Vatican II…

A litany

By Mike MacDonald, Catechetical Coordinator
January/February 2012

Return to Table of Contents
Print Article

Reproduced, with permission, from his “Catechetics with Mike” blog on the website of the Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan

The year 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the first session of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Rather than focus on the actual changes promulgated by the Council, Fr. John O’Malley, S.J., suggests that the “style” of Vatican II is its most distinctive feature. Do you agree? Do we maintain that style today in Catechetics and in other areas of Church life?

Here, in part, is what Fr. O’Malley says. The literary form and the vocabulary were the constitutive elements of the distinctive style of discourse of Vatican II. The style of Vatican II, as is always the case, influenced content, just as the content of some of the decrees of Vatican II influenced the form…Perhaps that style of Vatican II can be summarized by a simple litany that indicates some of the elements in the change in style of the Church indicated by the Council’s vocabulary:

  • from commands to ideals
  • from passivity to activity
  • from ruling to serving
  • from vertical to horizontal
  • from exclusion to inclusion
  • from hostility to friendship
  • from static to changing
  • from prescriptive to principled
  • from retrospective to forward-looking
  • from definitive to open-ended
  • from threat to invitation
  • from behavior modification to conversion of heart
  • from the dictates of law to the dictates of conscience
  • from external conformity to the joyful pursuit of holiness

Every one of those phrases needs a thousand qualifications, but the litany as a whole conveys the sweep of the change in the style of church held up for our contemplation and actualization by the Second Vatican Council. This is the substantive teaching or doctrine of Vatican II.

“Trent and Vatican II: Two Styles of Church,” by John W. O’Malley, S.J., in Raymond F. Bulman & Frederick J. Parrella (editors), From Trent to Vatican II: Historical and Theological Investigations. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Return to Table of Contents
Print Article