How many of the documents of Vatican II have you read?


A thread opened up asking people to speculate on the course of the Church’s history had the Second Vatican Council not occurred. While I myself am not particularly interested in debating historical hypotheticals, since there’s honestly no way of knowing what would have happened, especially at the grand scale of the entire Church throughout all the world, it did spark a certain question in me. We have a lot of discussion here on Vatican II, with some praising it for doing a lot of good, and some blaming it for any number of ills.

My question is, as much discussion as goes on here about Vatican II, how many of the documents have you actually read?

  • None
  • 1-5
  • 6-10
  • 10-15
  • All 16

0 voters


I refer to the sixteen documents approved by the Council, namely:

– Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”), Dec. 4, 1963. It ordered an extensive revision of worship so that people would have a clearer sense of their own involvement in the Mass and other rites.

– Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication (“Inter Mirifica”), Dec. 4, 1963. It called on members of the church, especially the laity, to instill “a human and Christian spirit” into newspapers, magazines, books, films, radio and television.

– Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”), Nov. 21, 1964. It presented the church as a mystery, as a communion of baptized believers, as the people of God, as the body of Christ and as a pilgrim moving toward fulfillment in heaven but marked on earth with “a sanctity that is real, although imperfect.”

– Decree on Ecumenism (“Unitatis Redintegratio”), Nov. 21, 1964. It said that ecumenism should be everyone’s concern and that genuine ecumenism involves a continual personal and institutional renewal.

– Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches (“Orientalium Ecclesiarum”), Nov. 21, 1964. It stated that variety within the church does not harm its unity and that Eastern Catholic churches should retain their own traditions.

– Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church (“Christus Dominus”), Oct. 28, 1965. It said each bishop has full ordinary power in his own diocese and is expected to present Christian doctrine in ways adapted to the times. It urged conferences of bishops to exercise pastoral direction jointly.

– Decree on Priestly Formation (“Optatam Totius”), Oct. 28, 1965. It recommended that seminaries pay attention to the spiritual, intellectual and disciplinary formation necessary to prepare priesthood students to become good pastors.

– Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of the Religious Life (“Perfectae Caritatis”), Oct. 28, 1965. It provided guidelines for the personal and institutional renewal of the lives of nuns, brothers and priests belonging to religious orders.


– Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (“Nostra Aetate”), Oct. 28, 1965. It said the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in non-Christian religions, called for an end to anti-Semitism and said any discrimination based on race, color, religion or condition of life is foreign to the mind of Christ.

– Declaration on Christian Education ("Gravissimum Educationis"), Oct. 28, 1965. It affirmed the right of parents to choose the type of education they want for their children, upheld the importance of Catholic schools and defended freedom of inquiry in Catholic colleges and universities.

– Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (“Dei Verbum”), Nov. 18, 1965. It said the church depends on Scripture and tradition as the one deposit of God’s word and commended the use of modern scientific scholarship in studying Scripture.

– Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (“Apostolicam Actuositatem”), Nov. 18, 1965. It said the laity should influence their surroundings with Christ’s teachings.

– Declaration on Religious Freedom (“Dignitatis Humanae”), Dec. 7, 1965. It said that religious liberty is a right found in the dignity of each person and that no one should be forced to act in a way contrary to his or her own beliefs.

– Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (“Presbyterorum Ordinis”), Dec. 7, 1965. It said the primary duty of priests is to proclaim the Gospel to all, approved and encouraged celibacy as a gift and recommended fair salaries.

– Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (“Ad Gentes”), Dec. 7, 1965. It said missionary activity should help the social and economic welfare of people and not force anyone to accept the faith.

– Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (“Gaudium et Spes”), Dec. 7, 1965. It said the church must talk to atheists, a continual campaign must be waged for peace, nuclear war is unthinkable and aid to underdeveloped nations is urgent. It said marriage was not just for procreation and urged science to find an acceptable means of birth regulation.


I think I once read through Nostra Aetate, but I honestly don’t remember much of it, so I don’t think it’s fair to list it in my vote.


I’ve read them all . Many several times .

I got an English edition of the documents in 1966 as soon as they were published in a volume whose general editor was Walter M. Abbott S.J.


I’m not familiar with that translation, but I shall have to look into it. Although I did recently find a printed edition of the official Vatican translations, which might be helpful. In college and in seminary we read from the Austin O’Flannery translation, which uses a lot of inclusive language. I’m not a fan of that generally, but I can take it or leave it if he leaves the meaning alone. He doesn’t. In one document, I don’t recall which off the top of my head, the phrase “the Apostles and those with them” is his rendering of the Latin “Apostolis virisque apostolicis,” or, more literally, “the Apostles and apostolic men.” There’s a big difference between them, and it’s not an unimportant one theologically speaking.


