Vatican II: The Decrees

Of the Vatican II documents the decrees are by and large forgotten about behind the Constitutions and Declarations but these Nine Decrees are pretty important. Some actually are pretty interesting as well but others are just dull.

Inter mirifica (Decree on the Media of Social Communication): This document is on the how the Church should interact with media. It states that the Church should use media to evangelize but the media itself should be moral as this is the only way the people can trust in the radio/tv/newspaper/cinema. Bottom line of this decree it is to help with the advancement of humankind’s being and their religious journey. This document has been criticized for not doing much. John Paul II would eventually set up the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 1988, he also in 2005 sort of issued a better document on Communications with The Rapid Development which points out that the Church should be paying “attention to the culture created by communications media” notably the internet. Pope Benedict XVI also touch on this In 2010 when he issued a statement encouraging to all priest to become digital citizens.

Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite): This one says that the Eastern Catholics should be unique rites and retain their own traditions while remaining in communion with the Holy See.

Unitatis redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism): It calls for the reunion of all Christendom, offering something like what the Eastern Catholics have where the unique rites and traditions of the various rites would continue for the other Eastern and Oriental Churches. Of the Reformation Churches there are some other hurdles that would be faced (doctrinal). However, there is some talk of a first step in ecumenicism as we are all baptized.

Christus Dominus (Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church): Here the focus is on the Bishops across the world and that they are all brothers and should work together. This is where the National Episcopal Conference became a requirement for all nations, and some regions of the world also established regional conferences of Bishops as well.

Perfectae caritatis (Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life):  This one looks at religious life. It takes on the life and discipline of those institutes whose members make profession of chastity, poverty and obedience and to provide for their needs in our time. From here came a bunch of adaptations of Religious life, notably the habit being replaced with modern attire. This document is considered controversial as since many religious left religious life and the numbers of vocations hasn’t really recovered.

Optatam totius (Decree on Priestly Training): This one tackles the importance of priestly training and lays down principles which may be strengthened and by which those new elements can be added which correspond to the constitutions and decrees of this sacred council and to the changed conditions of our times. The one like the one on Religious life has been greeted with some controversy as there was a significant drop in priestly vocations in the Western World although some argue this has more to do with secularization, the sexual revolution and backlash against Humanae vitae.

Presbyterorum ordinis (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests): This is just like the one on Bishops or Religious which outlines their role in the modern Church. This time around it for priests, “they do not seek to please men but rather must follow Christian doctrine, living a Christian life, always striving for holiness, and voluntary poverty.” Key aspect in priestly life in the celebration of the Eucharist and recitation of the Divine Office. The role of the priest is like the sower in the parable, casting out seed and hoping that some will land in the good soil so that something with grow for the harvest. This one like the one of Religious life and Priestly training is controversial, with a sharp decline in vocations after this decree came out.

Apostolicam actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity): Here the Bishops offered some advice to encourage and guide lay people in their Christian service. It brings the laity and names them as of a the central importance for the Church. Cardinal Arinze summarizes this up nicely in his book The Layperson’s Distinctive Role that “lay people are called by Baptism to witness to Christ in the secular sphere of life; that is in the family, in work and leisure, in science and cultural, in politics and government, in trade and mass media, and in national and international relations.” I might look deeper into this one at a later time.

Ad gentes (Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church): To the Nations we are all sent out to evangelize, just like the apostles. With the Church’s current effort with the New Evangelization, it might be time for us all to look back here as a place to start the efforts.

World Meeting of the Families: A Pope in Philly

Pope Francis concluded his trip to the United States by attending the World Meeting of the Families but before that he did some other things in Philadelphia. After he arrived Pope Francis celebrated Mass with the Bishops and Religious, after this he met with the Hispanic community and immigrants and spoke on Religious Liberty, this was followed by a simple address at the Festival of Families.  That was a jam packed Saturday and Sunday was just about the same. Francis began with meeting with sex abuse victims, then an official meeting with the Bishops, after this the Pope visited a correctional facility before heading out to celebrate the concluding Mass of the World Meeting of the Families. This is the last big event in the US and Pope Francis will get on his plane and make his way back to the Vatican. Once again this all in one post to make it easier on myself.

Mass with Bishops/Religious: This began with talking about how Pope Francis see the history of the Church in Philly is about breaking down walls and going out into the community and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society. Francis tells the story of Katherine Drexel, who came to Pope Leo XIII asking about the need for missions, and Pope Leo asked her “What about you? What are you going to do?” This changed her life since it reminded her about the universal mission from our baptism to build up the Church.  “What about you?” This is the question that we need to continue to ask ourselves both the secular and religious. Both sides need each other for the future. The priests and religious need to use the laity more and have active engagement with them as well. Particularly the women and the young adults, since the Church in America does a great job at teaching the faith but after that what happens many of these people leave the church when they go off to college. This is something that needs to be solved

Religious Liberty/Immigrants: American is a nation of Immigrants coming from all over the world and from the beginning in the Declaration of Independence we hear that All Men(women) are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights. History shows that these rights may not be available to all at the time of the writing but over time more and more people have gained these rights. Pope Francis says something worth thinking about here “When a country is mindful of its roots, it keeps growing, it is renewed and it continues to embrace newcomers, new individuals and new peoples.” This is what the Tea Party claims to be doing but they are wrong and Francis here is right.

Festival of the Families: We all come from a family and perfect families do not exist. Most important about this speech was Francis suggested we make a stake on love, as Erich Fromm says “to love someone is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise”. Then Pope Francis make another brilliant point “Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows.”

Sex Abuse: this was an unscheduled event but Pope Francis once again apologized for the sex abuse scandal which happened in the church and that the people who did this will be held accountable.

Meeting with Bishops: Pope Francis begins by sharing he met with victims who were sexually abused by priests and saying that the crimes and sins may be out now but Francis vows this will never happen again as the Church has a commitment to the youth. After this he turns back to the family, saying that for the Church it isn’t the primary concern but the joyous confirmation of God’s blessings upon us. Francis make an observation that marriage is two different things the civil institutions and the sacrament. The World Francis makes the point was once like the local market has been usurped by the supermarket, the small local market had everything that we needed but the supermarket has more then we need and then some and we are told the buy this and that. It’s like those people who line up and switch their iPhones whenever Apple releases a new product even though it basically a minor upgrade, or in flashier packaging. Francis says that priests shouldn’t blame the young for growing up in a world like this. He calls all priest to go out into the world bring the Gospel to all and show that the “Gospel of the family” is good news and mean something to the young adult who are in that part of life, feel troubled with becoming financially independent and feel that it just isn’t the right time to get married. The Church needs to renew its covenant with the family and deepen it.

World Meeting of Families Mass: This was rather short, compared to other homilies. Faith opens the window for the spirit to work in our lives, love is shown in the tiniest of things the homely gestures being greeted with a nice meal after coming home, or a hug after a long day at work. It’s these little gifts of love that help shape faith. For this reason the home is the place where faith becomes life.  As Moses ask, would they all be prophets, Francis asks us would we all be prophets of love and bring love into a world that seems continually fractured with people at each others throats. May our love and tenderness help shape the world into a better place for us all to live. This is our mission in life.