When the Second Vatican Council opened 50 years ago this month, many called it the most important religious event of the 20th century. The council expanded church teaching on ecumenism and religious freedom, and had a major impact on liturgy and church life. But its repercussions reached far beyond the Catholic Church. Champions of Vatican II often see it as having liberated Catholics from the oppression of church leaders. Detractors blame it for shattering unity and order in the church — and introducing an era of doubt. The accomplishments and shortcomings of Vatican II.


  • Maureen Fiedler Host of public radio's Interfaith Voices and Sister of Loretto.
  • Christopher Ruddy Associate professor of historical and systematic theology at Catholic University of America.
  • The Very Reverend Ian Markham Dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary, and priest associate at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Va.
  • Monsignor Richard Hilgartner Executive director of Secretariat of Divine Worship, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor Vice president of philanthropy at World Union for Progressive Judaism.


  • 11:06:54

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Second Vatican Council opened by Pope John XXIII 50 years ago marked a new chapter in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. The three-year session brought enormous change to many aspects of Catholic life and practice.

  • 11:07:16

    MS. DIANE REHMIt also had global repercussions outside the church still felt today. Joining me in the studio to talk about the legacy of the Second Vatican Council are Maureen Fiedler, a Sister of Loretto and host of public radio's Interfaith Voices, Christopher Ruddy of Catholic University of America, The Very Reverend Ian Markham of the Virginia Theological Seminary and Monsignor Richard Hilgartner with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

  • 11:07:52

    MS. DIANE REHMI invite you to join in the conversation. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.

  • 11:08:13

    MS. MAUREEN FIEDLERGood morning, Diane.

  • 11:08:13

    MR. CHRISTOPHER RUDDYGood morning.

  • 11:08:13


  • 11:08:13


  • 11:08:13

    REHMGood to have you all here. Christopher Ruddy, give us some background on the Second Vatican Council and the influence it's had over this 50 years.

  • 11:08:30

    RUDDYSure. Well, as you know, the council began in 1962, in October of 1962, and ran through December of 1965, over four years. And the world's 2,500, 2,200 Catholic Bishops gathered together in response to the call that Pope John XXIII had made in January of 1959 for an Ecumenical Council.

  • 11:08:55

    RUDDYAnd he made that call shortly after he was elected Pope and no one was entirely sure what he wanted to do with the council. And that emerged over time, became clear through some indirection, through discussions among the Bishops and Cardinals and theologians and with the Pope himself.

  • 11:09:14

    RUDDYAnd there was a sense, I think, that Pope John had -- was that he wanted to bring the Catholic Church into a greater dialogue with other Christian communities and churches and with other religions and with all of humanity. In other words, his goal was to seek a greater unity among Catholics, Christians and all peoples.

  • 11:09:38

    REHMSo turning to you, Reverend Markham, as an Episcopalian priest, why would non-Catholics be interested in what the Vatican Council did?

  • 11:09:53

    MARKHAMI think Vatican II was a remarkable achievement and enormously important for non-Catholics to heed and respect. It's important partly because of the size of the Catholic family. I mean, it's the biggest club in Christendom and therefore we've all got to take some notice of what our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are saying.

  • 11:10:13

    MARKHAMBut also it was a highly innovative council and I think there are many aspects of the council which were quite remarkable. Not least, for example, its work in respect to other religions, I mean, Humanism. It was the moment at which the Catholic Church entered into very constructive conversations with both Judaism and Islam and other faith traditions, as well as the Christian family.

  • 11:10:37

    MARKHAMSo I think it's a very major conversation partner and I think there are aspects of Vatican II which have won the day. I mean, I think most Christians, for example, identify and agree with the Catholics in respect to interfaith issues.

  • 11:10:52

    MARKHAMJesus is the way to salvation, but Jesus can save others without them realizing it. That line has been widely accepted by many Christians in many traditions.

  • 11:10:55

    REHMAnd to you, Monsignor Hilgartner, why do you believe that Pope John Paul wanted -- forgive me, Pope John XXIII felt the need to call for this council? What was going on? Why was there this drive toward this council?

  • 11:11:24

    HILGARTNERWell, I think he certainly wanted something to invigorate the church, to renew the church. But I think we also have to look at the state of the world at the time. We had just emerged from two world wars and so the world was, in some ways, reinventing itself. You know, this is the point. It's the late 1950s, as he is elected Pope, and soon after announces his intention for the council.

