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Vatican II

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Julia Hackett


March 1 2018

Exercise #2

The first theme that made the Vatican II unlikely was the fear of liberalism.  Liberalism had such a negative view within the Catholic Church.  “Especially for the papacy, Liberalism stood for all that was wrong with the modern world” (O’Malley 55).  This theme not only represented change and chaos, but was spreading on a global level.  This lack of structure and more open way of thinking of things seemed to go against the traditional, and at the time, current practices of the Catholic Church.  Secondly, the rise of Neo Thomism was an issue thought to be preventing the Vatican II.  Beginning in the 19th century the belief that reality can be understood through reason and experience began to rise.  This was counter-intuitive to the formation of Vatican II because this resulted as a fear to liberalism.  For example, neo-Thomism encourages the separation of church and state.  Many popes and members of the Catholic Church saw this way of thinking as not progressive, but an abandonment of the churches traditions (40).  Furthermore, the Papal Social Encyclical made the Vatican II unlikely.  “The encyclical was a manifesto of attitudes and positions that characterized the papacy” (59).  Under the ruling of the encyclical, the Pope could answer all questions therefore, there would be no need for a council.  The fourth issue is the legalization of Catholicism.  In the final paragraph of Vatican I’s decree it states: “The power of the whole church…is not only in the matters of faith and morals but also in those that concern discipline and government of the church” (61).  This decree allowed people to think of the church as more of a legal institution with a clear hierarchy.  This sort of institution made a large global gathering, to change practices and worship, seem extremely unlikely.  The next event that will be discussed is the fear of historical criticism.  The way in which theologians started to analyze and critique the bible and the Catholic religion made members of the church fear the sanctity of the bible would disappear (66).  The sixth reason that made the Vatican II unlikely was the fear of modernism.  Modernity is the belief that modern times is an anti-Catholic movement (68).  Modernity was the root and coincided with some of the previous issues that have been brought up (liberalism and neo-Thomism).  Lastly, the centralization of the Catholic Church made Vatican II seem unlikely.  During the 19th century the Pope had the majority of the power and were infallible.  

Although there were numerous reasons Vatican II seemed unlikely there were also numerous movements that supported and prepared for Vatican II.  The first development that will be discussed is the Liturgical movement and the study of the liturgy.  The Liturgical Movement was so strong after the French revolution that people demanded and craved individualism (O’Malley 71).  People began to study how the church worships and language in which they do so. The liturgical movement was vital because it called for greater amount of active participation of everyone during worship.  Secondly, there was an ecumenical movement that was happening during the 19th century among the Protestant and Orthodox churches.  The Catholic Church had originally stood aside, but the new church and state relations in multiple countries made the traditional Catholic teaching out-of-date.  These changes occurring around the world made the members of the Roman Catholic Church question and think about how to alleviate both church and society (60).  Thirdly, Cardinal Newman played a key role in the likelihood of Vatican II.  Cardinal Newman wrote an essay on Christian doctrine.  He discussed “the problem of change on the stage of theological debate to a degree unknown before” (77).   These topics allowed for other theologians and members of the church to start thinking critically of the history of the bible and Catholic Church.  Furthermore, ecclesiology was a factor in encouraging the formation of the second Vatican council.  People began to study the history of councils and were realizing how the church organizes itself is/should be evolving.  “Modernists beyond their desire to help the church reconcile itself with what they felt was best in intellectual culture as it had evolved into the present” (68).  Lastly, the rise of Thomism encouraged Vatican II.  Writer, Jacques Maritain, “spearheaded a different trajectory that applied Thomistic principles to contemporary problems in a way that foreshadowed themes of Vatican II” (78-79).  The members of the church were not fully understanding the meaning behind Aquinas and his work because very few people new Latin, but as more translations occurred people were able to spread and encourage Thomistic values and ideals.  
        The First Sunday of Advent in 1964 was a major turning point for the Catholic Church. Gary Wills, an unbiased commentator, describes the Sunday of Advent 1964 as letting “out the dirty little secret, in the most startling symbolic way, the fact that
the church changes” (Massa 166).  “The liturgical reforms mandated by the council can be cogently perceived as the most neuralgic issue facing Catholics on the parish level in modern times” (Massa 152). The main change that happened on this Sunday was the way people act out their beliefs and worship.  “It was this Instruction of September 1964…that revealed in detailed and practical ways the revolution in Catholic worship that would shortly take place” (Massa 149).    Although different than recent tradition, these changes proved the Christian motto “lex orandi, lex credendi” to be true.   This motto points theological text to the Catholic experience.  It leads to the belief that if you change the actions and worship, it changes the meaning of God.  The changes that came to the church on the First Sunday of Advent, did not come easy.  It could be argued that these changes were made from what John O’Malley calls “the Law of Unexpected Outcomes”.  Some of the most conservative bishops were worried about the changes that were being pushed in the church.  It was this aggressive stance against the transformation of worship that unexpectedly (and unwantedly) pushed the exact opposite to happen (O’Malley 65).  The bishops were not the only ones who were not completely welcoming to the changes of Vatican II: “[some] Catholics used ‘betrayal’ language to describe their new worship” (Massa 155).  This goes to show how influential Vatican II was.  It completely flipped the way Catholics were worshipping and thinking about religion.  After Vatican II, belief and scripture did not dominate worship, it was action and experience (Massa 157).  Durkheim comments on the sociological outcomes of the second Vatican council in his works.  Durkheim is definitely supportive in the changes to the church and believes: “religion’s purpose and true definition is to make human beings act, to aid them in living” (Massa 156).  



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