Editor’s note: The following keynote address was delivered at a conference for and with a group of U.S. bishops March 25-26 in Chicago. “Pope Francis, Vatican II, and the Way Forward” was co-organized by Loyola University Chicago’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, Boston College’s Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, and Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture. Also helping with the organization was NCR political columnist Michael Sean Winters.
The first thing to acknowledge when we talk about the Second Vatican Council today is the gap between the horizon of expectations raised by the council and the situation of the Catholic Church today, especially in this country. Vatican II called Catholics to unity: unity in the one human family, with non-Christians and non-believers, with Christians of other traditions, and with fellow Catholics.
But in these last few years we have seen that the fundamental call of Vatican II to unity through reconciliation has often turned into a source of bitter division and contention, at times dangerously flirting with schism. This is paradoxical because reconciliation is maybe even more original as an intent of Vatican II than the call to church reform.
We have seen all this with shocking clarity during the pontificate of Francis. This is more than a chronological overlap. There is a parallel between the rejection of Vatican II and the relationship between the church in the United States and Pope Francis. The opposition to Pope Francis is rooted in the opposition to Vatican II — a theological crisis that did not begin with this pontificate.
This is a problem that is not just theological, but also ecclesial, that is, it has profound consequences for the ways in which all Catholics experience their life of faith in the church. Therefore, it is a problem that needs to be addressed. Also, because it would be naive to think that it’s a problem created by Francis and that it will disappear with the next pontificate. Hence, this is the attempt at an analysis of the problem and to offer some possible solutions.
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Massimo Faggioli is professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University. Follow him on Twitter: @MassimoFaggioli.
With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Massimo Faggioli, where this article originally appeared.