Episode 7: What is Divine Revelation? – SoundCloud

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The Legacy of Vatican II

The legacy of Vatican II is one that can bring up mixed emotions.  Many see the council as something that was needed, but the implementation was flawed.  Others go as far to say that the Church broke from its sacred duty with the council.  No matter what view one may take, the council’s influence is still felt within the Church, and within the world.

The world was changing in the twentieth century, and the Church needed speak of its relevance in a culture in the face of a modernist society.  The tone of the council is one that is vastly different than it 19th century counterpart Vatican I.  Vatican I addressed the issue of Papal primacy and infallibility, and at time did so in a triumphalist tone. The Vatican II council fathers, addressed issues, but did so in a tone that seemed to me for inclusive.  This inclusion did not change doctrine or tradition.

The tone was one of a Church seeking dialogue and was welcoming.  Regarding this Christopher McMahon writes, “Furthermore, the tone of the Church is far less trimphalistic than seen in the controversies surrounding the battles between the Church and secularism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (McMahon 90).  This paper will look at the legacy of the Vatican II documents concerning ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious freedom.

 

 

ECUMENISM

As previously stated, the council father of Vatican II used a different tone than was used in previous councils.  Gone were the words, but still agreed upon by Pope Pius IX, “We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation” (EWTN).  Though this is the consistent teaching of the Church, it is something that is seen as a negative by other Christian groups.  The Vatican II document Unitatis Redintegratio, or decree on Ecumenism, lays a foundation that helps to foster further communication among Christians of all kinds.

The document lays out the case that it is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ that all Christians be unified.  We see this in his high priestly prayer in John 17.  Our Lord states in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (RSV).  The thousands of denominations that are in Christendom provide an obstacle to missionary work.  In paragraph one of the Decree on Ecumenism the council fathers state, “Certainly, such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the gospel to every creature” (UR, para 1).

The council’s legacy on Ecumenism goes further that stating the obvious about the divisions in Christianity.  In regards to Protestants previous councils, such as the Council of Trent, openly anathematized those who were not part of the Church.  Vatican II, while still saying that are not in full communion, call our Protestant brothers and sisters separated brethren.  This can be seen in para four on the decree on Ecumenism, “Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren” (UR, para 4).

This language of the Church continues today, and Catholics are encouraged to be in dialogue for the good of the whole Christian community.  It is not a Catholic versus Protestant mentality, as this is not the will of the Lord.  By virtue of their Trinitarian baptisms our Protestant friends are worthy of the title of Christian.  The call of Vatican II was also seen in the 1996 encyclical by Pope Saint John Paul the II titled Ut Unum Sint.  In the opening paragraphs the document lays out the intentions of the Holy Father.  In it he writes, “The courageous witness of so many martyrs of our century, including members of Churches and Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, gives new vigor to the Council’s call and reminds us of our duty to listen to and put into practice its exhortation “(Ut Unum Sint para 1).  As a result, the legacy of Vatican II regarding Ecumenism is once again shown in our time.  The Church is committed to the cause as Christian unity is something that we should all strive for the sake of the gospel.

 

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

To Catholics today the decrees of Vatican II may seem to be from that of a bygone era, but they are a vital moment in the history of the Church (McMahon 75).  In the previous paragraphs we see the legacy it left with ecumenism.  The legacy is great in the area of interreligious dialogue.  In fact, it can be said that without the Church’s commitment to ecumenism that its strides in religious dialogue would not have made the strides it has.

This commitment can be seen in the Church’s communication with leaders of the Eastern church’s.  The Eastern Orthodox churches have valid orders, apostolic succession, and valid sacraments.  However, the issues of the Great Schism (such as Papal Primacy and the Filioque), are still prevalent.  The council fathers drafted Orientalium Ecclesiarum, or the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches.  Of special consideration here is the emphasis on those eastern churches that are not in communion with Rome.  The council fathers write in paragraph 25, “Nothing more should be demanded of separated Christians who come to catholic unity under the influence of the grace of the holy spirit” (OE 25).

