In the Gospel Jesus asked how it could happen that men who were shrewd about knowing what way the weather was going, could not, “know how to interpret the present time?”
When Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago he was sharing that concern of Our Lord. His one word motto for the council was Aggiornamento which was Italian for bringing things up-to-date. He was against the Church sticking to what she had said in the past after it had been proved that what she had been saying was wrong.
Let me give an example of our sticking to mistakes. From the time of Nero, Christians had believed that Moses, back in 1250 B.C. wrote the first five books of the Bible in Hebrew. However, in recent times science has clearly shown that it wasn’t until a century after Moses that a copper mine foreman in the Sinai Peninsula used cut-down hieroglyphics to form the very first Hebrew alphabet.
But, rather than change what she had always said, up until 1950 Rome forced our Scripture teachers to go on teaching that Moses wrote those books in Hebrew. One cynical old professor told me, “You have to say that Moses wrote those books, but it is alright for you to say that five other guys named Moses wrote them.”
The most conservative of our popes ruled from was 1830 to 1846. Gregory XVI would not allow trains to run through the Papal States, nor would he allow gas streetlights. That reluctance followed on his having been raised to believe that God put people of noble blood here to rule over us. He was thirty-four in the year 1893-1894 when French commoners guillotined sixteen thousand nobles. Every day through his remaining fifty-three yeas his imagination was haunted by those awful murders.