Lay Ministers of Vatican II


To The Editors of The Crimson:

A recent article entitled "Catholic Ministry at Harvard: the Rise and Fall of Vatican II" grossly misrepresented the present campus ministry. Although an admirable attempt was made to evaluate objectively the very complex Catholic situation at Harvard, the author has fallen prey to judging a situation without sufficient knowledge. To equate the present ministry with the fall of Vatican II is an injustice which deeply hurts those of us who have tried to create a Catholic community at Harvard--students and chaplains alike.

The article does accurately present the dismal and unfortunate situation that confronted last year's ministry. Without a doubt, the Cardinal's abrupt dismissal of an entire campus ministry team was an alienating act which "undermined confidence in ecclesiastical administration." The author also accurately protrays the team itself; it did emphasize political and social activism to a greater extent than the present ministry. However, the incriminating tone of the remainder of the article has gravely disturbed us, the elected representatives of the Catholic student community.

Perhaps the most serious error by the author was to separate the analysis of the campus ministry from the analysis of the student body's concerns. No reference was made to the opinions of the students concerning the ministry. As Vatican II so strongly emphasized, the role of the laity is vital to the life of the Church. We, as students, have seen our role as committed Christians to consist of active participation in the campus ministry. In fact, it is because our ministerial activities in the undergraduate organization have been so closely intermeshed with the activities of the chaplains that we find the article so offensive. A criticism of the chaplains' ministry must, by connection, criticize our attempts as lay ministers.

The author characterizes the present ministry as exuding "deep introspection and piety reminiscent of the traditional parish priest." Although a marked emphasis is placed on communal and individual spiritual expression, that "deep introspection" would more appropriately be labeled "meditative reflection." This reflection summons the individual to contemplate God's promise of the Kingdom. Similarly, the celebration of the sacraments is a pledge and a witness of the promises of God. It is a communal affirmation of God's pledge to us and our pledge to the task of bringing this Kingdom to fulfillment. As in the examples of Mother Theresa of Calcutta and Dorothy Day, prayer inspires our social concern and fills us with the vision of a Promise. If the Documents of Vatican II in some way de-emphasize the inter-relation of piety and social concern, we would like to be so informed.


"The emphasis on welcoming each Catholic individual and developing strong interpersonal relationships is paramount to the present ministry." This concern radically differs from the emphasis of last year's ministry and the students have felt that difference. A broader spectrum of students is being reached. As the Vatican II document entitled The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World states, "the beginning, the subject, and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person . . ." It stresses that the growth of a community of mankind must parallel the growing interdependence of people. It is that interdependence that the present ministry is trying to foster.

Somewhere in the mind of the author exists a justification for the notion that the present ministry represents the "Fall of Vatican II." If justice existed and superficial analysis were avoided, then the author would have to retract his notions. Before condeming our Harvard Catholic community to the pre-1960 era, we suggest that the author carefully examine the Vatican II documents and the diverse activities of the present Catholic Student Center. Perhaps then, the Resurrected Truth would be recognized. Brian Fallon '76   President of H-R Catholic Student Center   Donna Frovenzano '77   Steve Brady '77   Thierry Porte '79