  • 11:11:45

    HILGARTNERThere was a lot of speculation because the First Vatican Council had never actually concluded. Now when he announced his intention to call the council, he didn't say we're going to continue Vatican I, but he said this will be the Second Vatican Council. So in some ways, announced his intention to go in a different direction. But I think the Church was longing, just like the whole world, was longing for some direction at the time.

  • 11:12:13

    REHMDirection in what sense?

  • 11:12:15

    HILGARTNERI think a sense of renewal, that business as usual, in some ways, wasn't going to be successful in the long term and so this sense of renewal, this sense of invigoration and really of participation. We'll talk about that in terms of the mass, but really in the whole life of the Church, that the level of every member of the faithful has a role to play in the life of the Church, in building the Kingdom of God, in striving towards holiness.

  • 11:12:47

    REHMAnd Maureen Fiedler, from your perspective, what was Vatican II all about? What did it achieve and what were your disappointments?

  • 11:13:02

    FIEDLERWell, Pope John XXIII opened the council by saying it's time to open the windows and let in the fresh air. And unfortunately, from my point of view today, it's a little bit stuffy in here. Those windows have been gradually closed over the last 50 years.

  • 11:13:21

    FIEDLERBut I think he really did intend to bring the Church in tune with the modern world and it did achieve a great amount. I think it brought an awareness of the justice and peace message of the Church in its document on the Church and the modern world.

  • 11:13:35

    FIEDLERIt brought the laity into participation in the liturgy. I think that's most important. I think probably if I were to name the one sentence in all the documents of Vatican II that I think was most central, it's that the Church is the people of God. And I think that sense has remained with a lot of the Catholic laity as they seek greater participation in the Church today.

  • 11:14:04

    FIEDLERI don't think it's played out that promise. The laity, in fact, do not have the kind of participation that many seek in either the liturgy, in the rituals of the Church or in the governance of the Church, whether it's their parishes or dioceses or wherever. I think many would hope for much more than has come forth from that time.

  • 11:14:27

    REHMTo what extent do you think that the death of Pope John XXIII played a role in not succeeding as you would have wished it to succeed in meeting those goals?

  • 11:14:48

    FIEDLERWell, I think that John XXIII was wholeheartedly into this project, that's clear. Had he lived another ten years, this might have flourished, but what you had was a succession of Popes that followed him. Paul VI, very, very briefly John Paul I and then John Paul II and now Benedict, each one gradually more conservative than the one before and so I think that along with many of the officials of the Vatican who had sought to close those windows and not let as much fresh air in, I think that has stifled a lot of the potential that Vatican II had.

  • 11:15:30

    REHMMaureen Fiedler, she's host of public radio's Interfaith Voices and is Sister of Loretto. Christopher Ruddy, to what extent would you agree or disagree with the comments Maureen has made?

  • 11:15:48

    RUDDYSure. Well, I think that there is a long way to go in terms of realizing the full participation of all Catholics in the life of the Church. The entire people of God, which is not just laity, but religious clergy and so on that there's a lot that needs to be done.

  • 11:16:08

    RUDDYThere's a long history, in some ways, sometimes a passivity that needs to be overcome. But one of the things that strikes me about the council itself was the confidence that the Church had at the time, that in the sense that this was a Church that was confident that it could renew itself through an honest engagement with its own history and its deeper grasping of its own traditions.

  • 11:16:34

    RUDDYIt was confident that it could speak to other Christians and learn from other Christians. Ecumenical observers had a very important role at the council and were very influential and actually sat up right next to the high altar at St. Peter's on the other side of the Cardinals which I've heard annoyed some Archbishops in terms of their desire for precedence.

  • 11:16:54

    RUDDYBut I think this confident Church, able to dialogue within itself and dialogue within the world, dialogue with the world, a broader world and then also a Church that is confident that it can say something to the world that the world needs, so that this dialogue is a confident dialogue.

  • 11:17:15

    RUDDYIt's a two-way one, that the world has something to say to the Church and the Church has something to say to the world. And I think that that confidence is something that I think our Church today needs in all sectors.

  • 11:17:28

    REHMMonsignor Hilgartner, would you agree?

