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What is a \"Vatican II parish\"?

 |  NCR Today

As a freelance writer, I compose my columns for NCR, first in my head and then on the computer screen, in solitude. Then I email them off to the editors and wait to see them in print or online. So it's always interesting to see what touches people--or hits a nerve.

In my most recent piece, "In religious education, actions speak louder than words," I wrote about the importance of parents teaching the faith through example.

Not a whole lot to debate about there. But it seems one small phrase in the column prompted a number of comments. After remembering how our family made a monthly trek to a soup kitchen, I noted that the lessons learned there were reinforced at our "Vatican II parish."

"A "Vatican II" parish?" asked one commenter. "As opposed the other, Vatican I parishes? Are you claiming some special insight into doctrine or ethics or theology that other Catholics don't have?"

Another reader noted that the parents who brought me to the soup kitchen had been raised in a pre-Vatican II church. "Were they not [taught] the bad old ways? And they turned out pretty good, I think," said the commenter. "The church did not start with Vatican II..."

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Another person came to my defense, saying the commenters were reading too much into that phrase. "I believe all that it means is that it was a parish that tried to implement and live out the directives and renewal of Vatican II fully and with enthusiasm, rather then being a parishes that were more timid in embracing Vatican II."

Yes, that's what I meant. No, I'm not claiming any special insight that other Catholics don't have. And yes, my parents who brought me to the soup kitchen were raised in a pre-Vatican II church--although both have shared with me that their faith was invigorated and transformed by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

It's true that the phrase "Vatican II" (as in "Vatican II priests" or "Vatican II parishes) has become Catholic shorthand for "more progressive or liberal," as opposed to "more traditional or conservative." How sad that even a mention of such an historic moment in our church has become divisive.

I was born during the Second Vatican Council, and the parish I grew up in embraced its reforms wholeheartedly. Critics would say it even went beyond what the council called for in some instances. But it did an excellent job of teaching and modeling the Gospel to me, and I tend to think it inspired me in a way that much of the church before Vatican II would not have. Still, the reforms of Vatican II were just that: a reforming and reclaiming of parts of our tradition that had been lost. In the years since, there has also been some tweaking of the reforms, as there should be.

I proudly claim the label "Vatican II" Catholic.

What is a "Vatican II parish" or "Vatican II Catholic" to you? Should this phrase be retired? Is it too divisive?

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