US Catholic Faith in Real Life

USC Book Club: Keys to the Council

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January 2013:

Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II

By Richard R. Gaillardetz and Catherine E. Clifford


Gaillardetz and Clifford, two noteworthy scholars, have selected 20 significant passages or “keys” from the documents of the Second Vatican Council that help us understand and 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 considers its larger significance for the life of the church today.

Chapters include exploration of the liturgy constitution’s demand for “full, conscious, and active participation” in the liturgy, as well as Nostra Aetate’sapproach to non-Christian religions. With short, nontechnical chapters and very helpful sidebar definitions, it can serve as an excellent teaching text. I recommend Keys to the Council to anyone interested in Vatican II and its impact on the Catholic Church today.

—Rev. John Molyneux, C.M.F., Editor,  U.S. Catholic  

Liturgical Press says: Understand the vision of the council fathers for renewal and reform in this engaging and authoritative work as we mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.

Paperback: $19.95
eBook: $14.99

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Questions for Discussion
1. Keys to the Council begins with three consecutive chapters on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  Why do you think the authors chose to start with that document?  Does the way we understand and celebrate the liturgy have any practical consequences for our understanding of the Church?

2. Chapter four turns to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.  There we find an account of the council’s shift away from a propositional model of revelation to a Trinitarian and personalist model of revelation.  Do you see evidence today that the propositional model of revelation is still held by some?  What practical difference would it make if catechists were to fully make their own the council’s more personalist approach to revelation?

3. What do you think is the practical significance of the council’s renewed emphasis on the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church?

4. There are several chapters in this book that deal, from different perspectives, on questions of ministry, authority and leadership in the Church ( e.g., Chapters 9, 13, 14, 18).  How would you characterize the council’s approach to ministry, authority and leadership?  To what extent has this teaching been implemented in the church today?

5. Several chapters draw our attention to the council’s emphasis on dialogue—dialogue within the church (Chapter 5 & 14), dialogue with other Christians (Chapter 17), dialogue with other world religions (Chapter 20) and dialogue with the world (Chapters 10, 11 & 16).  Some people fear that this emphasis on dialogue will lead Catholics to abandon their convictions and even their Catholic identity.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?

6. As you reflect on this book’s treatment of Vatican II, what are the teachings of the council that you believe have been most successfully implemented in the church today? 

7. As you reflect on this book’s treatment of Vatican II, what teachings, in your view, deserve greater emphasis in the church today?