As a convert this section was very telling as it is applicable to converts that make the Catholic profession every Easter vigil.  The Church sees baptism done in the trinitarian formula as valid, no matter the denomination.  Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters have received valid sacraments, and the church has the door wide open for them.  The same can be said with the Anglican, as several Anglican ordinariates have popped up across the world.  Vatican II left a legacy of teaching the faithful to find common ground with all religions to further the cause of humanity, and also as a means to evangelize.  To this end Pope Francis at the plenary assembly for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue states,

It is for this reason that interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive, but nourish each other. We do not impose anything, we do not use any underhanded strategy to attract the faithful, but witness with joy and simplicity to what we believe and who we are (pciinterreligious.org).

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

 

The thirteenth document of the Council was the Declaration on Religious Liberty, or Dignitatis Humanae.  This document is controversial because some think that it breaks with earlier magisterial writings which describe the governmental role of suppressing religious error.  One document that is often cited is an encyclical by Pope Gregory XVI titled Mirari Vos.  Paragraph thirteen of that document states, “This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained” (MV para 13).

            The irony is that this encyclical, and the Vatican II document on religious liberty are not in conflict.  The Council fathers address this very quickly in the document and say that the Catholic Church is the “true religion and one church of Christ” (DH para 1).  The document lays out the case that it is a matter of human dignity that one should not be made to act contrary to one’s conscience.  As such there should be no government coercion, and people should not be made to feel less than human if they adhere to a different religious creed.

This concept of religious liberty is one that we see engrained in American culture, and in other denominations.  Our Baptist friends as an example were founded on the very concept of religious freedom, and advocate that for all as well.  Religious freedom has become a hallmark of our society, and that is part of the legacy that the council leaves behind.  While advocating for the rights of the individual, the church maintains its traditional stance towards the faith and still advocates for the proclamation of the gospel message.

Image result for vatican ii

 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the second Vatican council left a legacy that has left the Church in a better place to evangelize the world.  Though the implementation of the council was less than desirable that is not the fault of the council itself.  The church continues to demonstrate its commitment to ecumenical dialogue, with the end goal being Christian unity in the face of a world that desperately needs it.  More than ever before Church leadership is speaking more with leaders of other faiths and denominations.  And lastly, the Church is embracing its motherly role in advocating for the protection of those who practice another religion altogether.  The combination of these three allows all members of the Church to evangelize more effectively.  Though the council is without controversy, its legacy lives on and its effects are still felt today.

  WORKS CITED

Donovan, Colin.  “No Salvation Outside of the Church”.  EWTN.COM.  Accessed September 4, 2017.

Flannery, Austin ed.  The Basic Sixteen Documents of Vatican Council II.  Northport, NY:  Costello Publishing, 2007.  Print.

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

Pope Francis.  “To Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue”.  PCIINTERRELIGIOUS.ORG. November 28, 2013. Web.

Pope Gregory XVI.  Mirari Vos On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism.  Vatican: Holy See.  Rome.  August 15, 1832

Pope John Paul II.  “On Commitment to Ecumenism-UT Unum Sint”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  May 25, 1995.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Ecumenism-Unitatis Redintegratio”.  Vatican:  Holy See. Rome.  November 21, 1964.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Religious Liberty-Dignitatis Humanae”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  December 7, 1965

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches-Orientalium Ecclesiarum”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  November 21, 1965.

Book Review: All The Pope’s Men

All The Pope’s Men was an interesting book.  When I started reading it I was expecting more of a theological expose of how the Vatican works, but to my surprise this was not the case.  This was not a bad thing, but a very good thing.  It allowed me to step back and see the church in a whole new light.  As Catholics we see the Vatican as this holy place, which it is, but it is so much more.  It is literally a country of its own, and it has diplomatic relations with other countries.  I think that is one of the reasons for the book’s popularity.  It gives detailed insight into the different aspects and offices that comprise the Vatican.  I found it particularly fascinating that the various offices of the Vatican are totally autonomous from each other.  They each have their own separate leadership.  In the pages about the Roman Curia Allen wrote about how one office was comprised of two people who spoke two different languages.  This was done so they would not develop a favoritism toward each other.

