In Dr. Massimo Faggioli’s lecture, he described the recent history of the Catholic Church and the issues that it has faced. He addressed the issue of how Catholics perceive their position and function in relation to the state and politics in general. This was a global issue, though Dr. Faggioli spoke a good amount specifically on American Catholics and their perceptions. One specific challenge that the Catholic Church faced historically was the authority of the Emperor compared to the authority of the Pope. Through this, the Church developed the idea of a world with distinct separation between church and state. On top of this, at the time, both the Pope and Emperor had religious and political power.
The most dramatic event in the history of the western hemisphere was the period of time including WWI and WWII, according to Dr. Faggioli. The ten year period after this became a moment of reflection for the Catholic Church, with Pope Pius reading his Christmas message and suggesting that democracy may not be the worst thing in the world. The Second Vatican Council was the most important gathering of the Catholic Church in the last five centuries, according to Dr. Faggioli. This was a four year discussion which redefined the understanding of doctrine in the modern world. This led to a development in the political culture of the Catholic Church, acceptance of democracy, and various other changes.
One important document that was created as a result was the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. This stated that the Church was autonomous and independent from any politics or political authorities. This was specifically tough for some American Catholics, and reiterated the idea of separation between church and state. Another document resulting from Vatican II was the Declaration on Religious Freedom which acknowledged the new understanding of political authority in the Catholic Church. Further, it states that it is an individual right of humans to have religious freedom regardless of their religion. Prior to Vatican II, the interest of the Church was to guarantee the rights of Catholics. The Second Vatican Council rejected that freedom of the Church was more important than freedom of the individual.
Many American Catholics rejected Vatican II as destroying ‘real’ Catholicism, saying that the twentieth century had been a lost century for Catholicism. . This was dangerous since it basically meant that they rejected the developments of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council, and any lessons learned from this time period.