Saturday, October 20, 2012

Vatican II

There was an interesting hour of The Agenda on TVO recently during which a number of Roman Catholic clergy and commentators reflected on the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II.

Vatican what you might ask? In the early 1960's Pope John XXIII rattled the cage of the Roman Catholic institution by convening a council which eventually made significant changes. We Protestants and others might think that a changing Catholic church is an oxymoron, but this was a genuine effort to respond to significant challenges which developed in the post-war era. This Second Vatican Council was spread over three years and was concluded by the pope's successor because of John's untimely death. Over these years the church searched its collective soul over biblical literalism, the language of the mass, the historical antagonism toward Jews, and  the possibility of nuns living beyond the cloister, just to name a few of the important areas addressed.

Pope John XXIII was not a theologian but he was an insightful, open, and arguably a Spirit-led pontiff. Historians suggest that the documents of Vatican II can't really capture the significant change of tone for the church which emanated from the council.

I can't help but feel that the most recent popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have taken the Roman Catholic church several steps back rather than forward. It is ironic that Benedict will be leading the 50th anniversary celebrations, since he is the pope who has made alienating statements about Protestants, clamped down on nuns, and reinforced the hierarchical structure based on the rule of old men.

 I know, spoken like a Protestant, but I have long admired the work of many RC theologians and appreciated working with priests in different communities. It grieves me to say that I have never felt more alienated from Roman Catholicism than today.

Any comments about Vatican II -- were you even aware of the anniversary? Do any of you have RC roots? Would you like to see stronger efforts of reconciliation between our two traditions?


IanD said...

I've read about it in secular histories of the 60s, but can't say I know that much about its impact into the present day. Your summary helps!

Anonymous said...

Eventually I had to leave my Catholic roots behind because I could not force my heart to believe in a God that would never allow me full personhood. when I was young I took this without blinking, but as I grew up I found I could not stop blinking.