12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2012
The first thing to note about this book is the title. There is no question mark at the end of it. So the author is not asking a question, he is giving us the answer to the question.
I wish I'd had this book straight after the Council finished. It would have given me a wider context in which to place the Council than the narrow Irish Catholic perspective, in which a nervous flock could be reassured by their Shepherd, on his return from the Council, that nothing had really changed.
Clearly that was only half the story: nothing had changed and everything had changed. O'Malley sets that out very clearly.
The majority came away from the Council thinking that everything had changed utterly: the legalistic negativity of the long nineteench century had at last been replaced by a return to the old virtues of an earlier, much earlier, church - love, dialogue, tolerance, sharing, cooperation and all that.
But the minority had been careful to preserve a legalistic backdoor in the new aspirational framework, carefully crafted and buried deep in the concessional language of the overwhelming majority. As soon as the Council participants were safely dispatched home, the vultures began to pick at the carcass and we are now back wherefrom we started. Silly dogmas and directives are being defended and opponents are being silenced with holy super-gag orders.
I remember, during the Council, my class teacher, a Christian Brother and no fool, was absolutely scandalisd by Time magazine's reporting of the council on the lines of a political party convention.
When you read O'Malley you see that Time was not far out. And you would be a long time trying to find the footprints of the Holy Spirit in all the machinations and even in the final result.
I remember being enthused by the Council at the time. I used to read Bishop Robinson (Honest to God) and Paul Tillich (The Shaking of the Foundations) and I found these books exciting and inspiring against the background of sin, guilt and terror being peddled by my local branch of the RCC. Now, through the Council, the RCC appeared, all of a sudden, to be catching up with these guys.
But Paul VI let us down and reverted to RCC form. John Paul II, having grown up in a persecuted church, and while pastorally an extrovert, was essentially conservative in matters theological. Benedict XVI while having shown promise as a young man, and attempting to do something about clerical child abuse on his way to the papacy, has continued to turn the clock back as far as implementation of the spirit of Vatican II is concerned.
Nevertheless, if you're not too depressed and want to explore the excitement of Vatican II and understand just what was going on at it, then get this book and read it.
I have just finished reading a copy from my local library. I'm now on my way out to buy a copy of my own, which will bear much re-reading and searching as a reference book.
on 19 November 2014
This book arrived on time and I have almost finished it ! If anyone wishes to know what happened at the Vatican II Ecumenical Council 1962-5, this book comes highly recommended. It is detailed, not confusing, written in a lively and interesting style and marches on apace. I cannot recommend it too highly for the ordinary person, interested to know what happened and how the various documents were arrived at. O'Malley makes what was sometimes a confused and confusing process decipherable for the average reader.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2012
An exciting and authoritative account of the Council and its antecedents, it uses the five volume Alberigo and Komonchack of course but is more helpful than the Alberigo paperback. A balanced assessment of Vatican II, not afraid to face the problems its non-reception by the Roman bureaucracy has caused.
11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2009
...for those who care about the current developments in the catholic Church - the tendency to lok back instead of forward, the dismissal of some (maybe even many) of the changes introduced at Vatican II. This highly literate, scrupulously fair account will make you think; it may even make you change your mind, whichever side of the liturgical fence you're on; it is essential reading for all those who take their Christian commitment seriously.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2011
Sets the scene for the future of the Catholic Church. Gives a fair and balanced picture of what actually took place. The author could have been much more critical of the efforts by vatican Curia people to manipulate the matters debated, and the statements that appeared, but he resists the impulse. The result is a factual account of the proceedings, which was what I was looking for - but I would have enjoyed a rather more pointed approach, highlighting the struggle by vatican officials to maintain power and control - the 'correct' way of viewing things, according to them.
No doubt Vatican II was a breakthrough in many ways, as John XXIII intended, but much contentious ground was not dealt with - celibacy of clergy, ordination of women, clarification of questions about Infallibility, collegiality of Pope with fellow bishops. Perhaps an unquestioned traditionalism within the church, a reluctance to criticise, an exaggerated view of papal authority made it impossible for the bishops to discuss in a rational, scripturally based way; but the need remains.
Vatican III is necessary, and at that time it will be a good thing if another fr O'Malley is there, providing a truthful, accurate account of the proceedings, but this time with a rather more critcal bite.