Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Vatican II - been and gone


Second Vatican Council

I think that it is fair to say that the second Vatican Council is fairly important.

I am not a master of understatement and so let me tell you exactly what I mean by that.

Primarily I mean that the aftermath of the second Vatican Council has changed the ordinary experience of the Church for her faithful, brought about a crisis of identity in her priests and fundamentally rewritten her theology of episcopacy (what it means to be a Bishop).

Exactly what that means for each group I will try to look at over the next few weeks. Of course it is a moot point what the relationship between the Council and the effects is. I used to think that the relationship between the two was that the time after the Council had been hijacked and that the Council had said and done nothing much. I don’t really think that anymore. I think that the Council brought about a mindset which is reflected in the Documents and also is writ large on the history and practice of the Church afterwards. The mindset is the dangerous thing.

Consecration of a Bishop
Let’s be honest, Councils come and go… but the Word of the Lord (and the Magisterium of the Church) continues forever.

In theology there is a current debate as to what happened at the second Vatican Council, if there was a break with previous belief or not. On one level I don’t think that this matters much as the Church will right herself – she always does.

No, what I am more worried about is the belief of the faithful (the second Vatican Council has changed the ordinary experience of the Church for her faithful), the position of the priest (it has brought about a crisis of identity in her priests) and, most worrying of all the position of the successors of the Apostles (for it has fundamentally rewritten her theology of episcopacy: what it means to be a Bishop).

The Church will always right herself
But a word of comfort before we get too despondent. When I was in my first parish as a newly ordained priest, the Permanent Deacon there was very protective of his position and of his very existence in Holy Orders. It took me a while to realise that what was going on was that he was fighting a battle which he had had to wage twenty years ago. The world had moved on. No matter the rights and wrongs of the resurrection of the Permanent Diaconate, it existed for me in a normal way.

The world has moved on after the second Vatican Council. It is history. We live its effects but that is all. Wait another ten or twenty years and no one will have a lived experience of it.

There are certain battles which are history and need to be buried. So take comfort that we can move forward sensibly.

Much more interesting is what effect it has had, and continues have on us now…
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