CCRS Resources: Vatican II Documents
The Council of Trent
had taken place in the 16th century, setting out the Catholic Church's
beliefs and operating procedures in response to the alternative ideas
of the Protestant Reformation. The First Vatican Council
(1869-1870) only had time to ponder the nature of the Church and Papal
infallibility before being disrupted by the Franco-Prussian War. In
1959, having been Pope for only a few months, John XXIII surprised the
Catholic world by calling the Second Vatican Council - Vatican II. It was time, he said, to "throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in".
The unexpected council met in four autumn sessions from 1962 to 1965,
with all but the first session presided over by Pope Paul VI who
succeeded John XXIII in June 1963. Since the time of Trent, the church
had accumulated 400 years of scholarship on rediscovered documents and
archaeological remains. The documents of Vatican II would re-present
Catholicism to the modern world in the light of the new scholarship and
change in culture. This would not be a council to react against any particular ideas,
but a positive presentation of what the Catholic church believes, tailored to the needs of the time.
- The official product of Vatican II is a set of sixteen documents (online), of which the four most important are called Constitutions.
- The sixteen documents are available published in an Inclusive Language Version. (book)
- Plain English paraphrases of the four constitutions. (book)
- Sacrosanctum Concilium (online)
- Just a "constitution" (policy document), this is how the Church will revise its liturgy to suit the current age.
- Dei Verbum (online)
- A "dogmatic constitution", this sets out what the church believes about how God speaks through Scripture.
- Lumen Gentium (online)
- Also a "dogmatic constitution", this sets out what the church believes God intends the church to be.
- Gaudium et Spes (online)
- A "pastoral constitution", this sets out how the church's beliefs
apply to the particular circumstances of the contemporary world.
- The Christian Faith, J. Neuner and J. Dupuis (Alba). Now in its 7th edition. (book)
- "Neuner and Dupuis" devotes a chapter to each main subject of
Catholic teaching and provides the most relevant extracts of documents
from the earliest creeds of the church, to the teachings of Vatican II
To find out what
the Church's current expression of its teaching is, you can start with
one of the following documents and follow footnotes to trace the source
of component statements and doctrines.
- Edward P Hahnenberg has written: A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II. (book)
- Austin Flannery has published the documents of Vatican II collected with the subsequent instructions and documents
issued by the Vatican: Volume 1 has all the council documents plus other relevant publications, with subsequent Vatican
Documents in Volume 2. (book)