It has now been almost fifty years since the Catholic Church created waves by opening the Second Vatican Council. And for many, the tumult continues. Vatican II has become nothing less than a battle over the mission of the contemporary Church. The progressive left sees the Council as an open-ended innovation whose revolutionary promise has yet to be fulfilled. The traditionalist right views it with deep suspicion and is sometimes heard to say (if not openly, at least sotto voce
) that the Church would have been better off had it never occurred. But the vital center of Catholicism—if it can be called that—has always defended the Council as a necessary and faithful extension of the Church’s evangelical mission to the modern world. The historian Edward Norman gave voice to this perspective when he wrote: The remarkable thing about the Council was that it was able to produce more or less exactly what it set out to do: a statement of the Catholic faith in modules of understanding intelligible to modern culture yet completely conformable to past tradition—an achievement the more remarkable in view of the incoherence of western culture in the 1960s.
Norman’s perspective is better appreciated today. John Paul II’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985, and Benedict XVI’s insistence on a “hermeneutic of continuity” rather than rupture have both helped to recover a “deeper reception of the Council” as the Synod’s final report requested. The wonderfully clarifying universal Catechism was one of the Council’s greatest fruits. But even as Vatican II, properly understood, remains an achievement of the first order, its immediate consequences were anything but. Full story: The serenity of Vatican II Source: First Things
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