return, not only to the venerable tradition of holding a general council.3 He...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2326-6236
Print ISSN
0022-6858
Pages
pp. 35-58
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-06
Open Access
No
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