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Critically evaluate the significance of Vatican II for the 21st Century Church

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Student Number 0302062 Year 2 CCRS Church Critically evaluate the significance of Vatican II for the 21st Century Church Introduction The Second Vatican Council was convened by Pope John XXIII in 1962 with the intention of throwing open the windows of the Church so that 'we can see out and the people can see in'. It closed under Pope Paul VI and has repeatedly been said to be the most significant event for Catholicism in the 20th Century and beyond. The results of Vatican II were wide-ranging for Catholics but also for the rest of the Christian and non- Christian world. In terms of 'The Church', Lumen Gentium clearly defined it as all those who believe in Christ. In Sacrosanctum Concilium, the liturgy was revised including the use of the vernacular languages during Mass. The study of scripture was to become a more central part of the lives of both clergy and laity and Nostra Aetate stated that the Jews were no more responsible for the death of Christ than Christians. These are simply very brief and by no means comprehensive examples of some of the issues considered. To critically evaluate the significance of all the aspects of The Second Vatican Council would be impossible in an essay of this length, therefore I have chosen to consider the repercussions of a further document issued- Gaudium et Spes. ...read more.


and "The instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation." These stated that the Marxist principles and terminology often employed would only lead to embracing of Marxism itself and should be avoided. In addition there was a reiteration of the church's primary goal being one of spiritual liberation from evil whilst still seeking political, economic and social liberation of the downtrodden and also the statement that armed struggle could only be a last resort to put an end to an 'obvious and prolonged tyranny' which was gravely damaging to the common good. The actual criticisms of the theology are many and varied, but generally in terms of the lasting significance on the church in the 21st century there are several general areas. Firstly, the links ( some would say reliance) with Marxism has been shown to be a weakness with the advent of the fall of the Marxist states in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In addition dependency theory has also come under attack especially in conjunction with the failings of socialist states to develop successfully. Secondly, the amount of bloodshed that has appeared to have come of the development of Liberation Theology has encouraged many to think again about counter violence and the idea of cataclysmic political transformations through armed struggle. Finally, the initial emphasis on social theory as opposed to spirituality led some to a view challenging ( or at best underestimating) the idea of Christ's divinity. ...read more.


Think how the issues of abortion and stem cell research are being used as the vote-determining factors for many Americans in the current presidential elections. Consider how Labour MP's feared a Muslim backlash in seats such as Bradford over the war in Iraq. These examples show that society is now more than ever ready to use voting to alter policy in order to help the economically, socially or politically oppressed. We should not expect nor demand whole scale revolution but we should use our enfranchisement to make a difference- a new style of praxis that can be entered into without fear of Marxism, entryism violence or the threat to our established way life. Conclusion The church must be the driving force to revitalise people in their work for social justice. It must use its position and authority to coax the clergy and laity into positive action ranging from voting to hands on work with the oppressed and needy. It must not expect the oppressed to change their lot in isolation but should encourage us to use our privileged position to put pressure on other countries and ideologies to address their needs. In an perverse way, the very capitalist power the first world wields, could be used to enforce a preferential treatment and whilst this smacks off social imperialism, the church should not shy away from acting as a moral guide for its followers. In this way Vatican II could revitalise the church to work for both social justice and spiritual salvation. ...read more.

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