Coming to Grips with Vatican II
“What about Vatican II?” I asked my Catholic friend, in response to his assertion that Catholic doctrine is stable while the Church’s understanding thereof develops. We were in college together, young bucks full of vim and vigor, passionate about our common Christian faith, even while we stood on opposite confessional sides of the Reformation divide.
A small cohort of us went through college together as majors in Religion-Philosophy, and, as our college was small, we had most every class together, whether New Testament, Classical Philosophy, Reformation, or Intellectual History. At nights we would gather at Perkins—a family restaurant open late—and down copious cups of coffee while discussing and debating the fundamental issues and finer points of Christian faith and life. As iron sharpens iron, we sharpened each other as we challenged each other, the core of our little group comprising a couple Lutherans, a Baptist, my friend the Catholic, and a Presbyterian. (We all united, however, to challenge our Anglican history professor.)
I knew little about Catholicism then. Although baptized Catholic, I was raised Lutheran from the time I was a young boy. And so I had many misconceptions about Catholic faith. (Given the spirit of the age and the crisis in catechesis, I probably would have maintained them as a Catholic.) My Catholic friend patiently endured my questions and challenges. I developed an informed and sympathetic understanding of Catholicism, even while I remained committed to the magisterial Reformation, and in time after college, I felt what Chesterton described: “It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it.”
Potential converts are attracted to the Catholic faith because in a world gone mad they perceive there authority, nobility, gravity, and unity, goodness, beauty, and truth. But the Church one finds in apologists’ books is often not what one finds on the ground in local parishes, as both Catholics and non-Catholics know. We’re generally past the dark days of butterfly chasubles and pizza-n-Pepsi masses, laus Deo, but grave problems remain regarding the liturgy, fidelity to Church teaching, the vitality of Christian experience, simple mass attendance, and mission. And many blame the Second Vatican Council. [More]