Vatican II Research Paper?

I’m a sophomore in college and during the next half of the semester, my American Religious History teacher asked us to write a 10-12 research paper on a religious happening that affected America (completely our choice). I’m Catholic (Professor is anti-Catholic), so I want to write about Vatican II. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to approach the paper?


Chloe M.

Start by reading the documents. There are four major documents called “dogmatic constitutions.” Focus on these first.

An excellent book which discusses the actual events of the council in light of each document is “A Concise Guide to the Documents of the Second Vatican Council” by Edward P. Hahnenberg.

A friend of mine was a theology student at Fordham University in New York City when the documents came out. She recalls people standing on the table in the student union reading the documents which were printed in the New York Times and recalls Walter Kronkite’s coverage on the CBS Evening News. I might be able to get you in touch with her if you want to interview someone. Send me a PM.


In addition to (and only after) the documents, I would recommend the book “The Rhine Flows in to the Tiber” by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen for what is widely considered one of the best, most objective accounts of the currents at work and the happenings around the council. Easy read… Another book recommendation is “The Desolate City: Revolution in the Catholic Church” by Anne Roche Muggeridge for conservative slant.

For a sociological study of changes in the American Catholic laity during and after Vatican II, I highly recommend The Catholic Revolution: New Wine, Old Wineskins, and the Second Vatican Council by Fr. Andrew Greeley.

Good recommendations. “The Desolate City” sounds like something out of Lamentations, though. :wink: :thumbsup:

You could also pick one specific aspect of Vatican II, and try to situate it in its historical context. For example, the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) has to be read in the light of the realities of post-World War II society and geopolitics. :wink:

Attached is a small booklet on Vatican II by Fr. Henry Wansbrough, a Catholic Bible scholar and editor of the New Jerusalem Bible; it’s also available free for download from his website, which is where I got it. Interesting stuff. :thumbsup:

What a great idea! You could talk about the state of the US Catholic Church in the 1960’s-1970’s and subsequent decades.

One caveat:
If your professor is already anti-Catholic…take care not to “bash” the Council or to give that perception even when speaking objectively about the events that followed.
The documents are beautiful. Their implementation was at times, chaotic.
Just be true to the spirit of the Council. We don’t need any more “haters” within or from outside the Church herself.
God bless you!

Yes, reads the docs. Could be a great opportunity to educate the professor and others as there’s a great deal of wisdom in Vat II documents. They speak of the dignity, worth, and sanctity of human life. Of the necessity of a person to be true to their conscience, of the need for religious liberty, etc, etc.

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