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Arkansas Catholic
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March 29, 1974     Arkansas Catholic
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March 29, 1974
 

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THE GUARDIAN, MARCH 29, 1974 PAGE 3 ent III 'Odyssey of A Soul'--Council Years ing is tile third installment of "Odyssey of A Soul," a recently at St. John's Catholic Center, Little Mr. Alan Patteson of Jonesboro in a Lecture Series Sponsored by tile Religious Education Department of the of Little Rock). Years surrounding the Council were a golden publishing in the and an for those of are non-professional. translations appeared s of Karl-Rahner, and Schillebeecks Other European ins. Ecumenical un- was fostered by the men like Maurice Bernard Leeming, Weigel, Gregory B aum of joint Catholic- teams like Weigel McAfee Brown. A. Rheinhold-and Y bieckman crystallized movement for us, and writers like and McKenzie were the fruits of recent Scholarship. Moral a Christ-like the loving hands of • And during the there were the of Cardinal Bea John himself -- guiding and en- And there were and each of us had his My own were Car- Bishop Emile his clarification of of the faithful; Meyer for their in- tn the laity and ty; and Melkite Maximus for us constantly that Church is not the Church. shared, there is way to express the that many of those Council was a time of us hope and con- the Spirit of God It was a-time of rising expectation, of us laboriously each document -- its background, the the final the Council if it had not been a it had been well doing. If it had instant solutions, it set the to come; it way toward an and ecumenical service to human it gave us a fresh of ourselves as , as a sign of unity, as de on pilgrimage. us had never felt 'OUr Church, nor more €, nor more deeply nor more turned our fellowman, certain that our being brought into :entury. Our basic of our faith had many areas that archaic had been or brought into The Council r of world- y could imagined six years happened in the 10 is nothing short of ¢ is written, surely will be one of the saddest in Probably none COme through totally unless he is Rip Van one, I think, ex- insights of the unfold in- -- even allowing But neither that directions authority in Would be ignored, allowing for the Unfortunately, documents are .of human beings - were struck and exist that allowed interpretations. those who a Council in prin- Vatican 1 who in all or no change. They feared the Council would be a disaster and they spent the potentially educational years of the Council negatively raising warning flags against everything from speculative theology to the emerging layman. They minimized every aspect of the Council, ostensibly to save the Bark of Peter, and apparently felt that when the Council was over the Bark would be steered unchanged to its original moorings. The Council documents incorporated much of what they had warned against, not the least of which was an attitude of openness. The sands shifted and it created understandable disorientation. Idealistic Vision On the other hand, others perceived a vision of the Council that was perhaps too idealistic, that perhaps had been over- stimulated by speculative theology, that maximized every aspect of the Council, that too optimistically discounted the human factors, forgetting that the message is carried in earthen vessels. And they could not recognize or accept that the compromises had effectively neutralized some of their prior assumptions• Their disorien- tation comes, ! think, from being caught between the "already" and the "not yet" -- from their inability to exist comfortably in structures that are still markedly those of pre- Vatican II and where the concept of collegiality has hardly been explored below the level of the episcopacy. They cannot psychologically return to the closed, polemical, and juridical Church of yesterday and they are despairing of the arrival in their life time of the open, pastoral, ecumenical Church which they envisioned from Vatican II. The British theologian, Charles Davis, as he left the Church, noted the discouragement that he had felt for years at the herculean personal energies that it took to effect the most miniscule change in the institutional life of the Church. It's a completely gratuitous comment on my part, but I honestly feel that this is the one single factor more than any other that, at least initially, contributed to the mass disaffection at every level of the Church -- particularly • among those 35 and older who saw the rest of their productive years being spent in destructive controversy or fruitless im- mobility, or the playing of political church games. In 1968, I was still deeply filled with hope and ianguished over the rapidly developing polarization within the Church between the "minimalist" and "maximalists." I hoped ear- nestly that the polarized viewpoints could be held within hearing distance of each other so that, in a kind of creative tension, they might exercise a corrective influence on each other. It already seemed that there was little charity on either side, and both sides seemed to be projecting their own bag of insecurity which seemed a • colossal lack of faith in the Holy Spirit. I don't think anyone with integrity can speak about polarization in the Church and ignore the traumatic effect of the Papal Encyclical "Humanae Vitae" issued in the summer of 1968. I have no magic solutions to the current trauma, nor am I here to wave a red flag on a sensitive subject, but I think there is merit in a recent article by a Father Marthalar -- professor of religious education at Catholic University. And I think his assessment of the situation is accurate. He wrote, "that the vast majority are forming their consciences with little or no input from the Church. The public silence that now engulfs the encyclical is ominous. It cloaks ambivalent feelings about the Church as a whole, not simply about her stand on this question. Her authority is challenged, her wisdom doubted, her sensitivity to social and economic issues openly disputed -- silence is not a preventative against the erosion of trust and con- fidence." Further in the article he writes "statements by national