Another reason for the book’s popularity is that it is not a theological treatise or a church history book about the importance of the Vatican.  Allen strives and succeeds in my opinion, between the roll of the Holy See and its relationship with the rest of the world.  A third reason for the books popularity is that it acts as a myth buster about popular conspiracy theories about the Vatican.  I recommended this book to a non-Catholic friend for those pages alone.  They are filled with sources that can be easily obtained.  Allen’s views on the American and Vatican perspectives is also interesting, and if you look closely you can see them play out pretty regularly.  In America we want things done the way we want yesterday (immediately).  The Vatican doesn’t work that way.  It is a 2,000 year old Institution that moves slowly.  It isn’t because it doesn’t care, but because it is concerned with Catholics worldwide not just in Los Angeles, CA.  Because of that there are times where relations between the two seem strained, but overall relations are good.  Overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

You can check the book out here.

Dei Verbum: What is Divine Revelation?

In my years as a Protestant a topic of great passion was just how God reveals Himself to mankind.  Sola scriptura, or the Bible alone, was my battle cry for many years. However, once I started reading the early church fathers, something hit me.  These sound a lot like Catholic teachings.  After further research I found that there was a piece of revelation that I had ignored, but it was one that answers many questions. The purpose of the article is to go over how God reveals himself and to answer some of the very questions that I had in my faith journey.  This will be done with the aid of Dei Verbum, which was written at Vatican II.

What is divine revelation?  Through the mercy of God, He has decided to make His will known by various means.  This was necessary so that we can draw near to the Father, through the son, and with assistance of the Holy Spirit to participate in the divine nature (Dei Verbum, para 2).  The pattern of revelation is contained in the deeds and works of God that match His words.  God backed up his words and put into motion His plan for salvation history.  Evidence of God is everywhere and evident in all areas of creation, and preserves all things.  As a result, when Adam and Eve fell it was then that God set forth a plan for redemption instead of destroying creation and starting over.  What great love God has for us!

He initiated this plan through Abraham and fulfilled His promise of making Abraham a great nation.  After Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “He taught this nation, through Moses and the prophets, to recognize him as the only living and true God (Dei Verbum, para 3).”  Through God’s work, He taught Israel to look for the messiah.  As St. John the evangelist tells us “the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  God sent his son to tell the people about God’s love and how He works.  Through His son we are able to have life through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Obedience in faith should be our only real response to this revelation.  It is through this faith that we give of ourselves; we submit ourselves to God and enter into a relationship with Him.  We love Him because He first loved us and gave Himself for us.  He paid a debt we did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.  This is done only by the grace of God, and through the working of the Holy Spirit.  Through the gifts of the Spirit, our understanding of this revelation grows stronger and is understood in a more profound way.

Through the revelation of God we see that God is manifested not only through sacred scripture, but also in nature.  This is done through reason because man knows deep within his soul that there is something out there greater than himself.  Though he may not know what it is it is ingrained in all of us to understand that it was not accidental.  It is the teaching of the church that “these things themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, can, in the present condition of the human race, be known to all with ease, with firm certainty, and without the contamination of error (Dei Verbum, para 6).”

So far we have discussed a lot about sacred scripture.  The Church has taught from the beginning that the scriptures are the word of God.  As the word of God they are to be treated reverently and with the tradition of the church make up the full teaching of the Apostles.  The church has gone through great trial to deliver the proper scriptures to us.  According to the Council of Trent, there are forty six books that make up the Old Testament.  These books include Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit, Judith, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.  Our Protestant brethren do not acknowledge these books.  All Christian churches are in agreement with the books of the New Testament which is twenty seven in number.  We will now look deeper at the Old and New Testament which make up the written part of the tradition.

The Old Testament is a collection of writings that have narratives about the creation of the world, the fall, and prophecies about the messiah.  In it we find a truth that becomes lost in some people’s minds.  “In his great love God intended the salvation of the entire human race (Dei Verbum, para 14).”  This was obviously plan B because our first parents fell from grace.  However in preparation for the salvation of all he chose a small nation.

God entered into a covenant with Abraham and made a great nation that is as numerous as the stars in the sky.  God revealed himself through words and deeds as the one true living God (Dei Verbum, para 14).  God chose Israel as a type of pet project to show himself and to teach them by experience.  In turn Israel would use this experience to teach other nations about God.  The books of the Old Testament are vital to the revelation that God gave man.  In the books we have life lessons and stories of hope that are still valid today.

