Fascinating Book on Vatican II

The biggest debate about Vatican II is undoubtedly its legacy. There are two main groups of interpreters, though it’s not as simple as “conservative” and “liberal,” but might be better couched in other language. It seems to me that there are two poles of extremes, and a continuum of interpretation between those two poles. On the one extreme are those who say that nothing happened at Vatican II. These folks believe that there is so much continuity of Vatican II with what happened in the past that nothing changed at all. On the other extreme are those who believe that post-Vatican II is a rather large break from the past. These folks fall into two camps: those who love the change and those who hate the change. Those who hate the change have sometimes gone as far as to deny Vatican II’s legitimacy as a church council (the so-called Lefebvrians, who were excommunicated, but rather significantly reinstated by Benedict XVI). Other reactions are less extreme. Those who love the changes have sometimes taken the changes into other areas that the original Council did not address. Navigating this fascinating but complex maze is Massimo Faggioli’s masterful treatment of the various positions on Vatican II. Faggioli has seemingly read everything ever written on Vatican II, and carefully. He delineates the various positions with great care and accuracy. It is an absolutely fascinating book, though not all will agree with his conclusions. He places himself firmly in the camp of those who believe that something changed, and that he likes those changes. However, he recognizes that this is not really the stance of the current pope, who is seeking much more continuity with the past in his interpretation of Vatican II. This is a highly nuanced treatment of the issues, and I found myself understanding the vast landscape of Vatican II much better after reading this volume. My own position on what happened at Vatican II is still under consideration. I have a lot more to read. But at least now I know what the options are.

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