“A Catholicism under pressure”: rereading the Council in the light of today’s questions

A Catholicism under pressure

by Brigitte Cholvy and Luc Forestier

Salvator, 192 pages, €18

What is the common point between gender issues, violence of religious origin, the return of certain imperialisms, the impact of digital technology in our lives, the Synod on the future of the Church or even the urgency of ecological issue? For Brigitte Cholvy, professor emeritus of fundamental theology at the Catholic Institute of Paris, and Luc Forestier, professor of ecclesiology and specialist in the theology of ministries, these are all questions that “Catholicism under pressure”. Launching an urgent invitation to the Church to resume theological reflection afresh where the “signs of the times” to use a well-known expression of the Second Vatican Council, come to shake it up sometimes harshly.

“Catholicity” and “universality” of the Church

With gender issues, it is the traditional Catholic vision of masculine and feminine and the way of thinking about relations between men and women that is undermined. To reflect on this, is the notion of “complementarity” relevant? How to take the differences without prioritizing them? The violence of religions, when they claim to be universal and exclusive, forces us to think about fraternity and the conditions for authentic dialogue. But is dialogue compatible with the proclamation of the Gospel?

The return of imperialism questions the Church on its “catholicity” and his “universality”. How to articulate local Churches and Roman primacy, effort of inculturation and appeal to the universal? The digital explosion questions the Church’s relationship to technology, the virtual and the real and, in counterpoint, calls for reflection on the ” Presence “. Synodality invites us to rediscover the “apostolic structure of ministries”, rather than continuing to confuse priesthood and priesthood. Finally, the ecological emergency poses the question of salvation for all of Creation.

Critical review

Surprisingly, to address these burning topical subjects, the authors turned to the texts of Vatican II, sixty years after the end of the Council, making ” a bet “ quite daring: “It is unimaginable that the Council has nothing more to say to us, because of the authority that we recognize in it and the posture of broad conversation with our societies to which it still continues to invite us. » Starting, therefore, from their “six contemporary questions”, the authors went to question not only the texts of the Council, but also the event itself and the sixty-year history of its reception. Choosing such “reverse method”they pointed to resources hitherto little identified, in particular “a singular recourse by Vatican II to the Bible”. A work that confirmed their “Convinced of the topicality of the Second Vatican Council, on condition of not being afraid to question it”.

This critical re-reading of the Council does not refrain from pointing out some limits in the conciliar texts, which sometimes struggle to articulate certain notions, such as the sacerdotal and apostolic character of ordained ministries. It also shows how certain advances of the Council, such as the ecclesial understanding of the notion of charism, or even the need for interreligious dialogue, have been little or badly received.

Dialogue with the world

“Deliberately limited in its scope”, this book calls, like the texts of the Council themselves still today, “debates and extensions”. Each of the questions addressed could indeed have been the subject of a book in its own right, as they are difficult and complex. But the interest of this work lies precisely in the diversity that it presents of the questions posed to the Church by the Western world. Written in two voices, it also has the advantage of crossing two theological specialties, anthropology and ecclesiology, to show the capacity of the Church to enter into real dialogue with the world. Because it is “through human stories that God speaks and reveals himself to those who are willing to open their eyes and ears”.

“A Catholicism under pressure”: rereading the Council in the light of today’s questions