Richard R. Gaillardetz
Dialogue and deliberation during Vatican II
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Many Catholics over 50 are struggling with the realization that many younger Catholics, particularly seminarians and younger priests, do not share their sense of indebtedness to the Second Vatican Council. As one of those “over-50” Catholics, I am convinced that we overlook the influence of the council at our peril. The council’s enduring significance is not limited to the 16 documents it promulgated, however. There is much the church today can learn from a consideration of the actual conduct of the council.

Yves Congar, the great 20th-century Dominican ecclesiologist and a key theological consultant at Vatican II, believed that councils manifest a deeper reality fundamental to the church itself—conciliarity. In an essay that has been influential in postconciliar ecclesiology (“The Council as an Assembly and the Church as Essentially Conciliar”), Father Congar complained of the tendency to treat councils as mere juridical events. He insisted that councils were, in some sense, a representation of the entire church. They effected “a totalization of the memory of the church.” If he is correct, then the key ecclesial dynamics that were at work at the council ought also to be present in the life of our church today.

Every ecumenical council manifests or puts on display, to some extent, what the church really is. What happens at ecumenical councils is more than the writing, debate, revision and approval of documents. At an ecumenical council, saints and sinners, the learned and the ignorant gather together. They share their faith, voice their concerns, pray, argue, gossip, forge alliances and compromises, enter into political intrigue, rise above that intrigue to discern the movements of the Spirit, worry about preserving the great tradition in which their identity is rooted, seek to understand the demands of the present moment and hope for a better future.

That those who gather at a council carry lofty titles (pope, patriarch, cardinal, archbishop, bishop, religious superior, theologian) and wear somewhat unusual garb should not distract us from the fact that, at heart, they are brothers and sisters (women did play their part, however circumscribed it may have been) in the faith to all other Catholic Christians. Their deliberations represent, in a dramatic form, what the church is called to be.

Father Congar argued against the idea, floated by some during the preparations for Vatican II, that it might be possible to have “a council by writing.” In such a view, it would have been sufficient for the bishops to have drafts of documents mailed to them. They would then submit written comments and suggestions, after which an amended version would be returned to them for a final vote. Congar rejected such a proposal as an ecclesial sham. He insisted instead that it was necessary for the bishops to actually gather together to deliberate as an episcopal body on the needs and concerns of the church. He knew that there were crucial ecclesial dynamics that could come into play only if the bishops were allowed the opportunity for genuine deliberation and discernment. Consider three of those dynamics.

Catholicity of Dialogue

The first dynamic pertains to the catholicity of dialogue. Here I am using the term catholic in line with its etymological roots. The Greek word katholikos is derived from the root, kat’holou, “pertaining to or oriented toward the whole.” Catholicity affirms the fundamental unity-in-diversity of the church. Ecclesial dialogue is catholic to the extent that it freely engages different perspectives and insights. During the four sessions of the council, bishops were introduced to other prelates from diverse countries and continents, who looked at key pastoral and theological issues from strikingly different perspectives. One of the more felicitous decisions of the council concerned the seating of bishops in the aula (the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica where the main meetings of the council were conducted). The bishops were seated in order according to episcopal seniority rather than by region. This created the circumstances in which an Italian bishop, for example, might sit next to a bishop from Africa.

This arrangement made possible a fruitful exchange of diverse perspectives and insights. Indeed, some of the most important work of the council was accomplished at the coffee bars (nicknamed after two Gospel characters, Bar-Jonah and Bar-Abbas) kept open behind the bleachers in the aula. Bishops, after struggling to stay awake during one mind-numbing Latin speech after another, found respite at these coffee bars and often engaged in frank conversation about a variety of topics. It was the sustained, face-to-face conversation and sharing of diverse experiences that opened episcopal eyes to new possibilities. These conversations were further facilitated by informal gatherings of bishops like the 22 bishops who met regularly at the Domus Mariae hotel and were committed to encouraging a more wide-ranging deliberation than was possible within the aula. These bishops met weekly to discuss topics being considered by the council. They included among their number key representatives from the various episcopal conferences and served as a sort of clearing house for ideas and proposals, facilitating workable compromises on disputed topics. Council bishops also had opportunities to interact with theologians (periti) and non-Catholic observers, who offered their own remarks regarding the issues being considered by the council.

