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This doctrine, that the state cannot compel religious belief ties in well with our English-speaking concept of religious freedom, and will be even more important in the future if governments follow the Obama line and try to reduce freedom of religion to a freedom to worship privately and remove religious considerations from public discussion and public life. But the text itself was flung into a pool whose shores are as wide as the universal Church. The ripples will run far. He was right, because some have jumped from this proper recognition of the limited power of the state in terms of religious coercion compelling belief or practice to a damaging affirmation of the primacy of conscience, which at its worst enables Christians to select from official Christian teaching on faith and morals only those doctrines they find congenial.
The more cautious speak of the priority of the informed conscience, but conscience stands under truth and the Word of God, not above it. My third point touches on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which was, with the decree on social communications, the first document promulgated by the Council on 4 December In many ways, it is a beautiful piece of work where the Paschal Mystery, the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord, is placed at the heart of the Eucharist. The document is modest enough and it has been claimed that Pope John only envisaged some parts of the Mass in the vernacular.
If I could lapse into an Australian metaphor, the liturgical horse bolted as the spirit of the world penetrated deeply. We escaped the worst of it here in Australia. There are still geographical pockets in Europe where the official Eucharistic prayers are used only rarely. Under Pope Benedict, considerable progress was made in strengthening the transcendental dimension of worship. Sacrality was seen as pagan. Christ died outside the gates, in the profane world, and therefore liturgy is not seen as an act of worship, but of profane participation, where participation was reduced to activity.
For a long time, I did not understand deeply enough the damaging consequences in Catholic life of bad liturgy. Sloppy, irreverent horizontalism, the downgrading of the vertical dimension, and no longer striving towards the Transcendent are all an unfailing expression of spiritual malaise. If the fruits of the conciliar reforms are to be realized and if the work of the Spirit is to produce more and better fruit, we must continue to see the sacraments and especially the Mass as expressions of faithful and reverent worship.
Unfortunately for many in Australia, Sunday is no longer a day of rest and sport on Sunday morning is a regular deterrent to worship for children. None of this helps. None of us would be at ease if we tried to return to a time before Vatican II. We are all happy with lay leadership in most areas of church service, for example, 14 health, education, welfare, aged care. Ecumenical cooperation is a theological imperative and a strategic necessity to resist hostile secularism. Despite the proper enthusiasm of a number of faithful for the Tridentine Mass, celebrated in Latin of course, the overwhelming majority prefer the liturgy in the vernacular, the language they understand.
It is now accepted that we have parish finance councils and that bishops from around the world participate on the councils of the curial departments and that the curia should have priests and religious from around the world in their ranks. The Council brought and brings us many blessings and changes which benefit Church communities, but many unexpected developments also occurred. There were plenty of surprises. No one expected the phenomenal growth of the Pentecostal communities or sects , which are now the fourth largest religious grouping in the world.
They are particularly strong in South and Central America among Protestants, while the Catholic Church in Brazil has a vibrant Catholic charismatic constituency. No one predicted the growth of a community such as the Neo-Catechumenal Way, which in just over forty years has grown to 1,, members and runs more than seventy seminaries throughout the world, including one in the Sydney archdiocese. I did not predict the doctrinal and moral confusion that developed, as largely secular majority views in Australian society penetrated into Catholic hearts and minds.
I remember an older lady whose son was proposing to marry a woman who was leaving her husband, telling me that the Church was likely to approve such adultery in the future as so many things had already changed, such as the language of the Mass. This confusion was particularly marked in the understanding of sexual morality, marriage and family, where the teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae against artificial contraception was rejected and continues to be widely rejected.
Tomorrow's GraceBook 2 by Akeem Amoniphis Simmons
In , Pope John Paul II spoke of a true crisis in moral understanding Veritatis Splendor 93 with confusion spreading from contraception to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriages. In a similar way, no one I knew anticipated the scourge of juvenile sexual abuse which would be uncovered and seems to have peaked in the s—80s when, incidentally, moral confusion was at its height.
