The Holy Spirit guides the Catholic Church in very mysterious ways. The Council of Jerusalem provided Catholics with the nonobservance of Jewish dietary laws, The Council of Ephesus clearly gave us the definitive appreciation of Mary, as the Mother of God, Trent contributed transubstantiation, Vatican I bore the theological proclamation of papal infallibility (in matters of faith and morals) and Vatican II provided us with the image of a Pilgrim Church in movement towards our eschatological union with the Heavenly Father. Maybe it is time to see what Vatican III can do to add to the Churchâ€™s theological and sociological progression as a divinely instituted Church in the 21st century.
In the 40 plus years since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council the world has changed greatly since the promulgation of Gaudium et Spes. The Church in the Modern World of the 1960â€™s had never experienced a lunar landing, the creation of the personal computer, the fall of European Communism, the election of a non-Italian Pope and the instant connectivity of the Internet. Since the Fathers of Vatican II our scientific world has cloned human cells, manipulated DNA, lived in space , visited Mars (via Martian Rover) and has even mapped the human genome. Now it is time for the Catholic church to revisit the notion of an ecumenical council that factors the vastly different world into our religious experiences since the turbulent 1960â€™s.
In the past few weeks, the Holy See has quite honestly stunned the Catholic world as well as the secular world with its openness towards an environmentally sensitive Church, the restoration of the Tridentine Mass and the declaration that the fullness of faith exists within the Catholic Church. Such openness towards Catholic doctrinal clarity really puts Lumen Gentium and other council documents in the need of 21st century revisionism. That of course does not mean that there are any large problems or issues with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, but perhaps an ecumenical council could clarify, tweak and otherwise update the declarations of Vatican II.
The election of John-Paul II (a native of Poland) and the subsequent election of Benedict XVI (a German) are two significant events that show the truly global nature of the Catholic Churchâ€™s mission and message. For over 40 years now the Catholic Church has worshipped in the local vernacular of specific countries and peoples, displacing Latin as the universal Mother tongue of the Church, the College of Cardinals is truly a body of international representation, a second non-Italian born Pope, scientific discoveries and Third, Fourth and maybe even Fifth world development are reasons enough to convene a new ecumenical council, just to review the progress of the Catholic People of God over the last 40 or so years.
My suggestion for such a gathering is not to advocate any doctrinal modifications or changes, but rather an opportunity to genuinely understand the direction the Catholic Church needs to pursue in the new millennium. By no means am I suggesting a theological debate on the need for ecclesial modernization or doctrinal adaptation. My suggestion is such a gathering of the worldâ€™s Catholic hierarchy for the purpose of clearly defining and proclaiming to the modern world our uniquely Catholic identity.
In the 1960â€™s, 1970â€™s, 1980â€™s and onward it was always a very fashionable event to present an â€œoperating statementâ€ whenever someone had any faint representation of an original idea. Perhaps it is time for a Universal Catholic Declaration of Purpose that everyone will know and understand in order to clearly illustrate our Catholic identity. It really isnâ€™t such a preposterous idea, all of the Churchâ€™s declarations from Nicaea to Vatican II are really just updates and clarifications of what we have always believedâ€¦with modifications of language and historical perspective. It would be nice however to have all of the beliefs and definitions once again compiled in a Vatican III edition.
Whenever there are updates upon updates of anything in life there is an opportunity towards the development of confusion. Institutional confusion in the Catholic Church has really been common since the Dark Ages, but every once in a while there has been a good old fashioned council to reaffirm the obvious. The call to Vatican III is precisely thatâ€¦lets get everyone together to talk about all of the hot issues from global warming, papal infallibility, the validity of non-Catholic orders, the role of women, the role of clergy and so on. When all of the discussions are over and all of the ripped copes have been mended we can get back to the job of being faithful Catholics anticipating a restoration of the New Jerusalem, the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the life of the world to come and so on. In the interim perhaps we can just agree to disagree or agree or whatever and live out our apostolic faith as the Apostles would have liked. Simply, one, holy, catholic and apostolic! Can that be too much to ask of a divinely instituted organization?