  • 11:17:31

    HILGARTNERAbsolutely. I think it was an unprecedented moment that the council was called as the Church was striving to reflect on itself and its mission. It wasn't called in respond to some crisis in any particular way. It wasn't called to refute a heresy or to step in as the Council of Trent did or the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople and the other early councils that were all gathering to kind of clarify teaching in a time of confusion.

  • 11:18:07

    HILGARTNERBut the Second Vatican Council was calling simply to say, let's look at who we are and what our mission is and how we can best do it.

  • 11:18:16

    REHMMonsignor Richard Hilgartner, he's executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk further and take your calls. I look forward to hearing from you.

  • 11:20:05

    REHMWe're talking in this hour about the second Vatican Council, opened by Pope John XXII 50 years ago and marking a new chapter in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. I have four guests here in the studio. Maureen Fiedler, you know as host of Public Radio's Interfaith Voices. She's also a Sister of Loretto. Christopher Ruddy is associate professor of historical and systematic theology at Catholic University of America.

  • 11:20:49

    REHMThe Very Reverend Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary. He's also priest associate at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Va. And finally, Monsignor Richard Hilgartner, executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I'd like to understand, because you mentioned it, Reverend Markham, the changes in the mass before and after Vatican II and Monsignor Hilgartner, I'll go to you for that question.

  • 11:21:40

    HILGARTNERThe changes in the liturgy and how we celebrate the mass and the other sacraments are probably the most recognizable change or reform in light of the second Vatican Council. Though probably not the most groundbreaking change but it's the one that people recognize the most. When you ask people about Vatican II, they probably say, that's when we started celebrating mass in English or when the altars were turned around.

  • 11:22:02

    HILGARTNERThe council itself simply called for a reform of the liturgy in a way that would engage all the faithful in the mysteries being celebrated, probably the most often quoted words of the council, "that the liturgy demands the full conscious and active participation in all the faithful." Because that's the nature of the liturgy, the mass, and it's the right and duty by virtue of baptism and it says something very important, I think, about the nature of the church as the faithful, the people of God, as Maureen pointed out earlier, that it's not about simply the sacrament of Holy Orders and priests and bishops.

  • 11:22:39

    HILGARTNERBut it's about all the faithful by virtue of baptism gathered to worship and the reform then of all the liturgical rights, the sacraments, the mass in particular, flowed from that expression, that intention and that desire. And even in the last year with changes we've made to the mass in a new translation of the Roman missile, we've seen tested some of that full conscious and active participation.

  • 11:23:03

    HILGARTNERWe changed the words and suddenly people have an obstacle to that full participation. Even priests have a little bit of an obstacle to fully understanding the words they're saying. It's getting better and people are starting to settle in with some of those words but it really said that we've come a long way because people expect to know what they're doing and to understand what they're doing in their worship. Which says something very good about what the council did and what's happened in the implementation of the council.

  • 11:23:29

    REHMBut there has also been a fair amount of controversy about that mass and those changes. I can recall hearing friends of mine saying, "That's it. They've changed the mass, I'm not going again. I won't listen to the mass in English. It was always in Latin. That's the way it was for me and that's the way I want it to be." Father Markham?

  • 11:24:03

    MARKHAMI do know it's really interesting, liturgical changes. I mean, the achievement of Vatican II was creating a whole discipline of liturgical theology and it was a huge inspiration for those conversations. But you're right, I think the great paradox of the Roman Catholic is that when it changes things, it imposes the change quite dramatically on everybody. So there we are as Anglicans, we all have to live with write one, write two, we give people options and choices.

  • 11:24:25

    MARKHAMWe tolerate lots of disagreement in the family but the nice thing about the Roman Catholic Church is they can replace the word cup with chalice and hey presto, everybody follows along. We're very envious of that authoritarian capacity to be really liberal, which we're not able to do. But I think that it was very necessary. I mean, I think vernacular languages for liturgy is obviously essentially and it was the right thing to do.

  • 11:24:52

    REHMHow do you feel about it, Maureen?

  • 11:24:55

    FIEDLERWell, obviously I welcomed the changes in liturgy. I'm probably the only here who remembers what life was like before the second Vatican Council and when you went to church it looked like the mass was the priest doing this private prayer, facing the wall. It was in a language that you didn't understand. There was no participation of the people in the church. It was almost like attending somebody else's liturgical celebration, not your own.

