Fr Harry E. Winter OMI, USA
August 9, 2012
Vatican II enabled five different ways of being Catholic to emerge in the Church. In fact, these five different ways now exist in every parish of every Christian Church, and in every religious order of the Catholic Church. Only once or twice has this happened in the two thousand year history of Christianity.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, there are two very important tasks for each Catholic, and indeed each Christian. If we want to appreciate, and cope with, our faith today, and the many voices competing for our attention, we must expend at least a little effort to see what the Catholic Church was like in 1962. My own expertise deals with liturgy and ecumenism, so in future blogs, I hope to spend some time helping readers see what we did in 1962, especially as regards the Mass and the other sacraments, and as regards Protestants. Much has changed, a lot for the better, and, in a few areas, for the worse.
The late, great Scripture scholar Raymond Brown, S.S., used an image which is very helpful for us today. He would describe a teaching from the New Testament as being on a trajectory. The teaching of the New Testament on women, for example, exited from New Testament times in a certain direction, and then was affected by other factors. These factors were unthought of as the New Testament era ended, and to understand these teachings today, we must examine the factors which occurred later.
So too with Vatican II. In 1965, the sixteen documents, and the energy of Vatican II, arose in a certain direction. But several very important events soon occurred, practically unforeseen by the Council Fathers, which have affected how we view Vatican II. The first, in my opinion, was the emergence of the Charismatic Movement in practically every Christian Church, in 1967. The growth of lay leaders (some of whom became priests and nuns) from this movement is truly astounding, and influenced the trajectory of Vatican II. Of course, without some of the crucial teachings of Vatican II, the laity would not have been as visible in the Church in 1967.
The second event which I consider very important was John Paul II’s calling of the Assisi meeting of Oct. 27, 1986. The secular media had grown more and more fascinated with Vatican II as it unfolded; they also became more and more fascinated with Assisi as it unfolded. At the end of Vatican II, there were 500 accredited journalists in Rome; at the end of the Assisi meeting, there were 800 accredited journalists in Assisi (Marcello Zago, O.M.I., “Day of Prayer for Peace,” OMI Documentation, Feb. 1987, p. 1). Zago, who helped John Paul prepare the Assisi event, stressed and underlined the interrelationship of Proclamation, Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue. He tried in every way possible to avoid the impression of syncretism at the 1986 event. He may not have been completely successful.
Let’s return to the fact of five ways of being Catholic today. They are catholic, evangelical/charismatic, Vatican 2/neo-orthodox, fundamentalist and liberal. It is my conviction that each of us has a major, a minor, and a repugnant. By that I mean our major is the way we are most comfortable with, the minor is one we feel some sympathy with, and the repugnant is that which we instinctively dislike. I have presented each much more thoroughly in two booklets available on the website which the Oblates of Mary have encouraged, www.harrywinter.org, “Five Ways Fellowship” page.
Let us pray that these five ways can be viewed as enriching our faith, if they are viewed as complimentary rather than conflicting. Let us pray as if everything depends on God (and it does) and work as if everything depends on us (and in a certain way, it does).