Stories of hope and the patriarchs are great, but there is one theme that is overwhelming in the Old Testament.  That theme is the coming of Christ. The prophecies starting in Genesis 3:15 all thru the rest of the prophets prepare the people for the Son of God.  He was revealed in signs, little by little, to prepare the hearts and minds of the people. While some people find it very startling to see stories of violence these stories show the mercy of God. God had every right to terminate our existence, but the writings of the Old Testament show how merciful God is with humanity.

The Old Testament is a vital part of the liturgy of the church and should be a vital part of each individual’s biblical study.  There is a tendency to only read the New Testament, because some mistakenly think that is the only part of scripture that discusses Christ.  A closer look at the Old Testament shows that Christ is revealed throughout.  The new is hidden in the old and the old is fulfilled in the new.  There are several places where a working knowledge of the Old Testament helps explain things in the New Testament.  A good example of this in the letter to the Hebrews which discusses what the Hebrew priests do.

The New Testament contains autobiographies of our Lord (Gospels), writings of apostolic origin, and an early history of our church.  In these writings the saving power of God is manifested throughout. This Testament would be worthless without one thing, and that is Christ incarnated as the Word who dwelt among us.  The Son of God humbled Himself, took on human form and established the kingdom of God on Earth.  He revealed himself and the Father by performing various works and deeds to establish and show who He was.  His work on earth culminated in giving himself as the propitiation for the sins of all mankind.  When He ascended to Heaven He sent the Holy Spirit as a guide to teach the people through the ministry of the Apostles.

Christ alone has the words of eternal life; after all it was He that said He is the way, the truth, and the life.  The twenty seven books of the New Testament bear witness to these things.  From these twenty seven books the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John hold a special place for Christians.  It is in them that we find the words and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  From the beginning the church “has maintained the apostolic origin of the four gospels (Dei Verbum, para 18).  Matthew being written by the tax collector, Mark being written by Mark but dictated by Saint Peter, Luke was written by Saint Luke who was a companion of Saint Paul, and John by Saint John also known as the disciple that Jesus loved.

The church has taught with absoluteness that the four gospels historically and faithfully pass on what “Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men and women, really did and taught for their salvation, until he was taken up (Dei Verbum, para 19).”  After the Lord ascended into Heaven the Apostles spoke about what he did and said.  The Apostles were now blessed with the Holy Spirit and fully understood everything that the Lord had told them.

Each of the Gospels is written in its own form and style.  However it is important to note that the message of Christ in the Gospels is absolute, and the authentic message of Jesus was presented.  When Christ presented the apostles with the Great Commission they had no intention of writing down what the Lord had taught them.  Later on it became necessary to ensure that the truth about Jesus and His teachings were maintained within proper orthodoxy.

In addition to the Gospels we have other books in the New Testament, such as the writings of Saint Paul.  These writings were also done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  These writings involve things as proper Christian living, church order, and further clarification of the teachings of Christ.  These writings are great and further establish just want the Lord meant in certain areas, and preach about the saving power of Christ through His death burial, and resurrection.

Looking back on salvation history we can clearly see the plan of God from the beginning.  There is little doubt that our ancestors in faith, and the patriarchs of Israel went remember that God is always in control and knew that we could only handle small amounts of his revelation at one time.  Just as we need to prepare our souls to receive Holy Communion the souls of our ancestors needed to be prepared for Christ to come.

This happens by God revealing himself in His creation, the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, and finally through Christ Himself and the teaching of the Apostles.  The gift of sacred scripture and the tradition handed on from the Apostles equips us to understand the revelation of God.  This understanding should put us in a state of awe, and render us speechless and teary eyed.  God has done great things for us.  Now let us do great things for Him.

See the source image

Works Cited

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

Christ’s Fulfillment of the Covenants

Throughout the Old Testament there are several instances of God establishing a covenant.  He did so with Adam in the Garden, with the nation of Israel through Moses where the Law was delivered, with Noah after the great flood, with Abraham and his descendants, and lastly with King David.  These covenants are a part of salvation history that prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah.  Each one of these covenants was important and significant, and each one was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  This covenant is known as the new covenant, and it is everlasting.  Regarding this the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant forever. The Son is his Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him” (CCC para 73).

