Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Second Vatican Council's Genesis

Easy-to- read, longish essay on VatII by George Sim Johnson.

One interesting graf:

A major problem of pre-Vatican II ecclesiology was its disregard of the laity. The laity was a misplaced object in the magnificent baroque edifice of the Counter-Reformation Church. They were defined negatively -- "not the clergy" -- and almost treated as passive bystanders. The message was: If you want to be holy, become a priest or nun; otherwise, take a seat in the bleachers, where you may watch the priests and nuns, who are the true athletes of holiness, and you shall be holy to the extent that you plug in, however distantly, to their holiness. At the council, Bishop John J. Wright of Pittsburgh said: "The faithful have been waiting for 400 years for a positive conciliar statement on the place, dignity and vocation of the layman."

Until Vatican II, there was little sense of calling the laity to serious ascetical struggle and adult intellectual formation. All that was the preserve of the priests and nuns, who were somehow the "real" Church. The council was a clarion call to the laity to share actively in the mission of the Church. They are henceforth to act as leaven in the world and not to leave all the heavy lifting to the clergy. Today, many Catholics (including some bishops) seem to think that Vatican II was about the role of the laity in the Church -- eucharistic ministers, lectors, and so forth. But it was really about the role of the laity in the world. The true Catholic life is one of personal conversion and evangelization; it does not involve hanging around the sacristy.

It's fair to say that clericalism is still extant. The above statement followed this groundwork:

The institutional model of the Church that had prevailed since the Council of Trent, and in many respects had done good service, was no longer adequate. This model saw the Church as a juridical machine operated by the bishop of Rome. Over the centuries, the Church's government had become top-heavy and centralized. This trend had been fortified by Vatican I, which defined papal infallibility, but (partly due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War) did not address the role of the bishops, let alone the laity. There was a tendency to regard "Rome," especially the bureaucratic machinery of the Curia, as the Church.

That model contrasts with the current one, which is far more reliant on Bishops to teach, sanctify, and rule--even those who don't want that responsibility--or who are quite selective about which 'rules' they will actually implement. And it goes almost without saying that the press still regards "Rome" as the "Church."

Plenty more at the link.

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