Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Vatican II and the Church in Uganda: The Contribution of Bishop Vincent J. Mccauley, C.S.C

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Vatican II and the Church in Uganda: The Contribution of Bishop Vincent J. Mccauley, C.S.C

Article excerpt

Vincent J. McCauley, C.S.C., served as bishop of Fort Portal, Uganda, from 1961-72. His time spanned Vatican II and the period of the Council's implementation. McCauley was instrumental at Vatican II in coordinating the African bishops' comments on Ad Gentes. In Fort Portal he implemented the spirit and letter of the Council in creating a new diocesan structure; promoting many programs for the laity, especially women; and leading the Church's efforts in ecumenism through his leadership in the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC). McCauley was a Vatican II bishop both in theory and action.

Keywords: Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA); East Africa; ecumenism; Vatican II

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) transformed the landscape of Roman Catholicism in an effort to interact more forcefully and favorably with the modern world.The importance of Vatican II in the history and direction of the Church might best be stated in the work of the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner. In his division of church history into epochs, Rahner provides three: the apostolic era, 30 to 49; the era of the Church, 49 to 1962; and the era of Vatican ?, 1962 to the present.1 Clearly for Rahner, Vatican II was a significant turning point in Catholicism.

Although scholarly literature about the history of the Council, its sixteen documents, and its effect on the Church today abounds, the efforts of the African Church, both during the Council sessions and later in the implementation of its teachings on the local level, have not been sufficiently documented.2 A significant example of the activity of expatriate bishops in Africa is the work of Bishop Vincent J. McCauley, C.S.C. , of Fort Portal, Uganda. Although a very junior prelate, McCauley was nonetheless called upon to lead the eastern African bishops in the Council's deliberations, especially with respect to Ad gentes divinitus, the "Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity." Steeped in the letter and spirit of Vatican II, McCauley swiftly implemented the Council's teachings in his diocese and throughout Uganda, manifested most notably in his advocacy of the lay apostolate and his promotion of ecumenism.

Vatican II

Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council in a speech at St. Paul's Outside the Walls on January 25, 1959, the last day of the annual week of prayer for Christian unity. John XXIII had been elected just months before his announcement and at age seventy-six was considered an interim pope. Thus, his dramatic announcement came as a great surprise to the entire world, especially the Catholic Church. The pope called for a diocesan synod for Rome, a revision of Canon Law from the 1917 Code, and an ecumenical council of the world's bishops. He also stated the Council's three principal purposes: to promote ecumenism, to bring the Church into the modern world, and to be pastoral in nature and work.3

The Council was formally convoked with the document Humanae Salutaris of December 25, 1961. In this document John XXIII used the terms signs of the times and aggiornamento, expressions that would prove significant for the future direction of the Council's work. The pope's comments reversed the principle enunciated in the inaugural sermon at Lateran V (1512-17), which said that "men must be changed by religion"; instead, "religion must be changed by men." On October 11, 1962, shortly after the first session of the Council opened, the bishops voted, with the pope's concurrence, to move away from the rather staid tone of the preliminary schema and substituted a more open view that would allow the bishops themselves to determine the Council's direction. Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani and his conservative forces had been routed at the outset, setting the tone that would be carried through to the Council's conclusion on December 8, 1965.4

Forty years after the close of Vatican ?, debates continue to rage about what happened at the Council. …

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