  • 11:25:24

    FIEDLERSo it was so welcome. I can remember how exhilarating it was to begin to hear experiments with new kind of music, for example, in the liturgy, although, there was all this controversy over guitar masses and everything. Well, you know, why does God prefer organs to guitars? I've never understood that but it added a lot of life. It helped young people, I think, relate much more strongly to the church.

  • 11:25:51

    REHMChristopher Ruddy, great many people were happy with the changes brought about by Vatican II, others not so happy. Give me the range of views and why.

  • 11:26:11

    RUDDYWell, you may be familiar with the movie "Pleasantville" from about a decade ago. And one of the key scenes in that movie is when the movie goes from black and white into color. Basically, when the main character sort of discovers sex and they throw repression and everything becomes Technicolor glory.

  • 11:26:32

    RUDDYWell, in one sense I think there's a way of looking at the council that sees everything beforehand as sort of black and white and sort of dull or deadening and then everything comes into, comes into beautiful Technicolor glory after the council. There's also another group of Catholics who I think look the other way. They might see before the council as being everything Technicolor and then everything after going bad and going sort of black and white as it were.

  • 11:27:00

    RUDDYAnd I think that in some ways, although I think that there can be legitimate points for both of those groups that see such a stark change between the sort of church before the council and the church after the council. I think that one of the things we need to see is how there was this continuity within it, this was change, real change and we can't wallpaper that over. But I think we also need to see that this was a church that was not trying to in one sense, revolutionize it or change itself in the sense of doing a 180 but rather becoming more deeply what God wanted it to be.

  • 11:27:39

    REHMMaureen Fiedler, what was not decided during Vatican II had to do with birth control and other issues regarding sexuality?

  • 11:27:54

    FIEDLERRight, well there were a number of issues that were not even in the culture at that time, like gay and lesbian rights were not something that the council even discussed. Birth control was put off until 1968 when the encyclical Humanae Vitae was released, which you know basically declared it immoral, to the disappointment of millions and millions of Catholics worldwide. I think that the status of woman was not adequately dealt with.

  • 11:28:24

    FIEDLERBut let me say, there's a sentence in the document on the church in the modern world, my very favorite sentence. "Every type of discrimination based on sex is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent." And when I read that I'm left wondering, did these archbishops and so forth, did they know what they were saying? You know, we often say as Catholics the Holy Spirit works in unusual ways.

  • 11:28:51

    FIEDLERWell, maybe she was working in a very unusual way in that particular case because we did not get woman in the priesthood, we didn't even get a married priesthood. But let me say, this is why a lot of Catholics, like myself included, looked at the council not as some kind of finished product but as a seed, as something from which other changes would grow. And so we expected we would have married clergy, we would have women priests, we would have all of these changes probably within 10 years after the council. And it didn't happen.

  • 11:29:26

    REHMMonsignor Hilgartner, why not?

  • 11:29:30

    HILGARTNERWell, when you look at the actual council documents, the documents themselves only cast the most broad vision of the expectations. Taking the liturgy as an example, the liturgy constitution that the council passed, only called for the reform of the liturgical books and the rights, setting some guiding principles for that to happen.

  • 11:29:55

    HILGARTNERAnd then it was really over a course of almost 20 years before the last of the liturgical books came to be reformed and republished, the mass being at the heart of it, really it wasn't until 1970 that it was finally promulgated in its definitive form and then translated because by that time we were looking at vernacular modern, local languages for the celebration of the liturgy.

  • 11:30:18

    HILGARTNERAnd so in all areas of church life in that regard, the constitution on the church, the church in the modern world, the council document sets the broad vision and then it's up to the structures in place that follow the council for some of those things to start to happen.

  • 11:30:34

    HILGARTNERThe other thing is that the church is a 2,000 year old organization, so change is all relative and we're still only 50 years after the opening of the council and in the grand scheme of the church's history that's a blip on the radar. So we're just still, as Maureen said, there's still a lot of a course that's being charted.

  • 11:30:56

    REHMBut a lot of disappointment in that process considering what sounded as though it began with a great deal of optimism about, as Maureen puts it, bringing fresh air into it. I realized that 50 years in the life of the church is a blip but nevertheless, 50 years in our modern times move rather quickly. Father Markham?