The Adamic covenant is the first that the Lord had established.  As its name states, it was established with our first parents on behalf of all humanity.  We read in Genesis 1:26-31 about the creation of mankind, and how God rested on the seventh day.  The number seen in the Hebrew language is the number of covenant (Lecture Notes).  However, there is a second part of the covenant that applies after the fall.  God gives the first Gospel pronouncement which is known as the protoevangelium.  Genesis 3:15 states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (NRSV).  Christ is the fulfillment as his death, burial, and resurrection redeemed us from the sin of our first parents.

 

After the great flood mentioned in Genesis, God made a covenant with Noah never to destroy the Earth with water again (Lecture Notes).  The rainbow became a sign of the covenant that God made with Noah.  This can be seen in Genesis 9:13 which states, “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (NRSV).  Man will still struggle with sin, but Christ gives strength in the battle.  The Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes states, “But the Lord Himself came to free and strengthen man, renewing him inwardly and casting out the prince of this world” (Ostrowski 18).  It also brought into focus the issue of capital punishment in Genesis chapter nine.  It took on a new meaning when Christ was crucified.  The covenant is for all time and for all people, as is the sacrifice of Christ.

God continued in his promise and made a covenant with Abraham.  Genesis 12:2 states, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (NRSV).  God promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars, and this included those by adoption (Lecture Notes).  This was fulfilled in Christ, because having faith in Christ we adopted sons of Abraham as Galatians 3:29 states.  In the Mosaic covenant, God made a covenant with the people of Israel.  Regarding this Dr. Koehne writes, “Through the leadership of Moses, God freed His people from slavery, then made a covenant with them on Mount Sinai” (Lecture Notes).  Christ fulfills the covenant by showing us how to live the law and calling to a higher standard of living as Christians.  This can only be done through his grace and mercy.

Lastly, God made a covenant with King David and said that through his lineage the Messiah would be born.  The promise can be seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 which states, “ When  your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (NRSV).

In St. Augustine’s great work the City of God he equates King David to an Old Testament prefigurement of Christ (Newadvent.com).  This covenant is fulfilled because he is proven to be in David’s lineage as is seen in Matthew Chapter one, and his kingdom will have no end.

Crucifixion

Works Cited

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

Ostrowski, Thaddeus ed., Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality.  Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 2008, Print.

Dods, Marcus. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120117.htm&gt;.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Bernard Lonergan and Apologetic Methodology

In the Post-Reformation era theology, which had once been standard curriculum at universities, was pushed in the seminaries.  One of the unintentional results was that theologians began to only spoke with those in whom they were already in agreement.  In his essay Theology in its New Context, theologian Bernard Lonergan gives a critique of classical apologetic methodology.  The differences between a classicist mentality and historical consciousness will also be given.

The classicist mentality regarding apologetics has a starting point with proving the existence of God.  One with this mentality will employ classic argument such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments to prove God’s existence.  The classicist mentality relied on things that had always been assumed, and sometimes it continues to do so even considering new scientific discoveries or developments.  Regarding this Lonergan writes, “The classicist thought standardized, but tended to overlook, that modern studies have brought to light, thematized, elaborated, illustrated, documented” (Lonergan, 413).  In this form we see that God becomes known to us through divine revelation (i.e. Scripture and Tradition), and in the material universe.  This approach falls into the category of Dogmatic theology as they were considered “considered settled beliefs of the universal Church” (Lecture notes).

In the 19th and 20th centuries a movement call historical consciousness began to creep into the church.  It raised a series of questions, with one of those being how traditional texts and teachings to be interpreted in the contemporary church?  This method became even more popular after the second Vatican Council, as the church began to seek unity among other Christian groups.  They seek to see historical Christian writing as something that can be applied the same way as they were when originally written.  Regarding this Lonergan writes, “One type of foundation suits a theology that aims to be deductive, static, abstract, universal, equally applicable to all places and to all times” (Lonergan 415).

