Michael Novak, author of article “Reconsidering Vatican II,” targets media for overstating and oversimplifying doctrinal shifts during Vatican II as well as currently, with the immense popularity of Pope Francis.
Through triangulation of reading several key documents of Vatican II (Sacred Liturgy, Dogmatic Constitution on the church, Social Communication, Decree on Ecumenism, Church in the Modern World, and others), historical reviews of Vatican II impact and meaning (traditionalist, progressives, and reformist positions), and actions and words of Pope Francis, I am convinced that the vast majority of people have a misconception of Catholicism, Vatican II, and the living church, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Catholic apologetics (or their offshoot polemic apologist) do not have the ear of the masses or perhaps even of the bishops?
Our church pivots violently between oversimplified watered down catholicism and overly dogmatic traditionalism, neither of which can carry the word of Christ alone. The former abandons the rich deposit of faith gifted to us over two thousand years of Christian development post Jesus Christ as well as the the morals and teachings the B.C. era. The latter ignores the challenges of a living tradition subject to an ever changing world and and treats the historical church as if it was a dead letter, not evolving, and wedded to the definitions of the pre-modern world. Without a unified presentation that is coherent and consistent the voice of the church is given to “naysayers,” professional politicians, and media.
The media, through no fault of its own, serves the reader’s digest version of Catholicism while being swayed by the temporal desires of the day, The public digest the various forms of criticisms, predictions of doom, and overall negativity without access to well versed theologians, grounded prayer, or a well grounded independent faith. And like our political system, people run to their safe havens of silo’s of belief, sheltered in and bunkered down with like minded people, secured by the comfort of consensus and moral conviction. The Devil himself is envious of such a well developed trap for dividing humanity – voluntarily built by laity and priestly types alike.
“The public does not go to the press for solid scholarship,” The press understands this and plays to what we want to hear and read.
There is a depth and a mysticism to Catholicism that defies understanding, defies traditional and social media, and befuddle theologians as well. Yet, many are willing to proclaim authority and the moral high ground despite ample evidence that we are mere specks of dust, wayfarers on a journey of the Cross that is still 2000 years young.
The misconception that drifts into the church and the media is to dissect and divide events and timelines, to shape the divine according to our whims and fancies, to redefine without serious contemplation and knowledge of eschatology or grounded theology. The church is divided by media into liberal versus conservative, pre-vatican II versus post-vatican II, believers versus non-believers, and countless other irrelevant distinctions given our fundamental belief that our beliefs call for an “authentic universal humanism” that serves all humanity, sinners and saints alike. And again, this is not the media’s fault.
The drama and the divisions in the tabloids and the social media are of our own making, by our own failings, and desires. The naysayers and politicians will always be there to speak for the truth as well.
As we prepare for Pope Francis, how can we learn from this error of oversimplification, demonization, idealization, and other all too human errors of cognition?
Don’t ask me, I have no idea! However, Pope Francis seems to be able to live and enunciate the humility and the divine at the same time. He may have the answers as to what it means to realize Vatican II without jeopardizing dogmatic tradition and divine revelation. And, the rest is up to you to be a discerning student of life and all things divine.