  • 11:31:29

    MARKHAMWell, I mean, I have a slightly different read on this Vatican for my colleagues because I think actually it was a much more conservative Vatican than people recognize. There were aspirational sentences embedded it but in the end if you want the vision of the church you want then you need to come across to the Episcopal Church and then you will have woman priests and you will have an affirmation of same-sex intimacy and you will have an affirmation of birth control and, you know, we made those moves and adjustments and parts of Vatican II inspired our tradition.

  • 11:32:01

    MARKHAMBut, you know, I don't think it was ever the intention of Vatican II to move in those directions. So I think it's a much more interesting sort of text, a moment really. And I do worry that actually, you know, when people talk about 2,000 years ago, you got to remember the population of the world in 1950 was 2 billion.

  • 11:32:21

    MARKHAMAnd now we have more people living than have ever lived before in the history of humanity. I mean, you know, that's the complexity of numbers and therefore this sense that the church can go slowly when there's no communication, no technologies and no way of people interdicting. But now we live in a global village, you know, these decisions are going to have be made and made faster I think. But it is, you know, I think that it created a spirited mood, I think it was never as adventurous as people imagined it was going to be.

  • 11:32:51

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from the Reverend Ralph who says, "Does anyone on the panel have any insight as to what brought about Cardinal Ratzinger's about-face in his support of the second Vatican Council? My understanding is that he was initially a great supporter and of course he is talking about Pope Benedict who was Cardinal Ratzinger. Monsignor Hilgartner?

  • 11:33:33

    HILGARTNERWell, a very young Father Ratzinger was an advisor, a peritus, at the second Vatican Council, a theological advisor to one of the German bishops. So he was there as a young priest. The man who would become Pope John Paul I was there. The man who would become Pope John Paul II was a bishop at Vatican II. So all of the successive popes were there, it's not as though they weren't present at the council and somehow inherited something that came later.

  • 11:34:01

    HILGARTNERAnd I don't think Pope Benedict has done about-face so much that he's tried to help, he's always talked about the sense of continuity and when we try and put things and project back onto the council, things that might not have been the intent at all. He's trying to really say, let's take this as seeing the council in continuity with everything that came before and everything flowing from it.

  • 11:34:28

    HILGARTNERAnd above all, the council was about preaching Christ and it's not about reinventing or inventing whatever we want in the church so much as is it's about, even as we look forward to the church in the modern world, it's also coming back to the roots. You look at the place of scripture and the role of scripture in the council was landmark at the time but that's really going right back to our first foundation and source of revelation.

  • 11:34:52


  • 11:34:53

    FIEDLERWell, when you look at Pope Benedict I think I'm very much aware of history with the council, that he was there but unfortunately I think because he headed the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for so long, I don't know, 15, 20 years maybe he headed that and went about silencing a lot of theologians in that capacity and then instead of promoting...

  • 11:35:17

    REHMSilencing them how, Maureen?

  • 11:35:19

    FIEDLERWell, forbidding them to speak, trying to say that their works were not acceptable in the contemporary church. Some of the liberation theologians in Latin America, for example, even quite recently the works of a couple women theologians in this country. Margaret Farley and the other name escapes me, but anyway, their works have been marginalized really because of the criticism that has come from that office.

  • 11:35:50

    FIEDLERRather than what the promise of the second Vatican Council would've been, which would be an open dialogue on those theological concepts and really looking at those things in an open participatory way.

  • 11:36:04

    REHMWhat about that, Christopher Ruddy?

  • 11:36:07

    RUDDYWell, I think that some of the concerns about Cardinal, then Cardinal Ratzinger's about-face are overstated. I think that there's been a deep continuity in his thought. Some of it stems from a certain reserve about the world, about in some ways a sense of some of the limits or some of the dangers. I think there's been a deep continuity in his focus on Christ and not seeing the church as an end in itself as Monsignor Hilgartner said, the church preaches Christ. That's what it's all about, it's not about itself.

  • 11:36:42

    RUDDYBut I also think that it would be a mistake to look at Vatican II as in any way sort of undercutting, say for instance, the authority or the responsibility of the bishops to teach and to guide the church. That in this sense we can always look at ways, at the dialogue between bishops and theologians, I'm one, a theologian, how that can be improved.

  • 11:37:03

    RUDDYBut I think there also needs to be recognition of the fact that we can see in the sense, as strange as it may in an American context, that hierarchy in bishops can be a gift to the church in the sense of providing us continuity and I think we would be mistaken to see in Vatican II any sort of attenuation of the responsibility that bishops have for this dialogue.