Though both methodologies have their place in apologetics, it is important to make way for new developments or discoveries.  This is not to say that some new doctrine will be unearthed, but our knowledge of apologetics is growing more by the day.  One example is when dealing with those who identify with the new atheist movement.  This movement seems to be more a religion than anything else, but they know all the arguments from classical apologetics.  The firmest adherents have taken the time to answer classical methods of proving the existence of God.  In is my experience in interracting with them, that they shut down when these arguments are brought up.  This is similar to what Lonergan describes when he discusses arguments being the same in all times.  We must be able to adjust and make room for new developments in physics and science when arguing for the existence of God.  In addition to presenting those facts from science and reason, it is also important to live a life that has been transformed by the Gospel.  This has been my experience when applying ideas classicist assumptions in apologetics.

 

WORKS CITED

Lonergan, Bernard J. F., et al. The Lonergan Reader. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly     Publishing Division, 1997. Lonergan Studies. EBSCOhost, accessed December 10, 2017.

 

Legacy of Vatican II

The legacy of Vatican II is one that can bring up mixed emotions.  Many see the council as something that was needed, but the implementation was flawed.  Others go as far to say that the Church broke from its sacred duty with the council.  No matter what view one may take, the council’s influence is still felt within the Church, and within the world.

The world was changing in the twentieth century, and the Church needed speak of its relevance in a culture in the face of a modernist society.  The tone of the council is one that is vastly different than it 19th century counterpart Vatican I.  Vatican I addressed the issue of Papal primacy and infallibility, and at time did so in a triumphalist tone. The Vatican II council fathers, addressed issues, but did so in a tone that seemed to me for inclusive.  This inclusion did not change doctrine or tradition.

The tone was one of a Church seeking dialogue and was welcoming.  Regarding this Christopher McMahon writes, “Furthermore, the tone of the Church is far less trimphalistic than seen in the controversies surrounding the battles between the Church and secularism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (McMahon 90).  This paper will look at the legacy of the Vatican II documents concerning ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious freedom.

 

 

ECUMENISM

As previously stated, the council father of Vatican II used a different tone than was used in previous councils.  Gone were the words, but still agreed upon by Pope Pius IX, “We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation” (EWTN).  Though this is the consistent teaching of the Church, it is something that is seen as a negative by other Christian groups.  The Vatican II document Unitatis Redintegratio, or decree on Ecumenism, lays a foundation that helps to foster further communication among Christians of all kinds.

The document lays out the case that it is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ that all Christians be unified.  We see this in his high priestly prayer in John 17.  Our Lord states in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (RSV).  The thousands of denominations that are in Christendom provide an obstacle to missionary work.  In paragraph one of the Decree on Ecumenism the council fathers state, “Certainly, such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the gospel to every creature” (UR, para 1).

The council’s legacy on Ecumenism goes further that stating the obvious about the divisions in Christianity.  In regards to Protestants previous councils, such as the Council of Trent, openly anathematized those who were not part of the Church.  Vatican II, while still saying that are not in full communion, call our Protestant brothers and sisters separated brethren.  This can be seen in para four on the decree on Ecumenism, “Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren” (UR, para 4).

This language of the Church continues today, and Catholics are encouraged to be in dialogue for the good of the whole Christian community.  It is not a Catholic versus Protestant mentality, as this is not the will of the Lord.  By virtue of their Trinitarian baptisms our Protestant friends are worthy of the title of Christian.  The call of Vatican II was also seen in the 1996 encyclical by Pope Saint John Paul the II titled Ut Unum Sint.  In the opening paragraphs the document lays out the intentions of the Holy Father.  In it he writes, “The courageous witness of so many martyrs of our century, including members of Churches and Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, gives new vigor to the Council’s call and reminds us of our duty to listen to and put into practice its exhortation “(Ut Unum Sint para 1).  As a result, the legacy of Vatican II regarding Ecumenism is once again shown in our time.  The Church is committed to the cause as Christian unity is something that we should all strive for the sake of the gospel.

