Please explain to me Vatican II


Please don’t yell at me or think I am stupid. :o

But could someone please explain to me what changed regarding Vatican II? When I went through RCIA it was briefly touched upon, but I never really understood it. I have tried to search for explanations in this forum and on the internet, but it just seems so confusing (ie: why do some people get so upset about how things were vs how things are now). Please know I’m really not a moron, I just want to learn more about my faith.

Thanks and God Bless!!!


I’d suggest you start by purchasing the documents of Vatican II. You can get them in a Catholic bookstore or online at Amazon.Com.

Read through the documents and you will see the intent of the Council and the actual content of the documents.

The Council was convened to discuss the Church’s response to the political and societal changes going on in the world. The main focuses were the nature of the church & role of the bishops, pope, hierarchy; ecumenism; pastoral renewal of the Church and liturgy; and how the Church relates to and dialogs with the modern world.

It did not define new dogma or doctrine, merely reiterated previously defined doctrine.


You are asking for a volume. Try this out (it’s an mp3 podcast):


Excellent! I didn’t know I could buy literature about this. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. :slight_smile:


Yes, you can buy the documents written by the Council. You can find them free online, but it’s just a large volume of documents, it would be difficult to read the entire thing online.


Vatican II was a Universal Council of the Catholic Church held in the 1960’s. It was the first called after Vatican I was interrupted in the late 1800’s. Pope John XXIII felt the Church needed to reflect on the Church and it’s relationship to the modern world. With so many developments in the modern world of the 20th century. It lasted several years and produced 16 documents. Most Catholics have never read any of them, some have read a few. Many of them were poorly implemented and some widely misinterpreted.


I have read several of the 16 Documents. I happen to have a favorite one. Dei Verbum. I think that document is good for Bible Reading…


I would suggest that be the first one anyone reads.


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

It his is good advice to read the documents of Vatican II, but one should take care. I once had a disconcerting experience:

I was entering into the discussions in the process of a RCIA, because I was sponsoring two catechumens. A deacon and I got into a discussion and he made an assertion about Vatican II which seemed incorrect to me. He was holding a volume that appeared to be the documents of Vatican II. I asked him what had led him to his view of the particular point under discussion and he quoted a sentence or two, which he said was from the Conciliar documents. I was confused and so, somewhat pressing the matter, I asked him where in the documents that statement appeared; he flipped open his book to a marked spot and told me it was a quote from the “Introduction” to one of the major documents of the Council and he read the exact quote directly from the book.

I thanked him and the discussion moved on. While other points were taken up, I booted up my laptop and called up the documents from Vatican II. I searched the introduction to the document he had cited and then searched the entire set of documents and could not find anything that said what the Deacon had quoted aloud. I then read the cited “Introduction” word for word and could not find anything that even seemed like a possible alternate translation of the idea which the Deacon had expressed. I became concerned because the difference between what he was saying and what I understood the document in question to say was stark and serious.

After the meeting was concluded, I asked the Deacon about the problem – he is a charming, helpful, and generous man. I showed him the introduction to the document he had cited and how my copy had nothing like what he had attributed to it. He then took out his book and showed it to me.

My copy of the Conciliar document had a section headed “Introduction.” However, in the volume the Deacon was using, this title had been omitted by the publisher, though the text of the introduction was included. However, in the Deacon’s copy a commentary offering the writer’s interpretation and analysis of the Conciliar document was prefixed to the text of the document itself, under the heading “Introduction.” This was all done with no variation in type style or font. Only by careful examination of the “small print” and the foot notes could one detect that the “Introduction” was not a part of the Conciliar document.

The Deacon had been completely misled and had been “teaching” the commentary as the work of the Council for several years.

Please read the Concilar documents, but make sure you are reading them and not someone’s digestion or “spin” on them.

The documents are available online at the Vatican’s website and the Latin typical editions are available online at EWTN’s website ( without commentary.

Spiritus Sapientiae nobiscum.

John Hiner


Nothing changed, you can grab documents from the first councils fo the Church, or from the Middle ages and it all is one faith.

Read some of the Council of Trent it is referenced in Vatican II. It all is one united faith.

Vatican II should be read by all Catholics as it has frequently been misrepresented and should be understood as a blueprint on how to disseminate the faith.

How do we share the faith, do we keep it to ourselves and condemn everyone, no Vatican II really outlines how the faith is for everyone and how to help spread it. From Sacred Scripture to the Liturgy, to our life in Christ.

I too recommend
Dei Verbum it is not too long and can be read a couple times to really understand it.

