In his address to pilgrims at the Statio Orbis Mass concluding the International Eucharistic Congress Pope Benedict expressed his determination to stop the distortions of Vatican II that have plagued the Church for the past fifty years:
“The Congress also occurs at a time when the Church throughout the world is preparing to celebrate the Year of Faith to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council, an event which launched the most extensive renewal of the Roman Rite ever known. Based upon a deepening appreciation of the sources of the liturgy, the Council promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
At our distance today from the Council Fathers’ expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church’s experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities.
The renewal of external forms, desired by the Council Fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery. Its true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and thus with the living God, so that through this contact with Christ’s love, the love of his brothers and sisters for one another might also grow. Yet not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and “active participation” has been confused with external activity. Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal. In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognize anew the mysterious presence of the Risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.
Pope Benedict also expressed the insight that Vatican II sought to overcome Christianity being reduced to an external habit that stopped any real relationship with Jesus Christ. He proposed that this impoverished distortion of Christianity may be behind the appalling crimes of clergy child abuse:
Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care. Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church’s message. How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way? It remains a mystery. Yet evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit. The work of the Council was really meant to overcome this form of Christianity and to rediscover the faith as a deep personal friendship with the goodness of Jesus Christ.
Protect the Pope comment: The printed words of Pope Benedict’s speech do not convey the determination with which he delivered his address to the pilgrims at the International Eucharistic Congress. It appears that we are at a turning point in the pontificate of Pope Benedict. Up till now the Holy Father had exhorted and appealed to dissenters within the Church to come back to the truth, but there are signs that in the face of such defiant disobedience that Pope Benedict realizes that he must take stern measures to stop the distortions of Vatican II.
Hopefully the Year of Faith will be a watershed for the Church, particularly if the Holy Father is prepared to challenge the passive aggression and private contempt of certain Bishops’ Conferences.