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Vatican II: Did Anything Happen? Paperback – 15 Jan 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum (15 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826428908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826428905
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


The initiative to publish these interrelated studies under one cover is to be lauded. This small book should be used as a serious introduction to the study of Vatican II, not that it has become a historical event. --Leo Laberge, OMI, Theoforum Vol. 39 No. 3, 2008

About the Author

John W. O'Malley, SJ, is one of the most highly respected and widely read Roman Catholic historians in the United States. He is the author of Four Cultures of the West (Harvard University Press) and The First Jesuits (Harvard University Press), among others. Stephen Schloesser, S.J., is associate professor of history at Boston College, USA. Joseph A. Komonchak holds the John and Gertrude Hubbard Chair in Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America, USA. Neil J. Ormerod is professor of theology at Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, N.S.W, Australia. David G. Schultenover, S.J., is professor of theology at Marquette University and editor-in-chief of Theological Studies.

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By donaloceallaigh on 18 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent help with studies. I have enjoyed studying this book. I would recommend it for VII and Year of Faith.
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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Dueling Historiographies 25 April 2009
By Thomas J. Burns - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This work is a collection of essays first appearing in "Theological Studies," the erudite Catholic Jesuit journal, in 2007. The impetus for this work appears to be the Vatican's calculated promotion of Agnosto Marchetto's interpretative work on the Council. The fanfare surrounding the introduction of Marchetto's book on June 17, 2005, seemed unusual to veteran Vatican observers like John W. O'Malley, for its political heft [Cardinal Ruini served as Master of Ceremonies], setting [Capitoline Museums], press coverage, and of greatest interest to O'Malley, its attacks on other scholars. [53]

Those "other scholars" included Giuseppe Alberigo, whom Ruini referred to by name as the "capo of the Bologna school," and the target of Vatican ire for what it viewed as the promotion of an overly progressive and anticlerical interpretation of the Council. O'Malley and his colleagues thus collaborated on this work at hand to serve up a counterpoint, partly to defend Alberigo's professional integrity but probably more to head off any attempts to domesticate the event Vatican II.

Komonchak immediately addresses the key question: if Vatican II is a pivotal event in the life of the Church, how does one define the term "event?" He borrows Paul Veyne's pithy observation that "an event is difference....An event is anything that does not go without saying." [28] With the tools of historical sociology Komonchak argues that events are ruptures, discontinuities which provoke hope and fear. Such was indeed the reaction to the calling of the Council. Komonchak, it seems, beheld two events: the Council proper and the post-Conciliar reactions. He is not unsympathetic with de Lubac's concern in the late 1960's or Ratzinger's of the late 1980's about the subjective and somewhat conceited invocation of "the spirit of Vatican II" for a variety of personal and varied agendas.

Ratzinger's corrective of emphasis upon the texts is not without merit, and Komonchak notes that this is, in fact, the Church's traditional way of doing business. However, he also notes the traditional Church practice of recourse to the intention of the legislator, in this case the fathers of Vatican II. Recovery of these intentions takes on a new urgency as the participants are dying away, but Komonchak goes further on the difficulties of recreating what, in reality, is actually an ensemble of countless experiences. Even Ratzinger observed at the time that the men who left the Council were not the same as those who entered it, metaphorically speaking.

But Komonchak does not reduce the experience of Vatican II to either the memoirs of dying men or their texts. He argues instead that the Council's meaning is discernible only as one in a series of events, a series which continues to this day and beyond. His example of Gorbachev and glasnost is quite useful here. The worst mishandling of the Council, he contends, would be to define its reality as ending in December, 1965. This is probably his greatest area of disagreement with the Vatican.

