The Anniversary of the Convocation of Vatican Council II
On October 11, 1962 the first session of the Second Vatican Council convened. In the decades since, Vatican II has been both praised and criticized; the decrees which came from the council have seen both positive results and have at other times produced distress and dissent. Many have been distorted and misused. But what did Vatican II really say? What was really intended? Now, more than four decades later, many Catholics remain confused.
On December 22nd, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the council is a speech:
“The last event of this year on which I wish to reflect here is the celebration of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council 40 years ago. This memory prompts the question: What has been the result of the Council? Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult . . . The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult? Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit. . . .
. . . Here I shall cite only John XXIII's well-known words, which unequivocally express this hermeneutic when he says that the Council wishes "to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion". And he continues: "Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us...". It is necessary that "adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness..." be presented in "faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another...” retaining the same meaning and message. . . .
. . . However, wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the Council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing.”
For many Catholics, the main result of Vatican II seems to be that vernacular language would be permitted to be used in the Mass. In reality, four years of meetings and the production of multiple decrees and documents had a lot more to say than simply that. Vatican II concluded over 40 years ago; the effects of the council remain today, sometimes appearing to be obvious and in other ways, seemingly invisible or unknown. The results and effects of the Second Vatican Council are much more intricate and specific than many of the faithful seem to acknowledge. To better understand the continuing effects of the council, we recommend reading what was really said by the council fathers in the council documents – that will help each Catholic to discover what was really going on in the Second Vatican Council.
Here are some recommended titles: