Theologian slams idea Vatican II didn’t advance doctrine

A Jesuit theologian has scotched the notion that the Second Vatican Council was a pastoral council and did not propose new doctrines of the Church.

Fr John O’Malley said this in an opening address to a conference on Vatican II at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

The conference was focused on the meaning and import of the council and how its vision might be carried forward

Fr O’Malley referred to the typical refrain that Vatican II was a pastoral council and therefore did not propose new doctrines of the Church.

Saying that such a perspective tries to downplay the council’s decrees or call Vatican II a sort of “council-lite”, the Jesuit said the 1960s event was pastoral through its doctrinal nature.

Vatican II, Fr O’Malley said, offered a new model of merging between so-called pastoral and doctrinal councils.

“Vatican II was a pastoral council by its teachings, that is, its doctrines,” he said.

“In a word, Vatican II was pastoral by being doctrinal.”

Former Catholic Theological Society of America president Dr Richard Gaillardetz expanded upon Fr O’Malley’s conclusions by tying Vatican II’s understanding of doctrine to Pope Francis.

Dr Gaillardetz, from Boston College, said Francis “has boldly returned to the foreground a broad range of conciliar teachings”.

Among those, the professor said, is a “recontextualisation” of the role of doctrine in the life of the Church.

“Our first Latin American pope is not afraid to affirm the necessary place of doctrine in theC, but he . . . situates it within the pastoral life of the Church,” Dr Gaillardetz said.

At the conference, Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle called on Catholics to avoid wanting to witness to Christ “in some idealised past that they long for with nostalgia”.

Rather, Catholics should embrace and live out the council’s sense of openness to the modern world, he said.

“The Church is being asked to retrieve its deepest identity as a communion, but a communion that is not focused on itself,” he continued.

“Not self-focused, not self-referential.”


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