PRV2: Conclusions

This is the final post is our series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

Vatican City - 1Having examined Protestant reactions to the Roman Catholic conceptions of Divine Revelation and the Church, Non-Catholic Churches, the Priesthood, the Liturgy, and Religious Freedom, what may we conclude? As noted before, the initial reactions of many Protestants to the Second Vatican Councils seemed to be generally positive in nature. As we have seen however, critical Protestant reactions to Vatican II are more nuanced. Some reactions are positive, such as that of Marty, who concludes that “for the most part, Vatican II appropriately addressed the anguishing circumstances of its time.”[1] Others are more caution, such as Patterson, who reacts with both joy and concern, especially regarding ubiquitous language about the primacy and infallibility of Rome.[2] Other reactions are more negative, such as those of Sproul and Duncan. The former writes that since Vatican II must be interpreted through Trent, there remain fundamental and dangerous misunderstandings of the council and the acceptability of its teachings for Protestants.[3] While noting that many Protestants view Vatican II positively, Duncan similarly notes that while there may be new levels of understanding between Protestants and Catholics, there are significant barriers to true unity and understanding.[4] Continue reading

PRV2: Other Issues

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

VT@While we cannot consider every facet of the Second Vatican Council that Protestant scholars have engaged, there are three remaining issues worthy of briefly considering here: reactions to Vatican II’s position on the Priesthood, the Liturgy, and Religious Freedom. It is important to note with Martin Marty that during Vatican II very little was actually said concerning contemporary concerns such as female ordination and clerical celibacy, and thus many Protestant and Catholic differences on these issues are not directly the result of Vatican II.[1] The council did weigh in on several matters pertaining to priests however. In the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, the council affirmed that celibacy was to be “embraced and esteemed as a gift” among priests. Additionally, priests were called to avoid greediness, to develop their spiritual lives, to engage the sacred scriptures and Church Fathers, to remain aware of current events, and to take vacation every year.[2] Such praxis-oriented concerns, combined with calls for lay participation in the ministry of the church, suggest a commitment to collegiality of all levels of church hierarchy.[3] This collegial view of the church includes the leveling of authority within the official hierarchy, though maintaining the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, including the restoration of the historical office of deacon.[4] However, significant differences continue to exist between Protestant conceptions of the priesthood of all believers and the Roman conception of a celibate clergy. Continue reading

PRV2: Protestant-Catholic Dialogue

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

VaticanAnother facet of the Second Vatican Council that has garnered a variety of responses from Protestant Christians involves those documents discussing the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian Churches. While not universally affirmed, the general perspective of Protestant scholars on this issue has affirmed the position taken by Vatican II. Clearly the council gave special attention to Eastern Orthodox churches, which until Vatican II were summarily ignored or feuded with by Rome, as in Orientalium Ecclesiarum the Eastern Church was acknowledged to have an antiquity, continuity, and ecclesial validity rivaling Rome itself.[1] Regarding Protestant-Catholic relations, Lindbeck argues that, despite of reports concerning numerous unintended consequences of Vatican II, the renewal of Protestant-Catholic relations remains very much an intended consequence of the council.[2] Indeed, he argues that the placement of Marian dogma within the constitution on the Church was an important step along the road of ecumenical Protestant engagement and an important step away from pre-Vatican II Marian maximalism.[3] Continue reading