Statements by one of them worry a loyal layman
George Cardinal Pell, advisor to the Pope from the Australasian area, spoke at a conference on the Vatican II Council in Sydney on June 2, 2013. Peter Clifton, a liberal British RC who was deeply motivated by the teaching of Vatican II, summarises the Cardinal’s viewpoint from a condensed version printed in ‘Annals Australasia’.
Cardinal Pell’s perceptions
The Cardinal claims to be very much a Vatican II enthusiast. He says ‘we are all happy with lay leadership in most areas of church service’, citing health, education, welfare etc. Another great success is the liturgy in the vernacular, approved
by the overwhelming majority of lay Catholics. On the issue of governance, the Cardinal cites the acceptance of lay participation in parish finance, parish councils and ecumenical bodies, understood as achieved in accord with Vatican II ideals.
But he cites a number of things that happened in the post-Vatican period that were negative; he speaks of ‘plenty of surprises’. Among these were the growth of the Pentecostal communities, the growth of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and …’doctrinal and moral confusion… …as largely secular views in Australian society penetrated Catholic hearts and minds.’ Cardinal Pell singles out views on sexual behaviour in particular, as ‘Humanae Vitae was rejected and continues to be widely rejected’. He believes that the crisis in moral understanding spread ‘from contraception to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage’.
Other unexpected post Vatican II happenings included ‘the scourge of juvenile sexual abuse which… …seems to have peaked in the 1970s … …when incidentally the moral confusion was at its height’. Then there were the unpredicted ‘waves of departures from the priesthood and religious life.’
On the side of liberal and progressive theology, George Pell expresses his perception that ‘…50 years after the beginning of the Council my strongly liberal and theologically radical seminarian friends…’ [would have been surprised that they] ‘…would have almost no successors among the seminarians of today in the English speaking world’.
On religious practice, the Cardinal points to some things that remain, even if in a smaller congregation of Catholics. These include Corpus Christi processions and devotions at the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Cardinal Pell’s conclusion is that liberalism has been a strong factor in the decline of the Church: ‘The more liberal the Church community, the faster the exodus’. It is at this point in his argument that he refers to a (putative) liberal mind-set he characterises as ‘contraceptive’, which may be characterised by a willingness to rely on a personal moral compass. His words are; ‘…too many lapsed into a contraceptive Christianity, where everything appears normal on the surface, but is unable to produce new life.’ In this situation ‘…God is underplayed, repentance and forgiveness are not required.’