Friday, January 25, 2013

Disappointed Dreams

John XXIII convoking the Second
Vatican Council, Basilica of Saint
Paul outside the Walls, January 25,
55 years ago today Pope John XXIII made the surprise announcement that he was convoking the Second Vatican Council.  People had long presumed that with the declaration of papal infallibility in 1870’s, councils were redundant—there was no need for a Council when the pope “could do it all.”  But John had other things in mind—a veritable revolution in Catholicism that would throw off four centuries of fossilized and moribund stagnation that had locked Catholicism into an anachronistic curiosity that was no longer a credible witness of the Gospel with which its Master had entrusted it to proclaim. 
I wonder what Good Pope John would think today as he looks from heaven on the wreckage of his Council.  While John certainly had no idea—or intention—that the Council would make such radical changes as it did to the liturgy, he had great hopes for how it would alter its relationship to the world around it—and in particular how it would work to restore the unity of Christendom to that there might be one flock and one Shepherd.  (Notice the capital “S” in the word shepherd—denoting that Christ is that one shepherd.)   After such a good beginning at the Council and for sometime afterward, we have allowed the ecumenical movement to become a train wreck. 
Some are inclined to blame this fiasco on the decision of various Reformed and Evangelical Churches to ordain women.  (Notice, I am using the term “Churches,” something the Vatican eschews in favor of the insulting “ecclesial communities.”)   Others do not see how we can maintain an open dialogue with Christian Churches that do not share our views on abortion or on same-sex relationships.  But we Catholics have taken disagreement and chosen to make it disagreeable.  We have all but retrenched into the “unconditional surrender” approach to ecumenism of Pius XI and Mortalium Animos which the Council had so dramatically overturned.
On this feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul let us ask Christ to send the Holy Spirit to bend our stubborn hearts and will, to melt the frozen, and warm the chill that the work of this Council may revive and that the Church may be given shepherds who never lose sight that the flock is Christ’s and not theirs. 

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