This morning On the Square, R.R. Reno takes a closer look at Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, Peter Sewald’s book-length interview with Pope Benedict XVI. Rather than focusing on the pope’s already much discussed comments on condoms, Reno examines a prevailing theme throughout the book; from his own priestly vocation to his ministry, Pope Benedict “wants to italicize and underline and put into bold one word: continuity.”
In other words, yes, of course the Church had in some respects gone off course (as she always does). And, yes, there were problems (as there always are), some very significant, which is why John XXIII called the Council in the first place. But a “hermeneutics of continuity” assumes that the fathers at Vatican II drew on the inner strengths of the Church in order address her weaknesses. It was a renewal from within.
This emphasis on continuity lay behind Benedict’s decision to regularize the use of the Tridentine Mass (so named because it was mandated by the Council of Trent in the late sixteenth century) as an extraordinary form. “My main reasons for making the [Tridentine] form more available,” Benedict explains, “was to preserve the internal continuity of Church history. We cannot say: Before, everything was wrong, but now everything is right. The issue was internal reconciliation with our own past, the intrinsic continuity of faith and prayer in the Church.”