It was the many opportunities for discussion and debate, both formal and informal, that allowed the bishops to discern the impulse of the Spirit. Even the common prayer of the council deepened this catholicity of dialogue. Daily liturgies were celebrated on a rotating basis among the diverse liturgical traditions, East and West. Many council participants recorded in their journals and diaries the transformative impact of these celebrations as experiences of a church immeasurably richer in diversity than they had previously imagined.

The catholicity of dialogue evident at the council shines a harsh light on the situation of our church today. We seek to live our faith in a culture that has become increasingly uncivil. We too often encounter demonizing rhetoric on cable television, talk radio and in the blogosphere. Yet the council reminds us of the Christian obligation to respectful conversation with people whose views may differ markedly from our own. The conduct of the council teaches us that a precondition for genuine ecclesial discernment is the conviction that none of us individually has all the answers. We discover the guidance of the Spirit and penetrate the power and significance of God’s word through ecclesial conversation and the opportunity to interact with believers who offer us different insights, experiences and questions.

Humble Learning

A second dynamic evident at the council was the bishops’ commitment to humble learning. In the century before the council it had become common to divide the church into two parts: a teaching church (ecclesia docens) made up of the clergy and a learning church (ecclesia discens) consisting of the laity. This way of imagining the church dangerously overlooked the fact that bishops do not have a monopoly on divine truth. They do not receive supernaturally infused knowledge at their episcopal ordination. It is not the case that a priest with a shaky understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity on the day before his episcopal ordination would suddenly be able to give learned lectures on the topic on the day after ordination! As St. Cyprian of Carthage sagely pointed out in the third century, bishops must themselves be learners before they can be teachers (Epistle 74, 10).

Historians of Vatican II will point out the remarkable willingness of so many of the council bishops to become students once again. It is easy to forget that a good number of bishops, then as now, found that their pastoral responsibilities made it difficult for them to keep up with current historical, biblical and theological scholarship. As the council proceeded, many bishops sought the expert input of some of the many distinguished theologians and ecumenical observers who were in Rome at the time. Many regularly attended evening lectures offered by leading theologians. Bishop Albino Luciani (the future Pope John Paul I) admitted, according to an article in The National Catholic Reporter (Oct. 4, 2002), that during the council he tried to spend each afternoon in his room studying. He explained, referring to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, conducted by the Jesuits:

[E]verything I learned at the Gregorian is useless now. I have to become a student again. Fortunately I have an African bishop as a neighbor in the bleachers in the council hall, who gives me the texts of the experts of the German bishops. That way I can better prepare myself.

Vatican II reminds us that we are all disciples of Jesus and, therefore, lifelong learners. This is as true for the pope as it is for children preparing for first Communion. Our pilgrim church does not so much possess the truth as it humbly lives into it, as it were, knowing full well that, this side of Jesus’ Second Coming, we shall not have the fullness of truth (“Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation,” No. 8). We are all baptized into a great school of discipleship from which none of us ever graduates. Christ, our teacher, showed impatience only toward those who were arrogant in their certitude.

Openness to the World

The final dynamic evident in the council’s deliberations was its openness to the world. Pope John XXIII himself set the tone for this openness. Many have wrongly accused Pope John of being a naïve optimist, a remarkable accusation on the face of it, when one considers that during World War I he had served as a medical stretcher bearer, tending to the injured and maimed victims of that bloody conflict. Later, as a church diplomat, he held ecclesiastical posts in such global hotspots as Bulgaria, Turkey and France.

Pope John knew well the evils present in the world, but he was convinced that we must not exaggerate those evils and succumb to a dark apocalypticism. In his many addresses and homilies he evinced an attitude of respectful yet critical engagement with the world. In “Humanae Salutis,” the apostolic constitution with which he formally convoked the council, the pope warned of “distrustful souls” who “see only darkness burdening the face of the earth.” And in his opening address at the council, he noted the advice he sometimes received from “prophets of gloom” who see “nothing but prevarication and ruin” in the world today.

Pope John XXIII was convinced that Christians must be willing to read “the signs of the times” and enter into a more constructive engagement with the world. Indeed the history of the council can be read as a long struggle among the council bishops to acquire a form of balanced engagement in which the church could preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a humble confidence, challenging the forces of hate and greed even as it affirmed the signs of God’s reign already present in the world. Over the course of the council the bishops became convinced that the times demanded a church that lived in vulnerable and open mission to the world, effecting a transformation from within as leaven. The council thereby turned its back on that preconciliar tendency to stand in severe judgment of the world from some privileged Olympian heights.

Here again the council’s conduct and attitude offer insight for our modern church, for we still hear far too many apocalyptic pronouncements regarding “a culture of death” and a “toxic secularism.” The council reminds us that we must not yield in the face of evil, but neither can we close our eyes to the signals of grace always present where humans seek justice and truth and ask the great questions about life’s meaning and ultimate significance.

Over the next three years we will have ample opportunity to celebrate the teaching of Vatican II as a breathtaking achievement and summons for today’s church. Yet we should never forget that the council, in its conduct and deliberations, was a manifestation of the church in a dramatic and intense form. As an event of the church, the council reminds us that our church today must 1) continue to practice the catholicity of dialogue, 2) maintain a commitment to humble learning and inquiry and 3) sustain an openness to the world in which we have been sent. If we are faithful to these tasks, perhaps we can fulfill the hope of Pope John XXIII for an ecclesial renewal that will restore “the simple and pure lines that the face of the church of Jesus had at its birth.”

Listen to a converstaion with Richard Gaillardetz.

Richard Gaillardetz is the Joseph McCarthy Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass. He is the co-author, with Catherine Clifford, of Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vat

Comments

John Wotherspoon | 3/11/2012 - 8:28pm
Thank you Richard for a really beautiful article.
May the 50th anniversary of Vatican II be a time of re-discovering the vision of Vatican II.
Many articles about this re-discovering at www.v2catholic.com
MARY AQUIN ONEILL | 2/14/2012 - 2:39pm
Fine as the article by Professor Gaillardetz is, there is one dimension in which it is quite  misleading.  By  including women in the fifth paragraph, the author risks creating an illusion that women were included in each of the three Vatican II dynamics he identifies.  In point of fact, that is not true. 

Women were excluded from the coffee bars, where the author rightly says so much of the real dialogue took place.  Instead, the women observers (who were not invited until the third session of the Council) were required to have their own coffee bar, which they mischievously named "Bar-None." It would seem that bodily differences were more important to the bishops than differences of belief and practice, for male observers of other religious traditions were quite welcome.

None of the "humble learning" that the bishops undertook was from women.  There were no women theological experts. The body even judged it premature for Barbara Ward (famed economist) to speak in the aula.  True, thanks to the intervention of Bernard Haring, women were involved in the preparation of Gaudium et Spes. By my read, this presence made a significant difference.

I must sadly conclude, then,  that the "openness to the world," praised by Professor Gaillardetz was a severely restricted openness.  Half the world was overlooked.

I am indebted to the research of Sister Carmel McEnroy for the information about women at Vatican II.  As we look back at the great achievements of the Council, let us not gloss over its limitation with respect to the inclusion of women.  It is to be hoped that no council ever again will be so limited.

