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What Happened at Vatican II

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | What Happened at Vatican II.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    John W. Omalley(Author)

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During four years in session, Vatican Council II held television audiences rapt with its elegant, magnificently choreographed public ceremonies, while its debates generated front-page news on a near-weekly basis. By virtually any assessment, it was the most important religious event of the twentieth century, with repercussions that reached far beyond the Catholic church. Remarkably enough, this is the first book, solidly based on official documentation, to give a brief, readable account of the council from the moment Pope John XXIII announced it on January 25, 1959, until its conclusion on December 8, 1965; and to locate the issues that emerge in this narrative in their contexts, large and small, historical and theological, thereby providing keys for grasping what the council hoped to accomplish. "What Happened at Vatican II" captures the drama of the council, depicting the colorful characters involved and their clashes with one another. The book also offers a new set of interpretive categories for understanding the council's dynamics - categories that move beyond the tired 'progressive' and 'conservative' labels.As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the calling of the council, this work reveals in a new way the spirit of Vatican II. A reliable, even-handed introduction to the council, the book is a critical resource for understanding the Catholic church today, including the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

[A] lucid, coherent assessment of the Second Vatican Council.--T. M. Izbicki"Choice" (02/01/2009)An insightful and quite gripping account that brings Vatican II to life in all its complexity. It celebrates a council pastoral rather than condemnatory in spirit, struggling to open the Church to the modern world.--Ernan McMullin"The Tablet" (11/27/2010)The highest accolade that the late John Tracy Ellis could pay a historian was to say that he had written a 'rich' book. There is little doubt that he would have been ready to pronounce that judgment on this book because of O'Malley's thorough research, lucid presentation, balanced judgments, shrewd insights and elegant style. If you want to know what happened at Vatican II, begin with O'Malley.--Thomas J. Shelley"America" (11/03/2008)In this elegant and erudite book, the dean of American historians of Christianity tells the story of Vatican II. As a student, John O'Malley attended sessions of the Council. Now he shows us what happened, sets the Council before a richly reconstructed historical background, and makes clear why it still matters so much. His book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the modern history of the Catholic Church.--Anthony GraftonThis is a masterful presentation. It carries the reader deeper into the reality and outcome of Vatican II than do the other existing books on the Council.--Jared Wicks, Professor Emeritus, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome"What Happened at Vatican II" offers a one-volume history of the Second Vatican Council that not only tells the story in a way that brings out its drama, but, more importantly, calls the reader's attention to distinctive features of this council that are crucial for its interpretation. I do not know of any one volume that compares with this book for an in-depth account of what happened at Vatican II and of the factors that were at play in this major event in the life of the church.--Francis Sullivan, Boston CollegeWith characteristic acumen and grace, John O'Malley has written a splendid book on Vatican II: the history, the meanings, and above all the enduring importance. Once again we are all in this great scholar's debt.--David TracyIt s 50 years since the Second Vatican Council. It can seem a long time ago, or only yesterday. What really went on? In What Happened at Vatican II," John W. O Malley, historian and theologian, has the story. He unfolds the events, presents the main actors, describes the issues, assesses the results. Serious, but not heavy reading. Just right for a long summer s evening.--Michael Fitzgerald"The Tablet" (07/19/2014)"This remarkable book, in places a veritable page-turner, not only recaptures the drama and the struggles of Vatican II, but gets to the very heart of the issues under all the many ramifying words and acts of the Council. The reader can see how awkward and inadequate the familiar oppositions of liberal/conservative and progressive/reactionary are to the passionate struggles that took place. In fact, it was only through a recovery of Biblical and Patristic sources that Vatican II managed to return the Catholic Church to the twentieth-century world, and to open a dialogue which the traumas of the Reformation and French Revolution had inhibited.--Charles Taylor, author of A Secular AgeWhat Happened at Vatican II offers a one-volume history of the Second Vatican Council that not only tells the story in a way that brings out its drama, but, more importantly, calls the reader's attention to distinctive features of this council that are crucial for its interpretation. I do not know of any one volume that compares with this book for an in-depth account of what happened at Vatican II and of the factors that were at play in this major event in the life of the church.--Francis Sullivan, Boston CollegeIt is an axiom that Ecumenical Councils take 50 years to assimilate and digest. If so, this clear and readable account of Vatican II is right on time--and on target. O'Malley's characteristic concision and wide learning luster every page.