Nathan Israel Smolin shared this recently and I’m sharing it here because it’s a convincing perspective on Christianity’s enduring characteristics:
You know, say what you will about the post-Vatican 2 Catholic Church, but any era of the Church that could produce Lumen Gentium, the writings of Pope St. John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church can’t exactly be a dark age.
I have no real doubt that in a century, Catholics will still be reading all of these things, and finding them very important and foundational. They’ll probably also, frankly, be hearing some version of the NO Mass. I doubt *anyone* will remember who Hans Kung was, though.
Most eras of the Church are judged in retrospect, not by their conflicts or failings, their heretics or worldly clerics, but by their Saints and Doctors–because these latter have fruits that endure for centuries & forever. That makes it hard to judge any time while it’s going on
Probably the silliest thing self-described Traditionalists do is complain about the Fruits of Vatican 2 & insist on judging it immediately by those fruits. If it comes to that, what were the Fruits of the Council of Nicaea in the same timeframe?
Externally, the main effect of the Council of Nicaea was to put the Church into the power of the Imperial office, which would immediately betray it. Inside the Church, within a decade of Nicaea there were pitched battles between Christian factions in the streets of major cities.
I’m not saying Vatican 2 is as important as Nicaea; but the truth is, the 4th and 5th centuries defined the Church for the next millennium through the Doctors & Councils. But it was also the time of the worst internal conflicts ever, heresies, & massive schisms that still endure.
We marvel at Augustine’s faith; no one really cares about the Donatists who for most of his life had much more power & numbers in North Africa, let alone the vast flock of semi-pagans delaying baptism til death he preached to.
We can read Pope Leo the Great’s Christology, and be inspired by it. We don’t have to read Eutychius, or worry about the loss of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to Schism. We can read Basil the Great, & skip all the brilliant & politically influential Arian Bishops he argued with.
Anyway, I don’t pretend to know how the past fifty years will be seen in the Church. But I’m sure future Catholics will be reading & judging it by its great saints & doctors & documents, & mostly ignoring & forgetting all the things we spend our time worrying & fighting about.