Conservative Catholics trying to undermine Vatican II advances, Baum says

  • October 19, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Second Vatican Council represents a "paradigm shift" in the Catholic Church that remains irreversible despite conservative efforts to undermine it.

That was the message of “hope” two living witnesses of the council brought to the Vatican II in Canada conference at Saint Paul University Oct. 15.

“The church has become more critical and, at the same time, more open to the world,” said McGill University religious studies professor emeritus Gregory Baum, who as a former Augustinian priest advised the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. “The church has become more critical because it has taken on a prophetic role and denounces injustice and inequality."

Vatican II recognized God’s redemptive action in the world and led to seeking social justice and the emancipation of the poor, Baum said. He also praised the council for advancing dialogue and co-operation with other Christians, Jews and other religions.

“At the same time, a conservative movement, sponsored by the Vatican itself, remains attached to the old paradigm, overlooks the bold texts of the conciliar documents and tries to restore the Catholicism of yesterday,” he warned. “Vatican II may suffer neglect for a certain time, but as an ecumenical council it cannot be invalidated.”

Victoria Bishop emeritus Remi De Roo, who participated in Vatican II as a young bishop, echoed Baum’s hope for the future, despite centralizing trends in Rome and “the playing down” of national churches and bishops’ conferences.

“Canada is one of the countries where the work of the council has been successfully implemented,” De Roo said, pointing to the Canadian church’s stress on social justice.

De Roo said Pope John XXIII established a new style of ecumenical council, making Vatican II relational, dialogical, invitational and idealistic as opposed to adversarial, confrontational, proscriptive and disciplinary.

Baum praised Vatican II for redefining the church’s relationship to non-Catholics “in terms of dialogue and co-operation; for recognizing that social justice was a Gospel imperative; and for reinterpreting the substance of revelation to the historical conditions of the present.”

Vatican II’s Decree of Ecumenism affirmed that “dissident Christians are incorporated in Christ’s mystical body and share with Catholics a spiritual communion” by their faith and baptism, he said.

Baum said Pope John Paul II emphasized dialogue in his approach to religious pluralism, while Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger stressed “proclamation” to avoid relativism. After Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he has wavered between proclamation and calls for dialogue. 

“Will the Pope change his mind again?” he asked. “On this issue the magisterium is presently inconsistent.”

Many in the Vatican remained “prisoners of the Enlightenment,” because they were trapped in rational thought that was “all head,” but not affecting the heart and the body, De Roo said. More work was needed by female theologians who could help the church get “outside of patriarchal boxes,” the bishop said.

“We are all the church, not just the one per cent who are ordained.”

Baum and De Roo gave the keynote speeches at the conference, which is the third of three colloquia examining the impact of Vatican II on the Catholic Church in Canada. The colloquia represent the combined efforts of Saint Paul University, Laval University and St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto to examine the council’s effects as its 50th anniversary approaches.

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