Abstract: Mennonite responses to the Second Vatican Council as reported in North American Mennonite publications indicated a new spirit of openness among Mennonites toward Catholics. Mennonite leader C. J. Dyck's participation as an observer in the last session of the Council helped facilitate the conversation. This renewal of a conversation between Catholics and Mennonites, broken off with such antipathy in the sixteenth century led to first steps toward closer ecumenical relations. The conversation promised deeper mutual self understanding as well as growth in ecumenical relations in the whole body of Christ.
Mennonites in North America scarcely noticed
the Second Vatican Council when it was proposed by Pope John XXIII in
1959. When the sessions began in 1962, most Mennonite publications only
referred to it as a brief news item, preferring to give more extensive
coverage to the pressing concerns of the civil rights movement and the
Vietnam War where Mennonite church workers could write on the basis of
To be sure, some Mennonite leaders had attended the Third Assembly of
the World Council of Churches held in New Delhi, India in 1961 and had
reported on their experience in church papers.
But on the eve of the Second Vatican Council North American Mennonites,
always suspicious of ecumenical involvements, were still trying to figure
out where they fit in the larger Protestant world-indeed, to what extent
their Anabaptist-heritage congregations were even Protestant. In any event,
they were quite sure they had more in common with Protestants than with
The more culturally conservative Mennonite Church was especially reluctant to relate too closely to Catholics. Their weekly publication did not report directly on the Second Vatican Council until after the last session in 1965, when Gospel Herald changed course and printed a series of articles written by Mennonite observer C. J. Dyck. Until then, editor Paul Erb occasionally included brief news items about Catholics and the Council in a column called "Items and Comments." In the early 1960's these items generally showed Catholics in a negative light.
One such item stated that the Catholic Church "still seeks to retain its absolute spiritual domination-let there be no doubt about that. The slogan one picks up among young priests in Spain, for instance is, 'We must learn to tolerate Protestants but never condone their heresies.'" It went on to state:
In areas like the U.S. where the church looks forward to the day when it will attain pre-eminence, the hierarchy is obviously being pushed hard by Rome to advance the cause of Catholic education. . . . Remember, in Catholic countries, the Catholic schools are supported entirely by tax money. This is the church's aim and ideal.
A few issues later the column reported an incident in Colombia where a Catholic priest harassed a Protestant congregation by placing an image of the Virgin Mary in the doorway of the building where they were worshiping. He then called in the police who ordered the service stopped. When the congregation refused to stop, the crowd outside threw stones at them. The next day the police arrested one of the church members for insulting the officers.
In a more positive news item, the Billy Graham evangelistic team reported that a hopeful sign of Christian unity was that informal groups of Catholics and Protestants were studying the Bible together. The column quoted team member Leighton Ford: "Many of my friends and I are praying that God's will may be done through this Council and that the Holy Spirit will lead it in such a way as to bring whatever reforms God will have within the Roman Catholic Church."
Another news item reflected the prevalent tension between Protestants and Catholics due to Protestant mission activities in historically Catholic countries. It reported on Catholics in Argentina being warned to stay away from a Billy Graham crusade in that country. A priest was quoted as saying that the evangelist was "not contributing anything by his crusade toward Christian unity." But another news item in the same column reported a new openness to ecumenical cooperation in the United States: Catholics and Protestants in Oxford, Mississippi had joined together in observing Atonement Sunday with prayers and repentance following riots over the admission of an African-American student to the University of Mississippi.
In 1965 a note in the "Items and Comments" column stated that while Catholicism always taught there was no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church, the last session of the Second Vatican Council went on record as admitting that Protestants also find God in their churches. It noted that this especially pleased the American bishops because of their concern for ecumenical relations with Protestants at home. It then lamented that after the Council broke up the pope changed one word completely altering the sense of the statement. It now read, "Protestants also seek God in their churches."
Despite this generally skeptical perspective
there was at least one positive response to the Council in Gospel Herald
by the end of 1965. In an article on the most newsworthy events of that
year, Wayne North, a Mennonite Church pastor from Ohio, was generally
enthusiastic about the Second Vatican Council. He wrote, "That it has
had a profound effect on every area of life in the Roman Catholic Church
and beyond, there can be no doubt."
North's enthusiasm came from his pastoral experience in Louisville, Ohio
where the changes initiated by Vatican II directly contributed to healthier
relationships between Catholics and Mennonites at the congregational level.