Egle Weiland | 2/7/2012 - 11:05am
I write from the vantage point of an 11 year old belonging to a french family in Atlanta.  For me, Vatican II was about a wonderful energy, the subject of countless discussions around the dinner table with Atlanta Jesuits,  Dutch priests, and local clergy. The Church was moving, and opening, changing, in retrospect it was thrilling and exciting. My parents were from France and I am grateful to them that they talked about Teilhard, Congar, Barth among others. In Atlanta there were Bishop Hallinan and Joseph Bernardin  as leaders, an exciting and dynamic time which I have to admit I rather miss these days. 
david power | 2/5/2012 - 4:01pm
It is a very interesting piece and I want to thank Professor Gaillerdatz for taking the time to write so clearly and well.Of course he has only scratched the surface of the whole drama.It may seem a negative thing to write but I believe the Council was a failed gamble.
Pope John was a unique pope who genuinely believed in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the value of the laity.
But 50 years later the  Church is in complete dissaray and further and further from the world.Vatican 2 is known in a meaningful way to well less than about 1% of younger lay people.
The vast vast majority of young catholics don't feel connected to the Church and so most sadly to Jesus. 
The Council seemed to thrill those involved in it.Both those of a conservative and liberal temperament were in awe of it.The Professor captures glimpses of that excitement.But the council ,the great risk of Roncalli has failed.The Hornets nest that the old boy opened up (Montini) has caused nothing but rancour and stilted hopes. Was he right to let some fresh air into the house of God?Yes! I believe he was.He  did not see himself as a man of power as some of his succesors have done.He felt in his heart that he was our brother and not the Boss or the star attraction as at least one of his succesors saw himself.I think that if you read through the documents today you can see that they are all in need of aggiornamento.The Church failed to grasp the depths of Man.Pope Paul was a true friend of the Council and the spirit of respect for others that Pope John tried to make the hallmark of the Church.The siege mentality that came later was so in contrast to the understanding shown by Roncalli and Montini.The council failed.If it had fruit it was of a truly meagre type.God will no doubt in some way work the charism of Pope Roncalli back into the Body of Christ but he has a helluva job on his hands getting into the Hospital 
Christopher Rushlau | 2/5/2012 - 3:45pm
Could I make a tiny comment to Matt Nannery on the place of Karl Rahner in seminary?  I believe that his proper contribution to the church was not even realized by him.  It is hard, when one is leading the way, to know precisely what one's leadership consists in-especially in exploration (as opposed, say, to attacking the enemy-two contrasting views of the church).
"Spirit in the World" is based on a section of an article from Thomas's Summa Theologica in which it is mentioned almost in passing that the act of knowledge occurs in the imagination. 
Rahner takes some trouble in "Spirit" to bring out some implications of this location, such as there being no intellection of space and time in the abstract but only when catalogued, as it were, in the imagination's holding of the sensory phantasm (image).  Spirit is everywhere at once, knows everything at once.  Matter is in a time and place.  Knowing via materiality as we do, we know in a time and place, but these dimensions are themselves the result of such material knowing.  "Therefore, what could be affirmed as the a priori [ital] form of sensibility as such can now be asserted of its root, the imagination:  the a priori [ital] form of the imagination as the basic faculty of sensibility as such is the spatiality of the multiple same, which is such because it is materially quantitative.  Therefore, as an already complete actuality, the imagination is pure intuition of unlimited spatiality."
The point here is that "intuition" is not intellection, not understanding, not knowledge.  The thesis of "Spirit" is "there is no knowledge without the phantasm."

Now, the problem with authority ("the weakest form of argument"-Thomas) is that it cannot substitute itself for the personal act of knowledge, because abstraction in itself cannot localize-it cannot say where and when, nor what in a practical sense.
Ethics thus remains the problem of subjectivity, our knowing things materially.
We cannot elect and designate some other person to do our ethical work for us.  The more we admire someone's leadership, the more we must honor that leadership by finding in the phantasm-the sensory evidence known in the here and now of actual experience-the content of our ethical situation.
Personal knowledge, which might mean the accidental content of life, what we get instead of official information (or at least market trends), and which individualizes instead of unifying, is the way God makes known God's hopes (to use the term in Rahner's sense of "the interpersonal virtue") for us.  The accidental is thus essential-to make an Aristotelian pun.  Existence is either everywhere accident and thus worthy of being overlooked ("meaningless" in "Foundations"), or the accident of God's own existence is the rule and cause of our own existence, everywhere evident and nowhere predictable.  What we can predict of a given situation is itself the fruit of our materiality: the accretion in our brains of the sensory record, analogous to the records of criminal prosecutions: such and such a situation suggests such and such a missing element, which we predict to recur.
Every ethical quandary is in the form, what is happening so as to be responded to?  The only way a human can meet this challenge is in the here and now of personal knowledge.  To borrow a legal truism, "there is no negligence in the air".  We do not encounter evil in the abstract, nor blessing.
Rahner's point is Thomas's:  the haphazard nature of personal experience is precisely how God arranges our "working out of our salvation".
NORMA NUNAG | 2/4/2012 - 3:25pm
Thank you for this piece.  It should be required reading for all!!!
ROBERT NUNZ MR | 2/4/2012 - 1:20pm
If you've read thus far, listen to Prf. Gaillerdatz's superb podcast  here on the Council.
C Walter Mattingly | 2/4/2012 - 7:04am
As I read Prof. Gailllardetz concise summary of the life of the Good, and, with apologies to William Barley, possibly Great, Pope John XXIII, it came to me that perhaps we Catholics don't realize how fortunate we have been to have not only this pope, but one of his successors, who in many ways he seems to have served as John the Baptist in calling for, and, while less perfectly than the Baptist of course, seems to have been provided a surprisingly adequate response.

First, the idea that because John XXIII seemed "simple" and presented many ideas affably and simply he was somehow simplistic and not bright couldn't be further from the truth of the matter (it is reminiscent of those who considered Reagan simplistic and dumb for similar reasons). In fact, his service in Istanbul and highly successful interaction with Islam during WWII is a clear indication of a talented and gifted diplomat. 

