For further reflection

. At Vienne (1311–1312) the council condemned the Knights Templar in the language of “anger and wrath” reminiscent of the prophets.37 Pope Julius II’s decree in Lateran V (1512) against the cardinals who had attempted to depose him minced no words: “We condemn, reject and detest, with the approval of this holy council, each and every thing done by those sons of perdition.”38 The Council of Constance (1418) denounced John Wyclif as a “profligate enemy” of the faith and a “pseudo-Christian,” and handed over his disciple Jan Hus to be burned at the stake.39

On Vatican II:  The genre can be precisely identified. It was a genre known and practiced in many cultures from time immemorial, but it was clearly analyzed and its features carefully codified by classical authors like Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian.49 It is the panegyric, that is, the painting of an idealized portrait in order to excite admiration and appropriation. An old genre in the rhetorical tradition of the West, it was used extensively by the Fathers of the Church in their homilies and other writings. It derives from neither the legal tradition of classical antiquity nor the philosophical/dialectical but from the humanistic or literary.

The purpose of the genre, therefore, is not so much to clarify concepts as to heighten appreciation for a person, an event, an institution, and to excite emulation of an ideal.To engage in persuasion is to some extent to put oneself on the same level as those being persuaded. Persuaders do not command from on high. Otherwise they would not be persuading but coercing. Persuasion works from the inside out. In order to persuade, persuaders need to establish an identity between themselves and their audience and to make them understand that they share the same concerns. They share, indeed, the same “joy and hope, the same grief and anguish.”59 The form prompts and enhances congruent content. It should come as no surprise that reconciliation has been one of the perennial themes of the epideictic genre. Although ecumenism of some form was on the agenda of Vatican II from the moment John XXIII announced the council, it found appropriate expression in the new genre and could feel very much at home there. Since the genre wants to raise its audience to big issues, its content in a Christian context is typically the major doctrines of creation, redemption, sanctification. Implicit in this penc. Implicit in these reciprocity-words, moreover, is engagement and even initiative. In the document on the laity, for instance, the council tells them that they have the right and sometimes the duty to make their opinions known.61 Implicitly the reciprocity words are empowerment words. Closely related to reciprocity words a

In this regard the council’s emphasis on conscience as the ultimate norm in moral choice is remarkable: “Deep within their conscience individuals discover a law that they do not make for themselves but that they are bound to obey, whose voice, ever summoning them to love and to do what is good and avoid what is evil rings in their hearts.”63 WI will summarize in a simple litany some of the elements in the change in style of the Church indicated by the council’s vocabulary: from commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to conversation, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical and top-down to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from static to changing, from passive acceptance to active engagement, from prescriptive to principled, from defined to open-ended, from behavior-modification to conversion of heart, from the dictates of law to the dictates of conscience, from external conformity to the joyful pursuit of holiness.

This is the style for the Church that Pope John seemed to be pointing toward in his allocution on October 11, 1962, opening the Second Vatican Council: the Church should act by “making use of the medicine of mercy rather than severity . . . and by showing herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness.”66 The shift of Vatican II in style of discourse

The shift of Vatican II in style of discourse has, therefore, deep ramifications. It and the many other special features I have mentioned distinguish this council from every previous one. By adopting the style it did Vatican II redefined what a council is. Vatican II, that is to say, did not take the Roman senate as its implicit model. I find it difficult to pinpoint just what its implicit model was, but it seems much closer to guide, partner, friend, and inspired helpmate than it does to lawmaker, police officer, or judge.

VATICAN II: DID ANYTHING HAPPEN? JOHN W. O’MALLEY, S.J. Recent emphasis on the continuity of Vatican II with the Catholic tradition runs the danger of slighting the aspects of the council that were discontinuous. Among those aspects are the literary genre the council adopted and the vocabulary inherent in the genre, different from that of all previous councils. Examination of these aspects yields tools for constructing a hermeneutic appropriate to this council, and not only shows how distinctive Vatican II was but also allows us to get at that elusive “spirit of the council.” The substance of this article was delivered as the Roland Bainton Lecture for 2005 at the Divinity School of Yale University and shortly afterwards as one of the “Gathering Points” lectures at Marquette University.

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