While Fulton J. Sheen was head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, he was appointed to the Conciliar Commission on the Missions during the Second Vatican Council. Sheen was placed in this particular commission due to his missionary work done through the Society. In his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, Sheen recounts much about the Council and the many humorous events that took place among the bishops.
There is much controversy regarding the second Vatican Council. Many people claim it as a “liberal” event introducing new ideas and new ideologies. Sheen, however, saw it as nothing new:
It was a master stroke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that bishops gathered from all over the world could see the new direction the Church must take-which actually was nothing less than the old direction that Christian salvation has an earthly and historical dimension, namely, the relation of the love of God and the love of neighbor. (Treasure in Clay, 305-306)
Sheen was not blind to some of the confusion regarding the Council. He says that whenever there is a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, especially in an Ecumenical Council, there is a greater “show of force” from the demonic. He even goes so far as to say that it is good that there is some “turbulence” that came from the Council: “If a General Council did not provoke the spirit of turbulence, one might almost doubt the operation of the Third Person of the Trinity over the Assembly.” (TC, 308) Whenever something good happens in the Church, the demonic becomes more active in destroying that good.
Another issue addressed by Sheen is that of the “world.” He emphasized the need of being in the world but not of the world. In his own day, Sheen laments how the media has interpreted the Council:
I wonder if it was not a reading of the media rather than the reading of the decisions of the Council which made so many Sisters abandon the classroom for the inner city. And was it not the failure of many priests to read the Council's distinction of the world as a theater of redemption and a spirit which is anti-Christ which prompted so many to abandon pastoral activities and to be more concerned with management as imitation and the industrial life of the world. (TC, 312)
This is the same mistake many make today in reading the documents of Vatican II. This is exactly what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has often spoken and written about. Ratzinger said that Vatican II must be interpreted by the “letter of the Council” and not by the “spirit of the Council.” Sheen believed that there was nothing wrong with Vatican II, but that there were problems with how people interpreted the documents.
Sheen believed that one of the main purposes of Vatican II was to go out into the world and transform it, and not be transformed by it. This is still the case for us today. We are called to continue the “Great Commission.” We must “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (ESVCE Matthew 28:19-20)