  • 11:37:28

    REHMChristopher Ruddy, he's associate professor of historical and systematic theology at the Catholic University of America. Short break here and when we come back, we'll talk further and take your calls. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:05

    REHMAnd welcome back as we continue our discussion about the Second Vatican Council opened by Pope John XXIII 50 years ago. It's impact then, repercussions even now. Here's an email from Kurt in Charlotte, Mich., who says, "Vatican II was born out of revelations of complicity by the Church including the Pope and, especially, bishops of Germany in the actions of Hitler." How do you speak to that Father Markham?

  • 11:40:49

    MARKHAMThat's a hypothesis which I don't agree with. I think it's much more complicated than that. I mean there is a European context to the Council. I think there is a real concern about Catholic participation in congregations in Europe. And that's actually continued right through Cardinal and now Pope Benedict's reign -- Pontiff.

  • 11:41:13

    MARKHAMBut I don't think the immediate contextable was a primary factor. If anything, it was the challenges of modernity and the challenges of pleurism and ability of labor and the fact that we were in close proximity to Muslims. But they did have to confront the tragedy of Judaism and the Holocaust. And that was there. And the work they did in that respect was outstanding.

  • 11:41:35

    FIEDLERYes. I would definitely agree with that, Diane, because before the Second Vatican Council there was this belief running around called deicide, namely the idea that the Jewish people were somehow or other responsible for the death of Jesus. And what the Vatican Council very firmly said in Nostra Aetate, which is an extremely important document from that Council, that is just not true. It was a complete rejection of that idea and a real opening to the Jewish community in the world. And Pope John Paul II was particularly strong on carrying that theme through.

  • 11:42:14


  • 11:42:15

    HILGARTNERI would agree with Maureen that Nostra Aetate chartered new waters in terms of taking the Church to a place where we could enter into respectful dialogue with our Jewish brothers and sisters.

  • 11:42:27


  • 11:42:28

    HILGARTNERAnd with our separated brothers and sisters in other Christian communities really opening doors for collaboration, cooperation, a spirit of respect even as we work. And you look at the pontificate of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict continuing, a sense of dialogue between churches to work to restore full communion. Certainly a long way to go in that regard.

  • 11:42:51

    REHMHere's an email from Father Anthony in Westchester, Ohio. He says, "I am a traditionalist priest. Vatican II is presented as a new springtime for the Church while statistics show that the Catholic faith since the Council has become nearly extinct in Europe. Churches are empty. There are no more priestly vocations in the mainstream church. Yet bishops, the cardinals and the Pope are still in denial. And insist there's no cause and effect relationship between the Council and this sharp decline. Sociological changes are a favorite excuse. Why not admit it? Vatican II," according to Fr. Anthony, "Vatican II was like an atom bomb dropped on the Church. And we're still suffering its fallout." Christopher Ruddy.

  • 11:44:04

    RUDDYThe image of an atom bomb is very interesting, especially when you consider that Pope John Paul II had called the Council the great gift of God to the Church in the 20th Century. And I think that we need a more honest assessment of some of the losses that have taken place after the Church -- I mean after the Council. And we're still far from understanding exactly what is going on with that.

  • 11:44:30

    RUDDYWe cannot -- we cannot say that everything that happened after the Council happened because of the Council. That -- as I said, there were other -- despite the commenter's email, I think the sociological factors are very significant. There's an historical legacy in Europe of the entanglement of church state relationships that has had -- that has a harmful effect so all these are in play.

  • 11:44:55

    RUDDYWhat's also striking, though, is how the Church -- the Catholic Church, but the entire Christian Church has been literally exploding in terms of demographics in the southern hemisphere. That we see, particularly in Africa, an astonishing unforeseen growth in the Church in the 20th Century and continuing today. In fact, one that grew even faster after the end of colonialism. So what we see in here is in different parts of the world different patterns of demographics. I think we need a certain humility and we need to work together to understand what is driving this. And not make it a tool of our own, you know, of our own ideological agendas on that.

  • 11:45:36

    REHMMonsignor Hilgartner.

