In the span of the fifteen years since the end of the Second Vatican Council, has this picture of tensions and threats that mark our epoch become less disquieting? It seems not. On the contrary, the tensions and threats that in the Council document seem only to be outlined and not to manifest in depth all the dangers hidden within them have revealed themselves more clearly in the space of these years; they have in a different way confirmed that danger, and do not permit us to cherish the illusions of the past.
It has now been fifty years since the Council, and in many cases quiet has not descended upon many of those in the Church or outside of it. I doubt this is an endorsement of sixty-plus years ago. We have no reason to believe the illusions of the 50’s, no matter what century in which they occurred, were any less deceptive.
The only way out, as it always is, is forward. My sense is that many church leaders lost their nerve in the late 60’s, and allowed needed renewal to slip away. I cannot accept the disquiet of 1968 would indicate a return to the past, even if we could accomplish such a thing.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana