Intra Conciliar Dei Verbum and John XXIII

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1881-1963) came to the papal throne in 1958 and assumed the name of John XXIII. He was born in Sotto il Monte near Bergamo, in Italy, on Friday 25 November 1881, at 10:15 am.136 His early life of poverty 137 gave no hint of that conclave seventy-seven years later when he would boldly assume and sacralise a name supposedly made unusable by Baldassare Cossa, 'John XXIII' (reg.1410-15), an anti-pope, condottiere 'ex-pirate who had massacred, cheated and perjured his way to the papacy'.138 Roncalli's life, actions, spirituality and, most of all, his Journal provide ample indication that he was the very opposite of a Cossa.139

After studies in the seminaries of Bergamo and the main seminary in Rome, the Apollinare, he received his STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology) on 13 July 1904. The invigilator for the written exam was Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII.140 On 10 August 1904, Roncalli was ordained priest by Bishop Giuseppe Ceppetelli, the titular Patriarch of Constantinople.141

After war service during the First World War as a hospital orderly and military chaplain, Roncalli's career became stratospheric: he served extremely briefly as Professor of Patrology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome (Pontificio Ateneo Lateranense) from November 1924 to 3 March 1925, before being appointed Apostolic Visitor in Bulgaria with the rank of Archbishop and the titular See of Areopolis.142 Diplomatic appointments to Istanbul143 (1934) and Paris (1944)144 followed.

On 15 January 1953, Angelo Roncalli was created Cardinal and Patriarch of Venice.145 In such wise was he now, physically and historically, in place for that all-

important conclave which, on 28 October 1958, elected him Pope John XXIII146 (reg. 1958-63). That conclave would, in effect, precipitate the 'turning upside down' of tradition/Tradition and traditionalism in the Roman Catholic Church while rejecting neither.

Firstly, John decided to call a Council of the whole Church: 'Without any forethought, I put forward, in one of my first talks with my Secretary of State, on 20 January 1959, the idea of an Ecumenical Council'.147 The leitmotiv of both pontificate and Council would be aggiornamento,148 an Italian word which may be translated faithfully as 'update' or 'updating',149 but which encapsulated notions of 'reform' and 'renewal'.150 This word was to become inextricably linked in several minds with liturgical update, reform and renewal: thus the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham in England, George Patrick Dwyer, on 23 October 1967 observed: 'The liturgical reform is in a very deep sense the key to the aggiornamento. Make no mistake, this is the starting point of the revolution.'151

Yet the aggiornamento of the traditional liturgy, and especially the replacement of the so-called Tridentine Mass by the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI (reg. 1963-78), John's successor, was to prove a horrendous Trojan horse for the traditionalists: 'This much is certain, therefore, that revolution and modernism [that ancient bête noire of Pius X]152 have penetrated the City of God by way of the liturgy. The Liturgical Movement has been [a] Trojan horse.. .'153

It was not just the liturgy which, in the eyes of the traditionists, seemed to be under attack. Some feared that even the traditional theology of the Church might be susceptible to change in the light of - or in spite of - John XXIII's extremely significant declaration to the effect that 'the substance of the ancient deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another' (Altra è la sostanza dell'antica dottrina del depositum fidei, ed altra è la formulazione del suo rivestimento).154 Would any continuity from the lengthy pontificate of Pius XII be left, or was all to be changed?155

The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), promulgated by the Second Vatican Council on 18 November 1965, was a landmark, albeit a compromise one, for Catholic Biblical scholarship and studies.156 From the time of the Council of Trent, and up to the Second Vatican Council, Roman Catholic discussions of tradition had tended to be dominated by a 'two-source' language: 'Tradition was usually treated as distinct from scripture and it was held that teachings not contained in the Bible may be gathered from Tradition alone'.157 Dei Verbum brought Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants closer in their understanding of the relationship between scripture and tradition.158

The chapter in Dei Verbum that concerns us most for this discussion is chapter 2. The fundamental question was whether there were two distinct sources of revelation, Scripture and Tradition, or just one source, that is, Scripture interpreted by Tradition. The Dogmatic Constitution did not settle the question, but it brought the two polarities into a harmony which had not hitherto existed: it stressed the close bond between Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture and the way in which the one, over time, communicated with the other. It stressed that both flowed 'from the same divine well-spring' and had the same goal. Both were worthy of acceptance and honour 'with equal feelings of devotion and reverence'.159 However, the same paragraph stressed that not all revelation came from scripture alone,160 a statement which many Protestant Christians would wish to reject.161 The Dogmatic Constitution went on to underline the unity of Tradition and Scripture: 'Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church'.162 Tradition, Scripture and the Church's Magisterium were inextricably linked, and the one could not stand without the other.163 Kallistos Ware comments:

Since Vatican II most Catholic theologians have taken the view that Tradition and Scripture, while different in form, are identical in content, so that Tradition is only formally, but not materially, independent of scripture. But this is not actually stated in the Constitution on Revelation; Vatican II deliberately left the question open.164

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