Last month, as a way of acknowledging the Year of Faith, I started reading Fr Ralph Wiltgen's first-hand history of the Second Vatican Council, "The Rhine Flows into the Tiber". I first read this account of the Council when I was at seminary in 1983. It is a very interesting and worthy historical document, written by a priest-observer of the Council, as it took place. He titled his book thus in order to emphasise the influence which the German-French bishops had on the Council, an influence which overtook that of the Roman Curia as the Council sessions were held.
Two things have struck me during this reading. First, the scale and complexity of the organisational and administrative background to the Council's proceedings. With over 2400 Council Fathers taking part, representing the entire Church, to undertake such a Synod as this was quite a feat. Secondly, the number of differing viewpoints and theological movements which were present during the Council, expressed by a multitude of different groupings of bishops, made an already complex situation look untenable. In fact the different voices and opinions which are present today in the Church are, in many ways, a continuation of the discussions and arguments which took place during the Council, both inside and outside the Council chamber.
It is a wonder that, in spite of the human complexity of the Council's deliberations, the voice of the holy Spirit could be heard at all. And that, since today, so many arguments rage on, that the directives of the Council Fathers in the Sixteen Decrees, can be heard above the clamour of voices which claim to speak in the name of the Council.
So too, with the teaching of the present Holy Father, whose words are being dissected both inside and outside the Church, and all sorts of positions being proposed as their genuine interpretation. The Holy Spirit obviously wants to give the Church something through Pope Francis; that is the voice to listen out for and to obey.