Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum Secundum (The Vatican Council II) The Second Vatican Council was formally opened by Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed under Pope Paul VI on 8 December 1965. Its aim was “...to throw open the windows of the Catholic Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.” – Pope John XXIII. T The main topics discussed were the Church itself, ecumenism and other religions, relation to the modern world and the liturgy of mass. The Catholic Church recognised the increasing rift between people and their relationship with God and the Church, and created four constitutions which addressed the issue. Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation), Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). These documents are responses to the external issues and internal issues that impacted the Church, and are further discussed later.
The 1960’s was a huge counter-cultural movement which challenged the traditional codes of behaviour linked to sexuality and interpersonal relationships. With the sexual revolution brought the normalisation of pre-marital sex, the contraception and the pill, homosexuality and later; the legalisation of abortion. There was a rapid evolution of a youth subculture which encouraged experimentation and change, and religious values were disregarded and replaced with hedonistic attitudes. This impacted the Church because the one of the fundamental teachings of the Church is that sexual intercourse is only to express married love and for the procreation of children. The Church opposed abortion and contraception as it goes against their teachings and this caused an uproar from the feminists. Their argument was that they should have “free choice because it’s my body”. The Church until this time was also a male dominant body, and women began to fight for the right to become a priest and for female altar servers. The advancement of technology also impacted the Church as prior to TV and travelling technology, society had a narrow view of the world, and mainly stuck to their own local community. The Church had played a huge role in their life because of this. But when TV became more popular, people began to spend more time watching TV and learning about things more relevant to their lives, and it became another “voice” they listened to. With the rise of technology, the “voice” of the Church became less significant. These were the major social changes which impacted the Church and some changes were made to counter the issues.
During this time the Church was also facing internal issues as well as being confronted with social changes. Mass attendance was falling due to a lot of social changes. This included the sexual revolution, the role of women in society and decreased respect for the church as an authority figure. “The sexual revolution was a development in the modern world which saw the significant loss of power by the values of a morality rooted in the Christian tradition and the rise of permissive societies of attitudes that were accepting of greater sexual freedom and experimentation that spread all over the world.” (Extract from Wikipedia). Falling mass attendance may also have been due to people not being able to understand the mass, as it was in Latin or maybe feeling that the Church was too hierarchal in the way that the laity weren’t allowed to contribute during mass. Another issue was that religious numbers were also falling as many of the religious and priests had left Europe on missions. There was also tension between Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church, as the Church’s main goal was to convert as many people to Catholicism as possible. The role and structure of the Church was also under speculation as many thought the Church needed an “update” to society, and others believed that the old traditions should...
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