I was very fortunate to attend at Loyola Marymount University the first session of eight that looks into the effects of Vatican II in the Catholic Church. I know V2 was a huge catalyst of change in a variety of areas of Catholic life. From what I hear, there was a rail where people would come up to and wait kneeling to receive communion, and that nuns and priests would be the ones to teach religion. That is far from the case now. And believe me, there are more changes that came that I just take for granted as I say to myself, “We always did it this way.”
The session (or symposium, to use the proper academic term) was helpful in that it summarized what some of the key themes were; it delved into naming some of the struggles that the “laity” or “people in the pews” had during the changes after V2; and it presented the effects of V2 on the Latin American Catholic Church and Asian Catholic Church.
Yet one issue that the presenters discussed was whether V2 was a progressive occurrence, or an event that was only restating in different terms what the Catholics always held to believe in. It’s a sharp contrast of “either/or” mentality.
The speakers said, “It’s a council of both/and,” not “either/or.”
As my title suggests, there are many who see V2 as a “total reform” of Catholicism. And there are others who suggest that the reforms were too radical, and that V2 was merely updating how we think of certain theological ideas, but wasn’t intended to change the Catholic culture as what has happened since then.
Yet, going back to the response of the speakers, there is more depth given to the work of V2 if it viewed as a council that was both total reform and an updating of Catholicism. It was a council that restated the traditions in different terms, and a council that sought to replace theological ideas that were not faithful to basic Christian principles.
Think of it as the CD industry and the MP3 industry. There was a “total reform” in that CDs were no longer needed. Yet, in the bigger picture, it was also keeping to same goal: delivering music to the consumer. I’m sure there are debates about this as well, but my point stands: CDs were overhauled with MP3 downloads, but it was still the same thing: a method of delivering music.
My great hope is that people will use the “Year of Faith” as a time of reflecting in small groups over documents of Vatican 2. And anyone not Catholic can take part in the same exercise by reviewing important writings from theologians that have affected their particular faith affiliation.
Education is the best remedy for confusion and division of people due to misinterpretations.