Lesson 4: The Church and the World


The relationship of the Church and an unbelieving world. Balancing openness and fidelity to the faith. Reading the signs of the times. Ecumenism. New openness to non-Catholics. "Concentric circles" of religious truth. True and false ecumenism.

Religious freedom. The Church repudiates coercion in matters of faith.

Suggested Readings

  • Council documents -- Unitatis Redintegratio, Nostra Aetate, Dignitatis Humanae, Ad Gentes Divinitis, Gaudium et Spes.
  • Abbott, Council Fathers.
  • Robert McAfee Brown, Observer in Rome.
  • Albert Outler, Methodist observer at Vatican II.
  • Ratzinger, Highlights.
  • Rynne, Letters, II, III.
  • Stacpoole, Vatican II.
  • Wiltgen, Rhine.
  • Yzermans, American Participation in the Second Vatican Council.

Suggestions for Review

1) In the minds of some people the Council's encouragement of ecumenism represented a repudiation of previous teaching. Is this true?

2) What distinctions did the Council make among the various non-Catholic faiths? Is there a kind of hierarchy of truths with respect to those faiths?

3) How did the Council think it was possible to respect the truths of other faiths without abandoning belief in the Catholic Church as the true Church?

4) Based on Brown and/or Outler's books, how did American Protestants respond to the events of the Council?

5) What are the criteria for distinguishing true and false ecumenism, according to the Council?

6) In the minds of some people the Council's decree on religious liberty represented a repudiation of earlier teaching on that subject. Is this true?

7) America's chief contribution to the council is sometimes said to be the decree on religious liberty. Discuss American participation in the Council.

8) Did the decree on religious liberty represent the Church's adopting an essentially secular theory of tolerance?

9) Gaudium et Spes has sometimes been called essentially optimistic in its view of the modern world. Discuss.

10) What did the Council think the Church has to learn from the world?

11) What does the world need which only the Church can provide?

12) Trace the theme of human freedom as it runs through the decree on religious liberty and Gaudium et Spes.

13) Ecumenism and the Church's openness to the modern world have sometimes been said to preclude missionary activity in the traditional sense. What did the Council say about missionary activity?

14) What was Paul VI's relationship to the Council after he became pope?


Purchase This Course                               << Previous               Next >>                                   Return to Top