For five years now I have been posting one of my little homilies every day, and at times people have e-mailed to say that they have either agreed or disagreed with what I wrote. Those who agree have made constructive comments, bringing us into a long-range relationship. Those who disagree are people who feel that Vatican II was bad for the Church, and they see me as being a product of that Council. Pardon me for using this space today to say a few words in praise of Vatican II.
Cardinal Giovanni Roncalli had spent twenty-five years as the voice of the Vatican in far off countries. In his private journal for that quarter of a century he was always bemoaning the fact that Rome would never listen to what God was saying in the hearts of people around the globe. His Roman Catholic Church seemed to be ninety percent Roman, and only ten percent Catholic. Still, he thought it to be his duty to repeat what the Roman Curia told him to say, keeping his own thoughts to himself. When his quiet ways got him elected pope, his sense of duty went into reverse. He felt that God was obliging him to hand the mike over to holy souls from everywhere.
Twenty-five hundred bishops from every country were given seats inside of St. Peters. They met there for three months in 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965. It was the biggest meeting the world has ever known. At first, with bishops expressing a wild scattering of opinions, it was confusion. But with good hearts they learned to listen to each other, and together they brought the Church into something like what it would be if Christ were in its midst.
As a boy trained in a very traditional seminary, I found the changes hard to take. We had class lectures and exams in Latin, and we were bound by laws of silence twenty-one hours a day. By and by though, I have come to see Vatican II as the finest thing to hit the Church since the time of Christ.