This collection of essays has ensued from the author’s reflections on the situation of the Church in the conciliar and post-conciliar period. The first essay, "The Changing Church", offers some thoughts on the limits of change within the self-understanding of the Catholic Church. It seeks not merely to warn against a falsely understood "progressism", but, with the same decisiveness, to arouse courage to discover new and bold ways in the Church of God. In view of the ecumenical efforts of the present, the author depicts, in the second essay, by means of the example of "situation ethics", the course which he envisages for a present-day ecumenical dialogue. The opening of the Church to the world calls for a whole series of fundamental debates on the limits of the possibilities of the Church for coping with secular situations of a private and social character. The third essay, “The Church’s Limits", sketches the author’s thoughts above all on the capacity of the Church to give directions in the public social sphere. The last part of the book attempts a preview of the post-conciliar epoch: which of the teachings of the Constitution on the Church will especially have to touch the heart of the future Christian, if he is to live his faith in the world of tomorrow?
These questions form, in a way, only an accidental selection out of the countless problems posed by the Council documents. They are not a commentary but an elucidation of some of the focal points of the conciliar event, which perhaps did not even find much expression in the official. Some of it is an elaboration of thoughts which just crossed the authors mind and an attempt to draw them generally into consciousness. However, all these reflections seek to help prepare a little the path of the pilgrim Church, so that even in our time it may proclaim and mediate the grace of God.
The original German version of these essays, which are the texts of various lectures given by the author (see note at the end of the book), has appeared in the sixth volume of Schriften zur Theologie (1965). The author and the publishers are grateful to Dr. Oscar Bettschart, Director of Benziger Verlag, Einsiedeln, for permission to publish their English translation in the Quaestiones disputatae series.