 

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

To Catholics today the decrees of Vatican II may seem to be from that of a bygone era, but they are a vital moment in the history of the Church (McMahon 75).  In the previous paragraphs we see the legacy it left with ecumenism.  The legacy is great in the area of interreligious dialogue.  In fact, it can be said that without the Church’s commitment to ecumenism that its strides in religious dialogue would not have made the strides it has.

This commitment can be seen in the Church’s communication with leaders of the Eastern church’s.  The Eastern Orthodox churches have valid orders, apostolic succession, and valid sacraments.  However, the issues of the Great Schism (such as Papal Primacy and the Filioque), are still prevalent.  The council fathers drafted Orientalium Ecclesiarum, or the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches.  Of special consideration here is the emphasis on those eastern churches that are not in communion with Rome.  The council fathers write in paragraph 25, “Nothing more should be demanded of separated Christians who come to catholic unity under the influence of the grace of the holy spirit” (OE 25).

As a convert this section was very telling as it is applicable to converts that make the Catholic profession every Easter vigil.  The Church sees baptism done in the trinitarian formula as valid, no matter the denomination.  Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters have received valid sacraments, and the church has the door wide open for them.  The same can be said with the Anglican, as several Anglican ordinariates have popped up across the world.  Vatican II left a legacy of teaching the faithful to find common ground with all religions to further the cause of humanity, and also as a means to evangelize.  To this end Pope Francis at the plenary assembly for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue states,

It is for this reason that interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive, but nourish each other. We do not impose anything, we do not use any underhanded strategy to attract the faithful, but witness with joy and simplicity to what we believe and who we are (pciinterreligious.org).

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

 

The thirteenth document of the Council was the Declaration on Religious Liberty, or Dignitatis Humanae.  This document is controversial because some think that it breaks with earlier magisterial writings which describe the governmental role of suppressing religious error.  One document that is often cited is an encyclical by Pope Gregory XVI titled Mirari Vos.  Paragraph thirteen of that document states, “This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained” (MV para 13).

            The irony is that this encyclical, and the Vatican II document on religious liberty are not in conflict.  The Council fathers address this very quickly in the document and say that the Catholic Church is the “true religion and one church of Christ” (DH para 1).  The document lays out the case that it is a matter of human dignity that one should not be made to act contrary to one’s conscience.  As such there should be no government coercion, and people should not be made to feel less than human if they adhere to a different religious creed.

This concept of religious liberty is one that we see engrained in American culture, and in other denominations.  Our Baptist friends as an example were founded on the very concept of religious freedom, and advocate that for all as well.  Religious freedom has become a hallmark of our society, and that is part of the legacy that the council leaves behind.  While advocating for the rights of the individual, the church maintains its traditional stance towards the faith and still advocates for the proclamation of the gospel message.

 Image result for vatican ii

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the second Vatican council left a legacy that has left the Church in a better place to evangelize the world.  Though the implementation of the council was less than desirable that is not the fault of the council itself.  The church continues to demonstrate its commitment to ecumenical dialogue, with the end goal being Christian unity in the face of a world that desperately needs it.  More than ever before Church leadership is speaking more with leaders of other faiths and denominations.  And lastly, the Church is embracing its motherly role in advocating for the protection of those who practice another religion altogether.  The combination of these three allows all members of the Church to evangelize more effectively.  Though the council is without controversy, its legacy lives on and its effects are still felt today.

  

 

WORKS CITED

Donovan, Colin.  “No Salvation Outside of the Church”.  EWTN.COM.  Accessed September 4, 2017.

Flannery, Austin ed.  The Basic Sixteen Documents of Vatican Council II.  Northport, NY:  Costello Publishing, 2007.  Print.

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

Pope Francis.  “To Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue”.  PCIINTERRELIGIOUS.ORG. November 28, 2013. Web.

Pope Gregory XVI.  Mirari Vos On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism.  Vatican: Holy See.  Rome.  August 15, 1832

Pope John Paul II.  “On Commitment to Ecumenism-UT Unum Sint”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  May 25, 1995.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Ecumenism-Unitatis Redintegratio”.  Vatican:  Holy See. Rome.  November 21, 1964.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Religious Liberty-Dignitatis Humanae”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  December 7, 1965

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches-Orientalium Ecclesiarum”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  November 21, 1965.

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