What is the other half of Vatican II Pope Francis thinks we still have to implement?

In Joshua McElwee’s excellent report over at NCR on the Dutch bishops’ time in Rome, we hear of a Dutch bishops reporting that Pope Francis told the Dutch bishops,

We have been implementing the council only half-way. Half of the work has still to be done.

What do you suppose Pope Francis thinks is the other half of Vatican II yet to be implemented??

  • Is it giving primacy to Latin chant in the liturgy, and preserving the Latin language – to name two explicit directives in the liturgy constitution SC?
  • Or is it greater inculturation, including liturgical diversity as advocated in SC?
  • Is it giving greater emphasis to collegiality to counter-balance excessive centralism, as advocated in the liturgy constitution and especially Lumen gentium?
  • Is it increased dialogue with the modern world from a standpoint of humble partnership, as set out in Gaudium et spes?

Or is it something else?

Initial indications are that it probably isn’t the first – I’m not expecting enrollment in my summer Gregorian chant courses to double or triple any time soon. The Council did say those things about Latin and chant, but these seem to me to be provisional practical directives rather than overarching principles such as, e.g., active participation, which is to be considered before all else in liturgical renewal. Francis seems to be a man of vernacular, at any rate.

I suspect that the “half of the work” yet to do in the Pope’s mind has much more to do with the Council’s teachings on inculturation, decentralized collegiality, and engagement with today’s world. The implications of this could be huge! It is difficult to see how a document like Liturgiam authenticam (the highly centralized, Rome-dominated translation document) would survive a thoroughgoing implementation of the Council’s teachings on inculturation, collegiality, and engagement with contemporary culture. (This makes me wonder how it will work, going forward, as Francis implements an agenda which is an implicit or explicit critique of his two immediate predecessors. “As the Church has always taught…” will only take us so far.)

What do you think? What is the other half of Vatican II Francis thinks we still need to implement?









20 responses to “What is the other half of Vatican II Pope Francis thinks we still have to implement?”

  1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    I could see Pope Francis issuing a letter of friendship and greeting to Protestant churches on Reformation Day. I hope that Pope Francis will continue to have friendly relationships with rabbis and Jewish communities. Something tells me, however, that Patriarch Kirill will not cozy to Pope Francis. I suspect that Francis will not take sides in the question of the Roman rite in Russia and the successor countries of the Soviet Union.

    I strongly suspect that Pope Francis will freely permit the ordination of men married before the transitional diaconate, per the Orthodox model. He will not do this, I suspect, until he senses that his pontificate will soon close. Why? The permission to ordain married men will be the defining legislation of Pope Francis’s pontificate in the eyes of many. I suspect that the Holy Father wishes that his mission of charity will remain in the popular imagination. For that reason he will delay any sweeping changes to ordination until later in his pontificate.

    1. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
      Elisabeth Ahn

      @Jordan Zarembo – comment #2:

      I suspect that the Holy Father wishes that his mission of charity will remain in the popular imagination.

      I very much doubt that the Pope cares about such a thing. On the contrary, Pope Francis to me seems like a man who couldn’t care less about how he is seen “in the eyes of many.” He will make whatever decisions at whatever times during his pontificate if that is what he comes to believe — through prayer, discernment and dialogue — needs to be done.

      As his sister said: “Personally he’s got a strong character, and he’s also got a deep belief in his convictions that’s unbreakable. Nobody is going to be able to force him to compromise on what he believes in.”

      And I agree with Fr. Anthony that (a) “sound decentralization” in the Church governance, (b) genuine dialogue with the world in service to evangelization, and (c) respect for and nurturing acceptance of diversity –cultural, liturgical, etc. seem to be at the top of the Pope’s agenda.

      To which I can only say: Amen.

  2. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    The sound decentralization he will promote will be based upon what he told theologians on Friday:

    “By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the members of the Church possess a ‘sense of faith’. This is a kind of ‘spiritual instinct’ that makes us ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’ [think with the mind of the Church] and to discern that which is in conformity with the apostolic faith and is in the spirit of the Gospel. Of course, the ‘sensus fidelium’ [sense of the faithful] cannot be confused with the sociological reality of a majority opinion. It is, therefore, important—and one of your tasks—to develop criteria that allow the authentic expressions of the ‘sensus fidelium’ to be discerned. … This attention is of greatest importance for theologians. Pope Benedict XVI often pointed out that the theologian must remain attentive to the faith lived by the humble and the small, to whom it pleased the Father to reveal that which He had hidden from the learned and the wise.”

    In this regard in his recent exhortation he held up the French Bishops’ initiative to safeguard the authentic meaning of marriage. I suspect he would want the same from the bishops of Austria and Ireland in terms of dealing with the disobedient priests’ initiatives there and not making the Bishop of Rome as “Supreme Pontiff” do it. It should be local.

