US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Happy Vatican II Day! And something worth crowing about...

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

For some fans of Vatican II, October 11, the day in 1962 when the Second Vatican Council opened, has been more a day of disappointment than joy of late. After all, with roadblocks in the reform of the liturgy, a recentralization of authority in Rome, and no movement on some of the more difficult pastoral issues, such as divorce and remarriage, there hasn't been much to celebrate. (That sometimes meant forgetting, of course, the explosion of roles for the laity in the church that has continued apace.) For some, the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI was the low point, as even the liturgical reform, by and large the most popular and happily received change initiated by the council, seemed to be pushed backward with the restoration of the entire pre-Vatican II liturgy.

Pope Francis, on the other hand, has initiated two significant efforts at reviving reform efforts. The first is a "gang of eight" cardinals who are now in the process of rewriting Pastor bonus, the "constitution" of the Roman Curia, which many bishops would like to see diminished in authority. The chair of the group of eight, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, has promised a "decentralization," though of course without diminishing the papal office. (Bishops are happy enough with the pope--it's the Curia that gives them trouble.) All signs point to a new exercise of collegiality--shared governance among the bishops of the church--one of the unmet promises of Vatican II.

Along those lines, Pope Francis has called for a special synod of bishops in 2014 on marriage and family life, ostensibly to tackle the challenges of family in the shifting world of secular culture. One may expect, however, that the yet unresolved issue of sacraments for Catholics who have divorced and remarried will be on the docket; already a German diocese has issued guidelines on how to welcome remarried Catholics back to the sacraments, which drew a "not so fast" from the Vatican. But I think it isn't foolish to hope that the synod of bishops may take some steps in that direction. The big question will be how they will address the creation of legal structures for same-sex relationships, which it seems they must address. Archbishop Bergoglio attempted to convince bishops in Argentina to accept civil unions in that country; one wonders if the synod would be willing to go that far.