History of the world and of current-day Church incomprehensible without Vatican II, says Spanish theologian


In comments marking the 40th anniversary of the close of Vatican II, the renowned Spanish theologian Father Olegario Gonzalez de Cardenal said given the “moral weight of Catholicism in the world,” the history of the Church, the world and Spain is incomprehensible without “taking into account what that Council meant and what has come from it.”

In an article published by the Spanish daily ABC, Father Cardenal noted, “The history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century is no longer comprehensible without Vatican II. The same is true for the history of Spain. Moreover, given the moral weight of Catholicism in the world, with its 1.5 billion members, with its presence in every geographic corner of the world and its specific vision of the meaning of human life, the history of the world in this century is also incomprehensible without taking into account what that Council meant and what has come from it. Just think of Poland, of John Paul II and the events of 1989.”

“As an internal event of the Catholic Church,” Father Cardenal continued, “it was normal in one sense and revolutionary in another. Normal because the collective search for truth is a constant in the history of the Church, together with the communitarian dimension of her expression and the ultimate decision regarding her dogmatic contents and moral demands by way of a material or representative meeting of all of the bishops.”

Nevertheless, he explained, the Council was also revolutionary “because of its proposal to rectify past history by establishing a profound connection between the Christian conscience and modernity; to bring together the best social projects and hopes with the power of the Gospel; to create attitudes, expressions and institutions in the Church that aren’t ambiguous but rather demonstrate her true essence and her mission to be God’s sign for the world.”

Vatican II and Spain

According to Father Cardenal, the history of Spain in the 20th century is “incomprehensible without that which Vatican II unleashed, liberated, made possible and demanded.”

“Of the four transitions which have given birth to modern-day Spain (economic in 1959 with the development plans; religious in 1962-1965 with Vatican II; political in 1978 with the new Constitution; and moral and cultural, with the sharing of power between the different political parties), the religious transition was the most radical and complete, because it affected the personal and moral roots of the conscience, where everything either comes together or is torn apart.”
Lastly, Father Cardenal notes that “religious freedom could not be an island in an ocean without other freedoms; in its wake these other freedoms had to come.  Out of the spirit of the Council came the need for unity, reconciliation, consensus and peace in justice.  This is the moral foundation of the transition to reconciliation in a democratic Spain.”

“To try to forget, deny, or alter the meaning of these events is to violently turn the history we have experienced on its head and sow new seeds of uncivil discord,” he said in conclusion.

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