It is a well known fact of human history that men look back to important events of the past, particularly when the past is believed to have some bearing on the present. We reflect not only about the political and national past, but also about the church, as in our remembrance of the Counter Reformation of the sixteenth century. Such recollection involves historic consciousness of the continuity of history, of the powers of the past that are being felt in the present. When we no longer experience the actuality of the past in the present, such recollections will gradually die.
It is therefore important to discern whether or not there is concern for the past. I mention this because I have noted that within the Roman Catholic Church hardly any attention is being given to the 100th anniversary of the First Vatican Council (1870) with its declaration of papal infallibility. Is this neglect simply accidental, or is there a reason for it?
In 1951, Roman Catholic theologians meditated deeply upon the meaning of the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.), which formulated the confession that Christ is truly God and truly man. Excellent studies were written about this important council, even a trilogy about Chalcedon in the past, present, and future. In 1963, a congress was organized in Trent in commemoration of the Council of Trent of 1563. But in 1970, very little has been done to note the centennial of Vatican I.
In June, the Catholic Academy of Bavaria in Munich organized a weekend discussion that included several historic aspects of the First Vatican Council. I had the privilege of being there. Theologically this was a very important and instructive time. But ecclesiastically very little was said about 1870.
In the Netherlands—as far ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more