Vatican II: The Optimism of John XXIII

Blessed Pope John XXIII

Fifty years ago today, one of the most momentous events in the life of the Catholic Church took place.  Attentive to the “signs of the times” as he was, Pope John XXIII officially opened the Second Vatican Council.  Others more astute than I have commented at length about the importance of this day and the event that so deeply affected the experience of millions of Catholics around the world. Nonetheless, there is no Catholic alive today who hasn’t felt the impact — whether he/she is aware of it or not — of that Council.

Pope John’s complete opening remarks are worth reading and absorbing.  Parts of those remarks  somehow sound even more relevant to the Church in 2012 as they must have sounded to the Church in 1962.

In the daily exercise of Our pastoral office, it sometimes happens that We hear certain opinions which disturb Us—opinions expressed by people who, though fired with a commendable zeal for religion, are lacking in sufficient prudence and judgment in their evaluation of events. They can see nothing but calamity and disaster in the present state of the world. They say over and over that this modern age of ours, in comparison with past ages, is definitely deteriorating. One would think from their attitude that history, that great teacher of life, had taught them nothing. They seem to imagine that in the days of the earlier councils everything was as it should be so far as doctrine and morality and the Church’s rightful liberty were concerned.

We feel that We must disagree with these prophets of doom, who are always forecasting worse disasters, as though the end of the world were at hand.

LGBT Students at The Catholic University of America

Here’s my letter to John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America, in support of CUAllies and their request for official recognition as a gay-straight student organization at CUA.

John Hugh Garvey, JD
The Catholic University of America
Washington, DC

April 17, 2012

Dear President Garvey,

Last evening, I had the privilege of gathering with a group of CUA students and their friends in front of Gibbons Hall. We remembered the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes) that the griefs and anxieties of the people of every age are indeed the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. We recalled the teaching of the US Bishops (Always Our Children) that even those whom God created with a homosexual orientation are worthy of dignity, respect and the right to participate actively in their communities. We lit candles, walked to the Przbyla Center, and prayed.

As an alumnus of The Catholic University of America (National Catholic School of Social Service, MSW, 1998), I am writing to add my voice to the chorus of others expressing strong support for the request from CUAllies that this be an officially recognized student organization at CUA.

One of the most fundamental tenets of our Catholic faith is that each and every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Every human person is to be treated with dignity, respect, charity, and love.  The Catholic understanding of the human person, informed by what we know from so many fields of inquiry, recognizes that one’s sexual orientation is essentially a given and relatively stable reality: it is not a choice or a “lifestyle” or a something that one can change.

You have the great privilege of leading a Catholic university, an institution which seeks not only to explore and impart the truths gleaned from so many fields of scientific and academic inquiry, but also the truths gleaned from the best of our Catholic Christian tradition. Truth, which cannot be incompatible with itself, challenges us to see the full human dignity even in God’s sons and daughters whom He created with a sexual orientation that differs from most of their brothers and sisters.  Some of these sons and daughters are members of the CUA community – they are faculty, staff and alumni. Most especially, however, they are students – students who deserve to learn and grow in an environment that not only tolerates their full humanity, but that also encourages them to grow in understanding themselves so that they are better able to understand others and the richly diverse world their education will help them to serve.

Please recognize CUAllies as an official student organization of The Catholic University of America.

Wishing you Easter joy,

Timothy MacGeorge, MDiv, MSW

Yves Congar: “Motives of conscience and conviction”

While exploring the recently found blog of theologian Joseph Komonchak, “In verbo veritas” I came upon this gem from the journal of the late Yves Cardinal Congar, OP. Père Congar, a great advocate of ecumenism and influential theologian at the Second Vatican Council, wrote this in his journal:

Experience and history have taught me that one must always protest when motives of conscience or conviction call for it. Undoubtedly this incurs some unpleasantness, but something always remains from it”; Congar, Mon Journal, p. 14 (as quoted in an unpublished paper of Joseph Komonchak on the initial work of Vatican II’s Preparatory Theological Commission)

“Undoubtedly this incurs some unpleasantness”… Indeed!

I don’t know Congar’s writings very well, so I don’t know whether the understatement here is intentional. But, knowing that he was a man who had personally experienced the heavy hand of Church authority, Père Congar’s choice of words makes the point all the more poignantly. Perhaps this phrase jumped out at me because I find myself so frequently facing situations that challenge my conscience and convictions. I recently saw a Facebook post which ostensibly promoted drug testing for recipients of “welfare.” (By the way, at the federal level at least, there is no  program called “welfare.” The federal programs that support the poor and needy are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF] and Supplemental Security Income [SSI] for the disabled). Upon seeing the post, my immediate reaction was to think, What tests did Jesus require before he fed the multitudes or otherwise served the poor and needy? What offended me most was not so much the issue itself — after all, any issue about which people disagree is legitimate fodder for discussion and debate.  No; what bothered me was the tone of disrespect and judgment. I suppose just having heard presidential candidate Mitt Romney state that he wasn’t concerned “for the very poor” didn’t help, but I have to wonder why so many of us — many of us who claim to be Christian — have such antipathy toward the very ones whom Jesus most frequently lifted up.