An “Extensive Summary,” but Not Well Understood

Paul VI on Lumen Gentium, from a speech at the close of the 3rd Session of the Second Vatican Council (November 22, 1964) – my translation

“For this is the first time, and in saying this we are deeply moved in spirit, that an Ecumenical Council has concentrated into one extensive summary the Catholic doctrine regarding the place the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies in the mystery of Christ and the Church.”

In other words, Vatican II said more about Mary than any previous Ecumenical Council, yet the newspapers reported Vatican II as a “downgrade” of Mary or a “lessening of emphasis” on her [example 1] [example 2]. The vote to incorporate teachings on Mary into the document on the Church was seen as a de-emphasis, but in fact there was still more said than had ever been said before concerning Mary. Unfortunately, there were a number of clerics that wanted to believe the newspapers, and the new generation was all about change for the sake of change, and that meant downgrading Mary in practice.

The doctrine contained in Lumen Gentium requires careful study, and spin doctors of the ’60s tried to minimize the impact by focusing on certain phrases that would seem to de-emphasize devotion to Mary (avoiding false exaggeration, for instance). Overall, though, the document shows that devotion to Mary is very important, and gives a stronger doctrinal basis for her role in salvation history than any previous council.

from Lumen Gentium
53. The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. [Emphasis added.] At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is “the mother of the members of Christ . . . having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head.”(3*) Wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.

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