Our Little Church
The views presented in the following papers are those of the Issues Group and are not necessarily representative of the people of St. Aloysius Parish nor the Roman Catholic Church.
Catholic Issues: The Church Today
Vatican II: A Council Rejected or Assimilated?
The transition to a more modern Church has not been smooth. As a result of the First Vatican Council, the papacy had become used to unquestioned authority. The power of the pope and the hierarchy of advisors and department heads known as the Roman Curia was not easy to modify. The bishops of the world were seeking a sharing of decision making with the Bishop of Rome. The priests were seeking a sharing of ideas in implementing change. Religious orders were seeking ways to join the modern world and still retain their identity. The laity was confused by the changes, but were filled with hope for a more compassionate Church.
Pope Paul VI tried to implement change slowly. He restored the status of permanent deacons, added bishops in Asia and Africa, imposed a retirement age of 75 for the clergy, and traveled promoting world peace and ecumenical unity. He wrote encyclicals on the nature of the Church (1964), development of people (1967), priestly celibacy (1967), and natural birth control (1968). His traditional teaching on birth control and priestly celibacy caused turmoil among clerics and laity alike. Over 620 theologians in the United States and Europe signed dissenting statements and sent them to Rome. Many thousands of priests, religious and laity, who had been hoping for a more pastoral Church as a result of Vatican II, were unable to resolve their dilemma of conscience and left. Never in papal history had there been such a negative response to papal teaching. Pastoral guidance during this time was minimal as priests, bishops and the laity struggled with change, tradition and loyalty.
Pope John Paul II was elected pope in 1978. He is the first non-Italian pope since 1522. He has traveled to more nations than any pope in history in order to spread respect for the dignity of all people. Some credit him with contributing to the downfall of Communism.
One of John Paul II's earliest efforts was to call a meeting of bishops to evaluate Vatican II, 20 years after the fact. The bishops expressed concern and hope for the future direction of the Church. Dissent was discouraged. Discussion was controlled and limited.
The pope appointed Cardinal Ratsinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in 1981. Since that time Cardinal Ratsinger has made efforts to centralize authority and control reform.
In more recent times Pope John Paul II has censured discussion on married clergy and women in the priesthood.
Changes brought about by Vatican II are still being assimilated, a process which will probably continue for many years. Many bishops will honestly and humbly admit that there is much more in the documents than they have been able to fully comprehend and implement.
The caution of the institutional hierarchy and tradition focused Catholics has tempered enthusiasm, but the Church has been changed by Vatican II and the laity has been given an active role. This role only needs to be accepted by each of us using our God given gifts to fulfill Christ's loving command found in Matthew 25:35-40. "For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink; I was a stranger, and you made Me welcome; I needed clothes, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. ... whatever you did for one of the least brothers of Mine, you did for Me."
We have done our best to credit our sources. Please forgive us if we have overlooked any.