Keys to the Council
Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II
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As the church marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, too few Catholics have an adequate grasp of what the council contributed to the life of the church. The problem is understandable. The Second Vatican Council produced, by far, more document pages than any other council. Consequently, any attempt to master its core teachings can be daunting. There is a danger of missing the forest for the trees. With this in mind, Keys to the Council identifies twenty key conciliar passages, central texts that help us appreciate the vision of the council fathers.
Each chapter places the given passage in its larger historical context, explores its fundamental meaning and significance, and finally considers its larger significance for the life of the church today. Chapters include exploration of Sacrosanctum Concilium's demand for "full, conscious, and active participation" in the liturgy; Lumen Gentium's eucharistic ecclesiology; Gaudium et Spes's vision of marriage as an intimate partnership of life and love; Nostra Aetate's approach to non-Christian religions; and more.
Richard R. Gaillardetz is the Joseph McCarthy Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College. He holds a PhD from the University of Notre Dame in systematic theology. He is the author of seven previous books, including By What Authority? A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful (2003) and editor of When the Magisterium Intervenes: The Magisterium and Theologians in Today's Church (2012), both from Liturgical Press. He is presently the vice-president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.
Catherine E. Clifford is associate professor of theology at St. Paul University in Ontario. She received an STL from the Université de Fribourg and a PhD in theology from the University of St. Michael's College, Toronto. She is coeditor of Vatican II: Canadian Experiences (University of Ottawa Press, 2011).
No issue is more pressing for the Catholic Church at this time than how we interpret the documents of Vatican II. This superbly written volume by two outstanding theologians, both specialists in ecclesiology, will lend readers the keys needed to interpret accurately the Council's documents and to take to heart their agenda of aggiornamento. It will unlock again the renewal and reform launched by the Holy Spirit through that great Council, now too often and sadly under threat of lock-down. Its accessible language makes it an ideal text for undergraduate or graduate courses, and for parish programs of adult education.
Thomas H. Groome, Professor of theolopy and religious education, Boston College, author of Will There Be Faith (Harper, 2011).
I recommend Keys to the Council to anyone interested in Vatican II and its impact on the Catholic Church today, fifty years after the opening of the council. This brilliant introduction to the key documents of the council is absolutely indispensable to understanding which of these keys of Vatican II have been received into the life and culture of Catholicism. Clifford and Gaillardetz have produced a masterful synthesis on Vatican II, the most important event in the history of Catholic theology in the last 500 years.
Massimo Faggioli, assistant professor at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, author of Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning (Paulist, 2012).
With Vatican II for so many an event in the distant past, this book is brilliantly conceived. Selecting twenty significant passages or conciliar "keys," unpacking them in their historical contexts, and providing brief theological expositions, it recovers the council's vision and brings it to bear on a host of contemporary issues. With short, non-technical chapters and sidebar definitions, it could serve as an excellent teaching text.
Thomas P. Rausch, SJ, T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology, Loyola Marymount University
The passion and commitment of these two esteemed professors is evident in each of these twenty short chapters on key conciliar texts. Combining expert knowledge with strong pedagogical skills, their presentation provides broader access to the legacy of that most memorable event in the history of Christianity since the Reformation-the Second Vatican Council.
Gilles Routhier, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Laval University
Two noteworthy scholars have teamed up to produce a practical, theologically sound text with a well-conceived pedagogical strategy. By focusing on twenty keys passages from the Vatican II documents, the authors tell the story of the council and clearly explain its basic teachings. Keys to the Council introduces Vatican II in a fact-filled, readable manner that makes it accessible to Catholics of today as well as to any interested reader.
Dennis M. Doyle, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Dayton, author of The Church Emerging from Vatican II
Keys to the Council opens up not only the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, but also its place within the last century of theological renewal. Through crisp and insightful commentary, the authors offer an inspiring reminder of all that the council achieved.
Edward P. Hahnenberg, author of A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II and Awakening Vocation: A Theology of Christian Call
Keys to the Council provides a cogent, constructive, and insightful overview of the themes of Vatican II that continue to shape the church fifty years after the council. Richard Gaillardetz and Catherine Clifford have crafted a text that promotes a renewed engagement with the council's documents, particularly those teachings that highlight the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit within the church and its activity in the world. Well-grounded in Scripture and history, nuanced in its claims, and hope-filled, this book is both a faithful echo of Vatican II and a significant contribution to the ongoing reception of the council.
Richard Lennan, Boston College - School of Theology and Ministry
Richard Gaillardetz and Catherine Clifford are both recognized practicing theologians. They have written a very useful book which might well be used as a text for undergraduate theology courses or for adult education or discussion groups composed of men and women who are eager to acquire a balanced understanding of the Second Vatican Council because they have heard that it was one of the major events in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ.
This very readable and important book offers the data as well as a history of interpretation and reception that can re-enliven the hope of those who lived at the time of this graced event. But perhaps even more importantly, it can inspire a new generation of Catholics to embrace the Council's vision and appreciate the gift that it continues to be for the Church of the twenty-first century.
The significance of the council to the reader's life today, and how it might be best applied in his or her encounter with the world, is an important part of the book and provides an opportunity for reflection for the thoughtful reader.
What makes this book so valuable is that it truly does what it sets out to do, namely, to unlock the teaching of Vatican II for any interested reader with 20 key conciliar passages each clothed in a brief, fact-filled, historically accurate, and theologically sound chapter.
Keys to the Council is the best book reviewed here. If you have time only to read one book, I highly recommend this one.
The Church in the Modern World