In contrast to the wary tone in Gospel Herald, coverage of the Second Vatican Council in The Mennonite, the church paper of the General Conference Mennonite Church, was extensive and enthusiastic. Editor Maynard Shelly took a personal interest in the Council and in ecumenical relations with Catholics. In the summer of 1962 he took what he called "a personal pilgrimage" and traveled to Gethsemani, Kentucky to meet Thomas Merton, stating it was a common interest in peace that brought them together. Never before had Shelly met a Trappist monk nor had Merton met a Mennonite. They talked about understanding between Protestants and Catholics and the upcoming Vatican Council. Merton was cautious about expecting great things; he felt that answers would have to come from the participants as they met together. Unity would need to come from the hearts and desires of the gathered people, not from the top of the church hierarchy.
Shelly reported that during their earnest discussion, the realization came to him that at the core of their spirits Catholics and Protestants pray the same prayers in spite of the apparent gulf between them. The young monks in their farm clothes reminded him of a Mennonite village in Kansas, and their eagerness to learn the monastic life captured his attention. Had they been Mennonites they would have been voluntary service workers!
During the opening of the first session
The Mennonite carried a prayer for the Council. The prayer asked
God's blessing on its efforts and that the Spirit of Christ would lead
the participants in righteousness, unity and peace. It asked that through
the work of the Council the world would see the church as one. It confessed
sins of being "too little hurt by the divisions in the body of Christ"
and for not praying for our "separated brethren." The closing sentence
asked God's blessing "that we may together confess one faith, together
eat one holy food, and together bear witness to the redemption that is
in Christ Jesus alone."
Reports and Responses to the Council in 1963
Reports and Responses to the Council in 1963
In March 1963 The Mennonite published an article on the opening session of the Council. James H. Nichols, a Presbyterian observer in Rome, had spoken at Bethel College, a Mennonite college in Newton, Kansas. The article was a transcript of his address and the discussion which followed. Nichols surveyed the history of church councils, historic differences between Catholics and Protestants, the Catholic understanding of papal infallibility, and the pastoral and ecumenical nature of the recently-opened Council. He was impressed by the interest of Pope John XXIII in non-Roman Catholics, noting that the pope had made sure the observers had the best seats in the house, right in the middle of St. Peter's Basilica, and that he had gone out of his way to be gracious to them by granting a private audience.
Nichols was genuinely impressed with this affable Pope who sat on a chair at the same level with them in a large semi-circle. He shook hands with the Protestants, but the Orthodox, who were better versed in such matters, knelt down and kissed his ring. Nichols said the pope "was breaking all kinds of protocol." According to Roman Catholic views he should not have had all those heretics there in the first place. He was a very warm, outgoing, and likable person who "cut some corners." The extensive consultative role of the observers also impressed Nichols. Statements were regularly brought to them for their response and taken back to the working commissions, which made every effort to state Roman Catholic doctrine in a way that would not be offensive. He said he was sure that for many Catholics the new ecumenical stance was tactical, but this was not the whole story. What impressed him most was his discovery of a genuine ecumenical movement in the Roman Catholic Church.
Nichols responded to questions about Catholic liturgical reforms, the understanding of tradition and biblical authority, and marriage between Catholics and Protestants. Other questions included if the invitation for observers to attend was a tacit recognition of Protestant Christianity, if a major concern of the council was nominal Christianity, and if there could ever be reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants. His general response to these questions was that all Christians needed to be in conversation. These problems affected all churches and there was much to learn from one another. While Nichols appreciated the general ecumenical spirit of the Council he said there was another wing of Catholicism which still held visions of Catholic hegemony. This group included the Spaniards, the Italians, and, regrettably, many Americans. As Christians, however, we always had an obligation to talk. "Up to this time the Roman Catholic Church has been so sure it was right, there wasn't much chance for discussion," he said. "But any time the Pope says let's discuss, if you are a Protestant you've got to discuss." 
An editorial by Maynard Shelly provided the next discussion of Catholic matters in The Mennonite. Shelly confessed to reading papal literature during Easter. He thought the Puritans in old New England would surely have had an appropriate torture for that, but he was confident that Mennonites were not so legalistic. He had read an encyclical from Pope John XXIII called Pacem in Terris addressed to "all men of goodwill." Since Shelly considered himself such a person, he read the letter and was pleased by its plea for human rights, including peace, as well as its calls to end racism and for global disarmament. He commented that all this was a tall order and that it would take lots of good will to fill it.