God Bless


The Church hold Councils about every hundred and fity years or so. The previous two were trent, called in response the the Reformatin, and Vatica I, called in response to the loss of the Papal States.

At Vatican II there were two big changes. The rite of the Mass, and the layman is now expected to take much more responsibility for his own salvation.

There’s been a certain amount of hostility to both of these, as you would expect. There has also been a certain amount of confusion about how far the Coumcil intended people to go. For instance “folk Masses” with guitars were in vogue a few years ago, but the present Pope has said he dislikes them. Similarly this forum is something that would have been considered very subversive before Vatican II, now it is approved of, but no one, including the moderators, is really sure what sort of discussion should be allowed. Catholics are not permitted to discuss the possibility of ordaining women, for instance, but it isn’t clear whether the forums should ban that issue.


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Let me begin by noting that the following is my COMMENTARY on Vatican II and not a teaching of the Church.

No new dogma was pronounced and no previous teaching was renounced by the Second Vatican Council. Hence, with regard to the substance of the Faith nothing changed. However, two significant things did change: the way in which the Church speaks to the Faithful and the world and the level of sophistication and effort required of the laity.

The Holy Spirit convened the Second Vatican Council to address important changes in the world. The two worldly changes that demanded response were the emergence of instantaneous, global communications and the acquisition of the power to destroy life and civilization on a global scale. Consider these timelines:

***Communications: *** The telegraph was first publicly demonstrated in Baltimore in 1844. The first telephone was rented for business use in 1877. The first commercially successful long distance line (45 miles) was opened in 1881. The first transatlantic radio signal, a letter “S,” was sent in 1901 and the first radio message was sent a year later. During World War I, the first “radio telephone” was demonstrated allowing communication between an airplane and the ground, in 1917. A public demonstration of television and the first wire transmission of color pictures occurred in 1927. The first telephone was installed on the desk of the President of the United States in 1929 (previously he had used a phone booth outside his office). The fist public demonstration of color television also occurred in 1929.

Plans for the first transatlantic telephone cable were announced in 1953 and the cable was completed in 1955. Application for approval of the first experiments with telecommunication satellites was made in 1960. The first international communications satellite, Telstar, was launched in 1962.


The Second Vatican Council opened that year, 1962, and continued until 1965.

Destructiveness: In 1941, a research study concluded that an atomic weapon was possible to build. The first and second atomic bombs were used in war in 1945, by the American army. The Soviet Union achieved its first nuclear chain reaction on the last day of 1946. The United Kingdom authorized its development of nuclear weapons in 1947. The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949. The first British atomic bomb was detonated in 1952.

The first “true” hydrogen bomb was detonated by Americans in 1954; the Soviets followed in 1955 and the British in 1957.


On 25 January 1959, Pope John XXIII announced his intention of calling the Second Vatican Council.

The Council was pastoral, adjusting the Church’s practices and methods of speaking to such a changed world.

The Church’s form of speaking had to change, because for the first time in history her statements and declarations were no longer heard only by the Faithful and those experts outside of the Church familiar with her language and intensions. With instant, global communication, every statement made by the Church became liable to be communicated without context around the world within hours of its being verbalized. This in contrast to the previous situation where communication was by written statements published through the Church’s own network of communication and read primarily by those sympathetic to the Church and eager to understand her message. In the modern context, the Church must speak to her children, dissenters, friends, enemies, and members of other religions simultaneously and with the same words. This has required extreme changes in the tone and form of her speech, even though her message has not and cannot change.

Continued . . .


Continued . . .

Secondly, the expansion in communications made totalitarian control and coordinated evil much more practical. The suppression of the activities of the hierarchy became viciously effective in the 20th Century. As a consequence, under communist suppression in the USSR and China, the laity of the Church was called to maintain and propagate the Faith in ways that previously were more directly supported by and conducted by priests and other clergy. As a consequence, the demands placed on the laity by the Council resemble the requirements previously imposed by the Council of Trent on priests, demanding deep understanding of the Faith and the skills of autonomous practice of the Faith and evangelization. These demands were placed on the laity, in part, so that the Church’s mission could proceed even under modern methods of suppression.

Further, this heightened level of education and commitment in the laity was also required in less directly restrictive circumstances, because of the exposure to heretical and diabolical materials with which both the Faithful and those not yet evangelized are constantly bombarded by instantaneous communication and the “popular media.”

