The Catholic University of America

Oct. 5, 2012

Symposium Marks Vatican II Anniversary

  McPartlan Vatican II

Monsignor Paul McPartlan, Carl J. Peter Professor of Systematic Theology and Ecumenism, Catholic University, speaks on “The Primacy of Charity: Vatican II and Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue.”

How well was the teaching of the Second Vatican Council implemented over the last 50 years? How can its accomplishments be applied to the Church today?

These questions, and more, were the focus of “Reform and Renewal: Vatican II after 50 years,” marking the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

About 400 participants from around the United States attended to hear reflections on the teachings of the council documents at the four-day symposium at Catholic University, Sept. 26 to 29.

Catholic University’s School of Theology and Religious Studies hosted the event. Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the school, said the symposium sought to assess how the Church in the 21st century can and should respond to the demands of the Gospel and needs of the world in light of Vatican II teaching.

“One thing I’d like to note was the combination of laity, priests, students and faculty; this beautiful group of people gathered for these four days to reflect on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and to look at the issue of reform and renewal,” said Father Morozowich.

“One of the key aspects that came out at the conference was the question of how we understand ourselves as Church, as the body of Christ, and how this body of Christ renews itself.”

  O'Malley Vatican II
  Rev. John O’Malley, S.J., a council historian and professor, Department of Theology, Georgetown University, discusses “Hermeneutic of Reform: From Gregory VII to Benedict XVI.”

The strong thread that developed throughout was “looking at the theological understanding, and that this Church is not a simple cultural institution, but it is really a grouping of those members of the body of Christ on earth that includes the heavenly Church as we worship God,” he said.

“When we think about the renewal, when we think of the liturgy, we are always reminded of how we are called to God and the different ways that we as members of this Church respond, and bring alive this work of Jesus Christ.”

Cardinal William Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former Catholic University trustee, presented the opening keynote address.

“As this symposium looks back to the ‘great grace’ that was the Second Vatican Council, may it also serve to help us look forward to the ‘Year of Faith’ designed to honor the Council and the Catechism,” he said. Oct. 11, 2012, is the anniversary of the council, and it is also the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well the opening of the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Other keynote speakers included Rev. John O’Malley, S.J., a council historian and professor, Department of Theology, Georgetown University, on “Hermeneutic of Reform: From Gregory VII to Benedict XVI,” and Monsignor Paul McPartlan, Carl J. Peter Professor of Systematic Theology and Ecumenism, Catholic University, who spoke on “The Primacy of Charity: Vatican II and Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue.”

Father O’Malley spoke about the meaning of reform, mentioning reform movements like the Franciscan movement, and detailing what reform has meant throughout the history of the Church, as well as discussing the various Vatican councils, in particular the Council of Trent, and shifts in understanding.

The talk was followed by a lively question and answer period. In response to a symposium participant’s question about certain Church practices — such as Catholics once prohibited from entering a Protestant Church — that are no longer followed, he said “change is part of history.” The Church in the modern world looks to partnering with faiths, not distancing from them, he noted.

Monsignor McPartlan’s talk focused on four main sections — the primacy of charity, by highlighting the supreme importance of it; the council’s focus on the Father’s own great gift of love to all in the Holy Spirit, namely his incarnate Son; the council’s embrace of a Eucharistic approach to the Church and its value for Catholic-Orthodox relations; and Catholic Orthodox dialogue, focusing mainly on the question of primacy and the position of the pope as seen how, in the light of the council, the pope’s office may be envisaged as a primacy of charity, serving a Eucharistic Church.

Other symposium speakers included Rev. Melvin Blanchette, S.S., former rector of Catholic University’s Theological College, on “Priestly Formation: Fifty Years After Vatican II,” and faculty of the theology and religious studies school including John Grabowski on “Gaudium et Spes: Ressourcement, Experience, and the Human Person”; Monsignor Kevin W. Irwin on “Liturgical Reform and Church Renewal — What We Have Done, What We Have Failed To Do”; and Rev. Nicholas Lombardo, O.P., on “Religious Freedom: The Place of Dignitatis Humane in Catholic Social Teaching, Historically Contextualized.”

Additional speakers included Hellen Mardaga on “Dei Verbum and Biblical Studies after Vatican II”; William Mattison III on “Vatican II and the Renewal of Moral Theology, A Sputtering Start”; Father Morozowich on “Orientalium Ecclesiasrum: An Analysis of the Liturgical and Theological Developments”; Chad Pecknold on “Pope Benedict’s Hermeneutic of Continuity: Some Very Theological Reflections on Theological Methods;” Michael Root on “Unitatis Redintegratio: The Interweaving of Continuity and Discontinuity”; and Christopher Ruddy on “‘In My End Is My Beginning’: Lumen Gentium Fifty Years Later.”

Also speaking at the event were Rev. Raymond Studzinski, O.S.B., on “Looking to the Future of Religious Life: Perfectae Cartitatis and the Church Today”; Wilhelmus Valkenberg on “The Church and the Religions: Do We Really Understand?”; and Rev. Michael Witczak on “The Apostolate of the Laity: Reform and Renewal since Vatican II in Liturgical Perspective.”

For a transcript of Cardinal Levada’s address see and more information on the speakers, see


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