Pope Francis and Vatican II: NOTES FROM THE ASSEMBLY OF THE ASSOCIATION OF US CATHOLIC PRIESTS
Fr. Paul promised that he would share some notes from the assembly he attended June 27-30, 2016. Here is the third installment.
TOPIC: Why Pope Francis is doing what he is doing?
This talk is much harder to summarize because it was very theological and complicated. But it is helpful to understand the basic premises.
There is a document of the Vatican Council concerning “The Church in the Modern World” (Gaudiem et Spes or Joy and Hope). To put is very simply, the point of this document was that the Church is IN and PART OF the world and should not be antagonistic toward it. Before the Council, the emphasis had been on the next world, that is, getting to heaven; this change of emphasis meant that the Church had to be involved in what was happening in the world, not just helping people get to heaven.
The Council of Trent, held in the mid-16th century as a reaction to the Protestant Reformation, shaped Church life until the Vatican Council. Two important factors helped frame its content: first, it was a reaction to the Reformation, and so in a sense was defensive, making very clear the Catholic perspective on things. Second, it had a European or Western view of the world, because that was the reality of the Church at that time. Vatican II, on the other hand, had diverse world views because its participants came from all the continents in the world. Its focus was not defensive but rather outward looking, “throwing open the windows of the Church,” as John XXIII said. Rather than flee the world, Catholics were urged to work in their environment to bring the Kingdom into being, NOW, WHERE they were living and working.
For many complicated reasons there was a reaction to Vatican II during the last two papacies that spanned 35 years. Pope Francis, with his Latin American world viewpoint, has been urging the Church to return to some of the values and approaches of Vatican II, without mentioning the Vatican Council itself. His famous image of the Church being a “Field Hospital” captures this. It is focusing on building bridges to the world and its people, rather than setting clear boundaries. Instead of starting where people SHOULD be, it is starting where people are at and walking with them on their journey in life. Isn’t that what Jesus did?
-- Paul James Portland, SDS
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