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Council helped us
I was stunned by Rich Peterson's letter (Forum, Nov. 18) in which he declares that the Second Vatican Council was a mistake and then gives a laundry list of the ways the lived experience of Church has changed over the intervening years.
His first mistake is to equate coincidence with causality. He also totally neglected the massive changes in society in general that coincided with the timing of Vatican II. He ignored the pent-up demand within the church leading up to the Council for change in how Catholics lived their lives, worshipped, viewed others and what they accepted as guidelines for their Catholicism.
A few examples:
The Council changed the way we thought about God, about ourselves, about our spouses, our "separated Christian brethren," Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews, even the way we thought about the Russians. When a handful of bishops kept pushing for conciliar condemnation of Communism, John XXIII kept insisting that that kind of talk would only blow up the world. Pope John and his Council made some preliminary moves that helped end the Cold War. For this, the editors of Time made John XXIII the Man of the Year.
Before the Council, we were led to believe that we were miserable sinners when we were being nothing but human. After the Council, we had a new view of ourselves.
Before the Council, we took pride in knowing that we were the only people on earth who could expect salvation, according to the centuries-long mantra, "There is no salvation outside the Church."
After the Council, we began to see there was something good and something great in all religions.
Before the Council, we were told we were condemned to hell if we made love to our spouses without at the same time making babies. After the Council, we knew we had a duty (and the God-approved pleasure) to make love even if we were not ready to have another baby.
The Council helped us all be more real, more human and more loving. It helped us realize the world was a good place.
Vatican II a mistake?
Rich Peterson (Forum, Nov. 18) accurately lists problems in the Church (lack of belief in the Real Presence, etc.) since Vatican II concluded in 1965, but they are not due to a mistaken Council. Nor can we blame the Council for the liturgical abuses and innovations that we've experienced (dancers, clowns, "American Idol"-type performers, ad-libbing by the celebrant etc.). These were products of "reformers" who hijacked the Council. There has been a disconnect between what the Council really was and what it has been made out to be.
This disconnect was called a "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture," by Pope Benedict in 2005. In other words, a false interpretation of the Council.
The background for this disconnect was the cultural watershed and sexual revolution of the '60s, but a major contributor was the rejection of Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical against contraception, "Humanae Vitae," by many theologians, priests and prelates, as well as lay Catholics. This led to movements against celibacy and toward the acceptance of homosexual behavior and other disconnects. They temporarily weakened the Church, but she is recovering and is experiencing a live renewal.
Recently Pope Francis sent Cardinal Brandmüller to the 450th anniversary of the closing of the Council of Trent with a letter reiterating Pope Benedict's interpretation of Vatican II as a "hermeneutic of renewal," tying the two Councils together. Vatican II didn't change anything that was taught before or after Trent. Definitely not a mistake! The mistake was bringing the world into the Church.
Pope Francis is a gift to the Church and will prove to be effective in the hermeneutic of continuity that will actualize the real reforms of Vatican II. His recent Apostolic Exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel") is an example of how he is showing us how to bring the Church into today's world.
Hope for Church
Rich Peterson (Forum, Nov. 18) presented an angst-filled appeal to the Church to identify Vatican II a disaster for the Catholic faith. He listed a number of alarming statistics to prove his point, one, the lack of a universal belief in the real presence in the Eucharist (I prefer understanding of), was so alarming he listed it four different times.
I don't necessarily challenge Peterson's statistics, but I do challenge his conclusion that all these things are the direct result of Vatican II. I think most of these problems occurred not only in the Catholic Church but also in other Christian and non-Catholic churches. The growth of the Catholic Church during those 10 years has not declined but has increased.
Most happily, although church attendance in the United States has declined, the belief, participation, involvement, spirituality and sincerity of those attending has reached never before attained levels. I am age 79 and have been a practicing Catholic Christian most of my life and am delighted to say I have never seen nor known a more knowledgeable and dedicated group of Catholics who are hungering for more knowledge of, and a desire for a closeness to, God as I have seen since Vatican II. That includes both clergy and laity.
Truth about images
Myrna Babatugon's letter (Forum, Nov. 4) about images of saints near the altar is a perfect example of the need for immediate Catholic responses by the editors of the Forum. Readers deserve to know the truth about Catholic uses of images: that we do not worship the image when we bow down before it. Rather, we are using the image to help us remember the reality of the person whose intercession we are asking for. Bowing before a statue is not the same as offering the adoration we owe to God alone.
We certainly do not believe these images are gods. Asking the intercession of saints who are closer to God than we are does not take away from our worship of God. The Catholic Voice should not let such important questions go unanswered.
Many paths to God
As a child, my grandmother took me to church. I looked and saw all the faces turned toward God. A priest asked me, "Are you Catholic?"
"No, but I am Christian," I answered. "What does that mean?" he asked.
I see another priest struggle with the church. He is filled with a great love for mankind.
In the distant thunder I hear the indistinct voice of God and I am afraid.
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