All four contributors agree that Vatican II was quite unlike any council to precede it. O'Malley looks at the genesis of the Council in the soul of John XXIII and that pontiff's historically unique vision and catechesis leading up to October, 1962. He contrasts the ecclesiology of John with that of the Council of Trent, four hundred years earlier, and particularly with Pius X and his "Lamentabili" condemnation of progress at the turn of the century. O'Malley observes that the Council was the fruit of nearly two centuries of enriched theological reflection, and was hardly discontinuous with the past.

O'Malley contends that the post-Conciliar argument over whether Vatican II was a good event or a bad event has been replaced by a debate over whether Vatican II was a unique event or "just one of the twenty-one." He quotes Joseph Ratzinger's now famous 1985 observation that "there is no such thing as a pre-Conciliar or post-Conciliar Church." He disagrees with Ratzinger's [now Benedict XVI's] emphasis upon the documents of the Council over the sitz-im-leben of the Council as event, arguing that the very literary style of this Council--pastoral--is a philosophical shift from the Roman canonical tone of earlier gatherings. Vatican II's panegyric style was aimed at the heart, he contends, an essential change in how the Church itself speaks publicly.

Stephen Schloesser makes the case that it is impossible to understand the Council without a feel for its historical setting, and one can legitimately argue that the twentieth century was unique in a grim way. Schloesser reminds the reader that the Council fathers had barely taken their seats when the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink. [93] A close examination of pre-Vatican II theological literature makes a strong case that Vatican II was a necessary moral response to two world wars, the Holocaust, and the atomic arms build up, to cite but a few of the horrors of the time. From this vantage point, to ignore the uniqueness of this Council as event is to ignore the impotence of the entire Christian communion to ward off the evils of the modern era. Schloesser concedes that the language of the Council is more hopeful than perhaps circumstances warranted then and now. I might add here that the tendency to overlook the moral imperatives of the Council is hardly limited to conservatives; if anything, a progressive liberality has significantly trivialized the intent of the Council fathers.

Neil J. Ormerod, writing fourth in the sequence, addresses the previous contributors with the position that only a systemic historical hermeneutic makes possible the study of the Church's history, and most certainly the genuine spirit and impact of a council. He draws heavily from Komonchak, Bernard Lonergan, and Robert Doran to provide some inkling of what this hermeneutic might look like.

Although not stylish or particularly unified, this work is an interesting glimpse of the theological infighting to define the scope and power of Vatican II in the contemporary Roman Catholic Church.
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Compelling 14 April 2008
By Carlos Ramos Mattei - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having lived through the 1960s I find it incredible that anyone could say that "nothing happened" at Vatican II. That probably stems from the desire to, precisely, turn back the clock to a preconciliar time when curia officials maintained the idea that the Catholic Church was the custodian of some eternal verities. With Vatican II we realized that many of those verities actually came up accidentally through very historical circumstances. As a fact most of those "verities" were actually a few hundred years old, which compared to the millennial history of Christianity, was yesterday. John O'Malley describes and documents clearly how the Church aligned itself with the European aristocracy so that it assumed the same fortress mentality of a dissappearing breed, until it was plainly evident that change was necessary. In a very sensible way he describes and explains how Vatican II represented a renovation of attitude or of "spirit" which in itself is the equivalent of a profound change for Catholic Christianity. For that reason Vatican II is still a project in the making. John O'Malley's book is a remarkable contribution to this end.
12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A good slice of Vatican II retrospective 2 Nov 2008
By James Brandon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Vatican II was and is too much to comprehend at once, and its effects are still unfolding. This small set of essays provides some heuristic perspectives for someone looking for a place to begin.
An authoritative look at Vatican II 10 Sep 2013
By James L. Hubbard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you wish to know about Vatican II, this is the book to read. Wonderful insights by an respected author.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is such a HOPE filled book! 31 Mar 2013
By L. Webster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have an degree in Religious Studies and a graduate degree in Pastoral Ministry. Both degrees are heavy in Church history. I learned so much from O'Malley's look at Vatican II and the history that led up to this momentous council!!! I highly recommend this book for its valuable insights and content!
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