I don’t like the term “hermeneutic.” It’s up there with “phenomenology,” “paradigm,” “hegemony,” and “existential”: trendy jargon buzzwords that people use to “sound smart,” but it’s never really clear what they mean.
Apparently, hermeneutics is the study of interpretation theory (again, why not just call it that, or philology?).
So, recently I’ve been seeing an interesting term pop up: the hermeneutics of continuity, a term coined by Cardinal Ratzinger. Basically, the idea is that, when we see apparent “contradictions” in Scripture and/or Church teaching–particularly relevant to debates over the Second Vatican Council–we should seek the interpretation which allows both apparent views to be correct (e.g., Pius IX’s condemnation of freedom of religion and Vatican II’s support for freedom of religion).
This is basically something I’ve done for a long time, but I never knew there was a name for it. Case in point: Quo Primum, the motu proprio from St. Pius V that mandates the use of the “Tridentine” Mass. Quo Primum was written to address a variety of local innovations that were being practiced in the liturgy. St. Pius V said that the Mass as issued from Rome is the mandatory liturgy for the entire Latin Rite, and other liturgies can only be used if they are more than 200 years old (e.g., the Ambrosian Rite or the Dominican Rite).
Now, traditionalists take this document to say that “the Tridentine Mass should be the Mass in perpetuity” and that “since the Novus Ordo is less than 200 years old, it’s invalid.”
However, that’s not what Pius *says*. He says that the “mass as issued from Rome”: he doesn’t preclude the idea that Rome can revise the ligurgy; he’s just saying that, if Rome should revise the liturgy, everybody should follow it, but local bishops don’t have the authority to change the liturgy. OTOH, _Quo Primum_ *can* be used to support the continued use of the Tridentine mass.
Here’s a piece on “Cardinal Dulles and the Hermeneutic of Continuity.”
“A Key to Underestanding Benedict XVI.”
Here’s a whole blog named after the concept.