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Inside NCR

You are about to wade into an extensive special section on Vatican II, the reform council that opened 40 years ago this month, so I need not say much here. I would, however, like to thank the writers who delivered eloquence and insight (on time and at correct word lengths) and helped make this package of articles broadly representative and wonderfully diverse.

Undoubtedly the debate over the “true” representation of Vatican II, the most “orthodox” understanding of its intent and the implications of it all for the future of the church will go on for some time. One of my favorite clerics, a monsignor, would often say, “As far as Christianity goes, we’ve barely climbed out of the trees.” I daresay, as far as Vatican II goes, we’ve just begun to realize we can move out of the trees.

Yet I would also submit that a striking piece of evidence of the council’s intent and effect is the range of the conversation that occurs in these pages this week, from the rich essay by Garry Wills to the lively views on our letters pages. We have come upon the adulthood of the laity, and we have grown in our understanding of ourselves as a people of God. We say with confidence that we, too, are called to holiness.

I am convinced that throughout the year NCR with all of its readers and contributors stands as evidence, with other lay efforts, that the council lives and continues to reform the church and its members.

One might argue that another bit of evidence of the council’s staying power is the writing of Fr. Richard McBrien. It was rare for priests to engage in such bold truth-telling in the days before the council. And if they had the stomach for it, they probably didn’t have the popular platforms from which to pronounce their views. So I call special notice to his column in this week’s issue, where he takes on some of the popular, but off-the-mark assumptions and analyses that have been advanced to explain the causes of the priest sex abuse crisis.

I often refer to our letters section as a must-read. This week’s is especially rich with for-and-against opinions about the United States’ steady advance toward war with Iraq and your continuing comments on the clergy sex abuse crisis.

The Winter Books section, also in this issue, contains a page of book recommendations from readers. Because of the size of the Vatican II section, we had to pare the books section a bit, so were able to use only a portion of the responses. That being the case, I’d like to invite you to continue sending in recommendations based on what new you’ve read during the past year, and we’ll run them out in the next two issues. Please keep the reviews brief.

Some thoughts on the ideas about laity taking control of the money as a way to get the hierarchy’s attention — the subject of last week’s Inside NCR — have begun to arrive. Please keep sending any thoughts or ideas. I think we may have the makings of an interesting discussion.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, October 4, 2002