The Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (often referenced by its Latin title, Gaudium et Spes) is typically regarded as the most “progressive” of the 16 documents of Vatican II: the conciliar text that bespoke a new Catholic embrace of modernity while aligning the Church with liberal democratic political forces throughout the world.
Is ours a secular world? Or is it a world that’s traded authentic religion for a modern form of idolatry — one that’s corrupting our politics because it displaces reason with the kind of existential dread the ancient Canaanites once felt about Moloch?
Unfortunately forgotten in most U.S. Catholic circles today, Cardinal Albert Gregory Meyer, archbishop of Milwaukee from 1953 to 1958 and archbishop of Chicago from 1958 to 1965, was one of the country’s leading churchmen in the mid-20th century.
Hans Küng certainly had talent. His doctoral dissertation on Karl Barth, arguably the greatest of 20th-century Protestant theologians, became a pioneering book in ecumenical theology.
The Paschal Triduum this year seemed like a return from exile: Holy Thursday’s Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, in church; Good Friday’s Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, in church; Saturday evening’s Easter Vigil,in church — what a blessing.
Ten years ago last month, the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church took a striking decision: it elected its youngest member, 40-year-old Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, as leader of the largest of the eastern Catholic Churches, a choice confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI.
Let me adapt to recent circumstances a thought-experiment theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar proposed decades ago: Imagine that a friend contracts a severe case of COVID-19 and medicine can do no more for him. The doctors inform his widowed mother and us, so we gather with her for the final scene in the drama of this life. The ventilator is removed; the man grows weaker from lack of breath and whispers his final farewells. We hear the death-rattle. Then he expires and takes on the pallor of death.
There is no need to belabor the awfulness of the year of lockdowns, shutdowns, and other downers that began in mid-March 2020. Among the failures that will bear serious scrutiny going forward are those of inept local governments.
On February 25, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives could have addressed any number of pressing issues. The nation was in its 11th month of a pandemic that had already caused enormous economic and social dislocation. Schools remained closed as evidence mounted that online learning was disserving vulnerable poor children. Civil unrest continued in cities whose local governments refused to maintain public order.
As the names Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius, and John Chrysostom suggest, the middle centuries of the first millennium, the era of the Church Fathers, were the golden age of the Catholic episcopate.