--Kenneth L. Woodward, Newsweek Contributing Editor and author of Making SaintsO'Malley's book represents a gift from his generation, which experienced the council, to the cohort coming of age today. The signal accomplishment of the book is synthesis. In just four hundred pages, O'Malley provides a thorough yet gripping overview of the lead-up to the council and each of its four sessions. He wisely avoids lengthy quotations from the sixteen documents produced by the council, which are sometimes written in opaque, 'churchy' language. Instead, he captures the main points of the texts, as well as the floor debates and behind-the-scenes struggles that generated the council's drama. He thus fills what has long been a gaping hole: the absence of a single volume written at a popular level that provides a guide to the council--both its actual results and what might have been had the bishops headed in another direction... The book is a major accomplishment, which no doubt will help to keep the memory of the council alive.--John L. Allen, Jr."Bookforum" (09/01/2008)A gripping account of the drama of Vatican II as it played itself out over its four sessions from 1962 to 1965. Far from being a dry analysis of the sixteen conciliar documents, the book concentrates on the debates that frothed beneath the deceptive serenity of these documents. Personalities come to the fore in the contest between the minority of bishops who resisted change and the majority who favored it as desirable and necessary... O'Malley's emphasis on the importance of style is arguably his greatest contribution to understanding what happened at Vatican II... O'Malley's book is a helpful remedy for preserving Catholic memory. It rehearses not only what happened at Vatican II for a growing number of readers unfamiliar with the debates and documents but, more important, it gives them a way to think about what happened.--Hilmar M. Pabel"The Tablet" (10/18/2008)Volumes have been written on the council, but O'Malley offers a fresh perspective by setting it in the historical context of earlier councils and by attending to the language of the documents as well as the personalities and politics of the participants... It should appeal to a wide readership, populated as it is by colorful characters and offering an original approach to the study of the council and an authoritative guide through its proceedings and documents. O'Malley conveys a vivid sense of why Vatican II remains a beacon for some and a burden for others in the ongoing conflict between conservatives and liberals--words that, as O'Malley makes clear, are inadequate to describe the complexity of the positions they describe, and the visions invested in them.--Tina Beattie"Times Higher Education Supplement" (11/06/2008)Based on my experience of the same events, O'Malley does a truly superior job of reporting the crucial details and capturing the moods and passions of that time. Secondly, he has the advantage of many testimonies not known to us back then. These, too, he handles deftly... O'Malley's book is a splendid introduction to a story of longed-for change, its good consequences and its sometimes depressing, unintended ones.--Michael Novak"Washington Post Book World" (10/05/2008)[An] acutely observed history of the Council, now the go-to work on 'what happened at Vatican II.' [O'Malley] is particularly illuminating when he gives the background and context to the debates (often very heated) that gave birth to its decrees. The narrative might be Whig, but the history is fair--and rivetingly told.--Edward T. Oakes, S.J."Wall Street Journal" (12/25/2008)Father O'Malley has written one of the best and most needed books about [the Second Vatican Council]... [A] superb history... How the bishops took charge of the agenda and radically reshaped the outcome is a story of bold confrontations, clashing personalities and behind-the-scenes maneuvers, all recounted in colorful detail by Father O'Malley. A majority of bishops seemed primed for change, yet the path to final agreement was strewn with obstacles, whether from the stalwarts of the status quo or papal interventions. This is a tale with plenty of cliffhangers.--Peter S. Steinfels"New York Times" (12/20/2008)In this single volume, O'Malley has filled the need for a readable account that meets three goals: providing the essential storyline from Pope John's announcement on January 25, 1959, to the council's conclusion on December 8, 1965; setting the issues that emerged into their historical and theological contexts; and thereby providing 'some keys for grasping what the council hoped to accomplish.' ...O'Malley analyzes Pope John's motives and goals, and masterfully lays out the contexts and important issues of the council... O'Malley's book enables one to re-experience the event of Vatican II and to ask whether its initiatives will ever be fully implemented.--Bernard P. Prusak"Commonweal" (02/27/2009)It's 50 years since the Second Vatican Council. It can seem a long time ago, or only yesterday. What really went on? In What Happened at Vatican II, John W. O'Malley, historian and theologian, has the story. He unfolds the events, presents the main actors, describes the issues, assesses the results. Serious, but not heavy reading. Just right for a long summer's evening.--Michael Fitzgerald"The Tablet" (07/19/2014)

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Book details

  • PDF | 400 pages
  • John W. Omalley(Author)
  • Harvard University Press (13 April 2010)
  • English
  • 6
  • Religion & Spirituality

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Review Text

  • By MJ on 18 July 2013

    A well-informed overview of several centuries of relevant history sets the Council teachings in due perspective. The author is right in saying he fills a much needed gap in post-conciliar writing. Easy to read. Very informative and formative.

  • By Póló 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.

  • By K. Archer 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.

  • By Nan Saeki on 15 May 2014

    Very good book but I'm sorry I bought the kindle version, not the actual book. I am missing being able to look back, look up notes when I want and in fact just hold the book. Kindle may be ok for a novel but not this sort of book.

  • By S M N A Bryden-Brook 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.

  • By MICHAEL O'SHEA 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.

  • By RAH 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.


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