I’ve read most of all of them, but only all of most of them. Reading them never gave me a grasp of the actual change they seemed to represent in people’s heads. Well, other than how they were strikingly different from say Trent because V2 doesn’t seem to be listing canons and anathema sits. The whole way of writing is different, and yet still so robustly Catholic.


Bits and pieces of them in the pursuit of education.


I read portions of Nostra Aetate for religion class, and portions of Sacrosanctum Concilium for my role as a liturgical MC, along with some of Gaudium et Spes


All of Lumen Gentium and a critical skim of Sacrosanctum Concilium.


That was the first translation I read in high school.
And again in grad school.


@Rob2 You’re now the resident expert of this thread having read them all…what would you say are the 3-5 most important to read?


Lumen Gentium , Dei Verbum , Sacrosanctum Concilium , Gaudium et Spes , Unitatis Redintegratio . . . . . . . . . Plus all the others. :smile:


@KJW5551 , thanks , thougj I am no expert . I have given 5 of the documents , but all of them are important ,

If you were to take out of the Catechism of the Catholic Church the quotes from Scripture and the quotes from the documents of the Second Council of the Vatican there would be little remaining .

I’ll quote at random from the document Ad Gentes which is the decree on the Church’s missionary activity . I think you will see what a gem the words are . The documents are a treasure for catechesis , meditation and spiritual reading .

In Ad Gentes we read :" The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father.

" This decree, however, flows from the “fount - like love” or charity of God the Father who, being the “principle without principle” from whom the Son is begotten and Holy Spirit proceeds through the Son, freely creating us on account of His surpassing and merciful kindness and graciously calling us moreover to share with Him His life and His cry, has generously poured out, and does not cease to pour out still, His divine goodness. Thus He who created all things may at last be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28), bringing about at one and the same time His own glory and our happiness. But it pleased God to call men to share His life, not just singly, apart from any mutual bond, but rather to mold them into a people in which His sons, once scattered abroad might be gathered together (cf. John 11:52).

" This universal design of God for the salvation of the human race is carried out not only, as it were, secretly in the soul of a man, or by the attempts (even religious ones by which in diverse ways it seeks after God) if perchance it may contact Him or find Him, though He be not far from anyone of us (cf. Acts 17:27). For these attempts need to be enlightened and healed; even though, through the kindly workings of Divine Providence, they may sometimes serve as leading strings toward God, or as a preparation for the Gospel. Now God, in order to establish peace or the communion of sinful human beings with Himself, as well as to fashion them into a fraternal community, did ordain to intervene in human history in a way both new and finally sending His Son, clothed in our flesh, in order that through Him He might snatch men from the power of darkness and Satan (cf. Col. 1:13; Acts 10:38) and reconcile the world to Himself in Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19). Him, then, by whom He made the world, He appointed heir of all things, that in Him He might restore all (cf. Eph. 1:10). "


To be fair, they mirrored how papal documents had developed since about Leo XIII (basically long, explanatory missives).


Oh, yes, good point, like rerum novarum, although the voice of Leo is quite different.


I have the large volume, “Vatican Council II; The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents; Study Edition,” Rev. Austin Flannery, OP, General Editor (Costello Publishing Co., 1975, 1986). I took a correspondence course many years ago with the Catholic Distance University called “The Spirituality of the Catholic Church,” and the book was part of the curriculum. I’ve read through most of the book several times, though not cover to cover, and I continue to refer to it often, especially when questions arise here on CAF.


I haven’t read anything the church has written (excluding the Bible) as it is all on doctorate level understanding and I understand none of what is written.

Nothing ever in a layman’s version for us normal people.


Nelka, I can’t remember right now if you have said before that you read the Catechism, but it would be quite understandable if you meant even the CCC in your statement above. So just in case, I would like to suggest trying the Compendium of the Catechism instead. It is in Q&A format and more digestible. It is here on Vatican site. It tells you the paragraphs from the CCC that it is condensing, so you can refer back to CCC for further info.

My only gripe with it is that the questions feel too diffuse sometimes. An oldie like Baltimore Catechism seemed to have more pointed questions.


I made them my Lenten “extra reading” 2 or 3 years ago.


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