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Fr. Ormond Rush speaking at the Synod on Synodality, October 23, 2023.Vatican News

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Beginning their final week of the Synod on Synodality, members were told that the event “is a dialogue with God,” as a prominent Australian priest and outspoken advocate of the Second Vatican Council drew from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s 1960’s writings on “tradition” as understood at Vatican II.

“Having listened to you over these past three weeks, I have had the impression that some of you are struggling with the notion of tradition, in the light of your love of truth,” said Australian Father Ormond Rush. He highlighted the discussions of Vatican II, saying that the answers of the council fathers “are, for us, the authority for guiding our reflections on the issues that confront us today.” 

“So, maybe Vatican II has some lessons for this synod, as you now bring to synthesis your discernment regarding the future of the church,” he said.

Rush, a priest of the Diocese of Townsville, is best known for his numerous writings promoting the Second Vatican Council as a call for “renewal and reform of the Catholic Church,” and advocating for a further implementation of its new style of engaging with the world and with Catholics.

READ: Pope Francis gives Synod members Vatican II lobby group’s liberation theology text

He is closely involved in the Synod on Synodality, serving as part of the advisory theological commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, and as part of the group which compiled the preparatory document for the continental stage of the multi-year process.

Quoting directly and often from then-Father Joseph Ratzinger’s accounts of the Council, Rush stated how “we may even speak of the council as a new beginning” in terms of the move away from an “anti-Modernist” stance which Ratzinger wrote about and welcomed. 

Rush is a non-voting member of the synod, but as one of the “experts” has the task of compiling the various small group reports into the official synthesis report of the whole meeting. 

Commenting on the synod prior to leaving for Rome, Rush argued that it was an implementation of Vatican II. “Pope Francis, with his notion of ‘synodality,’ is simply bringing together many elements of that vision of the council,” he said. “So we can say that we are now entering into a deeper phase in the reception of the Second Vatican Council.”

Speaking at the Vatican the priest, dressed in a suit and tie, made frequent citations of Ratzinger’s 1969 account of the council, appearing to direct his criticisms against “tradition,” quoting: “Here is a distorting, as well as a legitimate, tradition.” 

His themes of a development of tradition appeared to echo comments often made by Pope Francis: 

The event of God’s self-revealing (always in Christ, through the Holy Spirit) and God’s offer of relationship, continues to be a living reality here and now. That doesn’t mean there can be some new revelation of who God is. But, the same God, in the same Jesus Christ, through the enlightenment and empowerment of the same Holy Spirit, is forever engaging with, and dialoguing with, human beings in the ever-new here and now of history that relentlessly moves humanity into new perceptions, new questions, and new insights, in diverse cultures and places, as the world-Church courses through time into an unknown future until the eschaton.

He cited Ratzinger’s 1969 writings once more, arguing that the Second Vatican Council’s Dei Verbum presents “an understanding of revelation that is seen basically as dialogue.” 

“The reading of Scripture is described as a colloquium inter Deum et hominem [a dialogue between God and human beings]… The dialogue of God is always carried on in the present… with the intention of forcing us to reply,” said Rush, quoting Ratzinger. 

READ: Pope Francis suggests the Synod is a continuation of Vatican II: ‘The Church has to change’

“This synod is a dialogue with God,” he added. “That has been the privilege and challenge of your ‘conversations in the Spirit.’ God is waiting for your reply.”

He encouraged the synod members to echo the words of Acts 15:28, and take the results of the October 2023 synod meeting as the direct will of the Holy Spirit. Rush argued that the Scriptural passage he cited presented an instance of the early Catholics working with the Holy Spirit “to come to a new adaptation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ regarding that new question, which had not been envisaged before.”

Ratzinger the progressive

While Rush repeatedly cited Ratzinger in his address, it is poignant that the Australian priest drew heavily from Ratzinger’s writings in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.

Historian Roberto de Mattei, in his extensive history of the council, described Ratzinger as one of the German theologians who “distinguished themselves” as being “in the ‘marching flank’ of progressivism.” The young Ratzinger worked closely with dissident clerics such as Fathers Karl Rahner, Bernard Häring, and Yves Congar during the council. De Mattei added that in later years, Ratzinger rediscovered the “role of tradition and of Roman institutions.”

Ratzinger’s biographer Peter Seewald has argued that “it is definitively so that his impulses contributed at the time to the advance of Modernism in the Catholic Church.” However, he differed in opinion from de Mattei, arguing that Ratzinger did not in fact have a “conservative turn.”

READ: New biography describes great influence of Joseph Ratzinger in the revolutionary upheaval of Vatican II 

“Ratzinger was always a progressivist theologian,” said Seewald, “only the notion progressivist was [then] being understood differently than today: as a modernization of the house, not as its destruction.”

LifeSiteNews columnist Dr. Maike Hickson has compiled a summary of Seewald’s accounts of Ratzinger’s work for the progressive movement at the council.

With Rush encouraging the synod members to practice the progressive spirit embodied by Ratzinger at Vatican II, it now remains to be seen what impact such a call will have upon the month-long meeting’s final text.