NAPLES, Florida, JUNE 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sees the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as a compass for Catholicism in the third millennium, says an American theologian.
Father Matthew Lamb, director of the graduate school of theology at Ave Maria University, shared with ZENIT highlights from the then Joseph Ratzinger’s book “Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today” and his first statement as Pope.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.
Q: In his first statement, Pope Benedict said he wanted to pursue the commitment to enact the Second Vatican Council. What does that mean?
Father Lamb: It means that he is fully committed to follow his predecessors in enacting the teachings of Vatican II. He sees the Council as a “compass” with which to embark on the third millennium of Catholicism. We do not need another Council — the Church is still drawing upon the riches of Vatican II.
He also indicates how this enactment is truly “Catholic,” or according to the “whole.” For such an enacting can only occur “in faithful continuity with the two- thousand-year tradition of the Church.” Only in communion with the whole Church as the body of Christ down the ages “do we encounter the real Christ.”
Cardinal Ratzinger vigorously counteracted those theologians and others who misread Vatican II as a break from the Church’s past. Unable to ground such misreading in the texts of the Council itself, they often resorted to such terms as the “spirit” or “style” of the Council. The Pope pledges that he will follow his predecessors in promoting the genuine renewal of the Council within the whole of the Catholic tradition.
Q: In the same statement, Pope Benedict struck a cord of collegiality. What is his understanding of the papacy and the role collegiality plays in it?
Father Lamb: The relation between the pope and the college of bishops is the continuation of the primacy of Peter among the Twelve Apostles.
As he stated: “As Peter and the other apostles were, through the will of the Lord, one apostolic college, in the same way the Successor of Peter and the bishops, successors of the apostles — and the Council forcefully repeated this — must be closely united among themselves.”
This unity and collegiality is, as the Pope remarks, “concerned solely with proclaiming to the world the living presence of Christ.” This first statement of the Holy Father illustrates how his theology is born from his own profound friendship with Jesus Christ in his total dedication to the mission Jesus entrusted to his Church.
Q: What did Cardinal Ratzinger outline as the nature of bishop and priest in his book “Called to Communion”?
Father Lamb: The Eucharist and the other sacraments are not something any human person by his own powers can do truthfully. The Word Incarnate in Christ Jesus is the only one who can truthfully speak “This is my body” or “Your sins are forgiven.” Only because Jesus sent forth his apostles as he was sent by the Father do we have a Church with her sacraments.
The Church as Eucharistic can only be found in communion with the bishops as successors of the apostles. Gathered around the altar, the Church is Eucharist. It is always both local and universal, just as it unites the vertical and horizontal.
Cardinal Ratzinger has emphasized that the universality of the Church was present in Jesus Christ as the Word Incarnate. The Church is Eucharist — each local community celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is taken up within the whole Christ embracing all of the faithful throughout all time. At Mass we invoke the heavenly hosts as well as Our Lady and all the saints, as well as praying for the dead.
No local community on its own can give itself a bishop, any more than it is simply a celebration of itself cut off from the whole Catholic Church. The consecration of bishops make evident how they are in communion with the successor of Peter and receive their mission from the Lord himself mediated down the ages in communion with the apostles themselves who were called by Jesus.
Benedict XVI referred to this in his beautiful first statement as Pope reflecting on his being called to be a successor of Peter: “We have been thinking in these hours about what happened in Caesarea of Philippi 2000 year ago: ‘You are Christ the Son of the living God,’ and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church … I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.'”
Like the Holy Father, each bishop is entrusted with the mission of fostering the unity and the catholicity of the Church entrusted to his care. Without unity, as Ratzinger observes, there would be no true holiness, for this demands the gifted love that is the bond of unity.
The bishop must cultivate an ever-deepening union with Christ — like the apostles he must be “Christ’s contemporary” — for otherwise he would only be an ecclesiastical functionary.
Similarly, ordained priests share in the mission of the bishops just as chosen disciples shared in the mission of the apostles. As genuine apostolic activity is not the product of their own capabilities, so it is with ordained bishops and priests.
It is Christ speaking and acting through them as his instruments when they teach true doctrine, celebrate the sacraments, and govern properly. They can call “nothing” their own. It is all Christ’s presence and action, just as all he had is from the Father in the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Ratzinger sums this up well in “Called to Communion”: “This is precisely what we mean when we call the ordination of priests a sacrament: ordination is not about the development of one’s own powers and gifts. It is not the appointment of a man as a functionary because he is especially good at it, or because it suits him, or simply because it strikes him as a good way to earn his bread. …
“Sacrament means: I give what I myself cannot give; I do something that is not my work; I am on a mission and have become a bearer of that which another has committed to my charge.”
As with the bishop, so the “foundation of priestly ministry is a deep personal bond to Jesus Christ.”