The Mennonite carried two news reports related to the Catholic Church and the Second Vatican Council during this year. The first reported on the death of Pope John XXIII and the election of Pope Paul VI. The second report focused on the opening of the second session of the Council and the new Pope's opening address asking for forgiveness for Catholic complicity in a separated church. Paul VI was quoted as saying, "If we are in any way to blame for that separation, we humbly beg God's forgiveness and ask pardon, too, of our brethren who feel themselves to have been injured by us." It noted that lay persons were attending a Church Council for the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. It also reported Archbishop Helder Camara's appeal to his fellow bishops to give up honorific titles, expensive crosses and rings, and high powered limousines. The Brazilian prelate thought that a return to poverty would do more for Christian unity than an examination of points of doctrine.
A final article on the Council came in the fall from the pen of Oswald C. J. Hoffmann, a Missouri Synod Lutheran church leader who would be an observer at the third and fourth sessions. Hoffmann began by noting that October 31 was Protestant Reformation Sunday, then reviewed Lutheran polemics against the Council of Trent (1545-63) and Vatican I (1870). He did see some fresh air in the Second Vatican Council and saw Pope John XXIII as the first pontiff in over 400 years to attempt to set aside the frustration and anger of Trent. He stated that an outright declaration of the primacy of scripture would create a common ground for discussion between Catholics and Protestants and that this could bring about a united Christian front against communism. Healing of this historic schism had to be based on the biblical truth of justification by faith.
The Mennonite received four letters
to the editor in response to its coverage of the Council. One expressed
outrage at Maynard Shelly's comment that, at the core, Mennonites pray
the same prayers as Catholics. The writer listed various significant differences,
such as praying to Mary or the saints, praying for the dead in purgatory
or praying the rosary. He feared that the Council had the aim of bringing
the "separated brethren" back into the Catholic Church and pleaded, "Let
us ever keep in mind the great price we paid in martyrdom for our liberty
from the Roman System."
Another letter thanked the editor for Nichols' and for his editorials.
The writer hoped The Mennonite would carry future articles by Nichols
were he to return to Rome for the following sessions of the Council.
One letter commended Hoffmann's call for a united Christian front against
And the fourth letter responded to Pope Paul VI's asking for forgiveness.
The writer thought the statement called for a response from Mennonites,
but wondered who could speak for Mennonites and the many Anabaptist martyrs
who were killed for the faith we hold. He suggested an official statement
be issued expressing forgiveness to Catholics as well as a forgiving spirit
open to further dialogue.
Reports and Responses to the Council in 1964
Reports and Responses to the Council in 1964
The Mennonite carried three news reports on the third session of the Council. The first covered the discussion of revelation. It began by observing that Catholics sounded almost like Protestants when they got together to talk about the Bible, then gave a brief overview of the bumpy history of the statement on divine revelation at the Council. It reported the discussion of the relationship between scripture and tradition and of the place of historical criticism in biblical interpretation and noted there were bishops calling for the Bible to be made more accessible to Catholics. The second article reported on the Council's statement on Jews and noted how the controversy between Jews and Arabs in Israel was complicating the wording of the statement. The summary draft of the statement "On the Relation of the Church to the Non-Christian Religions," distributed by the Secretariat for Christian Unity, was included in the report. The third news article came from the Ecumenical Press Service at the close of the third session. It offered general praise for the statement on Christian unity while reporting that people on both sides of the issue were unhappy with the statement on relations with non-Christians. The strongest criticism was of the way Pope Paul VI handled this session: Protestants were angry that the Vatican had altered a sentence in the statement on ecumenicism which originally had read: "Protestants find God who speaks to them in the Bible" to "Protestants seek God as if He spoke to them in the Bible." Various Protestant voices found that the Pope's actions had removed any illusions of collegiality. Three examples of the Pope's "backhanding" were cited: his refusal to permit a vote on religious liberty, the last minute amendments to the statement on ecumenism, and the papal proclamation of Mary as "The Mother of the Church."
There were two letters to the editor in
1964 on Catholic relations with Mennonites. The first was from a Mennonite
in India who was upset by trends toward unity in America. He cited instances
of Catholic harassment and proselytizing among Mennonites in India, where
a foreign Catholic priest reportedly said that his aim was for all Mennonites
to become Catholics. The writer believed that the Catholics had a calculated
plan to expand their church throughout India at the expense of other churches.
