Happy Anniversary, Vatican II

As you've probably noticed if you've been keeping up with your Commonweals, this year -- and specifically, this day -- marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. John W. O'Malley, SJ, has an excellent overview of the council on the op-ed page of the New York Times today: "Opening the Church to the World." I'm impressed by how much information and analysis O'Malley managed to pack into such a short piece. And he has room to pay particular attention to the principle of collegiality:

The bishops at Vatican II felt that more than a century of centralization needed to be tempered. But in their euphoria, they failed to reckon sufficiently with the resistance of entrenched bureaucracies jealous of their authority and fearful of disorder to change. A more participatory mode of church life took hold for 15 years or so after the council, but from on high it began to be more and more restricted, to the point that central control is now tighter than ever.

John Wilkins's feature article in our current issue -- "Bishops or Branch Managers?" -- takes up the same theme, discussing collegiality as one of the council's brightest and most unfulfilled hopes. His verdict is very much like O'Malley's, and his article is full of details about how it all went down. (By the way, you'll need to subscribe to read Wilkins's article. What better way to celebrate the spirit of Vatican II?)Be sure to also read "Turning Point," Bernard P. Prusak's recollections of being present at the council. (Read it in print if you can, because he took some terrific pictures.) And of course our editorial, "Vatican II Continued." And there's lots and lots of other material to keep you busy here.I've been reading O'Malley's book What Happened at Vatican II? -- reviewed by Prusak in Commonweal -- and I highly recommend it to anyone hungry for more information after reading that op-ed. It's especially fascinating for someone like me who grew up in a thoroughly postconciliar church environment -- it's hard for me to imagine a time when, say, Nostra aetate was deeply controversial. And yet in O'Malley's telling it's a page-turner -- I'm reading along thinking, I hope it passes!

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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