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The Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America Hardcover – March 1, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
With the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) approaching, debates are flaring over just what happened at what was a signature event of the 20th century for both the Catholic Church and the world. The current debate is a struggle to define the meaning of the past and thus chart the church's course in the future. But McDannell (Heaven: A History) shifts the spotlight from Rome to America, covering the impact of the council and its reforms there in deeply researched but lively social history that uses the affecting story of her own mother as the narrative thread. McDannell sketches the state of American Catholicism on the eve of the council, during those fateful three years, and then in the turbulent aftermath when Catholics struggled to assimilate the changes. Finally, she looks at what the council has wrought and is buoyed by the transformation. This is indispensable history for today's Catholics—and others—to learn, and McDannell has told the tale well and with a depth and context that places the council in time and space, but also acknowledges a conciliar spirit that blows where it will. (Mar.)
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Colleen McDannell offers readers a wonderful blend of macro-history and micro-history. Her remarkably comprehensive and completely accessible account of the Second Vatican Council and the changes it wrought in American Catholic life takes an original tack in weaving these changes around the experiences of Catholic women and of several generations of her own family.”
Chester Gillis, Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and author of Roman Catholicism in America
Written in an inviting and accessible style, McDannell's work captures the important movements in the church and American society that preceded (and prepared the way for) Vatican II, the details of the Council, and its unique effects on various parishes. The book underscores the contributions of women whose roles may not have been as public as those of male clerics but which were influential at the local level. Catholics who lived this era will recognize the history and younger generations will learn the nuances of the history that has shaped contemporary religious experience.”
Leigh E. Schmidt, Charles Warren Professor of American Religious History at Harvard University
Part social history, part family memoir, Colleen McDannell's The Spirit of Vatican II beautifully evokes the dramatic transformation of Catholicism in the middle decades of the twentieth century. The way she entwines her stories of family and church is a breath of fresh air all its own.”
Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame
Colleen McDannell has done a superb job interweaving the high level unfolding of the Second Vatican Council and the ground level effects of Vatican II on her parents' own Catholic experience. The book is an outstanding example of analysis joined with empathy, the Big Picture balanced by the intimate portrait, the detached observation meeting the involved participant. With prose of unusual clarity McDannell breathes unusual life into what has been far and away the most important event of recent Catholic history.”
Robert Orsi, Professor of Religious Studies and History and G. Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University and author of Thank You, Saint Jude: Women's Devotions to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes
A vividly described and richly detailed history of American Catholic lives in the thrilling, challenging era of Vatican II.' In a way that only she can do, Colleen McDannell's story ranges from a gripping account of the unfolding work of the Council fathers to how a young wife and motherher own mother, whose life is the heart of this bookexperienced the times. McDannell brings readers very close to what these times felt like to Catholics, especially Catholic women, in their changing church and in the changed world around them, and she makes clear women's central role in enacting the spirit of the Council in their parishes and schools. Colleen McDannell is a great historian and The Spirit of Vatican II is a masterwork.”
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Vatican II and its immediate aftermath coincided with the turmoil of assassinations in the United States. That turmoil also affected the Church and all U.S. citizens. I do recall the personal conscience conflict involving Washington, D.C.'s Cardinal O'Boyle and some of his priests who differed with him. The cardinal acted according to his conscience and his duty as prelate. The book does not clearly explain that clash to those who never knew of it or of its connection, if any, to Vatican II. Overall, the title of the book promises more than the text produces. Rosalie L'Ecuyer, Fairbanks, Alaska
by Rome. Clericalism is apparently alive and well at the Vatican. Although it is not the purpose of this book to discuss all the problems of the Church,
the priest-abuse scandal is hardly mentioned. Overall the book is fairly non-judgemental in its approach to viewing parish life in the Church. I would recommend it just for the positive discussions of the average parish and their concerns in trying to implement the documents of Vatican II. I bought two copies from Amazon to give to my friends after I had read the book on my NOOK electronic reader.
She writes a lot about how the council affected the architecture of Catholic churches in America. During the council, churches became plainer and simpler, with the seating in a fan shape.
After the council, Catholics and clergy disappointed with the failure of the council to enact meaningful reforms, started asking themselves, "What's the point of it?" and began leaving in hordes--by the millions. By 1970, some 12,000 priests would leave the priesthood, tom 120,000 nuns would leave, some of them taking their convents with them. This unprecedented exodus caused bishops to close schools and churches across the land. There had been nothing like it since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg church in 1517.
Those who staid began rearranging the churches in the old way and filling the up the sanctuaries with the kitsch they were familiar with, statures, stations of the cross, etc.
It is a beautiful metaphor for what happened to the church in general. Threatened by the chaos and confusion of freedom, those who staid behind rushed back to restore the old comfortable ways.
McDannell says that, inspired by the council's recommendation to use modern studies of the church, the American bishops in 1967 commissioned a $500,000 study of what was going on in the American priesthood. The commission interviewed 5,000 priests, 250 bishops, and 1,000 ex-priests
When the study was finished, the bishops were not pleased. The Jesuit Carl Armbruster, who headed the group of priests working on the theological part of the study, stressed the importance of the priest's service role, "who like Christ responds to the needs of men," and criticized the historical significance given to administration of the sacraments.
The theological report said there were no scriptural or dogmatic grounds for not having married or women priests.
In 1971, the bishops decided to not publish the theological studies, but they did publish the sociological and psychological studies, which were for them much harder to argue with. The reports revealed that priests were leaving because of internal problems. They felt lonely, isolated, and frustrated with the exercise of authority. In spite of Pope Paul's encyclical on celibacy, 56 present felt that priests should be able to marry. Some 60 percent believed that contraception was allowable.
Even priests who were still active were unhappy and in conflict with their superiors. They told interviewers that they felt little affection from their fellow priests, parishioners, or superiors.
Throughout the country, priests felt a major conflict between the values they wanted to practice in their parish and the values that were upheld by their clerical superiors. They took seriously the call by the Bible and Vatican II for Christian community.
They had striven to cultivate communities of mutual care and spiritual depth.
Reform-minded priests (like me!) felt that collegiality and equality should be the basis of religious life. The reality was that they were met with secrecy, authority, and distance at higher levels. The institutional church was structured around tradition, loyalty, and obedience. Priests felt caught between the ideals of Vatican II and the harsh realities of the Vatican.
Amen to all that! Thanks, Colleen!
Most recent customer reviews
Most people probably won't read more than one or two books about Vatican II, & there are much better books available.What Happened at Vatican II
* From a more sceptical perspective: The Second Vatican Council - An Unwritten StoryThe Singing Nun) & Sister Corita (Read more