The second letter responded to this one. The writer said she was glad
to be informed about this difficult situation in India but asked if that
means we should "give up trying to heal this deep gash in the body of
Christ." She reported her own experience in Massachusetts where she had
been participating in a Protestant-Catholic discussion group. The group
included a number of lay people, an ordained minister and a Catholic priest.
They discussed various doctrines and causes of the Reformation; while
differences of opinion were often sharp they were openly expressed in
a fine spirit.
Reports and Responses to the Council in 1965
Reports and Responses to the Council in 1965
The Mennonite carried various short news articles on the work of the Council in 1965. A more lengthy article reported Pope Paul VI's speech before the United Nations. He was quoted as saying, "No more war; war never again," and "If you wish to be brothers, let the arms fall from your hands. One cannot love while holding offensive weapons."  He had made a plea for religious freedom as well as economic justice. His statement that more energy should be given to raising food than to promoting birth control was controversial, however, and lowered hopes that there would be a change in the Catholic position on birth control during the last session of the Council. 
The editorial staff apparently saw the pope as bringing a prophetic Christian voice to the leaders of world governments, for the entire editorial page was taken up with excerpts from his speech. Afterward, the staff reported the results of interviews with a select number of Mennonite pastors from across North America: while a minority had hope that the pope's speech might do some good most were pessimistic about the possibility of peace. There was a strong affirmation that peace only comes through Christ and is a gift of God. Some expressed appreciation that the pope had brought a spiritual approach to solving the world's problems. Others expressed appreciation for the leadership the pope brought to the concern for peace, and one pastor lamented that no one within the Protestant tradition could bring the same kind of witness because of its divided state. Many thought the world powers could not bring peace; others hoped the speech would lessen Catholic criticism of the United Nations; others questioned the pope's sincerity; and still others objected to the ceremony of the visit and all the adoration given to a man. In spite of these misgivings the pastors hoped that the pope's visit to the United Nations would make a significant contribution to world peace.
David Janzen, an activist Mennonite pastor, contributed a guest editorial in a subsequent issue that passionately criticized the pope's speech. He called it a "mail order suit" that was so general it fit anybody and nobody. According to Janzen, the self-confessed atheist Jean-Paul Sartre was more prophetic in his refusal to travel to the United States because of the Vietnam War than the pope had been at the United Nations. He thought that at the very least the pope should have called for economic sanctions against the United States. In Janzen's view, he had been much too timid:
Did the pope say to Johnson, "In the name of God, stop it!" as some 2,500 ministers, priests, and rabbis have said? Did he order all Catholics in the United States Army and every army to lay down their arms. Did he order all Catholic army chaplains to quit their posts?. . . . What orders did he give to Johnson's Catholic daughter? Words! Words! Words! Where is the act of faith?
Cornelius J. Dyck, then serving as the executive secretary of Mennonite World Conference, took it upon himself to attend the Council's final session in 1965. He attended as a Mennonite observer but only in a semi-official capacity due to some Mennonite objections to his representing Mennonite World Conference. While in Rome Dyck wrote a series of articles that were published in three Mennonite periodicals: The Mennonite, Gospel Herald, and Mennonite Weekly Review.
Dyck reported that the accommodations of the observers had been excellent. He had stayed at the Waldensian Seminary near Saint Peter's Basilica where the sessions had been held. He had met various Catholic officials including Cardinal Bea, the Secretary for Christian Unity. Everyone seemed delighted to have had a Mennonite in attendance. He had met a bishop and others from the Ukraine- where Dyck himself was born-who remembered when German Catholics and Mennonites had lived there together before the Russian Revolution. What impressed Dyck most had been the spirit of openness and dialogue at the Council. He had held frank conversations with various people on different subjects, an experience which raised for him the methodological question of how to work at dialogue. There had been substantial theological differences to discuss, but this had been different than talking with a fundamentalist, always pushing his "baby carriage of doctrines" and to whom you could not talk as a fellow believer. But at the same time he also expressed fears that the climate in Rome had changed since the end of the Council and had become less open to authentic conversation. 
