America magazine recently reported on a four-day conference at Georgetown University that commemorates of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The conference included many high-profile guests.
French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the current president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, opened by saying that “without pronouncing dogmatic sentences…the Second Vatican Council expressed its teaching on many questions which occupy the conscience and activity of man.”
In his answer to a question about how the Second Vatican Council should be characterized, Cardinal Tauran said that “Vatican II is a great theological council with strong focus on the church.”
Drew Christiansen, writing for American magazine, notes that:
Behind the cardinal’s diplomatic wording was the allegation from the council’s critics that as a pastoral council, Vatican II was not nearly as significant as the dogmatic councils of the past with their definitions and anathemas.
Christiansen then notes the response of John O’Malley, S.J., who proceeded to dismantle this interpretation of the council. O’Malley said: “If, indeed, we look at the number and importance of Vatican II’s teachings…Vatican II is not Council Lite but the very opposite.”
According to Christiansen, O’Malley then listed several teachings that show that the council was not “Council Lite”:
– What God has revealed is not a set of propositions but (Christ’s) very person;
– Sacred Scriptures is inerrant only in what “serves to make the people of God live their lives in holiness and increase their faith”;
– The purpose of church is to promote the holiness of its members;
– “‘The people of God’ is a valid, crucially important and, moreover, traditional expression of the reality of the church”;
– The church has “the responsibility of exerting itself for the well-being of the world”;
– “The dignity and excellence of political freedom”;
– Freedom to follow conscience in choice of religion; and
– “The dignity of conscience, ‘that most secret core and the sanctuary of the human person.’”
O’Malley’s statements are a powerful response to the critics of the council who erroneously believe that a council must be full of condemnations and apologetic statements.