Vatican 2 - After 50 Years

Jay's Articles

50 years after it finished, Vatican II is still young

April 20, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Today, some are inclined to say that the Second Vatican Council is old hat. After all, the council wrapped up 50 years ago, society and the Church have changed enormously since then and we shouldn't be waging the same old battles that were fought half a century ago. Not so fast! "From an historical perspective, the council is still very young," writes leading Vatican II interpreter Massimo Faggioli. It takes a long time – decades, even centuries – to bring the fruits of a major Church council to harvest.

Unanimity erodes as council draws toward its end

April 6, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The Second Vatican Council marked an end and a beginning. It marked the end of Catholic triumphalism that was the Church's reaction to the Reformation; it ended the dominance of a stultifying theology that seemingly had all the answers, but was insensitive to people's lives and the movement of history.

Final council session marked by frenetic voting

March 23, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The peak of excitement and enthusiasm at the Second Vatican Council likely occurred in the first two sessions of 1962 and 1963. The fourth and final session in the autumn of 1965, writes council historian Giuseppe Alberigo, was characterized by "a sense of emptiness." The final session, which ran from Sept. 14 to Dec. 8, was also marked by "frenetic activity," Alberigo wrote. However, while frenetic, that activity was neither fulfilling nor constructive in itself.

Council gives thumbs-up to democracy

March 9, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

An endorsement of democracy is sometimes seen as one of the "achievements" of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). The constitution does not actually use the word "democracy," but its intentions are clear enough. While the political community needs to respect an order established by God, "the choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens" (GS 74).

Council challenged scandal of poverty amidst plenty

February 23, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The chapter in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) that focuses on economic and social life is perhaps more notable for what it led to than for what it actually said. This is not to diminish the fact that the chapter underlines and thus strengthens the Catholic social teaching that had been developing since Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical Rerum Novavum. It also links that teaching to the central theme of Gaudium et Spes - the dignity and vocation of the human person created in the image of God.

Church strives to build on what is good in local culture

February 9, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

From the beginning, the Church has tried to evangelize culture, to build on what is good and to imbue it with the spirit of the Gospel. When St. Paul went to Athens and found an altar dedicated to an unknown God, he used that to try to convince the Athenians that the God who created the world is the Lord of heaven and earth (Acts 17.22-28). When missionaries have tried to throw out the culture they wanted to evangelize with a supposedly pure Christian culture, they have created problems. The culture they imported was invariably not pure, but rather a European culture that supplanted the indigenous one with colonialism.

Council elevated Catholic teaching on the family

January 26, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) began as a patchwork of various proposed documents on social issues that had been put forward by the commissions charged with writing documents for consideration at the Second Vatican Council. It is tempting to see part two of Gaudium et Spes as an appendix to the main document that wraps some of these earlier documents into one huge pastiche. What is remarkable, however, is how well the five "urgent problems" discussed in part two are woven into one constitution and how well they flow from the Gaudium et Spes' central focus on the nature of the human person.

Christian beliefs ought to humanize secular societies

January 12, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

My own commitment to the Church and to Christian living has been strengthened by encounters and friendships with numerous Christians who give of themselves to make the Gospel come alive in the broader society. Wherever one turns, it seems, there are Catholics involved in their professional associations, volunteer organizations, various forms of advocacy for the vulnerable, including the unborn, the dying, the poor and the disabled, and assorted political parties.

Hidden behind the veil is a new heaven, new earth

December 29, 2014
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Over the last 500 years, writes the Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Age, the Western world has been transformed into a society of "disenchantment." By saying that society is disenchanted, Taylor does not mean that it has become fed up or disillusioned. Rather, he means the widespread sense that spiritual forces are at work which will protect us and ultimately triumph over evil has been lost. Prior to the onset of disenchantment, Taylor argues, people naturally assumed there was a thin veil between the material and the spiritual, and that the material world, including human persons, was constantly being affected by the actions of spiritual beings.

Church no longer takes structure of society for granted

December 15, 2014
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

One seemingly obvious line in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World augurs, not a change in Church teaching, but in the Church's attitude to society and social change. "The social order requires constant improvement," says the constitution, also known by its Latin name, Gaudium et Spes (n. 26). Today, few people would question such a sentiment. Of course, they would agree, we should do our best to make a better society and eliminate social evils.

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