Vatican II Theologians Honored on 50th Anniversary of the Convocation’s Commencement

News Story: October 15, 2012


To view additional photos of the
Academic Convocation, click here.

Fifty years to the day that the Second Vatican Council first convened, Sacred Heart University honored three theologians who are closely linked to that historic gathering. On Thursday, October 11, Gregory Baum, Nicholas Lash and Ladislas Orsy received honorary doctor of theology degrees in a special Academic Convocation in the University’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit.

All three men expressed their pleasure and gratitude at being honored by Sacred Heart – especially given its strong connection to the Second Vatican Council. “It’s a beautiful day for this. I thank God, and I thank each one of you,” Orsy told the assembly. He went on to say that he is still trying to discern the intent of the Holy Spirit at the Second Vatican Council. He believes the intent was “that the church become a source of goodness for the entire planet.”

The previous evening, the three honorees participated in a panel discussion before an audience of nearly 200 students, faculty, staff and community members. The trio responded to questions posed by moderator Michael W. Higgins, vice president of Mission and Catholic Identity at SHU.

From left are Michael Higgins, Ladislas Orsy, Gregory Baum and Nicholas Lash. To view additional photos from the panel discussion, click here.

They began by sharing their views on the impact of the Second Vatican Council. “The most dramatic change was in relationships. The Council brought solidarity among all human beings – a new spirituality and concern about the injustices in the world,” Baum said.

Added Lash, “The church had pulled up a drawbridge and was hiding in a fortress from the world. The primary function of the Council was to reconnect.”

They also confessed to some disappointment with the results of the Council. Baum noted that he has written articles on the forgotten promises of the Council. In particular, he said, the Council promised decentralization of the church – something that has not happened.

Lash theorized that the Pope may have tried too hard to get a consensus from the Bishops. “The Bishops at the Council failed to establish mechanisms to ensure that what they laid out in theory would become fact,” he said.

On the good that came out of the Council, Orsy said, “Some could argue that the Council failed and failed miserably, but the Council injected a mass of beautiful ideas in the human condition.
The three theologians also answered questions from the audience ranging from decentralization to the role of women in the church.

“I deeply regret that Pope John XXIII made the edict that all Cardinals would be Bishops. If half the Cardinals were women, the Church would change,” Lash said.

To view additional photos from the Mass of the New Light, click here.

The celebration concluded Saturday evening, October 13, with a special concert performance of Mass of the New Light by composer Peter-Anthony Togni. Mass of the New Light was commissioned by Sacred Heart University in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. It is a new and exciting setting of the mass, based in the jazz tradition and scored especially for soloists, the Sacred Heart University Choir, piano, bass, percussion, soprano saxophone, handbells and organ.

“Sacred Heart University was a product of the Second Vatican Council – it was inspired by the Council’s boldness of vision, its theological insights and its rediscovery of the charism or gift of the laity,” said Higgins, who chaired the committee for SHU’s celebration of the Council’s golden anniversary. “The Council continues to provide the ever-unfolding energy for renewal and expansive thinking that is at the very heart of the mission and self-understanding of Sacred Heart University. Our conception, gestation and future as a Catholic institution of higher learning are tied to the nurturing genius of the Council.”