ST. LEO, Fla. — Theologian Richard Gaillardetz told U.S. priests that if they truly expect to carry on the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, they should understand a “new configuration of an ancient vision.”
Gaillardetz, who teaches theology at Boston College and is president-elect of the Catholic Theological Society of America, addressed more than 200 priests gathered at St. Leo University June 11-14 for the inaugural assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests.
His keynote June 13 was on the assembly theme of “Vatican II Lives: Keeping Alive the Vision and Passion of the Council.”
“We need to emphasize a theological reading of the council,” he said, citing one of the council’s principal documents, “Dei Verbum,” the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.
Approved by the council Nov. 18, 1965, the document dealt with revelation and its transmission, with the inspiration and interpretation of sacred Scripture “and with its fundamental importance in the life of the church.”
“The beginning is our receiving God’s revelation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Gaillardetz said. “Revelation in its primary mode is about God inviting us into relationship,” spoken by the bishops for the whole church to receive not passively, “but actively, to hear the word, to penetrate its meaning, and to actively appropriate it and apply it in their lives.”
He cited several historical developments he said Vatican II sought to reform regarding clerical authority, including an “epistemology of illumination” or “trickle-down theology,” in which the hierarchy passively receives revelation from above, he explained, “and all we do is receive it.”
Gaillardetz said Vatican II did not promote the epistemology of illumination, “but a word spoken to the whole church, received by the whole church, penetrated by the whole church, implemented by the whole church.”
He explained that revealed truth should be “normed” by Scripture and guided by the teaching of the bishops, “but all as integral and interdependent components to a church that is whole and entire, listening first, teaching second.”
That afternoon, Gaillardetz gave a second talk, titled “Toward a Post-Conciliar Theology of the Priesthood.” He explained that Vatican II addressed many concerns of the priesthood in a piecemeal way, but neglected to provide a “concise and clear theology of priesthood.”
“The priest should be like the conductor of an orchestra,” he told the standing-room-only gathering in one of the university’s large, amphitheater-style classrooms, “to coordinate the symphony of charisms (or gifts each Christian receives at baptism) in the body of Christ, all playing from the same score in service to Jesus Christ and his mission.”
According to Father David Cooper, a Milwaukee archdiocesan priest who is co-founder and chairman of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, the year-old organization was to offer a national support group not before available to many priests and to promote “fulfilling the confirmed agenda” of Vatican II.
Members also aim “to support one another as fellow priests, to further and develop our professional life, and to have the ability to speak with one voice,’ he said.