Reflections on papal canonisation double-header

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Like Ernie Banks, the American baseballer whose enthusiasm led him to exclaim “Let’s play two!” before Sunday doubleheaders in the 1950s, Pope Francis seems to think that papal canonisations are better in tandem.

Predictably, the decision caused some unhappiness in some quarters. Some Poles wanted John Paul II canonised by himself. Some who welcomed the decision to canonize John XXIII are disgruntled that “their” pope has to share the billing with the pope they think hijacked John XXIII’s Vatican II. The aggrieved Poles should (and most will) recognize that, while John Paul II brought uniquely Polish insights and experiences to the papacy, he now belongs to the entire world Church.

The aggravated partisans of John XXIII should, but probably won’t, concede that the “John XXIII” they’ve have constructed in their imaginations bears little resemblance to the real John XXIII, and that the charge of Council hijacking is ludicrous.

In fact, it might be reasonably speculated that Pope Francis liked the idea of a papal canonization doubleheader precisely because it will underscore the continuity between John XXIII’s intention and John Paul II’s authoritative interpretation of Vatican II: Vatican II was intended to prepare the Church for the challenges of evangelization in late modernity, an intention realized by John Paul II’s use of the Council’s teaching to launch the world Church into the New Evangelization of the third millennium.

Vatican II differed from the previous 20 ecumenical councils in that it provided no authoritative keys for its proper interpretation. Unlike other councils, it defined no dogmas, condemned no heresies (or heretics), commissioned no catechism, wrote no new canons into the law of the Church. Vatican II did give the Church 16 documents of differing magisterial “weight,” but it provided no interpretive keys to its body of teaching.

The result was 20 years of argument, sometimes quite bitter. And in those arguments, as Benedict XVI put it, the idea of Vatican-II-as-rupture-with-the-past (which seemed to detach the Church of the future from its historical and doctrinal moorings) contended with the idea of Vatican-II-as-development-of-the-authoritative-tradition-of-the-Church (the tradition providing the reference points for grasping the true meaning of the Council).

FULL STORY Papal canonisation doubleheader

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