Misreading of Vatican II led to ‘collapse’ in Marian devotion, studies
Devotion to Mary “collapsed” in some parts of the United States after the Second Vatican Council even though the council fathers had upheld her critical place within the Catholic faith, said a leading American expert in Marian studies.
The council’s decision to integrate a draft text on Mary into a larger dogmatic text — “Lumen Gentium” — rather than publish it as a separate document — sent an unintended message to the rest of the church, Holy Cross Father James Phalan, president of the Mariological Society of America, said in a presentation at an academic conference in Rome.
Even though bishops felt Mariology, like the church as a whole, needed to be renewed in light of tradition, liturgy and the Bible, later an “overly rationalist” historical approach reduced the role of the Holy Spirit and marginalized most forms of devotion, Father Phalan said.
Worsening the problem, he said, was the timing: post-Vatican II coincided with the upheaval of the 1970s when religious traditions and beliefs were being intensely questioned or completely dismissed by society.
Marian devotion “was caught up in this confusion” and there was a drop-off in practice and study, he said.
“The apparent change in emphasis on the Blessed Virgin contributed to a full-scale collapse of Mariology that has had very notable effects on the life of the church,” he said in his talk on “Mary and the Second Vatican Council.”
Father Phalan, who is also director of Family Rosary International, was one of the scholars, experts and theologians speaking at the 23rd Mariological Marian International Congress held in Rome Sept. 4-9.
In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the talks focused on “Mariology since the Second Vatican Council: Reception, Results and Perspectives.” More than 300 people from 37 countries attended the meeting, which was sponsored by the Pontifical Marian International Academy.
The council fathers had drawn up what Father Phalan called “the most complete and conclusive doctrinal statement about the Blessed Virgin Mary ever written” and made it the final chapter of the 1964 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”).
Its placement within a document about the church as the body of Christ underlines the council fathers’ vision of Mary “in relation to Christ and the church,” not as someone separate or independent of Christ and the church, he said. [More]