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“No opposition may be made between the spirit and the letter of Vatican II.”

The original German edition of Gerhard Cardinal Müller’s book was entitled, Was ist katholisch? Translated into English that is the sub-title of the English edition.

The book, published recently by Emmaus Academic, has five chapters:

• Being Catholic in the contemporary spiritual situation.
• Catholic life with God in the Church.
• The origin and profile of the concept of “catholic.”
• “Catholic”: the attribute of the one Church of Christ that links all Christian communions.
• Quo vadis, ecclesia catholica?

Cardinal Müller appeals to “epistemological principles of Catholic theology” to justify his vision of Catholicism. Warrants such as Sacred Scripture, Tradition—which includes ecumenical councils, doctors of the Church, faithful theologians of one mind with the Church—and the Magisterium. Cardinal Müller is a man of the Second Vatican Council, implicitly drawing on the principles that the “Council must be interpreted in continuity with the great tradition of the Church, including earlier councils. The Church is one and the same throughout all the councils” and “No opposition may be made between the spirit and the letter of Vatican II.”

Of course, this principle is consistent with doctrinal development. “The devastating consequences of a modernist and a traditionalist reception of Vatican II are there for all to see, because both parties are not merely unwilling to engage in dialogue either with God in his revealed Word or with each other but they also fight each other tooth and nail.” He adds, “A faithful Catholic—and not one who just belongs out of convention—will always have the words of Vatican II ringing in his ears and heart.”

This review focuses on three areas of inquiry in this book. One is Müller’s response to the question of what it means to be Catholic in the first-quarter of the twenty-first century. There is a second area that I will call the apologetical—the defense of the Christian faith—dimension of Müller vision of Catholic Christianity. The third area is the meta-theological and philosophical question regarding the development of Christian doctrine.

Doctrinal Development

Throughout his book, Müller makes clear the philosophical realism that undergirds Catholicism. “The realistic view of God’s revelation and saving will, which embraces the whole human being, implies a realistic epistemology and insight into the identity of truth and reality.” This view presumes an epistemic realism, namely, that we can know the truth about reality, and, also, the identity of truth and reality: a proposition is true if and only if what it asserts is in fact the case about objective reality; otherwise, it is false.

Fundamental to doctrinal development is the idea of “propositional revelation.” John Henry Newman held that revealed truths, what he called “supernatural truths of dogma,” have been “irrevocably committed to human language.” God’s written revelation, according to the late Ian Ker’s reading of Newman, “necessarily involves propositional revelation.” This propositional revelation in verbalized form, or what Newman called the “dogmatical principle,” is at once true though not exhaustive, “imperfect because it is human,” adds Newman, “but definitive and necessary because given from above.”

Read more at Catholic World Report 

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