  • 11:45:38

    HILGARTNERI very much agree that to blame the council would be to acknowledge somehow that the Catholic Church was the only religious body that would suffer. And in places where one might see declining numbers in terms of participation it's not only the Catholic Church. It's traditional religion. And it's really -- then I would look to causes of things like extreme secularism and individualism that somehow challenge faith.

  • 11:46:08

    HILGARTNERSo you can't blame the Council for increased secularism. And you look at these conflicting values of greed and power. The Church was really trying to speak out about some of those kinds of things in regard to its relationship to the world. In Gaudium et Spes, the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, I think the Church offers something as leaven to contradict some of these things like secularism. This -- you know, I can invent myself and be whatever I want to be with no concern for consequences or ramifications for anybody else.

  • 11:46:47

    REHMAll right. To St. Louis, Mo., good morning, Kenneth, you're on the air.

  • 11:46:53

    KENNETHGood morning, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.

  • 11:46:54


  • 11:46:55

    KENNETHI'm a priest of 35 years here in St. Louis. And one of your panel said that this translation that we've just gotten is difficult, certainly for priests. And actually the Council asked us to have this vernacular expression for the liturgy. And what we've gotten in this most recent version is a highly Latinate form of the liturgy. Periodic sentences, the passive voice, this increased level of abstraction.

  • 11:47:24

    KENNETHI can't imagine anybody other than Henry James actually talking this way. So what we have on our hands now is not a step deeper into the liturgy. It feels to me -- and I think to a lot of our people -- as though we are being drawn closer and closer to this, sort of, Latinized version of church expression.

  • 11:47:46


  • 11:47:47

    FIEDLERYes, I agree with him entirely. There's been a lot of dissention over this latest translation. In fact, there is even a real theological question about one of the phrases where the old way of saying it was for the salvation of all, namely the sacrifice of the mass and so forth. Now for the salvation of many, whoa, who's left out, you know. And a lot of people have questioned that. And many of the progressive Catholics that I know, who often worship in what are called intentional communities where they come together have just not changed their translation.

  • 11:48:25


  • 11:48:26

    HILGARTNERWell, in terms of that word, in particular, it's the words of Scripture. We're not changing the words of the Gospels. The change in the translation is actually going back to what was contained in the Gospels referring back also to what's in the Prophet Isaiah and the prophecies of the suffering servant that the servant who would justify many and suffer on behalf of many. And there are lots of debates about what Biblical scholars believe is in the original Hebrew and in the original Greek in the New Testament and what's there.

  • 11:48:56

    HILGARTNERBut in many ways the language and what the caller's referring to is certainly a language that it's going to take some time to get used to. It is a highly stylized form of English. It's more formal rhetoric. It's not our everyday conversation, but even Pope Paul VI in 1965, as we were just starting to deal with vernacular languages, said that the language of the liturgy can't be out common language of the street and the marketplace because it has to be a language that lifts us to this realm as we communicate with God.

  • 11:49:29

    HILGARTNERAnd certainly we would believe that the Lord hears our prayers in our own words. But the liturgy has to also inspire because the liturgy communicates to us even as much as it is our communication to God.

  • 11:49:44

    REHMChristopher Ruddy I want to ask you about the response of the Church to the victims of sex abuse and how you believe the bishops handled that.

  • 11:50:02

    RUDDYWell, thank you for asking an easy question. I think that it's very clear that this was a scandal of the first order. That you have both the scandal of the actual sexual abuse by clerics and others, and then you have the second scandal of the lacking response of a number in church leadership to adequately responding to that abuse. And in some ways that has been -- that has compounded the scandal. I think that on the level of addressing that first crisis of the actual sexual abuse that seems, so far as we can tell, to have largely been stanched.

  • 11:50:43

    RUDDYI think there is still a way in which the bishops need to find better ways of holding themselves accountable to each other and to the Church as a whole. And I think that that is something that still needs to be worked on. I know that there are a number of bishops who would like to see that happen. And it's not simply liberal or conservative bishops, but that there are a number of bishops across the spectrum who are aware that the bishops really need to do something about mutual accountability.

  • 11:51:18

    REHMAnd, Fr. Markham, it's certainly not as though the Roman Catholic Church is the only part of the Church found guilty of this kind of sexual aberrant behavior.

  • 11:51:35

    MARKHAMThat's entirely true. And we recognize that sin and grace is found in every institution. And no institution is apart from sin. And that's a tragic reality we all have to face. But it is really important to have mechanisms in place to make sure that when problems arise they're solved promptly and efficiently. And that is a real challenge for all the churches.