    It will also be based upon what the Holy Father told Biblical scholars early on, to be faithful to Magisterium of the Church and the Deposit of Faith, similar to what he said to the theologians.

    As it concerns the laity, Pope Francis wrote:

    “If many are now involved in the lay ministries, this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society. The formation of the laity and the evangelization of professional and intellectual life represent a significant pastoral challenge…”

    As far as liturgy goes, hopefully local bishops, individually and collectively, will follow his liturgical example and promote it by “saying the black and doing the red” with solemn austerity of personality and style, thus pointing to the vertical nature of Mass and its adoration of God rather than the horizontal aspects of the Liturgy such as culture and personality.
    Dialogue will be promoted on the sound footing of being convinced of one’s own Catholic faith–the Deposit of Faith and fearing not to “think with the mind of the Church” in the new evangelization.

    The Holy Father has wisely though limited the dialogue on the ordination of women by stating simply but autocratically:

    “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #4:
      Allan, my irony meter may be on the fritz ( 🙂 ), so I can’t tell if you really think that what you are saying is what Francis is truly about, or whether you’re making the point that his statements can be spun in any number of ways and that trying to read the Franciscan tea leaves might be entertaining but is probably a waste of time.

      I sincerely hope it’s the latter.

      1. Father Allan J. McDonald Avatar
        Father Allan J. McDonald

        @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #5:

      2. Bill deHaas Avatar
        Bill deHaas

        @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #5:
        Not ironic – just tired and ignoring the continual call for metanoia from Francis. (and, of course, one would need to know VII’s first half in order to comment on the uncompleted second half)

        He sounds like my favorite moral theologian who was a peritus at VII for Cdl Meyer who was asked as he was dying what he thought about VII…he said: “It would be nice if we gave it a try”

  3. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    The model that Francis is working from is likely contained in this section of The Joy of the Gospel and applies to both church and society:

    Time is greater than space [222-225]
    Unity prevails over conflict [226-230]
    Realities are more important than ideas [231-233]
    The whole is greater than the part [234-237]

    The 50% that Francis may be working on may be more like an “Eastern Orthodox” reform of Catholicism than a “Protestant” reform of Catholicism

    1. “Orthodox-like” Synodal Government especially at the national and regional bishops conferences levels, e.g. these take over almost all the functions of the Congregation of Bishops, and Congregation of Divine Worship leaving them only functions akin to congressional oversight and encouragement of coordination among bishops around the world.

    2. Divorce and Remarriage Reform given options similar to the Orthodox as well as expanded annulments with implementation left to national and regional bishops conferences in terms of the legal, social and culture realities of marriage and divorce in their countries.

    3. A variety of married priest options, e.g. the Orthodox one which sees marriage before the diaconate of even young priests, a “viri probati” model that sees married priests only later in life after raising children, a voluntary married priesthood (you can be ordained as a married priest if you provide your own support, e.g. have secular job, or retired), again the implementation of these options up to national and regional bishop’s conferences within the framework that celibacy remains the “norm” to be encouraged and that only celibates are made bishops. Francis knows this will surface as synodality develops and will leave it up to the bishops to decide, encouraging diversity of options

    4. The most iffy one, women deacons. The Orthodox have this in theory but only rarely in practice. Francis knows this will surface. Think he will encourage process similar to those outlined above with diversity of options, e.g. variety of minor orders that would firmly establish women (and laity) roles in parishes and dioceses, e.g. ability to preach and teach and lead worship from their commissioned or ordained office (in other words we will have women who do the equivalent of deacons we just might not call them that). One of the key items in this will be are we establishing an “ordained or commissioned laity” half way between priests and laity that will take away from those not in the “ordained laity.” Francis wants the parish to be centered on the world, not the laity centered on an inward focused parish with them being rewarded for helping the clergy.

    If he sets these things into motion he will have largely set into motion what he might think as the remaining 50% of Vatican II or at least we will change as much as we have changed since Vatican II. He will also have set the stage for reunion with the Orthodox which I think will come about not from negotiations but from mutual intercommunion, e.g. the Orthodox will not have to do anything different, and “ unity will prevail over conflict and reality will triumph over ideas, and the whole will be greater than the parts.” And lastly and mostly importantly “Time governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return” That is eschatological tradition!!!

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      @Jack Rakosky – comment #7:
      Plus 1+…Jack (but you focus on intra issues)

      Will add the other half of the focus of VII – ecumenical that has now expanded 50 yrs later.

      So, more encounters and engagement with Islam, continued engagement with both Eastern Orthodox and Jewish, begin engagement with Asian faiths.

      Church of the poor – more engagement ala Lampedusa. Suggestions – Israel trip in May to also include West Bank and Gaza and Jordan refugee camps; trip to China; trip to Russia.

