In recent months laymen have repeatedly been invited to voice their views and aspirations on the Ecumenical Council. Thus Francis Cardinal Koenig of Vienna, a member of the Central Preparatory Commission for the Council, said: “Do not wait for the Bishop or for a report from Rome, if you have something to say about the Council…. Urge, when you feel urging is necessary.”
In keeping with these invitations, The Commonweal is publishing a special series devoted to the layman’s hopes and desires in connection with the Council. Joseph E. Cunneen, author of this third article in the series, is managing editor of “Cross Currents.” —The Editors
By Joseph E. Cunneen
Let me strike a sour note at the outset, and suggest that the invitation for laymen to speak out on the coming Council first be considered in the dominant context of Catholic indifference and skepticism. It is true, of course, that in the last few years alumnae groups who wanted to be au courant have scheduled at least one speaker who could flavor his talk with words like “ecumenical” and “dialogue,” but any idea that the Council requires an involvement and commitment of the entire Church could hardly make much headway against our perennial absorption in building drives and rhetorical anti-Communism. To all outward appearances, the parish clergy and church-going laity possess a united response: the Council is a good idea, but no concern of ours.
And as for consulting laymen, what possibly can Cardinal Koenig, who voiced the explicit invitation, mean? Doubtless there are available amiable eccentrics who specialize in Byzantine liturgies or the history of canon law, but what response outside of downright hilarity would greet any wide-eyed “Catholic Actionist” who told the local Holy Name Society—to say nothing of that more representative group, the men who do not attend the meetings—that their views on the coming Council were being solicited? “I can’t get through to my pastor,” one might say, “on why I object to using envelopes in the collection, or why I want to keep my family together, and not ship the kids off to a separate children’s Mass; how can I have anything to say to theologians and cardinals?” Continue reading