Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 8 - Vatican II (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-008 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE REST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> PAUL: Thanks for that answer. Let me jump way ahead in history now and ask another question about the Catholic Church. What transpired among the Catholics in the 1900's? I certainly have heard of at least one major event, Vatican II. What have been the repercussions of the decisions made at that council? >> DR. LAWRENCE REST: Paul, you�re capturing the sense of how we run with history here, and that's excellent. These questions aren't detached from one another, but you see within the church a living and breathing entity, an organism that grows and develops and changes and responds, and really that's what historical theology is all about, getting that sense of the ongoing story of what the church has faced. Roman Catholicism, in the 20th century, has especially faced some times of extreme challenge and one might also say opportunity. I've already alluded to, in the last question, how some windows begin to open within Roman Catholicism while at the same time, popes were using the opportunity and the power of their office to decree certain other things. I mentioned higher criticism and the way that began to make its way into Roman Catholic biblical studies. Higher criticism simply began to treat the scriptures like other humanly authored books. It began to challenge assumptions about the divine character of the scripture and began to emphasize the human orientedness of the writings, if you will, and simply to underscore, if you will, what they found to be discrepancies within the scripture. Roman Catholicism, as a result, at least at the academic level began to experience some real changes in perspective as a result. Now, Roman Catholicism wasn't unique in that respect. Protestantism in the West generally was also expressing similar kinds of challenges. But in Rome, it was a different manner of responding. Here you had, in their minds, the one church, the true church, the only church, outside of which there was no salvation, now being forced to grapple with the presence even in its midst of those who were thinking differently. How would respond? In the late 1950's, a man came to the papacy, an older gentleman, who took the name of John XXIII. And John, Pope John XXIII, was seen at his election as being simply a timekeeper, one who would fill out the office of pope for several years before he would pass away and another man would take his place. However, all those expectations were thrown to the wind when he himself announced his plans, as pope, to call an ecumenical council, that is a council embracing the whole church. This council came to be called Vatican II and formerly went from 1962 to 1965. The principle here was that of aggiornamento, that is of opening the windows and engaging the church at all levels and even religious expression beyond the church. So the purpose of Roman Catholicism in the Second Vatican Council, as outlined by Pope John XXIII, was to update the church, to help the church become more in tune with the times, the radically and dynamically changing times of the late 1950's and early 1960's. How did this play out in fact? Well, Pope John passed away in the midst of the council. He was succeeded by Pope Paul VI. But even though Pope Paul was somewhat more conservative, using that word with some hesitation, than Pope John, nevertheless, the council went on. And one of the basic changes that happened was the presence of Protestant observers. Lutherans and other Protestants were present at the Second Vatican Council to witness what had happened and what was transpiring and even at times to speak with the representatives of the church. So the Protestant voice was heard within the context of the Second Vatican Council. This seemed, to some Catholics, to argue against the older stance of the church that only within Rome was salvation to be found. But the Vatican Council itself actually expressed a new idea here calling their Protestant friends separated brethren. And here you can choose to put emphasis either on the adjective or the noun, the noun brethren or the adjective separated. It recognized the fact that there was not agreement, there was not harmony between the various churches. But nevertheless, were they willing simply to move them off and to cut them off entirely from the church�s ministry? At the same time, Roman Catholicism in Vatican II actually widened its scope and began to be more favorably inclined towards other world religions, even going so far as to speak of what it called anonymous Christians. That is people who believed, had an adequate faith, even though they weren't specifically members of the Christian church. In some people's minds that this was a clear breach of the historic church teaching. It compromised the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven, and actually compromised the church�s confession in a fundamental way. Others said simply, we recognize the working of God's spirit in all world religions. This has continued to be a point of controversy within Rome, and they continue to struggle with this idea of this anonymous Christian. It has not been finally resolved even though the church has spoken on the point in council. Perhaps the most concrete expression of change in Roman Catholicism, as a result of Vatican II, however, has been in the liturgy of the church. In this respect, a move from the old 16th century Tridentine mass which was spoken only and always in the Latin language occurred. And now we see Roman Catholics using the vernacular, the United States using English, Spanish, throughout the world using a variety of languages to speak the mass. Personally speaking, I recall this being enacted in a very powerful and concrete way as a little boy. One day, my next-door neighbor, who happened to be a Roman Catholic, he was about my age, came over to my house and said in great distress, our church is no longer the church. And I said, why is that. He said, I went to church this morning, and they used English, not Latin. On the fundamental level, on the level of the average parishioner, that was the reality with which some responded to the actions of Vatican II. The church had fundamentally changed. But in other cases, folks welcomed this opening of the windows as Roman Catholicism, finally following in the steps, the legitimate steps, of the Reformation. After all, it was Luther who first said in the 16th century, we should speak the language of the church in a language the people understand. Make the scriptures available. Make worship something that is meaningful and accessible to folks. And in that respect, with Vatican II, we see Roman Catholicism, in a sense, finally catching up to some of Luther's principles. There remains a division on that point. Though in Roman Catholicism, the vast majority of people have acclimated themselves to worship in the vernacular. There still is the presence of Latin in some cases and in some places. Nevertheless, if one goes to a Roman Catholic Mass today, one assumes it will be in the vernacular, not in an inaccessible and as some would call it, a dead language. In that respect, we see Roman Catholicism responding to its times. At the same point, Roman Catholicism has continued to resist some of the developments of American culture specifically. So there has been tension. For example, in 1968, the decree regarding birth control and contraception, the Roman Catholic Church officially speaking, Pope Paul VI himself saying that contraception should not be used. Nevertheless, as time has gone on, there has been an increasing move, particularly within American Catholicism, to recapture the historic roots of the church. There are those who look back to the trusteeism of the 16, 1700's and early 1800's and say, there was a working model for a church independent of the state and a vibrant, vigorous church engaged in mission. Let us recapture that. At the same time, the papacy continues to hold the authority that it's held for many years, specifically the degree of infallibility and the centrality of the papacy remains. Roman Catholicism, therefore, finds itself in tension here in America as we go into the 21st century. How that will play out historically remains to be seen. But, Paul, I suspect you're like I am, and it will be really interesting to see just how it plays out. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****