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Pat wrote:

Hi guys,

  • Is there an easily obtainable summary of the major changes that were invoked as
    a result of Vatican Council II?

By major changes, I'm thinking of those changes that would have been noticeable by or would have impacted the every day common Catholic.

Your help would be appreciated. I am working on a mid-term paper for a Religious Studies class.

Thank you,

Pat

  { Is there an easily obtainable summary of the major changes as a result of Vatican Council II? }

Bob replied:

Pat,

Try the Catholic Encyclopedia for starters. If you google it, Wikipedia and online articles could give you a bibliography that may provide something concise.

Good luck,

Bob Kirby

Eric replied:

Hi Pat,

The best way to do this, especially if you're in Religious Studies class, is to read the text of the Council itself. If you're at high school level or above, this should not be too difficult a read.

If you can't read them, at least scan them. If you can scan them, use the names to google for a summary. :-) But really, if you want to be educated as opposed to regurgitating stuff you find on the Internet, spend some time studying.

You can find these on the Vatican web site.

Here is a guide to them:

Four are the most important. They are:

  • Dei Verbum — On the Word of God — this discusses the nature of the Word of God and clarifies some aspects of what we believe about the Bible. This is relevant to Catholic-Protestant relations and while it should affect the Catholic on a daily basis, it's theological; and doesn't impact the sacraments or rites or customs.

  • Lumen Gentium — Dogmatic Constitution on the Church — similar to Dei Verbum, this addresses the nature of the Church and is relevant to Catholic-Protestant relations. Again, there is some important stuff in here, in particular concerning the eternal fate of non-Catholics and a nuanced difference from the traditional view, but it is theological; and doesn't impact the sacraments or rites or customs.

  • Sacrocanctum Concilium — On the Sacred Liturgy — this is what you primarily want to read. It describes how we view the liturgy and suggests some changes (although liturgical reform was done outside of Vatican II).

  • Gaudium et Spes — The Church in the Modern World — this is a fluffy 60s-era discourse on popular world issues. It's probably low priority for you.

Other documents of interest:

  • Nostra Aetate — this addresses our relationship with the Jews and insofar as you consider that relationship to be a part of a Catholic's everyday life. You should read this. It represented a major philosophical development. Prior to this, the common view was that Jews were simply going to Hell. Not necessarily the official view, but the popular view.

  • Dignitatis Humanae — On the Dignity of the Human Person -- this discussed religious freedom, and also represented a major philosophical development. The previous, prevailing view (not doctrinal but popular among theologians) was that "error has no rights".

  • Unitatis Redintegratio — Decree on Ecumenism -- this was an important development and affects our relationships with other Christians. Prior to this, the attitude tended to be that "we are the One True Church (tm), you can convert and be saved, or not convert and go to Hell". (The real position was more nuanced, but that's how a lot of people understood it.)

  • Ad Gentes — on Mission Activity in the Church -- this discusses evangelization. This is another one that should affect Catholics' daily lives but in practice probably doesn't.

One reason why I want you to read these things (to the extent you are able) is that a lot of stuff has been falsely attributed to Vatican II. People will say stuff like:

"The Jews don't need to become Christians, they can be good Jews and be saved",

which is a distortion of Nostra Aetate. Or,

"Vatican II says that it doesn't matter what religion you are, you can be saved,"

This is a distortion of Lumen Gentium (see #14, 16). Being someone born after Vatican II and steeped in the changes that followed it, I was quite surprised when I went back and actually read the text of the Council and found that much of what had happened wasn't even called for by Vatican II.

For example, in Sacrosanctum Concilium #36, it says,

"Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites."

Surprise, surprise. Granted, it does go on to allow for vernacular, but it is clearly biased in favor of the Latin.

Hope this helps!

Eric

Pat replied:

Thank you so much,

This does indeed help and yes, I do want to be educated, not just regurgitate the information.

My basic problem is that in reading the documents themselves, which I am doing (or synopses of them), I am not that educated in what the Catholic Church doctrine contained on these major issues prior to Vatican Council II, to be able to tell whether what I am reading is any different than the way it was before the council. In other words, I haven't found:

a before and an after.

Maybe I should be looking for analyses of the documents as well as reading the documents. You have given me clues and I'll keep going with that, plus I have a meeting with my pastor this evening. I plan to ask for his advice as well.

Thank you,

Pat

Eric replied:

You said:
Thank you so much,

This does indeed help and yes, I do want to be educated, not just regurgitate the information.