  4. Dan McKernan Avatar
    Dan McKernan

    I see this differently. I think it is good to acknowledge that V2 has not been implemented, a wonderful 1st step for all of us to take. It is a mistake to appear dismissive about the first possibility re. chant & Latin though because it points to the overreaching principles in SC that rites be revised “carefully in the light of sound tradition” and that “the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites”. How important that would be if we ever did adopt a Synod type government across regions since national Churches would always cross political borders over time. By the way, full conscious and active participation is easily achieved using Latin ordinaries wherever SC’s #54 has not suffered neglect.
    The second point on inculturation might benefit from added attention to correct application especially in the light of SC’s guiding principle to preserve and foster the Latin and other lawfully approved rites but it would be difficult to argue that inculturation has not seen significant implementation since the council. One could point to the many options bishops’ conferences have re. local adaptations in the calendar or liturgy including rituals associated with the marriage rites or even quinceaneras. The fourth point seems to have been given endless attention for the past 40 years but fortunately we’ve seemingly found the difference between dialogue & acquiescence.
    I don’t know of any EO who have women “deacons” but the Greeks and some Oriental Orthodox have “deaconesses”. Would all in the west be willing to accept the distinction between deacon and deaconess?
    IMO instability in the sacred liturgy and a certain recoil against tradition widely visible in our most progressive communities is a greater obstacle to reunion with the EO than is our discipline of a celibate clergy. SP and the wider use of the EF will probably help address this pastoral problem.

  5. Ann Olivier Avatar
    Ann Olivier

    It occurs to me that the problem of the “ordination” of women to “the priesthood of Christ” might ultimately be grounded in the semantics of the terms involved historically. What are the root meanings of “ordain”, not just the English word, but the original Latin and Greek and maybe even the Aramaic word if we know what it was? And what is the relationship between those words and 1) the metaphor of the priest being another Christ, 2) the metaphor of the priest symbolizing Jesus, and 3) the metaphor of His marriage to His Church?

    Given the number of metaphors involved and the number of translations of the word for “ordain”, surely the whole history of these meanings needs to be looked at very, very carefully before we can say just what was originally meant by “ordaining a person to the priesthood of Christ”.

  6. Marc Bergeron Avatar
    Marc Bergeron

    Some important history when speaking about decentralization: Important fact: This pope is the first pope who was president of a bishops’ conference.

    On 8 November 2005, Bergoglio was elected president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference for a three-year term (2005–08). He was reelected to another three-year term on 11 November 2008. He remained a member of that Commission’s permanent governing body, president of its committee for the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, and a member of its liturgy committee for the care of shrines.
    How was he treated in that role by Roman dicasteries? How did the Argentinians fare in developing liturgical translations?

  7. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    I not only studied Latin for five years in my youth, I fully expected that the liturgy would remain in Latin until I went to Mass on the First Sunday in Advent 1964. Hearing parts of the Mass in my own language was exhilarating. Whatever love I had for Latin would soon collapse as I began to comprehend what the Mass was all about. I thought it was about something the priest did on behalf of us ordinary Catholics. I thought it was about the wonderful power that priests had to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. I have never heard about it being the renewal of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary nor that it was offered by Christ himself. I had never heard of the paschal mystery. I had never heard that as a baptized person I was a part of Christ’s royal priesthood, nor that baptism gave me the power of worshipping God in spirit and in truth. What a liberation.
    I entered seminary in 1965 and realized that there were among senior clerics different notions about the meaning and significance of the council that was just ending. Often, in the years that followed, I felt like a salmon swimming against the current. I read the council documents and took courses in them, but it didn’t seem that they were being fully implemented. The heady years of ecumenical services and joint activities would soon give way to talks of relativism. Pastoral initiatives, at first welcome, were soon being quashed in the interest of everyone “thinking with the church”. After spending the first 15 or more years of my priestly ministry explaining to people that the word church not only doesn’t simply refer to the buildings in which Mass is celebrated, neither is it a synonym for “the Bishops” as in the church teaches this or that. I could go on but won’t. I am sure Francis has in mind many things, but among them will be the reform of the papacy and of the strictly monarchical structures of church governance. His having served as the head of a national conference of bishops will prove to be of great significance.

  8. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    A July 8, 2004 article in Crisis magazine gives some good insights into the future and this pontificate. It is about what Pope John Paul II began and what Pope Francis will complete or begin to complete. Given what Pope Francis has begun, the article is very insightful and not ironic in any way for those who irony meters are on the fritz.

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #14:
      Crisis piece is amusing but his opinions take various data points and then puts his interpretation on it – interpretations that pick and choose. Also, the article is 10 years old and its conclusions are outdated – history has already passed this writer by.

