Vatican 2

Short and incisive explanation of why Vatican II is a “pastoral” council, in which John O’Malley, S.J., summarizes the impact of Vatican II.

From the moment the Second Vatican Council opened, it has consistently been described as a pastoral council, sometimes so insistently and unthinkingly that the expression has become a cliché. The word cliché implies that while the description might well express a truth, it at the same time trivializes the council and produces yawns. Click Here to learn more

For Pope Francis on Vatican II and Ecumenism See Pope Francis Page

Did Seminarians and Student Priest in Rome Influence Vatican II? For Fr. Harry Winter’s Documentation click on the following Chapter links:

Chapter 1                Chapter 2                Chapter 3                   Chapter 4

The Four Oblates Who Influenced Vatican II the Most

The first session of the Second Vatican Council began on Oct. 11, 1962 with 33 Oblates listed as “Fathers of the Council,” 5 as periti (experts) and 6 as theologians accompanying individual bishops.1 The number of “Fathers” would change only slightly during the next three sessions, but the number of experts would significantly grow, as each Council Father would change his expert for each session, so more priests could experience the Council. Click Here to learn more

Vatican II and Anti-Clericalism from Paul VI to Pope Francis by Way of the Catacomb Pact

The major helping professions, Medicine, Law and Religion, all face professional deformation. Doctors need a strong bedside manner, or they fail in improving the health of their patients. Lawyers need to be approachable, or they will fail in defending their clients. And pastors must “smell like the sheep,” to use a favorite expression of Pope Francis. Yet the lengthy training of all three professions leads to a separation between the helpers and the helped.

Clericalism is the term applied to clergy who climb higher up than their people. Anti-clericalism is the effort which from time to time the Church develops to return pastors to being one with their people. One important warning: there are Catholics who want their clergy to be clerical, making all their decisions for them, and making their lives easier. As we speak about anti-clericalism, it is important to be on one’s guard against such parishioners.

Pope Paul VI during Vatican II, begged the bishops to simplify their life style and to become more approachable. He himself led the effort.
Walter Abbott SJ, in his edition of the Documents of Vatican II, has observed, in the discussion of the Decree on Bishops, that “During the Council, there was much criticism of the sign of pomp and wealth seen in the lives of bishops. The subject was as delicate as the proper age for episcopal retirement. But as the fourth session closed, Paul VI made an adroit gesture, full of his own generosity, but pointedly symbolic of this ‘humility and simplicity of life.’ He gave each bishop a ring, simple in form and tasteful in design, bearing no jewel nor decoration except a small engraved miter. The ring spoke more eloquently than a hundred decrees” (commenting on #15, p. 407, n. 45).
The final text of the Decree on Bishops, promulgated during the fourth session on Oct. 28, 1965, did contain the expression Abbott refers to: Bishops “should also be mindful of their obligation to give an example of holiness through charity, humility, and simplicity of life” (#15, p. 407). In retrospect, the effort for simplicity was buried in more theological questions in the decree: the relation of bishops to the pope, the development of episcopal conferences, and the compulsory retirement of bishops at a certain age.

One of my close childhood friends, a lieutenant colonel in the USA Armed Forces, arrived in Rome with his wife on Nov. 20, 1964, the day before the third session ended. Word had gone around the seminaries (I was in my fourth year of theological studies and my seventh year in Rome ) that Pope Paul had told the Council Fathers in no uncertain terms to “approach the people.” So when J.J. and Helene and I went to the Basilica of St. Mary Major for the pope’s visit in the afternoon of Nov. 21, after the third session had closed that morning in St. Peter’s, we found cardinals standing uncomfortably in the piazza, waiting for people to approach them. Unaccustomed to this, many Italians stood at a respectful distance.

Helene was the niece of the superior general of a small religious order, and had no awe of cardinals. With American directness she walked up to one of the cardinals and instead of kissing his ornate ring, shook his hand and started chatting with him. Quickly others followed. It was a great lesson that change could happen. Sadly, the next great step forward in declericalizing the Church, the Catacomb Pact, seems to have been forgotten until the cardinals chose Pope Francis. On Nov. 16, 1965, 40 bishops descended into the Catacombs of Domitilla and signed a radical pact: they vowed to forego expensive limousines, glorious palaces and even honorific titles. In internet items concerning a documentary made in 2012 for German tv and called “Pact of the Catacombs–The Secret Pact of Vatican II,” we learn that 500 council fathers would sign the pact and present it to Pope Paul VI as the council ended. Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife , Brazil , seems to have been the inspiration, joined by Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna , Italy .

The only complete text of the pact is furnished by Boaventura Kloppenburg OFM, in his book The Chronicle of Vatican II. (Kloppenburg was an expert at Vatican II and later a bishop in Brazil ). In six paragraphs, the signers not only pledge themselves to personal simplicity, but to remake their diocesan administration into social works based on charity and justice for all and led by competent laypeople.

Is there a direct connection between Helder Camara and the former archbishop of Buenos Aires , now Pope Francis? Attempts are being made by Oblates in Brazil to see if either Camara or Bergoglio mention each other in their writings.

A final piece which shows the great interest in this matter was begun by the Franciscan columnist for the national USA Catholic review America , edited by the Jesuits. Daniel P. Horan OFM never expected in his one page article “Lead Us Not Into Clericalism” to stimulate the discussion he did (Oct. 21, 2013, p. 33). There was an explosion of blog responses, letters, and a status update in the Nov. 18 issue, pp. 6-7. Another blog response was printed in the Nov. 25 issue, p. 7; Horan responded in general in the Dec. 9-16 issue, p. 7. He has touched a nerve, and Pope Francis keeps exposing that nerve, in order to address the issue.

As with so many advances, new questions are raised. What does professionalism mean and how does it differ from clericalism? Is the number of pastors who value parish councils increasing? It would seem to be in the monthly parish council meetings that both the substance and style of a new relationship between the pastor and the parish are shown. Reports on this are very mixed.

It would also seem that the leadership of the pope is crucial. Bishops will follow his example; priests will follow the example of their bishops. May Pope Francis, guided by the Holy Spirit, show us what Jesus would have us do regarding clergy lifestyle and example
It would also seem that the leadership of the pope is crucial. Bishops will follow his example; priests will follow the example of their bishops. May Pope Francis, guided by the Holy Spirit, show us what Jesus would have us do regarding clergy lifestyle and example