(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)
A retrospective on Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” ought to place the primacy on the Church as end, and particularly on holiness.
November 21, 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Vatican II’s central document, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. If the articles that this occasions reflect a strain of theological commentary on this text that narrowly focused on the issue of collegiality of bishops, then one can expect a chorus of writers to lament the fact that Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI resisted accepting and implementing what the Council taught about the relationship of pope and bishops.
The importance of Chapter Three of Lumen gentium, where this subject is treated, is incontestable. At the time of the Council, everyone was aware of the need to provide a complement to the teaching of Vatican I on papal primacy and infallibility. Cut short by political and military disruptions of the time, that Council’s full agenda was left unfinished. Nevertheless, Vatican II recognized that apostolic authority is a divinely instituted means, not an end in itself. It is totally at the service of the Church’s unity, holiness, and catholicity. Since the value of a means derives from the end to which it is ordered, a fifty-year retrospective on Lumen gentium ought to place the primacy on the Church as end, and particularly on holiness, as the best way to be faithful to the authentic spirit of Vatican II