The Church's '40 year old virgin'
Gaudium et Spes
It's been misused by dissidents on the left to re-invent the Church; it's been abused by dissidents on the right who question its authority and the Council that gave it birth. For many people, though, Gaudium et Spes, simply put, is virgin territory in that it remains largely unread and unknown. The same can be said about the other 15 documents of Vatican II as well.
On Thursday, November 8, Cardinal Mahony sponsored a symposium entitled, "Gaudium et Spes at 40." I suppose it is grossly unfair to judge the event without having attended, but considering the symposium's sponsor as well as the roster of speakers, I do not expect that anything useful emerged from the conference. If any L.A. Catholic readers attended the symposium, let us hear from you. I would love to be proved wrong.
With 40 years of turbulent water under the bridge and with no sign that the flood waters of dissent and confusion will soon subside, I think it is fair to say that many if not most of the Council Fathers were imbued with an excessive and naive optimism about the Church and the world. This almost (shall I say it?) cheery outlook was most evident in the Council's opening address given by Blessed Pope John XXIII on October 11, 1962. There is no question that "Good Pope John" was indeed a good and faithful son of the Church. Could he have foreseen, however, the crisis that would ensue after the Council he might not have convened it.
That being said, Vatican II was not a mistake. Vatican II was hijacked. We must earnestly pray for Pope Benedict XVI that God will give him the wisdom and fortitude he will need to put the Council back on track. This way, the Church on earth will be what Pope John XXIII desired her to be: the divine instrument which brings to a lost world the true light of the gentiles (lumen gentium), namely, Dominus Iesus, He Who alone is the source of true joy and hope (gaudium et spes). As we say in Spanish, así sea.