hierarchies have sharpened the focus of the encyclical. In different ways they set forth fundamental Catholic values governing human life, and the dignity and responsibilities of the married state. None advocates con- traception of any kind but all are sensitive to the fact that many Catholics feel they have no other option..." And he states that "generalities do not speak to the problem...A large scale enlightened catechesis aimed especially at adults needs to be planned, executed, and financed." And he con- cludes that "unless a credible program shatters the vacuum of silence, 1974 may well be a worse year for the Church than 1968."This last comment must be understood in the light of the worldwide emphasis in 1974 on population problems. Today the various sides are often not within hearing distance of one another, and I'm afraid that we sometimes are more parallel than polarized. The exodus has been horren- dous and it continues. The reasons, I'm sure, are complex and defy simple analysis and simple solutions. Some of the reasons undoubtedly are related to general societal conditions and are shared by other churches and institutions. Others surely are unique to our own institution and should be susceptible not just to in-depth study but to a little common sense and some tender loving care. In many ways 10 years is a relatively short period of time for massive social change -- particularly for an institution like the Church which some feel had almost defied itself by equating itself with Christ Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But if we accept the mounting evidence that accelerated change has become a norm of life and that a new cultural generation is produced every four years instead of every 20, then, in a very real sense we are now two and one- half generations away from the Council and two and one-half generations is a long gestation period indeed. The Council is history; we obviously will no longer be allowed to move with the plodding circumspection that was characteristic of quieter eras. Whatever mistakes we make by haste probably will be far less damaging than immobility or foot-dragging. Ten years is a period that spans the major formation years of every one of my five children. And those children literally have lived their entire spiritual formation years during a period of constant upheaval, crisis, confusion, and conflicting counsel. Hardly an area of ecclesiastical concern hasescaped re-examination -- and I think that's extremely healthy because we are that part of the Church which is constantly in need of refor- mation and reconciliation. I hope it continues unabated with solid scholarship and good theology. But it has been disastrous that nothing could be re-examined without reaching "crisis" proportions. There has been a crisis of faith, a crisis of authority, a crisis of theology, a crisis of identity, a crisis in liturgy, a crisis in catechetics etc. etc. to the point of nausea and almost to the point of mental, moral, physical, and spiritual enervation• Vatican 1I Now Included Only now, for example, after 10 years, are we experiencing anything like uniform availability and distribution of decent catechetical material reasonably incorporating Vatican II insights and em- phases. Some of it is really excellent. But it's hard to un- derstand - with any luck at all - why it could not have been available, at the latest, five or six years ago, had we not been operating under "crisis" conditions; had we not frightened one another and put one another on the defense; had we not radicalized one another on every issue. We have made a monumental struggle out of 10 years of liturgical changes that might well have been effected in two or three years with much less personal disorientation had everything not been a crisis. A little reading, a little simple preparation and explanation of the theological background of the changes could have eliminated or minimized the crisis. But the changes were introduced piecemeal and too often with a shocking lack of explanation -- "because the Council says we now must do it" or "the Bishop wants us to participate." Explanations like these might produce obedience or acquiescence and even some modest uniformity, but they have not, I think, produced deep understanding, and for the most part the changes have not yet built community. Worst of all, perhaps, such a prolonged preoccupation with superficial liturgical changes has resulted in making of liturgy an end in itself instead of a means of grace and many are given the false impression that liturgical reform was the major objective of Vatican II. In a similar fashion, many of the disciplinary and devotional practices of our religion -- for quite good theological reasons -- were eliminated or de- emphasized or put in better theological perspective. But again there was almost no theological background given for these actions. There too Often was only an atmosphere of grudging consent, a disproportionate amount of hand wringing, and very little spiritual conversion on the part of any o£ uB. We dlsmantlec[ me old and familiar and too often left nothing in its place. Older people were left lamenting a cultural era that was gone with the wind. And younger people were left in a vacuum. All of us, especially children, are quite capable of living with change and flexibility -- even constant change -- but none of us, not even a child, can live in a spiritual vacuum with per- petual controversy. ( To Be Continued Next Week) Frontier Beef Stew. May he the pioneers didn't have it so Bad after all. .One taste of this hearty stew will conjure up images of chuckwagons, tumble- weeds and hungry cow- hands. Try it at your next football game- watching party and win some fans of your ownI I I | FREE COOKBOOK! l Twenty-nine pages of fantastic money- l saving rice recipes. Yours free from l Riceland. Just fill out the coupon, clip I | and mail to us. And remember: when a | recipe calls for rice, make sure it's | | Riceland. Fluffy, tender, delicious every | I time you make it. Little wonder it's the i favorite Of people who know rice. I i | I I I I I Please send me a free copy of I I "The Wonderful World of Riceland Rice." 1 l Mail to Riceland Foods, I I I l P.O. 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