Yet consider what Prof. Gaillardetz both quotes and summarizes concerning the aims of John XXIII and his council and how so many of these requirements seem to have been fulfilled in his successor, almost in a prophetic fashion.

-Pope John's call for a more humble and respectful church to "enter into a more constructive engagement with the world." How much better could any pope have entered into such a broadly public, constructive, and generally effective engagement with the world than Pope John Paul II? He visited and interacted with other faiths extensively and openly; he called for and participated in that dialogue. Likewise, what could have been a sign of greater humble interfaith engagement than the Pope publicly and sincerely apologizing to our Jewish elder brothers than Pope John Paul II so doing for the historic harm the church had visited upon the Jewish people? That would have been almost inconceivable a generation or two earlier. Pope John's window was opened, and fresh air blew through the church.

-"to preach with humble confidence and challenge the forces of hate and greed in the world while affirming the signs of God's reign already present in the world." These words almost seem to have been written to describe the public career of John Paul II. Humble confidence, a man confident in the Christ's words but humble enough to constantly mortify himself as an unworthy sinner.

-"The council reminds us that while we must not yield in the face of evil ...but neither can we close our eyes to the signals of grace always present when we seek justice and truth and ask the great questions about life's meaning and ultimate significance." Could any pope have more clearly exemplified not yielding to evil than when gutshot for opposing an evil political force denying both religious and political freedom to 20 nations than one who when shot not only soon returned to support their freedom, placing himself again at peril, but also met his assassin in prison to forgive him? 

-"...we must never forget that the council, in its conduct and deliberations, was a manifestation of the church in a dramatic and intense form." Could any pope have better fit this characterization than John Paul II, an accomplished actor, an extraordinarily intense intellectual, and effective fresh breeze that John XXIII had hoped for (and to an extent, himself was)? He taught us not only how to live in Christ, but how to die in Christ.

These popes both had their failings and clearly admitted to them. As John Paul II's have loudly proclaimed, he was extremely slow to address the terrible sexual abuse problems within the church and too tolerant of those who betrayed his trust. Likewise, if Thomas Cahill's excellent, highly sympathetic, yet candid biography is to be believed, John XXIII had sexual failings of a more personal nature. They were not perfect popes, just very good ones. And if we are "catholic" in the sense that the professor offers us the term, "pertaining to or oreinted toward the whole," we had better acknowledge not one, but two, good, perhaps great, popes, and count our blessings. The question is not whether or not they were great popes, but whether or not we are able to follow up upon and reconcile the similar, but not identical, vision of these two popes we are fortunate enough to have experienced in our lifetimes.Taken together, they are about as close to "the whole" of our faith as we are likely to get.

Lisa Weber | 2/4/2012 - 12:29am
Thank you for an excellent article.  Vatican II brought some much-needed change.
Ron Skufca | 2/3/2012 - 9:54pm
Thank you Joseph for capturing the wonderful spirit of the Council.  It was a glimpse of what we could become with openness, awe and wonder as guides for the journey.  The article was truly inspiring.
Joseph Keffer | 2/3/2012 - 5:43pm

This beautiful article by Gaillardetz deserves thoughtful reading. However, I am asking the viewers to consider the following quote from a comment made on a different website that calls into question the validity of Vatican II in terms of its place in the hierarchy of credible Church policy making and truth:

This commentator was responding to an article (NCR) about the anniversary of Vatican II and made the case that it was a second rate Council, and thus, not to be held as teaching valid truth.

I ask the experts in the audience of this article to comment on the substance of this dastardly position.

J H Keffer, M.D.

The comment below:

The Holy Ghost did indeed
Submitted by AD105 (not verified) on Feb. 01, 2012.

"The Holy Ghost did indeed protect His Church in arranging for Vatican II to be classified a pastoral council" that simply does not have the status of the Catholic Church's past dogmatic councils from Nicea to Trent - and Pope Benedict has affirmed this fact in his autobiography "Milestones".

Bottom line is Vatican II as a fallible, "pastoral council" is liable to error and correction.

In light of the events in the world and the Church which have occurred in the 60 years since Vatican II, there has been criticism of the naive optimism of the 1960s - Henry Luce's "American Century" - evident in the Vatican II documents.

Indeed, Time Magazine bankrolled Bob Kaiser to wine, dine and lobby the venerable Vatican II "fathers" (a/k/a bishops) to support the Henry Luce agenda. (John Courtney Murray was a permanent house guest at Luce's estate.)

