Ratzinger at Vatican II

A Pope Who Can & Cannot Change

Many years ago I started looking for a copy of Joseph Ratzinger’s Theological Highlights of Vatican II, then long out of print. Copies were as rare and as prized as gold dust, but eventually I found one in Chicago, among the office bookshelves of a university professor who was kind enough to photocopy the pages for me. Now Paulist Press has done us all a favor by reprinting Highlights in an attractive and compact format ($16.95, 265 pp.). Every page of this short book repays a reader’s close attention.

Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was just thirty-five years old in 1962 when the Second Vatican Council began. Already known as a brilliant theologian, he attended all four sessions as peritus, or expert, to Cardinal Joseph Frings, archbishop of Cologne. Following each session, Ratzinger wrote an account and analysis of the theological debates among the bishops, giving his verdict on what had been achieved. These four pamphlets make up the book, and they still have the freshness about them of that springtime of the church. Almost every page breathes “the spirit of Vatican II”—the spirit that Ratzinger, as cardinal prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) from 1982 to 2005, would later denigrate. In a useful and workmanlike introduction, Fr. Thomas Rausch maintains that the author’s views, “with a couple of exceptions, have...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

John Wilkins was editor of the Tablet of London from 1982 to 2003.