Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quote of the Day

. . . The legacy of Vatican II is sharply contested by progressives and traditionalists. Whether you are impatient for the reforms promised by Vatican II to unfold further or whether you would prefer to roll back some of its teachings, you have to tip your hat and recognize the impact of the transformational achievement forged by all those bishops gathered in Rome in the early 1960s. Their work was sparked by the jolly persona of John XXIII, the pope who called the council in order to "let a bit of fresh air in through the stained glass windows."

For centuries, Catholic moral theology had been dominated by a near-obsession with sin and rebuking enemies of the faith. It was far clearer what an embattled church stood against – what was anathema – than what Catholics stood for and what they should yearn for in the moral life. In documents like the 1864 Syllabus of Errors, church authorities issued sweeping condemnations of freethinking ideas that challenged the laws and social norms laid down by popes and bishops. Galileo was far from the only voice silenced by church disciplinary action.

By replacing words like anathema with terms like dialogue, collegiality, communion and participation -- words that evoke dynamic openness rather than static essences – the council fathers thoroughly revived the creative side of Catholic ethics. The seriously constricted moral imagination of the faithful could now move beyond the previous preoccupation with law, sin and culpability and focus more upon moral freedom, the virtues, spiritual discernment, and above all, the role of conscience in the moral life.

One especially striking direction was Vatican II's emphasis on the inner depths of people as they attempt to lead admirable and socially responsible lives. This presumed that in forming and acting upon conscience, people of good will deliberate, consult, change their minds and yearn for relationships that are deeper and ever more fulfilling and faithful. . . .

– Thomas Massaro
"A Moral Theologian Looks Back at Vatican II"
National Catholic Reporter
October 16, 2012

Related Off-site Links:
Vatican II: Gone But Not Forgotten – John Gehring (Star Tribune, October 16, 2012).
Vatican II Opened the Church to the World – John W. O'Malley (New York Times, October 10, 2012).
The Catholic Church's Lost Revolution – James Carroll (Boston Globe, September 30, 2012).


  1. Vatican II, as I understand it from studies, essentially returned Jesus to the people as a human person with divine nature whose mission and message was that God is with us. We are not dependent on the Church/clergy to bring Him "down" to us for He lives and guides us in our hearts through the Power of the Holy Spirit. In the Hierarchies' death throes (Vatican lead) to grasp and claw like feudal lords of old...maintain/reestablish the pyramidal power structure abandoned by Vatican II...they find the faithful turning a deaf ear, following their consciences as directed by Catholic theology (Catechism). Yet they try to subvert their own teaching, insisting that, of course, a well formed conscience must always conform to Church mandates/interpretations to be so. Hogwash !

  2. The quote above celebrates "dialogue, collegiality, communion and participation -- words that evoke dynamic openness".

    I've begun to wonder if this is what we really want.

    As human beings we like to clump up in to groups of like minded people. We like to have our opinions reinforced and validated by others.

    We can see this happening across the Catholic web. The traditionalists congegrate one set of sites, while progressives come together on other sites, and there's not a lot of overlap.

    The main activitiy on both types of blogs seems to be applauding the group consensus of that community, often at the expense of those with differing views.

    Both camps allow some measure of challenge to the group consensus of their camp, but there's definitely a limit.

    If you don't fit in to the group consensus of a particular blog or forum, and especially if you present an effective challenge to the group consensus of that group, one way or another you'll be encouraged to move along, and leave the group in peace to get back to it's main agenda, applauding the group consensus of that group.

    To be fair to Catholics, this is pretty much true in any community, online or off. This seems a human quality, not a specifically Catholic trait.

    Is the Catholic Church at large really so different than say, a progressive Catholic blog?

    In both cases, there are leaders who are trying to serve the needs of a particular audience. In both cases, the main activitiy of the group is applauding the group consensus of that group. In both cases, there are limits to how much challenge is welcomed.

    Historically, the Catholic Church has been an enterprise that specialized in serving a community that mostly embraces structure, tradition, conformity, authority, obedience, and ideological certainty.

    Perhaps today's Church leaders are much like a typical forum owner who hopes to keep peace on their forum by guiding the louder minority voices to seek their community elsewhere?

    Openness implies a deliberate willingness to engage in communities filled with those who reject our beliefs.

    I don't see a lot of demand for this service within the Catholic community or beyond.

  3. Dave446,

    Did you intend to write that VCII claimed Jesus was a "human person"? This is what your first sentence states, but I wonder if this was a typo. This would be a heresy.