The secular press played a questionable role in influencing the assembled bishops to the point, Ralph Wiltgen asserts in "The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber" many bishops were afraid of getting bad press by defending points of traditional Catholic faith and morals under attack on the Council aula.

The world is a far different place from the optimistic go-go 1960s world Vatican II took place in and the Vatican II document simply cannot be read ahistorically!
Vince Killoran | 2/3/2012 - 5:25pm
My own person counts for nothing - it's a brother who speaks to you, become a father by the will of our Lord, but all together, fatherhood and brotherhood and God's grace, give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.

-Pope John XXIII, "Moonlight Speech"Window of the Apostolic Palace" (11 October 1962)
William Bagley | 2/3/2012 - 5:10pm
WHO could forget the fresh air that the Council brough to the Church?  WHO could forget "good" (not great) Pope John whose passion for his people was palpable?  WHO could forget the thaw in ecumenical relations - opening doors that many of us felt would be closed forever?  WHO could forget the change from Latin to the vernacular - bringing congregations into the real celebration of the Mass?  One would hope that there are enough of us clinging to the Church (in spite of itself) to preserve that.  I am so glad for this article and America's smart approach to the matter.  When I hear the new translation of the Mass, hear references to "many" not all, to consubstantial etc etc, I know that bishops with tin ears, ICEL with an arrogant disdain for the laity seem to represent the new culture of the church.  I don't doubt that they are good people, but I am convinced that they are woefully out of touch with the people they have convinced themselves they are intended to serve.  It's time to reopen the window, time to begin conversations, time to remove the bar preventing the Holy Spirit from re-entering the Church.  Here's to Vatican II and to meaningful and influential memories.  Thank you again Proferssor Gaillardetz and America Magazines editors.   Wm Bagley
PATRICIA KROMMER C.S.J. | 2/3/2012 - 2:32pm
I welcome America Magazine's invitation to revisit the beauty, balance, and humility manifest in Vatican II.  The Council was a timely and great gift to the Church and the World.  There have been forces within the Church that wish to regress.  This is a dangerous trend for it is an attempt to challenge the Holy Spirit.  The Council truely opened the windows and let in some fresh air.  This spirit has been sustained by theologians, educated lay persons, and religious communities of men and women.  My own Religious community, and members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious internalized that spirit.  Ives Congar, Karl Rahner, Bernard Lonergan, Henri de Lubac, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung and Latin American theologians were among the many contributors to an historic moment in the Church.  Thank you, Drew, for this article by Gailardetz and I look forward to the series.
MATTHEW NANNERY | 2/3/2012 - 11:46am
I passed my christology professor, a Vincentian priest who lived off campus, in the seminary hallway in 2005. He was putting on his coat and looked agitated. It was midday... an odd time for him to be leaving work.
"Where are you going, Fr. L?," I said quizzically.
Flustered, he said, "They don't want me here, Matthew."
I guess I'm sort of slow 'cause it was only then clear to me that he was really upset.
"I want you here, padre," I said in a knee-jerk attempt to make him feel better. But it didn't work, and I knew why. A Fribourg-educated Vatican II believer, he felt isolated-like he was alone in the seminary trying to pass on the gifts of the Council to me and my brother seminarians. He rolled his eyes, still very agitated, and dismissed my feeble attempt to lift his spirits and continued down the narrow hallway of b-wing.
I walked in the other direction, but got only 10 feet before something strange happened.
You know, I firmly believe St. Paul when he says the Spirit comes to our aid when we don't know what to say. And I think that's what happened at that moment, because I certainly was at a loss for words.
I pivoted, and walked quickly the other way and grabbed this priest by the arm and said, "Listen, Fr. L., This is why we want you here. We want you here because, after a year and a half in the seminary, yours are the only classes where we've read anything by Karl Rahner or Yves Congar. If it weren't for you, we wouldn't know anything about some of the major, formative theologians of the 20th Century."
And, all of a sudden, his face changed completely. And he smiled ear to ear.
Because it wasn't a lie. And he knew it was true.
JOSEPH D'ANNA | 2/3/2012 - 11:35am

Thank you. There would be far fewer U.S. Catholics today, were it not for Pope John XXIII, Vatican II, the celebration of mass in the venacular, and greater openness - as expressed in America.

As we look at the controversy about the new HHS regulations, one wonders if the Church hierarchy has learned anything.