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Posted October 20, 2003

Booklet: Dealing with Diversity and Disagreement: Vatican II and Beyond
Author: Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak
Catholic Common Ground Initiative, NY, pp. 29

Excerpt from Foreword:

Fr. Joseph A. Komonchak has earned the distinction of being the foremost interpreter of the Second Vatican Council in the English-speaking world. In this lecture, his intimate knowledge of the history, persons, and developments at the council inform his analysis of the conflicts and disagreements evident in the debates. Rejecting the notion of simple polarities, he describes what was at stake for the participants and how that varied from issue to issue.

Fr. Komonchak describes differences of opinion about tactics, disagreements over the kind of documents that should be written, and wide range of opinion within the "conservative" and "progressive" camps. Finally, Fr. Komonchak suggests that the council "provides a model for the kinds of conversations that would enable us to deal non-coercively with our own diversity and our disagreements."

In his appreciative and original response, Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk contends that "reality is essentially binary," and so influences the optimist/pessimist polarity which often colors responses to pastoral issues. Within that analysis, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative is both pessimistic in that it is concerned about divisions in the church, and optimistic that "bringing people together for humane conversation contributes to the well-being of the church."

These churchmen describe in their talks and model in their lives the civil and informed conversation that is the heart and goal of the Initiative. On behalf of the committee and all who were present at the Fifth Annual Lecture, I am very grateful to both speaker and respondent for their considerable contributions. Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb, Chair

Excerpt from Text:

Between his announcement of the council and its opening on October 11, 1962, Pope john had set out three main goals for it: the spiritual renewal of the church (its growth in faith and holiness), aggiornamento (appropriate adaption of church discipline to the needs and conditions of our times"); and the furtherance of Christian unity.

. . . In his opening speech, Pope John XXIII himself pointed out some contrasting ideas about the purposes of the council. He said that he disagreed with people he called "prophets of doom," who see nothing by prevarication and ruin in the world today and are unwilling to admit that God might be opening a new age for the church; he wanted a positive presentation of the truth rather than a series of condemnations ("17 centimeters of condemnations," the pope was said to have measured in one document); he did not want a simple repetition of familiar truths but a faithful representation of the ancient faith in a manner intelligible and attractive to contemporaries — the substance of the faith was one thing, he said, and the way in which it is expressed is another; in short, he wanted the council to be pastoral rather than dogmatic. To anyone familiar with the official texts prepared for discussion, it seems obvious that Pope John was inviting the bishops, if they agreed, to set a different agenda and to follow a different method than the ones that had guided the preparation. The pope’s speech itself, then, already outlined the elements of a possible confrontation.