Roman Catholicism has, at best, had an uneasy time of it in the 20th century. With a worldwide membership and a seat of governance in Rome, the influence of unrest and the World Wars had a profound influence. The Vatican II reforms sparked considerable controversy. Gonzalez gives us a brief summary of the developments of this world-wide church body.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 2. New York: HarperCollins, 2010b. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 34, “Roman Catholic Christianity” Loc. 6876-7132.
In this chapter Gonzalez considers the developments in Catholicism since approximately World War II, noting tension between those who wished to continue in the defensiveness of the Council of Trent and those who wished more openness to the challenges in the modern world (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6889). Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) showed more communication with the modern political and economic world than many (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6896). He called for a council in which he would seek advice from the other bishops (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6904). Pope John welcomed a broad spectrum of bishops to the Second Vatican Council, assembled in 1962 (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6919). There were numerous changes to the liturgy approved by the end of the council, which was concluded by the next pope, Paul VI (1963-1978) (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6933). While the pope did continue to assert his primacy in general there was more openness to local differences and non-centralized decision making (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6962). Paul VI continued to resist rapid change within the Church, yet was unable to prevent schismatic action between conservative and progressive factions (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6984).
After Paul VI died in 1979 he was followed very briefly by John Paul I then John Paul II, from Poland (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6902). John Paul II saw the fall of the Soviet Union and massive changes in the relationship between church and state (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6999). John Paul II sought reconciliation among different branches of Christianity. He also dealt with the beginning of a sexual abuse scandal (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6999). The requests for women’s ordination also became prominent during his tenure (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7006). In all this, John Paul II held a conservative position.
John Paul II was succeeded in 2005 by Benedict XVI, a German cardinal (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7014). Benedict XVI was a staunch conservative but was open to other positions in some matters, at least on a limited basis.
During this time period, the scientific interpretation of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who sought to view scientific progress through a theological lens, was significant (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7029). Attempts to explain the world as evolutionary in nature but culminating in Christ were popular. Other scholars, such as Henri de Lubac and Jean Danielou sought scholarly responses to early Christian writings (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7065). Karl Rahner wrote theology extensively, trying to harmonize tradition and modernity (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7098). This harmonization, as opposed to an articulation of just a churchly view, was a departure from hundreds of years of thought (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7098).
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