I pulled out my resume the other day. It's an old one, from two jobs and several years ago- I guess I only made one updated copy when I interviewed for this job, and my pastor kept it. But what caught my eye on this copy on my desk is the subtitle under my name and contact info: it says "A creative, experienced minister to youth and their families, in the traditions of 'Renewing the Vision' and the Vatican II Church."
I used to see that kind of statement on job announcements and bulletins: "St. Whatever: a Vatican II Parish." I don't see that anymore, anywhere. Depending on your own stance, that could be a good thing- of course, we're all supposed to be Vatican II churches, right? It's the current council, it stands. Maybe it doesn't have to be stated anymore. But I think the fact that no one brags of their Vatican 2-ness is a sign of something else, of the discouragement we've all gotten from thinking of our parishes as places of growth and progress, the hope and openness that were associated with The Council.
The current buzzword is "The New Evangelization" and it is starting to nag at me- it sounds like a development, an improvement on the old. On the surface, it sounds like something we should all be behind; not only does TNE encourage us to share the Good News with those who've never heard it before, but also to make efforts to reach out to those who have walked away.
Sounds good, right? But I'm starting to see this term adopted by the more conservative end of the Catholic spectrum, and the undertone is that of correction. In this context, TNE is about bringing people back in order, correcting their theological or spiritual errors, and getting everyone in line again, like it was in the 1950's.
I swear, I swear I'm not against conservative Catholicism. (I am one of those spectrum-thinkers, comfortable seeing everything in terms of where it falls on a pendulum. I tend to think the middle is the best place, but I also can weather the outer edges because I know that drastic left-ness, like drastic right-ness, never lasts.) But I think there's something dangerous lurking here. It seems it's not enough to reach out to those wanderers with love and hospitality- if they're going to come back, they'd better come back right. It seems that obedience is the goal and cure, not conversion.
I understand the nostalgia for that time in the Church. It looks great in the old movies, and I suppose it was if you were male, white, and cool with praying in a foreign language. It's said that in the wonderful 1950's people behaved how the Church told them to, believed the way the Church taught- they paid, prayed, obeyed. But I know so many "pre-Vatican II" Catholics who still agonize about the things they were taught, 50 years later. A near-saintly elderly parishioner here asked, at a recent meeting, "but what about those people who ate meat by mistake on Friday, and then were hit by a car before they could go to Confession???" She asked sincerely and with concern, genuinely worried about the fate of these people who did not know the merciful God like we do now. You'd be hard-pressed to find a "Vatican II Catholic" who stays up nights worrying about such things.
I suppose that many people would say that this is where the Church went wrong, lost its grip on people- when they started talking about mercy and other lovey-dovey stuff like that. I wasn't alive in the 1950's, so I can't say which is better or worse, but I do know that I'm still proud to call myself a "Vatican II Catholic."