  • 11:51:56

    REHMAnd something that has not really happened as far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, Maureen.

  • 11:52:05

    FIEDLERRight. I mean there hasn't been, in the views of many Catholics, a real call to the accountability of the bishops. The ones who covered it up, the ones who moved abusing priests around. Many of them have wound up in Rome. Cardinal Law, for example, actually got, as they say, quote, unquote kicked upstairs, you know, and has become highly influential in the Rome -- in the Vatican.

  • 11:52:28

    REHMHow do you account for that, Monsignor Hilgartner?

  • 11:52:32

    HILGARTNERWell, I think it's -- Reverend Ian said, it's a question that wherever there are humans there will be sin. And there will also be the possibility of redemption and being saved from that. So, you know, I think the Church is trying to learn lessons and move forward pledging to heal and protect. And at the same time, I think, the bishops are still, themselves, trying to grapple with how best to do that, how best to move forward. I think in terms of screening candidates for priesthood, screening candidates for religious life, screening potential people to work with young people, volunteers, teachers, youth ministers. We've come a long way in how all of that works.

  • 11:53:18

    REHMBut as Maureen just pointed out, this one particular bishop actually kicked upstairs one wonders about how strongly Pope Benedict, himself, has -- or how seriously he has taken this issue.

  • 11:53:42

    HILGARTNERWell, in terms of the bishop that Maureen referenced, that all happened before Pope Benedict. And certainly Pope Benedict, himself -- because of his formal role in the Doctrine of the Faith was keenly aware because cases of a priest who had abused would have gone for review for their dismissal from the clerical state to him. And he, I think, has been more directive -- and as this has happened -- I think for a while there was a sense that, perhaps, this was an American phenomenon. And, sadly, tragically, it's been seen that it's elsewhere, too. And I think the Church is starting to wake to some of those things (word?) Vatican.

  • 11:54:20

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I would be really interested in this ancient papyrus and its finding. What -- I mean you may laugh, but it's intriguing. The discovery of this papyrus does it really challenge the view that Jesus remained a single man, Maureen.

  • 11:54:56

    FIEDLERWell, I find this scrap of papyrus very, very interesting. Of course, it's the one that alleges that he talked about my wife, all right. And it is just a scrap. I mean I think we have to realize that it doesn't prove anything definitively. What it does is feed the speculation that's been going on in a lot of other quarters. My good friend, Anthony Patavano (sp?), who is the leader of the movement in the Church for a married priesthood, has long believed that it's likely, not proven, but it's likely that Jesus was married.

  • 11:55:28

    FIEDLERAnd he uses the idea that rabbis in his time, and Jesus was regarded as a rabbi, were expected to be married, expected to be wed. And that women traveled in the company with the Apostles, that this was not unheard of at the time. So, although we don't know for sure, this is just an intriguing piece of possible evidence.

  • 11:55:53

    REHMIntriguing Christopher Ruddy?

  • 11:55:55

    RUDDYWell, I think the first thing is that there seems, and it's too early to say, but it seems that there is an emerging consensus among Biblical scholars that seems to be questioning the authenticity of this fragment, that calling -- saying that it may very well be a forgery. That's not definitive, but that seems to be growing in recent days and week.

  • 11:56:17

    RUDDYBut, secondly, I think that it just raises the issue of whether, well, was Jesus married or not. I think even if this document were genuine that still would be very, very weak historical evidence that there seems to be very little doubt among scholars, Biblical scholars, theologians that Jesus was celibate. There would have been some mention of it, you know, when he was dying. Where was his wife?

  • 11:56:43

    REHMFinal question for you, Monsignor Hilgartner do you believe that the Roman Catholic Church will ever move toward allowing women into the priesthood?

  • 11:57:01

    HILGARTNERWell, Pope -- we should start with the tradition that says that our teaching is based on tradition and the fact that Jesus established an all-male priesthood as Biblically based. And Pope John Paul defined that as dogma. And so, at the moment, that question is closed.

  • 11:57:22

    REHMMonsignor Richard Hilgartner, The Very Reverend Ian Markham, Christopher Ruddy, Maureen Fiedler a fascinating discussion. Thank you all so much. And thanks for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.

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