I received the following email from a reader who (for some reason) finds his computer does not let him communicate with this blog (perhaps it is a dissenting computer…?). He gave me permission to stick it up here for your comment:
I have been reading some of the posts on your blog and came to a realisation about the theological position of Past Elder.
Prior to the council there were parts of the Church, and this was a particluar problem in America, which didn’t sufficently differentiate between the teachings of the Church and the scholastic theology that sought to explain them. The teachings of the Church were not and are not based on the thoughts of St. Thomas, however mighty those thoughts may have been, nor on the thoughts of any other theologian.
To be clear, unlike the situation in the Anglican Church, theologians as theologians have NO teaching authority within the Catholic Church. No theological explaination, however clear or well accepted, becomes part of the teaching of the Church until it is annunciated by the proper teaching authority – the bishops and the Holy Father in communion – and then only to the extent proper to the manner in which it was annunciated: a favorable comment in a pastoral encyclical doesn’t really count as an inclusion in the body of faith.
However, scolastic, and particularly Thomistic, theology was so clear and the explainations were so complete that an understandable confusion arose between these wonderful explainations offered by the Church and the actual teachings of the Church. The problem was that all theology is human thought and thus limited. By the 60s it was clear that scolastic theology has ossified into an intellectual straightjacket that could no longer connect with the ordinary experience of christians or express the mystery which is Christ and His Church.
Vatican II changed not one jot of church teaching but updated and revised whole reams of theological explaination. To those raised in the conservative, intellectually rigerous and Thomistic schools of the US this must have seemed like a revolution.
I think it is to this that PE is referring. The post concicular church was no longer exclusively scholastic in its theology. Actually it never was exclusively. The Augustinians had never gone away and the Franciscan School of Bonaventure was another major way of looking at things while both the Benedictines and Carthusians kept their own style.
This then is the problem: if you identify the teachings of the Church with the scholastic explanations then the Church changed at Vatican II and is not the same body. If, however, you see the theology as secondary to the teaching then the church has changed not at all in its fundamentals – even though the liturgical reforms were not well handled.