Catholic Family News has just published an informative article in the form of a book review. The review, by Paul Zarowny, Ph.D., delves into the phenomenological method of the Council Fathers, as studied by the Passionist priest, Father John F Kobler (Vatican II, Theophany and the Phenomenon of Man: The Council’s Pastoral Servant Leader Theology for the Third Millennium).

Doctor Zarowny is no lightweight. He holds a Ph.D. in Theology from Fordham University and is currently doing research for a book on Fr. Kobler, phenomenology, and Vatican II. He is a traditionalist using the scholarship of a priest-scholar who is not a traditionalist, but who is trying to assess Vatican II as an exercise in the phenomenological method known as epoche: “to ‘suspend’ all of one’s knowledge about a thing, and then to look at the thing ‘from every possible angle’ until one intuits the thing’s true essence, after which one can restore all of the previously suspended information, incorporating the past knowledge into the new understanding.” This philosophical method is also called “bracketing.”

The article, Kobler’s Key to the Council, is well worth a read for its historical, as well as philosophical insights. One may be tempted to write the whole thing off as a monism. But, even if Father Kobler’s central thesis is incorrect (i.e., even if the Fathers were not performing a grand-scale ecclesial epoche), he makes some worthwhile observations on the global crisis management that was taking place, an historical fact recognized by other chroniclers of the council.

Here is a good sampling of Doctor Zarowny’s work, the last four paragraphs of his article:

I take Kobler to be a “friendly witness” for the traditionalists’ case regarding the problems of Vatican II. I think he is correct in his interpretation of the Council documents. His identification of the role Husserl’s phenomenological reduction played in the writing of the documents provides a Rosetta Stone for deciphering the supposed “ambiguities” in the texts. His presumption that the Council was convened as a reaction to the Cold War places it in its proper historical context. His explanation of the Council’s long-term objective being the genesis of a theophanized anthropogony raises the issue of the wisdom and practicality of the Council’s goals.

Pastoral advice of an ecumenical council is not protected by the guarantee of infallibility. It may be questioned, re-examined, and, if found wanting, abandoned. We no longer accept the pastoral advice of Lateran IV that non-Catholics should be made to wear distinctive clothing.

If Kobler is correct, then I think the very use of phenomenology either to replace or to supplement scholasticism needs to be addressed, along with the resulting pastoral gestalt-shift from a Christ-centered perspective to a man-centered perspective. If Kobler is correct, and the Church is currently engaged in the pursuit of causing an evolutionary advance of the human species, I believe the Catholic in the pew has a right to be told this in plain and simple language, and that the continuation of this project should be open to debate.

It has been over forty years since the bishops met at Vatican II, and much has changed in the world. The Cold War has ended, the Berlin Wall has fallen, and Marxism has allegedly been consigned to the dustbin. Antagonism with the communist Soviet bloc and Maoist China, poised to lead mankind in world revolution, has transmogrified into economic competition with capitalistic Russia and Mainland China, vying for natural resources, market dominance and political hegemony. A rising ideological threat is that of militant Islamic extremists, who will not likely be impressed by any number of Good Samaritan “infidels.” Yet the Catholic Church is in many ways mired in a naïve idealism of the 1960s. Fr. Kobler’s writings can help clarify what has happened to the Church, and provide a basis for reconsidering the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

To read the whole thing, go here: Kobler’s Key to the Council.

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