Questions Answered | Fr. Brian Mullady, OP | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
Question: On the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II, what are the positive and negative results of this Council?
Answer: The Second Vatican Council is the watershed event of the Catholic Church in the 20th Century. Though 50 years have passed since it was concluded, the optimistic fruit of this Council, which John XXIII had in mind when calling it, have yet to be fully realized. John XXIII stated that the text: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Th 4:3) should be written over the doors of the Council. John Paul II, who wrote a study of the document on the Church, immediately on his return after the Council, instructed his diocese that it was clear that the purpose of the Council was to answer the question: “Ecclesia, quid dicis de teipsa (“Church, what do you have to say for yourself?”) Academic reflection on the nature of this Council has termed it: “The Council of the Church.” The answer was that the Church is a mystery, which is the Greek term for “sacrament” and means “a physical sign joining us to eternity.” This fact is clear in the document on the Church which quotes an ancient Father of the Church, St. Cyprian:
The Church is seen to be “a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Lumen Gentium, 4)
The hope was that a vigorous and sober examination of the means used by the Church to proclaim the Gospel would lead to a deeper and more spiritual appreciation of the Church as an institution which transcended time and space. This appreciation would, in turn, initiate a flowering of spiritual life for the laity responding to grace.
John XXIII basically regarded the Council as the prolongation of the First Vatican Council, which was never formally closed because of the political situation in Europe. In fact, the bishops had meant to discuss 50 schema, which included the topics dealt with by Vatican II in 1870, and they only discussed two. John XXIII wanted these other topics examined with very specific goals in mind. They were: