Karl Cardinal Lehmann Karl Cardinal Lehmann
Bishop of Mainz, Germany
Cardinal Priest of San Leone I
May 16, 1936
Feb 21, 2001
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English Radicals “Have Distorted Vatican II”
Sept 15, 2004
Radicals on both the traditionalist and the progressive wings of the Church have over the years distorted the objectives of the Second Vatican Council, according to the president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann.

(The Tablet, 1 May 2004) The “unfruitful trench warfare between the extreme progressives on the one side, whose arguments have become thinner and thinner, and the extreme traditionalists on the other, who have become increasingly arrogant and overbearing” had both over the years been equally damaging to the Council’s mission, the Archbishop of Mainz said at a Vatican II commemoration at Salzburg University on 20 April.

There were several other reasons why the spirit of hope that the Council had generated had begun to dwindle with the course of time and why some people today even thought it had “petered out altogether,” Cardinal Lehmann said. One was that shortly after the Council, the world had changed radically.

The student uprisings of 1968, the Vietnam War, the conflict in Biafra and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia had all played their part. Preconciliar discipline had soon been lost, a sign that it was italic]“obviously already no longer resilient in a crisis,”italic] he said. The practice of confession would not have dwindled so quickly if it had not already been crumbling. italic]“Was it not possible that the doors were opened too late, despite all the Council’s efforts?” he asked.

The cardinal called for renewed study of the Council documents, which he said were very complex and did not always present
“the easy solutions we would like to read into them”.

He added that it was crucial to practise the
“discernment of spirits”, and naïve to think that the aggiornamento – “updating” – of the Church had merely meant adjusting to the world. The Council had wanted to open the Church to dialogue and to end the Church’s opposition to modernity. But dialogue meant getting together to find and recognise the truth and was not just a “harmless avowal of friendship and naively adapting to the world”.[italic]

The Council had not, moreover, just been intended as one single reform act on the part of the Church, but had wanted to signal a fundamental, underlying willingness for reform, Cardinal Lehmann concluded.
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