My basic problem is that in reading the documents themselves, which I am doing (or synopses of them), I am not that educated in what the Catholic Church doctrine contained on these major issues prior to Vatican Council II to be able to tell whether what I am reading is any different than the way it was before the council. In other words, I haven't found:

a before and an after.

Yeah, I thought of that. I don't have a good answer for you on  cases when the previous view is not obvious from the council text (probably the usual case). Part of the problem is that a lot of these beliefs were not documented; i.e., they were popular beliefs or myths, not official teachings. In fact, Vatican II didn't really contradict what had been formally taught before; it clarified a lot of distortions and it brought forth a more modern expression of the faith, but it didn't reverse any doctrine.

Here is one place you might start. Look for the document Unam Sanctam; also look up Nulla salus extra ecclesiam (No salvation outside of the Church) and maybe these quotes:

<Salvation outside the Church>

and contrast these with what Vatican II has to say about salvation. To be fair, you also have to consider the Letter to the Archbishop of Boston from the Holy Office concerning Fr. Leonard Feeney, and Encyclicals of Pope Pius IX's:

For specific quotes, see:

AllExperts.com: Catholics/Saved?

What you see is a tension; before the council, the attitude tended to be pounding on the table screaming, "Outside the church there is no salvation!" but occasionally averring that there are <ahem> exceptions. What Vatican II did was more boldly advance the exceptions, which some people took and ran too far with. In fact, there is no essential contradiction between what Vatican II taught and what was taught earlier, it was merely a question of emphasis (combined with some distortion).

As for the teaching on the Word of God, this was mostly new — the material had not been articulated yet. There was a debate over whether Tradition and Scripture were two sources of revelation or one; Vatican II settled this debate (there is one). Basically, the Second Vatican Council (SVC) brought the Church back to a more solidly biblical emphasis.

I can't refer you to any documents about what the Church officially taught about the Jews before the SVC. There are a few statements here or there about Jews not being saved, for example,

"[The Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes, and teaches that those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only Pagans, but Jews, heretics, and schismatics, can never be partakers of eternal life, but are to go into eternal fire 'prepared for the devil and his angels', unless before the close of their lives they shall have entered into that Church"

[Pope Eugene IV, The Bull Cantate Domino, 1441].

This is also relevant to ecumenism, since this was the typical ecumenical approach before the SVC:

Dialogue (or really, monologue) with non-Catholics was oriented chiefly toward directly converting them. While today, we still believe that the surest way of salvation is to become Catholic (and so the ultimate goal, or at least hope, is conversion), thanks to the SVC, ecumenism has become an authentic dialogue and two-way street, where we come to appreciate non-Catholic beliefs and recognize what we have in common instead of simply beating people over the head with our doctrine. Of course, appreciation of their beliefs and what we have in common are things we can and should leverage to bring them closer to the faith (and so to conversion, if they are receptive), but now it is more of an indirect approach than a direct approach. We have to avoid falling into the danger of indifferentism though — the attitude that it doesn't matter what faith we are, everyone has an equal shot at salvation. This error found some fuel in the gently-worded style of the SVC.

Here is another point. Prior to the SVC, a prevailing cultural attitude was that it was the job of priests, brothers, and sisters to be holy, and the job of the laity to pray, pay, and obey.

The priests did everything in the church and the people were passive. In the liturgy even, the priest dialogued with the altar server and the people had no participation. While some had already started opposing these attitudes (St. Josemaria Escriva and his Opus Dei), the SVC emphasized that:

  • all are called to be holy
  • all are called to evangelize
  • all are part of the Church, and
  • all can participate in ministry.

As this was primarily a cultural question, I can't give you a quote that proves what the Church did before, unfortunately.

Here is a book you may find useful: The Pope, the Council, and the Mass by James Likoudis and Kenneth D. Whitehead

It doesn't directly address your question but if you can find it in your public library (or ask them to request it from an affiliated library) you may find it useful. It refutes some arguments that so-called Traditionalists have, who argue that the Council contradicted the Catholic faith; thus it will highlight all the biggest differences in doctrine that have been perceived between the Council and what was believed before. While it may seem self-defeating as you are trying to find things that changed, not an argument that things haven't changed, I think it will give you a flavor for the prevailing views before the Council.

Eric

Terry replied:

Hi Pat,

One of the best analysis to read is:

This is the Faith by Fr. Francis Ripley - 1973 edition. ISBN 0 903348 02 0
( With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. )

This gives a concise teaching of the Catholic Church as taught through the ages, then at the end of each chapter, it gives either a Vatican II or Post Vatican II interpretation.

Terry

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