Dyck began his letters from Rome by telling of two Quakers who left England in 1657 to bear Christian witness to the sultan. When their ship was blown off course they decided, with some misgivings, to go to Rome instead to try to convert the pope. Their misgivings were not unfounded: one was hanged and the other lost his mind in prison. Dyck said he also had feared for his life while in Rome but for a different reason: the cars that sped through the narrow winding streets! Protestant theologian Robert McAfee Brown, another observer, had wondered if being struck by a cardinal's Mercedes would constitute a valid martyrdom. But the work of the Council had not gone as fast as the cars. One monsignor told Dyck, "Our church expects to be around for many hundreds of years. We are not in a hurry."
Dyck outlined the background of the Council and its aims in his first article. He reminded his Mennonite audience that they could have received an invitation if they had sought one as a world body; as it was, his presence had been unofficial and at his own initiative. Nevertheless, he had felt most welcome. Even if few knew about Mennonites, everyone knew about the Anabaptists, if for no other reason than the anathemas pronounced against them by the Council of Trent. He had been impressed by all the pomp and pageantry even though it was a bit much for "a flat-footed Mennonite from the prairies."
Dyck had a more nuanced understanding of the role of the pope in the Council than did the major news reports and, apparently, many Protestant observers. He was impressed by how the pope's power and influence was limited by church structures and politics and noted the pope's difficult task of mediating between progressives and conservatives. He also remarked on the cautious nature of Pope Paul VI, who needed to reckon with the powerful Curia, the stronghold of conservatives. The decrees of the Council had to be read in light of this tension: one could detect which paragraph was designed to pacify which group. Dyck was encouraged, however, by the pope's institutional change of establishing a synod of bishops.
The rest of Dyck's articles discussed the Council documents. He was disappointed by Lumen Gentium, the document on the church. While it was reassuring to hear a statement from Rome that baptism in the name of the Trinity was the essential criterion creating the Christian community and he appreciated the emphasis on suffering and holiness, he found the reaffirmation of the historic inerrancy of Roman Catholicism to be troubling. The sections on the laity were weak and paternalistic. The problem with the traditional Roman Catholic conception of the church had been expressed by a German bishop:
Das Wort wird Fleisch, der Geist wird Amt. [The Word becomes flesh, the Spirit becomes office/institution.] Thus the ministerium (servanthood) of the church becomes the magisterium (hierarchy), and the gap between the clergy and laity grows large.
Dyck was troubled that Mary was called mediatrix in the last section of the document even if this was to be understood as taking nothing away from Christ as the one mediator. Nevertheless, he felt that these difference pointed to the need to cultivate personal friendships with Catholics and to look at problem doctrines from this perspective rather than from the brittle standpoint of doctrinal orthodoxy.
Dyck was especially pleased with Dei Verbum, the document on divine revelation, and its emphasis on one source of revelation-God who speaks through the scriptures and the experiences of the church. He appreciated the encouragement given to biblical scholarship. During a press panel discussing the document one priest had explained his understanding of Luther's doctrine of sola scriptura by commending the conviction of some smaller Protestant groups that "scripture is understood best when read and studied in the circle of the faithful." For Dyck, this was getting close to an Anabaptist understanding of the relationship between scripture and tradition.
Finally, Dyck found the Council's statement
on religious liberty encouraging even though one sentence seemed incongruous:
"The concept of religious liberty leaves intact the Catholic teaching
on the one true religion and the one true Church of Christ."
Perhaps this was one of those statements designed to appease the Catholic
traditionalists, but Dyck cautioned Mennonites against judging this remark
too severely: "let him who would cast stones first count the number of
times Menno [Simons] uses 'true church' in his writings!"
Tentative Beginnings in Ecumenical Relations after
Tentative Beginnings in Ecumenical Relations after the Council
Dyck was disturbed by the noncommittal Mennonite response to the ecumenical initiative of the Second Vatican Council. He argued that the statement of Pope Paul VI asking for forgiveness was addressed to his fellow Mennonites. "Are we ready to forgive and search our own hearts for errors we, that is, our fathers might also have made?" he asked. "Would such an expression have any meaning so many years after the events? Can we as Christians ignore those who ask us for forgiveness? Who should make a statement for Mennonites-conferences, individuals?"
No official response came from either Mennonite World Conference or any North American Mennonite body; apparently most Mennonites were not yet ready-or did not yet see the need-to address the issue. Even more telling than this non-response to Dyck's challenge was the decision not to invite a Roman Catholic who had inquired about the possibility of being an observer at the Mennonite World Conference assembly in 1967. While North American Mennonites were gradually becoming more open to ecumenical relations with Catholics there was still considerable resistance, in spite of Dyck's goading, to move too far in the direction of inviting Catholics to Mennonite gatherings.
