Rorate Caeli

The epoch-making speech: a summary of comments

This blog was the very first online outlet to issue any comments on the Pope's epoch-making speech of December 22, just minutes after it was published. It has been extensively commented here (parts 2, 3, 4, 5, and also here) and the purpose has always been to make this papal text widely known and discussed.

I am very pleased that many people I deeply admire concur with my original view of the speech. For the friends of this blog, I highly recommend this summary of comments on the speech (in French). The first commentator even uses my same expression ("ce texte fera date dans l’histoire de l’Eglise") and I truly believe, one month onwards, that it is a text to be read, and re-read, and kept with great care. It brings with it the seed for the pacification of Holy Mother Church.

I would also like to emphasize once more (as I did on that very first message on the speech) the notion of the Church as an anti-Constitutional-Convention entity. For many reasons, this is the central point of the speech to me:

In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim. The nature of a Council as such is therefore radically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of Constitutional Convention which abolishes an old constitution and creates a new one. However, the Constitutional Convention needs a mandator and then confirmation by the mandator, in other words, the people the constitution must serve. The Fathers had no such mandate and no one had ever given them one; nor could anyone have given them one because the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and was given to us so that we might attain eternal life and, starting from this perspective, be able to illuminate life in time and time itself.

The heart of this paragraph is the notion of a Constitutional Convention as an unlimited power (or one could recall Hamilton's defense of the proposed Constitution as necessary because the old Constitutional order, the Articles of Confederation, did not "admit...amendment but ... an entire change in its leading features and characters" - Federalist 22).

The Church can never and will never suffer "an entire change in its leading features and characters"; the Fathers of Vatican II had no such power and no Council could ever wield such power. Moreover, while the Church is sine macula et sine ruga, "all the constitutions with which we are acquainted are faulty" (Aristotle, Politics, B.II, p. 1), which is just as true today as it was then.