Best Vatican II Books

I am interested in learning more about Vatican II and its impact on liturgy, ecumenism, and Church authority. I do not want it to have a deliberately traditional or leftist bent, but if it has a bias I would rather it be a conservative bias. I enjoy reading dense, scholarly material rather than simplified propaganda and length is no object. Does anyone know of any books about Vatican II that align with these criteria?,204,203,200.jpg

Dr. McInerny was featured in Crisis Magazine, National Catholic Register, and on EWTN. He was neither liberal nor traditionalist, so his account should be close to what you are asking for. The book is published by Sophia Institute Press, a conservative (not traditionalist) publisher.,204,203,200.jpg

Another highly recommended book with quotes from Benedeict XVI.

Start by reading the documents of Vatican II themselves. they are available online at the Vatican website, or you can buy them in book form.

The documents of Vatican II are available online. If you’d like a book version, I suggest:

Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Postconciliar Documents, by Austin Flannery, O.P.

One excellent book about Vatican II is What Happened at Vatican II, by John O’Malley, S.J. This is a historical approach to the Council that discusses the issues, people, and events that resulted in the Council and its documents.

Unfortunately, the interpretation of the Council and its documents is very contentious. There are those who want to dismiss or minimize the impact of the Council. Others identify the Council as a rupture or break from traditional teaching. I favor a middle approach that sees the Council as presenting authoritative teaching that is consistent with but advances the Church’s tradition and doctrine.

Along those lines, I would recommend two books by Catholic theologians:

Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teachings of Vatican II, by Richard Gaillardetz and Catherine Clifford

Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning, by Massimo Faggioli

The interpretation of the documents is not the issue. The issue was and remains, the misconceptions and outright falsehoods attributed to things the Council did not even suggest. These falsehoods persist to this day.


You’ve proved my point – there are contending interpretations of the meaning of the Council and its teaching. How we conceive or misconceive of the Council matters a great deal.

No. Actually, others have shown the documents were not faulty but the implementations, along with ‘creative’ interpretations, took over, including claims that certain things were done because of the Council. That last claim is untrue.


John O’Malley, What Happened at Vatican II. O’Malley is no doubt a bit liberal by the standards of most on this forum, but he’s a very well-respected historian. I heard him give a fascinating lecture comparing Trent to Vatican II and trying to overturn some of the stereotypes about these two councils. His expertise is more on the former than on the latter, but his understanding of sixteenth-century Catholicism gives him a fresh perspective on the twentieth, I think (but that may be my bias, since I’m also a scholar of the sixteenth century).

He wasn’t an ultra-traditionalist. I would call him a traditionalist in a broad sense of the term, but perhaps I’m using it too loosely.,204,203,200.jpg

Another highly recommended book with quotes from Benedeict XVI.

Matt Levering is an old friend of mine from grad school and a very fine scholar. Lamb was his doctoral advisor. I didn’t know about this book (Matt writes/edits more books than most people read–only a slight exaggeration), but it’s likely to be worth reading.


:thumbsup: Exactly correct!

I recommend:

Edited by Walter M. Abbott, S.J.
With Commentaries and Notes by
Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Authorities.

It has the documents themselves and some very interesting views on them.

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