Friday, October 19, 2012

Victor Codina, SJ: The Churches on the Continent 50 Years After Vatican II -- Pending Issues

One of the most interesting presentations at the Congresso Continental de Teologia held at Unisinos in Brazil (October 2012), in my opinion, was given by Victor Codina, SJ. This article (in Spanish) on the Amerindia website by an anonymous author is a loose transcript of Dr. Codina's main points. Here is the English translation. -- RG

Today, Victor Codina started out by saying that the reception of Vatican II is an ecclesiological issue that was rediscovered and reassessed in the 1970s, especially by Aloys Grillmeier and Yves Congar.

After joking that "reception" is a term that conjures up visions of gracious hostesses, Codina emphasized that it was a theological expression meaning how the councils of the universal Church are received in the local churches and that this presupposes a theology of communion of local churches, a theology of tradition and a true pneumatology.

Reception disappears when this vision of a Church of communion is replaced by a hierarchical and pyramidic concept of the Church where everything is determined from the top, the people remain passive, and the Spirit is only mentioned as the guarantor of the infallibility of the hierarchy of the Church.

In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, the reception of Vatican II hasn't been merely a vital assimilation, much less a simple application of Vatican II to Latin America but much more -- it has been an original re-creation, a creative fidelity, a rereading of the Council from a continent both Christian and marked by poverty and injustice.


Many are the elements that the continent has assimilated from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, but I think the most significant are the emergence of the base Christian communities, a return to early ecclesiology, a new way of being Church, an ecclesiogenesis, to use Leonardo Boff's expression, that has made real the ideal of the Church of the poor that John XXIII had set as a goal of the Council and that Lumen Gentium didn't manage to pick up on, outside of a small allusion in LG 8.

The Bible has been given to the people. The Word given to the people has been enriched through the methodology of "see, judge, and act", with the reading of the biblical text from the pre-text of life, in the context of church faith, as Carlos Mesters' biblical team has promoted with great success.

The reception of Vatican II by the Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean has been creative, innovative, not a mere application of general principles to specific practice but a real rereading of the council from a continent both poor and Christian, conciliar hermeneutics from a new theological place, from the poor.

The Council has not only been historicized, but the ecclesiological part of the Council has been christologized because in the suffering of the poor and crucified people of Latin America, the image of the Servant of Yahweh -- the image of the Crucified One -- has been discovered, and this has been a real spiritual experience.

From that spiritual experience would emerge Latin American liberating theological reflection -- liberation theology -- a theology that can not be understood or interpreted right except from this spiritual experience of Christ in the poor.


Latin American theology has also opened itself to these new issues and newly emerging subjects. Indigenous and African American, ecological, feminist theologies have been born, that of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, etc...To socio-analytical mediation have now been added anthropological, sexual and gender, racial, cultural, religious and ecological mediation. Something is evolving in the reception of Vatican II itself.

Some pending issues

An Latin American pneumatology from below that could help us understand the creative reception of Vatican II by Latin America and the Caribbean is a pneumatological subject. The attitude of the pastors at Medellin of hearing the cry of the poor, the emergence of BCCs, religious life embedded among the poor, the spiritual experience of the Lord in the faces of the poor that underlies liberation theology, are not ideological proposals. They are the gifts and fruits of the Spirit of the Lord that surpass all logical calculus and baffle those who look on them from afar and from above, because the Spirit is always unexpected and novel. We don't know where it comes from or where it's going.

The reception of Vatican II in Latin America and the Caribbean will not be complete until we retrieve from below the living out and theology of the Spirit, Lord and giver of life, who spoke through the prophets, the same spirit that moved John XXIII to convene the Council that became Vatican II in a Pentecostal event, the one that made the creative reception at Medellin a new Pentecost. And all from the poor, from below, so that our peoples might have life in abundance and that Church of the poor might really arise, the one dreamed of by that man sent from God, named John...

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