I never encountered anyone during or soon after the Council who predicted the waves of departures from the priesthood and religious life, the eventual extinction of many religious orders and the drying up of vocations.
My figures are not comprehensive, but I believe they are not unrepresentative. One estimate has it that 10, priests from around the world left during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI — In Australia, there were 14, nuns in , but only 4, last year with a median age of seventy-four. Last year, we had eighty-three seminarians altogether for NSW and ACT, which represents a substantial increase on the numbers in the early s.
While the Nashville Dominican Sisters who came to Sydney before WYD in have accepted nine Australian young women with two more coming in August since then, most orders of nuns have only a few vocations. Between and , women became nuns and about forty have since resigned. The piety in the Sydney archdiocese remains somewhat more traditional than in Melbourne. One only has to examine the interiors of their two beautiful cathedrals to identify a difference of tone.
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However, to varying degrees right across Australia, parishes saw a Protestant-type removal of many statues, monstrances and candlesticks. Simplicity was the aim, even when noble simplicity was elusive. One apocryphal story from country Victoria tells of a country priest who decided to dump his church statues in a neighbouring lake. To his consternation, he discovered that they refused to sink, remaining obdurately on the surface. He had to return to his presbytery for his rifle and put a few bullets into them to obtain his desired effect!
I never anticipated that fifty years after the beginning of the Council that my strongly liberal and theologically radical seminarian friends would have almost no successors among the seminarians of today in the English-speaking world. Immediately after the Council, when medieval devotions were fiercely resisted and largely uncelebrated, it would have been impossible for me or any of my fellow Roman seminarians to have imagined the popularity of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament among many young adults, their fondness for Benediction, or that we would have at least 5, people each year at our Corpus Christi procession.
Neither would we have imagined that a Synod on the Eucharist in would conclude with a Holy Hour and Benediction with the Holy Father and all the Synod members.
No one then dreamt of , at a Youth Mass in Sydney, 2,, in Rome in and similar numbers at Rio de Janeiro led by a charismatic Jesuit pope from Argentina in , who had been a determined opponent of liberation theology and a champion of the poor and marginalized. God writes straight in crooked lines, but God is always with us. All priests and religious love the Church, as they love Christ, even or perhaps especially when they differ about what the Church needs.
Some still cling to the belief that if we just make ourselves a bit more reasonable, a bit less demanding and a bit more up to date, then big numbers will come into the Church. However, statistics show that the more liberal the Church community, the faster the exodus. Unfortunately, too many lapsed into a contraceptive Christianity, where nearly everything appears normal on the surface, but is unable to produce new life. In contraceptive Christianity, God is underplayed, sacrifice is not mentioned, repentance and forgiveness are not required and everyone has the right to happiness in heaven or perhaps to a convenient annihilation.
The one true God and his Son deserve much better. Certainly the Second Vatican Council neither recommended nor silently condoned such a write-down, such a retreat from the call to repent and believe.
These few words on Vatican II for the world of today and tomorrow might not be sufficiently optimistic for some, perhaps too pessimistic. We are called to neither of these alternatives, but to realism and the Christian virtue of 17 hope, which is quite different from a facile optimism. There are many signs of hope. Let me conclude with a quotation I have used on a number of occasions from G. Chesterton wrote that the Catholic Church is a lion tamer, which goes in for dangerous ideas. Following Christ in the Catholic tradition is thrilling and exciting, but perilous when we get things wrong.
In every age there are obstacles and traps, Chesterton wrote.
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Going Fishing is an eclectic group of stories that focuses upon life from various perspectives. It is well worth the time invested. Hypnagogic Tales. For Titania D. Grace, dreams are part nightmare, part mystery, and part pure inspiration. In the hypnagogic state, the ephemeral boundary between sleep and the waking world, her dreams flourished. She brings them to life in Hypnagogic Tales, a trio A New Dawn.