If the four constitutions have borne good fruit, on the other hand, we must concede there are difficulties:
28. It must be recognized, however, that in the midst of this richness there also occur “difficulties about the acceptance of the Council”.(51) Despite so comprehensive and profound an ecclesiology, the sense of belonging to the Church has weakened and “a certain disaffection towards the Church is frequently noted”.(52) Thus the Church is often regarded in a one-dimensional way as a mere institution and deprived of her mystery. In some instances tendentious positions have been adopted and set in opposition to the interpretation and application of the renewal sought in the Church by the Second Vatican Council. Such ideologies and conduct have led to divisions which damage that witness of communion indispensable to evangelization. The evangelizing activity of the Church, catechesis included, must tend all the more decisively toward solid ecclesial cohesion. To this end it is urgent that an authentic ecclesiology of communion,(53) be promoted and deepened in order to arouse in Christians a deep ecclesial spirituality.
- (51) Synod, 1985, I, 3.
- (52) Synod, 1985, I, 3.
- (53) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio (28 May 1992), n. 1, AAS 85 (1993), p. 838; cf. TMA 36e.
There’s a lot on which to comment here. “Disaffection” is a fascinating term, implying a state of emotion rather than intellect, of relationship rather than ecclesiology.
Certainly, the implementation of the Council, as has been noted on pretty much every level, was flawed for being too timid and too authoritarian. Some clergy and other leaders certainly lacked both a deep grasp of the theological principles in some instances. In others, the problem was not the reforms attempted, but the way in which they were imposed.
But to defend many critics of the institution, you can’t expect to take a stance as a top-down operation and expect to retain any degree of mystery. Ancient bishop-saints have (perhaps) lost their detractors to the sands of time, but today they provoke a certain fascination: the hunt for Ambrose the catechumen, the golden oratory of John Chrysostom, to name but two. How many non-martyred bishops of the 20th century were canonized? Curial officials ever?
I think the problem is less with ecclesial cohesion and more with the challenge of finding leaders who are spiritually engaging, able to gather wide swaths of Catholicism, and move things forward with their people.
Given the activism on both the Right and the Left these days, and the general dissatisfaction with political leadership from all sides, I think it’s hard to blame a broken relationship on a Council. For Europeans, it goes back decades, at least to the grave mishandling of the Great War. The rich elites might have frowned, but if the pope and bishops had managed a consistent pro-peace effort from the time of Vatican I, I think we would be looking less within the house of the Church, and more to an evangelization of non-believers.
That said, we cannot escape we are a broken and damaged Church, stumbling over ourselves to present a coherent message of Good News, and unable to suppress our internal squabbles.
Or perhaps, that doesn’t matter, and we, like Saint Paul, are called to serve in spite of our weaknesses.