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Category: On the Documents of Vatican II

Jeff Mirus introduces the Second Vatican Council and highlights the content of each of its documents in turn, providing a convenient overview of the Council's work.

Afterword: The Mythology and the Reality of Vatican II

I began our survey of the documents of Vatican II (starting with A Funny Thing about Vatican II) because it seemed to me that the Church was just now becoming capable of responding to them as the Council Fathers would have wished. The period between the closing of the Council in 1965 and...

Vatican II on the Church and the World: Special Problems

Part 2 of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World is devoted to “some problems of special urgency.” Covered in five chapters, these problems are marriage and the family; the development of culture; economic and social life; politics; and peace. Chapter 1 is...

Vatican II on the Church and the World: Community and Activity

The remaining three chapters of the first part of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World continue sketching the contemporary human situation and the role of the Church. Having examined “The Dignity of the Human Person” in the first chapter, the Council focuses on...

Vatican II on the Church and the World: Man’s Calling

The final document of the Second Vatican Council addresses the relationship of the Church to the modern world, and what the Church has to offer men as they struggle to develop and solve problems old and new. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et...

Vatican II on Priests: Priestly Life

While the first two chapters of the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis) dealt primarily with the ministry of priests (see previous entry), the third and final chapter covers “The Life of Priests” in three sections. The first section, “The...

Vatican II on Priests: Priestly Ministry

Oddly enough, since the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church focused on bishops and the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity tended to overshadow everything else at the time, the Second Vatican Council has often been said to have ignored priests. But priests are the only group to which two...

Vatican II on Missionary Activity: Mission Work

Following its exploration of principles in the first chapter (see the previous entry), the remainder of the Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes) covers missionary work itself, both in its character and stages and in the means necessary to ensure its progress. The...

Vatican II on Missionary Activity: Principles

“The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father” (2). So begins the first chapter of the Second Vatican Council’s fourteenth...

Vatican II on Religious Freedom

One of Vatican II's more controversial teachings is found in the thirteenth document, the Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae), issued on December 7, 1965. Some Traditionalist groups hold that this document contradicts earlier Magisterial teachings on the responsibility of...

Vatican II on the Lay Apostolate: Implementation

The first part of my summary of the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem) covered the special mission of the laity, as discussed in the document's first three chapters. The document continues in its final chapters to consider the various forms, relations,...

Vatican II on the Lay Apostolate: Mission

What role do the laity play in the Church’s apostolic activity? Are they simply to follow the detailed instructions of those set over them in the Church hierarchy? Do they have an apostolic mission in their own right? These are the questions answered by the Second Vatican Council’s...

Vatican II on Divine Revelation

What is the purpose and nature of Divine Revelation? That is the question which the Second Vatican Council set out to answer in its eleventh document on November 18, 1965, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum). As the Council’s second dogmatic constitution, Dei Verbum...

Vatican II on Non-Christian Religions

By far the shortest document issued by the Second Vatican Council was the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate). The text runs to only about 1,600 words in English, or less than twice the length of this summary. Clearly, then, the Council Fathers did...

Vatican II on Christian Education

The Second Vatican Council’s ninth document was the Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis), issued on October 25, 1965. It is one of the shorter documents of the Council, but even though it attempts to comment briefly on each aspect of education of interest to the...

Vatican II on Priestly Training

The eighth document issued by the Second Vatican Council, on October 28, 1965, was the Decree on Priestly Training (Optatam Totius). This simply sets forth basic principles to guide the establishment of more specific programs for priestly formation in the different countries and rites throughout...

Vatican II on Religious Life

The seventh document issued by the Second Vatican Council, on October 28, 1965, was the Decree on Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life (Perfectae Caritatis). It is one of the shorter documents, chiefly because it deals only with the broadest guidelines. This has led many to consider the...

Vatican II on Bishops: Episcopal Collaborators

After a very brief sub-section in which the Council comments on the need to revise the boundaries of dioceses to take into account current population patterns and pastoral needs, The Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church proceeds to the third section of its central...