This would be confirmed by Janeen Bertsche Johnson's research two decades later on changing Mennonite attitudes toward Catholics since 1950. She discovered that Mennonite statements about Catholics in 1950 clustered around the themes of opposition to an American ambassador to the Vatican, Catholic persecution of other religious groups in Italy and Latin America, and doctrinal differences between Catholics and Mennonites. Mennonites tended to identify themselves with Protestantism over against Catholicism. The following decades would show a clear trend toward more openness to Catholics as well as more questioning of this easy identification with Protestantism. The coverage of the ecumenical spirit of the Second Vatican Council played a big role in this move toward more openness; she saw a trend toward more openness in the decades following the Council, an openness which she expected to continue.
Seen in this light, Mennonite reluctance
to respond more positively to the ecumenical spirit of the Second Vatican
Council is not difficult to understand. The large and diverse world of
Catholicism must have felt overwhelming to the small Mennonite church
communities of North America. Furthermore, there were real theological
issues as indicated by C.J. Dyck's report on the last session of the Council.
Though religious prejudice showed itself in various ways, Mennonites simply
needed more time to sort out their relations to Roman Catholicism. Authentic
conversation would require time and persistence.
[*] Earl Zimmerman is a Ph.D. student
in Religion and Culture at The Catholic University of America in Washington,
DC and a pastor at Shalom Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, VA. 1. The
January 26, 1966 issue of Gospel Herald was largely devoted to
the subject of Vietnam; the first complete article on the Second Vatican
Council appeared in the following issue. This illustrates how the question
of Vietnam had caught the Mennonite imagination more than to the Second
Vatican Council. Return to Text
 . See A. J. Metzler, "Twenty
Days in New Delhi," Gospel Herald 55 (Jan. 2, 1962), 1-2, 21-22;
and S. F. Pannabecker, "Meeting in the East," The Mennonite 77
(Jan. 16, 1962) , 34-36. Return to Text
 . In contrast to The Mennonite,
the official magazine of the General Conference Mennonite Church, Gospel
Herald did not carry news articles from the larger church world. Any
news of general interest to Christians was limited to the "Items and Comments"
column. The items included here were found in the 1962 issues of Gospel
Herald. Return to Text
 . Oswald C. J. Hoffmann, "Vatican
II and the Protestant Reformation," The Mennonite 78 (Oct. 29,
1963), 646-47. The theme of a united Christian response to communism was
a sub-theme which appeared in various places in my research of Vatican
II and the World Council of Churches assembly in New Delhi. Mennonite
observers at New Delhi felt the need to argue that the assembly had not
been infiltrated by communism because of the presence of participants
from Eastern Europe, Russia and the Third World. In the discussion of
Vatican II at Bethel College one of the questions directed to James Nichols
was if the threat of communism was perhaps a reason for this ecumenical
movement. See Nichols, The Mennonite 78 (1963), 198. Finally, we
see here Hoffmann's belief that a united Christian front against communism
could be a desirable result of the council. This so called communist threat
was a widespread concern of Americans during this time. Return to Text
 . Cornelius J. Dyck, telephone
interview by the author, January 16, 1997. He later gave an address on
the literature of the Second Vatican Council at a meeting of the American
Theological Library Association in 1967. See Cornelius J. Dyck, "The Literature
of Vatican Council II: A Bibliographical Commentary," Anglican Theological
Review 41 (July 1967), 167-73. Return to Text
 . One of the ecumenical tasks
that still remains for Mennonite churches is to look back at the sixteenth
century and grant forgiveness to those who persecuted our spiritual forbears.
Those images of persecution and torture still need healing. We also need
to look back with the question of how we may have wronged others and ask
their forgiveness for ways our forebears may have hurt their opponents.
