Pope Francis has embraced the ‘hermeneutic of reform’ that Pope Benedict XVI proposed as the key to interpreting the teachings of Vatican II.
In a letter dated November 19 and released November 23, the Pope appointed Cardinal Walter Brandmüller as his special envoy to the December celebration of the 450th anniversary of the conclusion of the Council of Trent (1545-63), the nineteenth of the Church’s 21 ecumenical councils.
Cardinal Brandmüller, 84, is the president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.
“It is appropriate that the Church recall with a more prompt and attentive zeal the very fruitful doctrine that came to pass from that Council held in the Tyrolean region,” Pope Francis said in his Latin-language letter, as translated in a literal (if stilted) manner.
“Indeed, not without reason has the Church already for a long time directed such concern to that Council’s decrees and counsels that ought to be commemorated and observed, since, when very grave matters and questions appeared at that time, the Council Fathers applied all diligence, that the Catholic faith might appear distinctly and be better perceived.”
“Indeed, with the Holy Spirit inspiring and prompting, it concerned them chiefly that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine not only be guarded but also shine forth more clearly, that the salvific work of the Lord be spread through the whole world and that the Gospel be extended to all the earth,” Pope Francis added.
“Heeding indeed the same Spirit, Holy Church of this age even now revives and reflects upon the most glorious Tridentine doctrine,” he continued. “As a matter of fact, the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ which Our Predecessor Benedict XVI set forth in the year 2005 in the presence of the Roman Curia, relates not less to the Tridentine than to the Vatican Council.”
Quoting Pope Benedict’s 2005 address, Pope Francis added, “In fact, this manner of interpreting places under a brighter light one evident property of the Church that the Lord Himself bestows on her: ‘she is clearly one ‘subject’ which, with the hastening ages, grows and is increased; nevertheless, she always remains the same. And so she is the one subject of the sojourning People of God.’”
Pope Francis’s letter on the Council of Trent follows a letter, dated October 7 and released November 12, in which he said that “the best hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council” has been done by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto.
“You have manifested this love [for the Church] in many ways, including correcting an error or imprecision on my part – for which I thank you from my heart –but above all it is manifest in all its purity in studies done on the Second Vatican Council,” Pope Francis added in that letter.
In its description of Archbishop Marchetto’s The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: A Counterpoint for the History of the Council, published in English in 2010, the University of Chicago Press states:
This important study by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto makes a significant contribution to the debate that surrounds the interpretation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Archbishop Marchetto critiques the Bologna School, which, he suggests, presents the Council as a kind of “Copernican revolution,” a transformation to “another Catholicism.” Instead Marchetto invites readers to reconsider the Council directly, through its official documents, commentaries, and histories.
In a recent essay published in L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote that the interpretation of the Council offered by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto is more relevant than ever.
Archbishop Marchetto, wrote Cardinal Koch, has “taken up and deepened the hermeneutic of reform supported by Pope Benedict XVI.”