Those who dream of a third Vatican Council

The former Franciscan Friar, Leonardo Boff, the leading representative of the Liberation Theology movement – or what remains of it – is simply the latest in the list of individuals who have asked for a Third Vatican Council to be held.

He made this request in an article published in Brazilian daily, Jornal do Brasil, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of John XXIII’s death: “The categories set out in the Second Vatican Council no longer adequately represent today’s reality.”

According to Boff, there needs to be a new Council that represents all Christianity and it should “identify the ways in which we can work together to create new awareness regarding respect, worship and care for all ecosystems.”

Interestingly, people have been pondering on a Vatican III for 36 whole years.

The idea sprang up for the first time in the summer of 1977, at a meeting of theologians from Concilium magazine held at the University of Notre Dame in the U.S. Swiss theologian Hans Kueng, the Dutchman Edward Schillebeeckx and Italian theologians Giuseppe Alberigo and Rosino Gibellini were among those present.

The meeting between theologians and Liberation theologians set the goals for the future Council:

  • that a Pope would resign at the age of 75;
  • that the Synod of Bishops would no longer act as an advisory but a deliberative body;
  • that priestly celibacy would be abolished and
  • that women would enjoy equality in Church life, including the right to be ordained priests.

But it would be wrong to assume that the proposal is only made now and again by liberals who are intent on speeding up reforms.

Surprisingly, in the early 90s, some conservative circles faithful to Wojtyla threw the idea on the table.

The English historian Paul Johnson suggested a new Council should be held, in an article published by American monthly, Catholic World Report. Italian philosopher, Rocco Buttiglione, a friend and collaborator of John Paul II echoed this idea in an interview in which he mentioned the preparation of “material for another great Council.”

Another figure who was keen on the idea was ultra-conservative Austrian bishop, Kurt Krenn.

In terms of the aims of a potential Third Vatican Council, the dream nurtured by Wojtyla’s most orthodox supporters was the complete opposite to that described by Kueng in 1977. Continue reading

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