The following comes from an April 14 Holy Names University post:
Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins delivered a presentation about his recent book, Vatican II, Berkeley and Beyond, on April 7 in the Studio Theatre of the Valley Center for the Performing Arts.
Cummins, who was born and raised in Berkeley, was ordained to the priesthood in 1953 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. In 1962, he was named the first chancellor for the Diocese of Oakland; in this role, he assisted Bishop Floyd L. Begin, the first bishop of Oakland. Upon the death of Bishop Begin in 1977, Cummins was installed as the second bishop of Oakland, and served in this capacity until his retirement in 2003.
Vatican II, Berkeley and Beyond is composed of Cummins’ reflections on his time as chancellor and as bishop. Cummins explained that one if his inspirations in writing the book was to clarify Bishop Begin’s position on the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley. “I had been feeling very strongly that Bishop Begin was not appreciated for the role he played in the establishment of the GTU,” Cummins said. “I don’t think I could prove it and be absolutely sure, but if it weren’t for Bishop Begin, the GTU would only be the Pacific School of Religion.”
A significant portion of Vatican II, Berkeley and Beyond is devoted to Cummins’ participation in the Second Vatican Council and the impact it had on his thinking.
During the event, Cummins spoke about how he had accompanied Bishop Begin to Rome for portions of the council; he said that his thinking, in part, was shaped by Bishop Begin’s attitude towards Vatican II. “I think Bishop Begin, again, above all, was absolutely unambiguous about the council,” Cummins said. “Whatever the council issued, whatever they came to decide, that’s what we did. We were all young—I made a point of that in the book—and we were raring to go. And it was absolutely wonderful that we had a bishop who drew a straight line from the Vatican Council to the diocese.”
Cummins also explain that, as a bishop, he placed a priority on changing the style of authority in the diocese. “As far as I was concerned, my pet project, post-Vatican II, was the style of authority in the [Catholic] Church,” he said. “The old model of obedience was good for its time and not to be mocked by caricature, but not good enough for our time, because it did not provide enough freedom for people to be maturely responsible for the obligations they have within the Church.”