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Why the hopes of the Council Fathers of Vatican II are yet to be realised

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 Contents - Mar 2001AD2000 March 2001 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: ACU theology: prompt action needed - Peter Westmore
New cardinals to continue John Paul II's agenda - AD2000 Report
News: The Church Around the World
Seminary numbers up in orthodox US dioceses - Michael S. Rose
How Archbishop Pell will implement Statement on Women in the Church
Elizabeth Anscombe, R.I.P. - Robert P. George
ACU theology: how orthodox, how accountable? - Michael Gilchrist
Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter ordinations
How monastic life can reinvigorate the Church - Fr Peter Knowles OP
Cardinal Ratzinger on 'Third Secret' of Fatima
What we must teach our children: Archbishop Chaput - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
New Catholic radio program to start in WA
The surprise Cardinal: Fr Avery Dulles SJ - Zenit News Service
Letters: Euthanasia in S.A. (letter) - Errol P. Duke
Letters: Science and Christianity (letter) - Scot Chaston
Letters: Enneagram workshop (letter) - Br Con Moloney CFC
Letters: Church doctrine? (letter) - Frank Mobbs
Letters: Anti-Catholicism (letter) - Frank Bellet
Letters: Old liturgical books (letter) - Frank Carleton
Letters: Latin (letter) - Karmenu Attard
Letters: Supernatural order (letter) - Fr G.H. Duggan SM
Letters: Misguided compassion (letter)
Letters: G.K. Chesterton (letter) - Nancy McKelson
Letters: EWTN tapes (letter) - John Lovegrove
Letters: Vocations and orthodoxy (letter) - John Schmid
Letters: Third Rite in Toowoomba (letter) - Mark Power
Letters: Poem to Our Lady - Marion Craig
Letters: Appeal from India (letter) - Kevin L. Fernandes
Letters: Catholic education (letter) - Daniel Bryce
Letters: Boredom? (letter) - Josephine Landsberg
Books: Come To The Father: An Invitation to Share the Catholic Faith, Aidan Nichols OP - Christopher Quinn (reviewer)
Books: Streams of Living Water: Autobiography of a Charismatic Leader - Anthony Cappello (reviewer)
Books: Why the hopes of the Council Fathers of Vatican II are yet to be realised - Michael Daniel (reviewer)
Books: Why I Am A Priest: Thirty Success Stories, ed. Boadt, Hunt - Katie Lindorff (reviewer)
Books: The Pange Lingua Hymnal, compiled by Paul Newton - Fr Gregory Pritchard PP (reviewer)
Reflection: Liturgy in the true spirit of Vatican II - Ralph McInerny

What Went Wrong with Vatican II: The Catholic Crisis Explained by Ralph M. McInerny (Sophia Press, 1998, 176pp, RRP $29.95. Available from AD Books)

Almost forty years ago, the Second Vatican Council was opened by Pope John XXIII. He and his successor, Paul VI, hoped that the Council would usher in a period of renewal. At the turn of the millenium, however, the hopes of the Council Fathers are far from being realised, at least in many sections of the Catholic Church.

In Australia, weekly Mass attendance rates have plumetted from around 60 percent before the Council to less than 20 percent today; rates for baptisms and Church weddings, have likewise declined, as has a knowledge of Church teachings, particularly among younger generations. Another trend that seems to be pervasive is what some commentators describe as the "Cafeteria Catholicism mentality", that is, a belief that Catholics may choose which Church teachings, particularly moral ones, to accept or reject.

Dissident theologians

Dr Ralph McInerny is a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame University in the United States. His thesis is that the crisis in the Catholic Church of the last few decades cannot be blamed upon Vatican II. Vatican II was a legitimate Council of the Church, just as Vatican I and Trent were. The crisis, he argues, was caused largely by the actions of dissident theologians, particularly in their response to Humanae Vitae.

These dissidents, many of whom held senior positions, particularly in higher education institutes, argued that since the Papal statement was not infallible, Catholics need merely "respect" it. They could disregard the prohibition on artificial birth control, while remaining in good standing as Catholics, if their consciences told them otherwise. McInerny points out that an appeal to this line argued by dissident theologians is at variance with Vatican II's declaration that "loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra" (Lumen Gentium, no. 22).

This dissent led in turn to confusion among the laity. To whom should they listen: the Pope, who, the Catholic Church teaches, speaks with the authority of Christ, or dissenting "experts" who told them to act according to their consciences? This dissent has since spread to other teachings relating to faith (e.g., ordination of women to the priesthood) and morals (e.g., pre-marital relationships and homosexuality). As further documents were issued by the Holy See, dissidents either ignored them or told people they were not applicable if their consciences told them otherwise.

This mood of dissent has characterised other areas of Church life, such as catechetics and liturgy. McInerny concludes his analysis by discussing the Vatican's response to this trend of dissent, particularly the Oath of Fidelity and the letter Ad Tuendam Fidem. While other contributing factors to the crisis are mentioned, such as the liturgy, McInerny does not explore them in depth in this work.

Michael E. Daniel teaches at a Melbourne independent college.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 14 No 2 (March 2001), p. 16

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