      Some examples:
      – “It was this failure of the Church’s leaders to explain the council that allowed it to be so easily hijacked by progressives” (obvious meme with no supporting documentation – this is a gross overgeneralization based upon a few logical fallacies. At least he does reference some of the more glaring obstructionists – McIntyre, he could have added Ireland’s Cardinal, etc.)
      – “……Catholicism that was merely liberalism kept in check by a reluctant obedience to dogma” (again, a biased interpretation with no supporting documentation)
      – “….the reception of the council by “liberals” amounted to no more than the commandeering of a few phrases—such as “people of God” and “signs of the times”—out of context. It was time to break the fetters. A loud “Non serviam!” erupted within the Church, along with a surrender to the secular world, which itself was going through a massive identity crisis. These dissidents conjured away the council’s demand for inner reform….” (obviously, he has little understanding of *development in the church*; *reception*, etc.)
      – other phrases: “The post-conciliar mischief was initiated by disaffected clergy”; “path of least resistance marked by dissident theologians”; “John Paul was an enthusiastic participant in all four sessions, strongly aligning with the “progressives” against the ecclesial bureaucrats” (factually incorrect); “The most extraordinary—and providential—fact of recent Church history is the alignment of Karol Wojtyla and Vatican II” (nothing like rewriting history and facts); “….astonishing 130 Wednesday audiences on the “theology of the body,” whose depth and originality exceed anything that has come out of the papacy since Leo XIII….” ( can’t think of any reputable theologian, church leader, etc. who would echo this obvious embellishment – theology of the body will disappear into the dark depths of the Vatican archives never to rise again)
      – more…..”Whoever the next pope may be, he won’t have to do much writing. The Church’s middle management has been slow to absorb John Paul’s writings—in many chanceries and seminaries they remain, in Mary Ann Glendon’s phrase, “unopened letters”—but this won’t be determinative.” (well, Benedict easily dashed this *prophecy* and Francis has already turned his projections upside down (and, given this week’s news about Ms. Glendon’s future son-in-law; sure wouldn’t cite her as a reference)
      “Those who view him as an authoritarian who keeps tightening the screws are not paying attention. This papacy is all about freedom.” (this one is laughable given what we know about corruption in the Vatican/curia; sexual abuse corruption; etc.)
      ” One of the hopeful signs in the Church today is that energized laity like Christopher West, Janet Smith….” (think some of these folks might fall under Francis’s category of *sourpusses*
      “….there’s one change demanded by the council that has yet to happen: the retirement of the old clericalism, the idea that priests and nuns constitute the “real” Church.” (well, here he is at least up to date but JPII did nothing to implement this projection or hope – in fact, the opposite happened. Funny how he does anticipate Francis’s call)

      His last paragraph is excellent – as long as he doesn’t knee jerk by saying that either Benedict or JPII did anything to achieve this.

  9. Sean Keeler Avatar
    Sean Keeler

    I’m with Mr. deHaas (#9) on this one. Nearly everything I’ve ever seen about the pre/post V2 battles has been internal. Latin/English, Bach/Rock, Many/the Many. Nice exercises, but to what end?

    What of the 2/3 of the world that has never even heard the word of Christ? Wasn’t that a somewhat major concern of a Council called to identify the role of the Church in the modern world?

    Sad to say, but every dollar spent on issues such as abortion prevention is a dollar less spent on feeding the poor children who ARE being born. Is it truly more important to the Church’s mission to combat gay marriages, divorcees receiving communion, and women ordinations than mentioning, to people who’ve never heard it, the promise of salvation and an eternity with God?

    If anything, I believe the Pope understates our inaction. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what our Church is supposed to be doing in the modern world.

  10. Sean Peters Avatar
    Sean Peters

    We need less collegiality. Too many bishops in the American Church behave like feudal lords. This Catholic nobility needs to be restrained at the top by the Vatican and at the bottom by the laity. Enough with all the Catholic bureaucracy and bishops’ conferences.

    1. Scott Pluff Avatar
      Scott Pluff

      @Sean Peters – comment #17:
      How about something as simple as having the laity periodically comment on the effectiveness of their bishops and pastors in spreading the Gospel, with accountability for their actions held at the level of the bishop’s conference?

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        @Scott Pluff – comment #18:
        How about those reports going to Rome prior to the ad limina visits. Then the Holy Father and the octo-cardinals can grill these guys on their job performance.

      2. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        @Scott Pluff – comment #18:

        I’m reminded of the United Reformed Church, where prospective pastors are auditioned by the congregation. If their presiding, and particularly their preaching, is found to be inadequate or unsatisfactory, they are not appointed.

        That’s for pastors. I wonder what additional tests we would have to devise for prospective bishops?

  11. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    I am in favor of a more robust use of lots as part of the mix. It has Apostolic pedigree, and was a key part of what was probably the longest running well-governed polity (the Venetian republic) for a few hundred years. For it to work, the eligible class has to have a culture of mutual responsibility for preparation and severe accountability for one’s associates in the wake of holding office.

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