St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus presents us with the world’s most dramatic reversal of religious beliefs. Making his way along the road, Saul was suddenly switched from being a persecutor of Christians to being their champion.
Such changes usually come slowly. I have seen this over the last five years. I have observed slow changes on a personal level and on a world-wide one. First, I wrote a 550 page book on my ups and downs as a Catholic over eighty years. With that published, I have been writing a church history I call my “take” on Christianity.
In my 550 page biography I saw how in my major seminary years I had taken Rome’s rulings as my god. However, as a missionary in Korea I began looking for relief from Rome’s certainties. When Vatican II came along I was soured by the nuts it spawned. Then, in the seventies, Vatican II’s fine scholars made me a Vatican II man for life.
So far in my 225 page “take” on Christianity I have felt shame for the way we were wedded to the nobility for centuries. The French Revolution was horrible, but at least it spoke up for common people. I am looking forward to writing about Vatican II documents that emphasize the dignity of all persons created in God’s image.
As the Curia’s delegate in Bulgaria, Turkey and France Archbishop Giuseppe Roncalli dutifully repeated the party line. Then, when he was elected as pope, he took it as a call from God to take the muzzle off two neglected elements of Christianity.
One element comes from Our Lord’s saying we must read the signs of the times. That need was encapsulated in the pope’s Italian word Aggiornamento.
The second essential Christian element is a demand for adhering to what was laid down by the Apostles. That is encapsulated in the French word Ressourcement.
That Italian and French word reverberated through the four years of Vatican II sessions. But now the Curia isn’t speaking of them. They say what makes for true Christians is obedience to authority.