The Catholic Church

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The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church in the 20th Century underwent tremendous change, most significantly as a result of the Second Vatican Council. This Council created an atmosphere of reform within the leading theologians and the hierarchy of the Church. Consequently, when Pope Paul VI released his encyclical Humanae Vitae, to many of the reformers it seemed to contradict the sentiment of the Council.

At the same time, though, there was a movement afoot to radically change the power structure of the Church. Led by the same liberal theologians who took offense to the pro-life policies laid out in Humanae Vitae, the aim was to transition the Church from an authoritarian power structure to a more democratic model. Humanae Vitae, and the indignation it caused was the catalyst for the reform movement to come to the fore.

In response to the revolution, a counter-revolution formed. This consisted of conservative forces within the Church, led by the Pope himself. The counter-revolutionaries sought to prove through the multiple infallible councils of the Church’s history that the Church must be authoritarian. In their defense, they most often drew upon the Petrine Primacy, Vatican I, and Vatican II.

These crowning moment of the counter-revolutionaries came with the election of Pope John Paul II. With his election, came a hard time for the revolution. Under a strong, authoritarian Pope who upheld the pro-life position, the reform movement stalled. However, the damage was done. While the Church maintained the authority of the Church, to the laity, this authority had disappeared. Consequently, the general public ceased to acknowledge the teaching power of the Pope.

Humanae Vitae and the Consequential Revolutio...

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