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Vatican II: 40 years later

Story of council in books, tapes


Vatican II, said Fr. Joseph Komonchak, is often presented as battle between the good guys and the bad guys. In fact, said the co-editor of the five-volume History of Vatican II, a 15-year project, “there was a good deal of diversity on both sides.”

In Australia in July, Komonchak was pressed by Catholics to explain what he thought remained unfilled in the pastoral program the council set out. He said its call for co-responsibility at all levels of the church had not been adequately realized, not at the level of episcopal collegiality or at the grassroots level of church life.

The American priest, who has been editing the English-language edition of the “History,” said the fourth volume will be published in English in the spring. English translation of the fifth volume is “well underway,” he said. Volume V is already available in Italian.

The volumes in the History of Vatican II, are: Vol. I: Announcing and Preparing Vatican Council II. Toward a New Era in Catholicism (1995); Vol. II: The Formation of the Council’s Identity: First Period and Intersession, October 1962-September 1963 (1997); Vol. III: The Mature Council: Second Period and Intersession, September 1963-September 1964 (2000); Vol. IV: Church as Communion: Third Period and Intercession, September 1964-September 1965. (2003); and Vol. V: Council of Transition: The Fourth Period and the End of the Council (2004).

Giuseppe Alberigo is general editor of the entire project and of each volume. The works, published by Peeters in Leuven, Belgium, and by Orbis, are $80 a volume.

Komonchak holds the John C. and Gertrude P. Hubbard Chair in Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America.

A viewer-friendly parallel to Komonchak’s richly documented five-volume history is the late Richard C. Leach’s five-hour, five-cassette video project, “The Faithful Revolution,” and its companion CD-ROM.

At the outset, Leach was convinced that his on-screen reflections on the council would save “the good guys from the bad guys.” He began the project, he said, “like a crusade -- to defend Vatican II against conservative movements that seemed to be more interested in reversing the work of Vatican II.”

Leach’s team set out to interview all the major Vatican II figures -- participants, periti (experts) and observers, and then to travel the globe to film examples of conciliar implementation at work.

Leach told NCR in September 2000 that when he sat down to listen to the hours and hours of interviews, “I listened for invective and betrayal, and when I didn’t find any, I had to reorient myself and say, ‘Forget the good guys-bad guys, go to the work, focus on the work.’ The sources where I expected to find hostility did not have that hostility.”

Leach’s five-cassette project -- he died at 73 in 2001 -- grows in stature. With most of Vatican II’s participants now elderly or deceased, its value to the church of today and tomorrow -- along with its encyclopedic CD-ROM -- becomes, in the words of Thomas More editor-in-chief John Sprague, “genuinely historic.”

“Dick’s commitment to the vision and energy of the council brought him to produce the documentary and the CD-ROM. And he remained committed to that vision all his life.”

“The Faithful Revolution,” the five videocassette set, and the CD-ROM, “Destination Vatican II,” are available from Thomas More.

Other books, audiotapes and a video on the council include:

  • Council Daybook (three volumes), Floyd Anderson, editor. National Catholic Welfare Conference, 1966.
  • The Council: Reform and Reunion, by Hans Küng. Sheed & Ward, 1961.
  • Even Greater Things: Hope and Challenge after Vatican II, by Bernard Daly, Mae Daly and Bishop Remi J. De Roo. Novalis, 1999.
  • Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII. Doubleday, Image Books, 1980.
  • Pope John: Shepherd of the Modern World, by Peter Hebblethwaite. Doubleday, 1985.
  • 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II, by Maureen Sullivan. Paulist Press, 2002.
  • “Reforms of Vatican II: How Have We Done, Where Are We Going?” by Bishop Kenneth E. Untener. St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1996. Audiotape.
  • Roman Catholicism After Vatican II, Robert A. Burns, OP. Georgetown University Press, 2001.
  • The Runaway Church: Post-conciliar Growth and Change, by Peter Hebblethwaite. Seabury Press, 1976.
  • The Second Vatican Council and the New Catholicism, by G. Berkouwer. Wm. Eerdmans, 1965.
  • Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, Austin P. Flannery, editor. Costello Publishing Co., 1996, paperback.
  • Vatican II in Plain English: The Constitutions, by Bill Huebsch. Thomas More, 1997, paperback
  • Vatican II: An Interfaith Appraisal, John Miller, editor. University of Notre Dame Press, 1966.
  • Vatican Council II, by Xavier Rynne. Orbis, 1999, paperback.
  • “A Woman’s View of Vatican II and the Modern Church: A Visit with Mary Luke Tobin,” by Sr. Mary Luke Tobin. Inner Explorations, video and audiotape.

Arthur Jones is NCR editor at large. His e-mail address is arthurjones@attbi.com

Rich Heffern is NCR opinion editor. His e-mail address is rheffern@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, October 4, 2002