Finally, the Church’s efforts were turned to respond to the destructiveness of the secular powers and their demonstrated willingness to slaughter innocent, civilian populations. Though it was clear that secular powers were self-consciously resistant to the totality of the Gospel, it became clear that the efficiency and sheer destructiveness of modern military power made mass destruction a real possibility. Hence, the Church’s mission as peacemaker became urgent, so that she might preserve the lives of people whom she has not yet reached with the message of salvation.

The “changes” of Vatican II are therefore the pastoral initiatives forming the Church’s response to these changes in the nature of the secular and fallen world. They are changes in expression and approach demanded by the world, but they do not represent any substantive change in the doctrine or the content of the Faith.

Viewed in this light, and with careful attention to the Council’s own pronouncements that no previous teaching was changed or abrogated, one can see the value and the import of the Second Vatican Council.

The Second Vatican Council was the Holy Spirit acting through the Church to respond to the needs of a shrinking and more endangered world.

Spiritus Sapientiae nobiscum.

John Hiner


Very helpful. Thanks John!! :slight_smile:


EWTN has several series about Vatican II available. They are in RealAudio format rather than MP3, so you must install RealPlayer on your computer to listen to them. RealPlayer is a free download. If you want to convert RealAudio files to MP3 (so you can listen to them on your ipod), that’s easy to do too.

Vatican II series on EWTN:

Vatican II programs on EWTN:

RealPlayer free download:

Convert RealAudio to MP3:


I was not a Catholic before Vatican II, but I remember an occasion or two when I went to a Catholic mass. I agree with a number of posters who say that not a great deal changed in terms of doctrinal things. I agree that something had to be said about the great advances in communication and our ability to destroy each other.

The two major changes were a return to the early church’s vision of Mass, so I am told. This involved using the language of the country, and some liturgical changes I have no expertise to discuss.

The second major change as I learned was a directive to all Monasteries and convents to rededicate themselves if you will. This is when many convents went from being in full habit to semi0habit or no habit at all. They restated their mission and so forth.

Both of these events caused enormous conflict at the time. Many Catholics left the church completely because they disliked the “english” mass. They I believe became “traditionalists” and some I believed actually tried and have created a new “Catholic Church.” Very few latin masses were done in this country until recently. In fact one needed a special permission to do so. It is unclear whether those who left are now returning or if this strange brand of evangelical Catholic is a new creation.

The other conflict occured in the convent. Many many nuns left for whatever reason, and many did not like what their congregations determined in terms of dress. You can still go to many many convents in America and see very elderly sisters who retain the full habit, and the half-way habits alongside sisters wearing normal street clothes.

Those are the changes I remember distinctly. I sure don’t claim I know a lot more. I’ve read at least major sections from most of the documents, but I think it takes an expert to truly state what did or did not change officially.


There are three easy steps to understanding the thinking behind the documents :slight_smile: -

*]1. Learn ecclesiastical Latin
*]2. Beg/borrow $ 3000 - $ 4000
*]3. Buy the complete acts of the Council second-hand :)[/LIST]That’s the simplest solution.

The drawback with reading the 16 Council documents - or even the documents implementing the measures called for in the Council documents - is that they don’t give an account of why the changes are being made. To know that, one has to read the debates that are behind the final texts. Which is where the complete Acts of the Council are useful - the final 16 documents are only part of the Acts, as with Trent & Vatican I: the complete Acts of all three include the debates which prepared the way for the final documents.

As to why people get upset abt. V2 - there are lot of reasons. One is that it is one thing to read or hear about Councils in the past, but something else to live through one: it’s more difficult to be unaffected by something that happens in one’s own time. There is much less distance between us & V2, than between us & Nicea 1 or us & Trent, both of which are a long time ago. In their own time, they were both highly controversial.

For instance, Nicea 1 gave a theological answer to Arianism, yet Arianism lasted the best part of 400 years after the Council. Not only that, but almost all of its life was to come after the council: it was less than a decade old when Nicea was held. And it was very successful - the Goths in what became Spain & part of Germany were Arian Christians before they were Catholic.

So it is a misunderstanding to think that Ecumenical Councils must necessarily be instantly & totally successful, or that they must be bad if things go swimmingly for people who believe what they reject. Most heresies have done extremely well - Monophysitism entered China over 600 years before any Western Catholics. As for Protestantism - 'nuff said :smiley: Ecumenical Councils are usually a Very Bad Thing, if one wants peace & quiet in the Church.

So, judged by the standards which some Catholics apply to Vatican 2, Nicea 1 was a disaster of the first magnitude. Yet the people who regard Vatican 2 as an unmitigated disaster for the CC seem to take for granted that Nicea 1 was a Very Good Thing Indeed. Which is weird :shrug:


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