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Robert McAfee Brown

Glimpses of What Life is Meant To Be

Robert McAfee Brown at  Vatican II


The Unfinished Agenda of Vatican II, Crisis and Christianity, September 20, 1965

When preparations were being made for the Second Vatican Council, all were warned not to raise their expectations too high. No one knew what the Council would do-the last had promulgated the dogma of papal infallibility-and some even felt that the bishops would assemble in Rome III October, rubber-stamp the Curia's proposals and be home by Christmas, their work completed.

As it turned out the bishops were far from willing to be rubber-stamps for anyone, and the Council's sessions have been marked by an extraordinary degree of free debate, open discussion and the sharp clash of opinions. At the same time an overly optimistic outlook has been tempered by the realization that a small but powerful group does not desire acts of aggiornamenta (updating), and the closing days of the second and third sessions offered disturbing evidence that this minority was still able to impose its will upon the majority.

The unhappy denouement of these sessions could be justified by the fact that there would be other sessions in which to recoup the losses. This fall, however, the Council fathers meet for their final session; what is not realized now will not be realized. When one considers that the first three sessions produced only four completed items of business, and that the fall agenda includes 11 items to be acted upon, it is clear that the fathers have their work cut out for them this year.

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