(Rome) "The decline in priestly vocations, which followed the Second Vatican Council, is attributable in no way the Council nor its partly dubious reception. It is necessary to recognize that the crisis had been that there were deeper and older roots” and that the conciliar reforms have likely curbed the destructive consequences. This was written by Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in the new book Presbytero Ordinis 50 years later. It is the first volume in a new series of books on the Council documents that the traditional Catholic publisher Cantagalli (Italy) has presented on the occasion of the 50 years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
The Cardinal, again recovering, then takes up that contradiction between the "real" and "virtual" council, which Pope Benedict XVI. stressed shortly before his resignation. The real council as an expression of the church is tangible in the Council documents and only there, the virtual council, however, is in an artificial world of expectations, interpretations and projections of the people’s own thoughts of that time and the post-conciliar period. According to Cardinal Piacenza these parallel perceptions of the council have been made apparent during and after the Council, the crisis of the priesthood, of the tens of thousands of priests who abandoned their priesthood and by the continuing lack of vocations, whose causes then are already traced to the time before the council.
In a New Book Series Cardinals Conciliar Documents Before - start priests decree by Cardinal Piacenza
Each volume of the new series is dedicated to a document of the Council and is published by a cardinal. That of Cardinal Piacenza (216 pages) contains the conciliar document to the ordained priesthood in Latin and Italian, the comments to be presented by the editor. The series is not aimed at a specialist audience, but to a broad readership. The publisher writes that it "will look to the teachings of the Council documents themselves, by dispensing ideological or special interpretations" of it. It is hoped that the publisher "to help the youth" to discover the "big event, which had marked the history of the Church of the 20th century” and “without adopting a one sided treatment of its legacy.” In view of the "not so young", the publisher hopes that this “will renew the joy of experiencing new enthusiasm and missionary zeal of the conciliar years.”
As far as the publisher publisher. In its commentary on the Council document, which deals with the priesthood, Cardinal Piacenza writes: "If sociologists and religious historians stress that the loss of priests, and the decline in priestly vocations which followed the Ecumenical Vatican Council II, know nothing like this in the history of the Church, not even when you compare it with the Lutheran "Reformation", then this is not due to the council in any way, nor its partially ambiguous reception. "the roots of the crisis of vocations and thus the crisis of the priesthood are older. "The reforms of the Council and also Presbytero Ordinis have curbed the destructive impact," said the cardinal.
Conciliar decree "in full compliance with all the Church's tradition"
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy noted then that in an analysis of the Conciliar Decree it is clear "that the teaching there presented both the sacramental and from the pastoral point of view in full compliance with the entire tradition of the Church and with the dogmatically important councils, including that of Trent, and offered a profile of the priestly identity, which is completely rooted in the sacrament of Holy Orders and is entirely dependent on this, as also touches on the mission."
Piacenza writes in his analysis that “especially in the first decades immediately after the release of Presbytero Ordinis, new forms of exercise of the priestly office were sought, which would correspond more to the needs of contemporary culture and are more efficient from the missionary point of view. This search, however, had not a little one-sided result in the hearts and minds of those addressed that would allow that secular standards enter into the horizon of faith, and thereby took newly evangelized world again to recover with a completely secular faith, often entire communities. “
Toward every reform “the criterion must stand measured above all others: is the salvation of souls"
The cardinal affirmed that "every authentic renewal in the Church is not possible without the fundamental contribution of the priests. So it is true that the Holy Spirit is free to form the new face of the Bride of Christ in every era, especially as He gives saints, women and men who are fully satisfied by Christ and therefore are able through their own lives to evangelize and renew the Church and the world, so it does not apply equally, that the priests in their daily and concrete exercise modify their pastoral office for the holy people of God, which is the highest authority demonstrated by the universal Church and in Her as a way of necessary renewal. In this it is not an easy task, says Cardinal Piacenza, “the criterion being measured always above all others: is the salvation of souls. In any reform and its implementation, a key question must always be clear and decisive: Does it help the faith? Does it promote a greater attachment to Christ? “
And Cardinal Piacenza continued: "If this simple and direct criterion would always been applied, there would be neither dangerous, unfounded distortions of doctrine nor nostalgic hardening of questionable missionary benefit."
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Opus Dei
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