Catholic Scholars Show How Church Dynamics At Vatican II Explain Present Challenges In Catholic Life/Philanthropic Leaders Urged to Reflect Deeply on Their “Intermediary” Role

Washington D.C. – An energetic discussion between top U.S. experts on the Second Vatican Council and Catholic philanthropists, sheds light on today’s differing outlooks between advocates and opponents of change in the church.

The conference’s sixty-page edited proceedings entitled: The Spirit of Renewal: Vatican II and the Future of Catholic Philanthropy were released today by FADICA. The conference itself took place in early February 2012.

John Carroll University Professor Edward Hahnenberg delivered the keynote address of the event held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

Dr. Hahnenberg told foundations and donor participants that three major tensions at work throughout the Council explain much of internal strife experienced by Catholics a half a century later.

He described the three tensions as centralization vs. decentralization of the church, especially in its day-to-day governance; a stance by the church of proclaiming Christian truths vs. a more conversational posture of dialogue with the world; and thirdly, attaching greater weight to continuity with the past over the need to embrace change.

Dr. Massimo Faggioli of St. Thomas University and author of the newly published book, Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning, a panel respondent, said that the word “dialogue” in Catholicism now is not very frequently used. “That’s a fact,” he asserted insistently before the audience of some seventy foundation trustees and individual donors.

The conference, held in conjunction with FADICA’s thirty-sixth annual meeting, was intended to help Catholic philanthropists evaluate their own role in fueling church-wide understanding of the Council’s achievements and vision through their grantmaking.

Taking the position that the Council did not go far enough in discussing the role of lay people within the church, Duquesne University’s Dr. Nicolas Carfardi told FADICA that laity today lack a participative voice in the face of a vast array of current challenges, from parish closings to diminishing vocations.

“Despite the grand vision of the Council,” said Dr. Cafardi, “a third of the baptized [in the U.S.] have left the church.”

“I pray that the laity will find a way to allow the next generation to feel so much a part of our church that the world will not be able to pull them away from us,” the retired law school dean asserted.

“As philanthropists,” said Conference panelist and Notre Dame Professor Cathleen Kaveny, “you are a vehicle for hope in the church by pointing today to something valuable for the people of God and then working towards it through the means of your church- related philanthropy.”

Speaking on the vision of the Council and subsequent difficulties in implementing change within the church and the role of donors in addressing church needs, Dr. Francis J. Butler, the organization’s retiring president, told conferees:

“Many times it would have been tempting to lose heart but we went to work in constructive, practical ways to tackle the problems at hand and often quietly advanced much needed change.”

“Certainly,” Dr. Butler concluded, “the Council’s vision is still at work. We have come to a better appreciation of how it is that the Spirit moves and acts through each single member of the church for the sake of the whole.”