Some of the language and actions of our Anabaptist ancestors were also
hurtful. For example, how many times did they call the Roman Catholic
Church the whore of Babylon (e.g., Martyrs Mirror, 775), notwithstanding
the fact that their opponents may have used even worse language? At the
least, we should be able to acknowledge that, like all prophetic movements,
the Anabaptists did and said things in ways that sometimes invited the
response they received even though this does not justify their opponents'
actions. Return to Text
 . In the minutes of the General
Council of Mennonite World Conference, in the Netherlands there was a
general discussion about who might be invited from outside the Mennonite
Church. "In general it was felt Free Churches could be invited as fraternal
delegates, and other Protestants as observers. It was considered best
not to invite a Roman Catholic who had inquired of C. J. Dyck, as observer
at this time." From research by Ruth Schrock, Archives Assistant, Archives
of the Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana, in the Mennonite World Conference
Collection, minutes of the General Council, Nov. 17-20, 1965, p. 17. Return
 . Janeen Bertsche Johnson,
"What Mennonites Have Been Saying About Catholics," (unpublished paper,
Bluffton College, Bluffton, Ohio, 1986). Her paper researched and compared
all the Mennonite statements about Catholics in The Mennonite during
the years of 1950, 1960, 1965, and 1984. Return to Text
[*] Earl Zimmerman is a Ph.D. student in Religion and Culture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC and a pastor at Shalom Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, VA. 1. The January 26, 1966 issue of Gospel Herald was largely devoted to the subject of Vietnam; the first complete article on the Second Vatican Council appeared in the following issue. This illustrates how the question of Vietnam had caught the Mennonite imagination more than to the Second Vatican Council. Return to Text
 . See A. J. Metzler, "Twenty Days in New Delhi," Gospel Herald 55 (Jan. 2, 1962), 1-2, 21-22; and S. F. Pannabecker, "Meeting in the East," The Mennonite 77 (Jan. 16, 1962) , 34-36. Return to Text
 . In contrast to The Mennonite, the official magazine of the General Conference Mennonite Church, Gospel Herald did not carry news articles from the larger church world. Any news of general interest to Christians was limited to the "Items and Comments" column. The items included here were found in the 1962 issues of Gospel Herald. Return to Text
 . Oswald C. J. Hoffmann, "Vatican II and the Protestant Reformation," The Mennonite 78 (Oct. 29, 1963), 646-47. The theme of a united Christian response to communism was a sub-theme which appeared in various places in my research of Vatican II and the World Council of Churches assembly in New Delhi. Mennonite observers at New Delhi felt the need to argue that the assembly had not been infiltrated by communism because of the presence of participants from Eastern Europe, Russia and the Third World. In the discussion of Vatican II at Bethel College one of the questions directed to James Nichols was if the threat of communism was perhaps a reason for this ecumenical movement. See Nichols, The Mennonite 78 (1963), 198. Finally, we see here Hoffmann's belief that a united Christian front against communism could be a desirable result of the council. This so called communist threat was a widespread concern of Americans during this time. Return to Text
 . Cornelius J. Dyck, telephone interview by the author, January 16, 1997. He later gave an address on the literature of the Second Vatican Council at a meeting of the American Theological Library Association in 1967. See Cornelius J. Dyck, "The Literature of Vatican Council II: A Bibliographical Commentary," Anglican Theological Review 41 (July 1967), 167-73. Return to Text
 . One of the ecumenical tasks that still remains for Mennonite churches is to look back at the sixteenth century and grant forgiveness to those who persecuted our spiritual forbears. Those images of persecution and torture still need healing. We also need to look back with the question of how we may have wronged others and ask their forgiveness for ways our forebears may have hurt their opponents. Some of the language and actions of our Anabaptist ancestors were also hurtful. For example, how many times did they call the Roman Catholic Church the whore of Babylon (e.g., Martyrs Mirror, 775), notwithstanding the fact that their opponents may have used even worse language? At the least, we should be able to acknowledge that, like all prophetic movements, the Anabaptists did and said things in ways that sometimes invited the response they received even though this does not justify their opponents' actions. Return to Text
 . In the minutes of the General Council of Mennonite World Conference, in the Netherlands there was a general discussion about who might be invited from outside the Mennonite Church. "In general it was felt Free Churches could be invited as fraternal delegates, and other Protestants as observers. It was considered best not to invite a Roman Catholic who had inquired of C. J. Dyck, as observer at this time." From research by Ruth Schrock, Archives Assistant, Archives of the Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana, in the Mennonite World Conference Collection, minutes of the General Council, Nov. 17-20, 1965, p. 17. Return to Text
 . Janeen Bertsche Johnson, "What Mennonites Have Been Saying About Catholics," (unpublished paper, Bluffton College, Bluffton, Ohio, 1986). Her paper researched and compared all the Mennonite statements about Catholics in The Mennonite during the years of 1950, 1960, 1965, and 1984. Return to Text
 . Ibid., 12-14.
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