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Started before the Second Vatican Council opened and completed and published shortly before it closed, Peter and Caesar is more radical than the Council was or could be in two major and seemingly opposed directions. They seemed opposed from the perspective of the conventional opposition of liberal and conservative tendencies in the church.
But Peter and Caesar was not conceived or written in the spirit of that conventional opposition. Its analysis of the need for inner structural reform of the Church goes much further than the Council did, both for the sake of the Church itself and for its relationships with political communities. In that respect it seems to weigh in on the liberal side.
But it seems to weigh in on the ecclesiastical "conservative" side in its analysis of the work of John Courtney Murray, the once-silenced father of the Council's Declaration of Religion Freedom (Digntatis Humanae), and its fears that the much-needed clear recognition by the Church of the importance of religious freedom may easily be influenced so deeply by the rationalistic individualism that the redemptive mission of the Church is finally confined to the sphere of private, personal morality, with the result that Caesar only needs to attend to the prophetic voice of Peter on the outer margins of the central struggles over the justice of social and political institutions and practices. Here Goerner agrees with the present Pope whose repeated attempts to articulate a middle way between Marxian socialism and capitalistic individualism has raised no audible echoes.
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