A look at what reform really means within the Catholic Church

Came across this blog post about how reform in the Catholic Church really means restoration, not change.   In reading Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s book,Mystery and Sacrament of Love: a Theology of Marriage for the New Evangelization, I see how much the development of doctrine on marriage is more a recovery or an illumination of what was already revealed in Scripture or intuited by Church Fathers.  Anyway, here’s an excerpt of the LMS  (Latin Mass Society) Chairman’s blog.  The whole piece is well worth reading.

Today I am publishing a Position Paper from the International Federation Una Voce on the concepts of tradition, restoration, and reform. Go over there to read it.

Some readers will know about all this already, but the paper establishes with a degree of care and thoroughness the fallacy of claiming that there is some kind of opposition between reform and restoration. The talk of reform ‘going forward’ and restoration ‘going back’, and all this sort of irritating guff, seems to emerge from nothing more than a metaphor gone berserk – the metaphor of spatial movement for political change. Anyone would think, from the language of ‘change change change’ in current politics, that change is a good thing in itself, as long as the situation it produces has not been tried before.


It should be obvious that this kind of glib nonsense can’t be applied in the Church, but there is a particularly fundamental problem with it. The documents of Vatican II, and reforming documents before and since, don’t actually talk about ‘reform’ at all, but about instauratio – restoration – and a couple of closely related words. Instauratio is translated, in the official English translations, both as ‘restoration’ and as ‘reform’. The latter translation is tendentious, but even if it were not the idea that there is an opposition between ‘restoration’ and ‘reform’ doesn’t get off the starting blocks: we are not dealing with two concepts here, but only one. The opposition between ‘reform’ and ‘restoration’ has no basis in theology. Insofar as we can give it any sense at all, it is connected with ecclesial politics – or even secular politics.

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