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A Very Young Council

It was good to read Thomas Albert Howard's very positive review of Massimo Faggioli's Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning in the March/April issue ["A Very Young Council"]. Unfortunately the review contains an extraordinary claim that should not go unchallenged.

As Howard accurately reports, Faggioli divides interpretations of Vatican II into two main camps, Thomist and Augustinian, the former generally grouped around the journal Concilium and the latter around Communio.

But Howard then adds: "Beyond the Thomists and the Augustinians are those we might label the hyper-progressives and the hyper-traditionalists. The former would include Hans Küng … and Karl Rahner …. By contrast, the hyper-traditionalists would include the so-called 'sedavacantists' [sic] (who claim the Holy See has not had a legitimate Pope since Pius XII) and the French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the members of the secretive Saint Pius X Society."

Let's be clear that the "we" in this passage is reviewer Howard and not author Faggioli. Faggioli uses no such labels as "hyper-progressives" and "hyper-traditionalists." He does not treat Küng and Rahner as "hyper" anything but explicitly names them in the ranks of the Concilium writers.

The idea of creating a parallel between these two major theologians, on the one hand, and the sedevacantists and Lefebvrists, on the other, is absurd. The sedevacantists are full-bore conspiracy theorists and the Lefebvrists and Saint Pius X Society are in formal schism. Father Küng has voiced many criticisms of the last two papacies that needed voicing, even if he sometimes serves himself poorly by an unnecessarily strident tone. He is, moreover, a Catholic priest in good standing and a prolific and respected scholar and popularizer. As for Rahner, rather than some "hyper-progressive" equivalent of the sedevacantists and Lefebvrists, he is widely recognized as one of the great theological and spiritual minds of the 20th century. ...

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