The four years of the Second Vatican Council represent a turning point in Catholic ecclesiology. It was a period of deep and rapid change. With the benefit of hindsight, one may say that it was too deep and too rapid for the majority of those affected. For many Catholics the period was a culture-shock. Here are 7 features of the change.
- The Church no longer appeared as a pyramid (Pope at the top, laity spread out at the bottom). The ministry of authority in the People of God was to be characterised by collegiality, subsidiarity, and pluralism.
- The Laity were empowered to take a much fuller role in the life of the Church – no longer by virtue of permission from the hierarchy, but by virtue of their own baptism.
- The two-tier Church (clergy and laity) ceased to be relevant.
- The place of women in the Church radically altered with the declaration of sexual equality (32) and the enhanced role of the laity.
- The role of Law was modified by the assertion of the priority of the Gospel.
- Unity and Uniformity were no longer regarded as being the same thing. There was a move towards rediscovering the ideal of the early Church: “In essentials – unity; in non-essentials – diversity; in all things – charity”.
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