Vatican II on Bishops: The Bishops Themselves

The sixth document issued by Vatican II—the first coming out of its 1965 sessions—was the Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus), promulgated on October 28th. I’ll cover this in two parts. Since the most highly-developed section of...

Vatican II on Ecumenism: Practice

The remainder of the Decree on Ecumenism can be summarized more briefly. It consists of a chapter on “The Practice of Ecumenism” and a chapter on “Churches and Ecclesial Communities Separated from the Roman Apostolic See”. The second chapter covers ecumenical practice. The...

Vatican II on Ecumenism: Principles

Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) was issued on November 21, 1964, the same day as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church and the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, for the three documents are closely connected. Unitatis Redintegratio is divided into three...

Vatican II on Eastern Catholics

The fourth document issued by the Second Vatican Council, on November 21, 1964, was the Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite (Orientalium Ecclesiarum). This is a very brief decree designed to set down the basic principles for the proper understanding and operation of Eastern Rite...

Vatican II on the Church: Mary

The final chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church is devoted to “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church”. This is the only chapter divided into sub-sections. It had been originally planned that the Council would issue a separate...

Vatican II on the Church: Eschatological Identity

I can see now that it was a mistake not to include Chapter 6 of Lumen Gentium, on “Religious”, in the previous entry (as I had done in my preparatory notes), because the chapter really covers that form of consecration which represents the universal call to holiness (Chapter 5) in a...

Vatican II on the Church: Lay Holiness

If the first two chapters of Lumen Gentium contain the most controversial passages and the third contains the Council’s most important doctrinal exposition, the fourth and fifth are vital to the Church’s mission in a very different sense. These chapters address a topic too often...

Vatican II on the Church: The Bishops

In his Angelus message of October 22, 1995, Pope John Paul II called Lumen Gentium “the keystone of the Council’s whole Magisterium”. In many ways its most important chapter was the third, “On the Hierarchical Structure of the Church and in Particular on the...

Vatican II on the Church: The Mystery

The central purpose of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) is “to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission” (1). The first two chapters clearly build toward the document’s great third...

Vatican II on the Church: Introduction

The third document issued by the Second Vatican Council, on November 21, 1964, is undoubtedly the crown jewel—the impressive Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). It is one of the Council’s two major documents on the Church, the other being the Constitution on the Church...

Vatican II on Social Communication

The second document promulgated by the Second Vatican Council was the Decree on the Means of Social Communication (Inter Mirifica), issued on December 4, 1963. It is extremely brief, its contents are predictable, and it is easily summarized in a single post. The essential concern of the Council...

Vatican II on the Liturgy: Related Concerns

Having commented at some length on the Norms for liturgical renewal which first and foremost affect the Mass, the most important work for the understanding and importance of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is completed. Still, as we have seen in the list of chapter titles, the Council did...

Vatican II on the Liturgy: Particular Norms & the Eucharist

Following the General Norms, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy outlines more particular norms for authentic renewal which clarify more precisely what the Council Fathers intend. In the “Norms Drawn from the Hierarchic and Communal Nature of the Liturgy”, the Council emphasizes...

Vatican II on the Liturgy: Overview & General Norms

Having briefly introduced the concerns of the Council Fathers, let’s take a closer look at the text of Sacrosanctum Concilium, leading up to the General Norms which the Council promulgated to guide liturgical reform. Following an introduction which attempts to balance the need for revision...

Vatican II on the Liturgy: Introduction

Some of the documents of Vatican II are longer and more detailed, more central to the Church’s purposes, or more controversial in their application than others. It has therefore become apparent that if I am to comment usefully on each document within the medium of the On the Culture blog, I...

The English Editions of the Documents of Vatican II

The Second Vatican Council took place well before the era in which the Vatican Press began to issue translations of Church documents in all major languages. For this reason, the publication of the Council documents in various languages depended on independent projects undertaken by publishers in...

A funny thing about Vatican II . . .

They say a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, and that’s certainly true of the fate of the documents of the Second Vatican Council on their way to the larger forum of the Church in which they were implemented. It wasn’t funny funny, you understand; it was funny peculiar. As...

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