Remembering the days before Vatican II

by Maureen Fiedler

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Last week, I conducted interviews on the decision by Duke University in North Carolina to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer from the bell tower of the campus Christian chapel. It was a gesture of friendship toward Muslim students (who did not request it) and a statement of interfaith solidarity. Duke administrators reversed that decision, however, after pressure from outside forces, including Franklin Graham and some university donors.

What was meant as a small gesture of welcoming turned into a contentious national news story that gave free rein to all sorts of views.

Of course, we at "Interfaith Voices" were interested, and we welcome different points of view. So I interviewed several people about this story, including a woman who said something I had not heard in years. She said she does not believe in interfaith worship or taking the worship space of one religion and making it into a sacred space for multiple religions. The reason? She cited the First Commandment: "I am God, and you shall have no gods before me."

"But what about the command to love your neighbor?" I asked.

"The First Commandment trumps it," she said, although she affirmed love of neighbor as important. She is, by the way, a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a very conservative branch of Lutheranism.

I had not heard a view like this in years. I tried to remember when I last heard it. Then I remembered my Catholic background as a young girl. Those were the days before the Second Vatican Council, when we did not participate in any service not Catholic. I can remember my mother telling me once that I should not even walk on the sidewalk in front of the Presbyterian church, which was kitty-corner from my own Catholic parish church. (I'm not sure what would have happened if I did!)

What made the difference? Vatican II, that's what. It was the ecumenical movement, the opening of Catholicism to the richness of other traditions and modes of worship. But it was OK to be transported back to those pre-Vatican II days for a couple of minutes, just to remember how liberating Vatican II felt in my own life of faith.

Listen to the interview.

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