Little catechism of the Second Vatican Council (Part Three)

by Fr. Pierre-Marie, O.P.

Dominican in Avrillé


From Le Sel de la terre 93, Summer 2015

(continued, Part 3)


The Documents of the Council : Overview


What are the documents of the Council ?

The Council promulgated 16 documents :

— 4 Constitutions (documents of essentially doctrinal content, the first two being qualified as « dogmatic », the fourth as « pastoral ») :

* Lumen Gentium (LG) : the Church.

* Dei Verbum (DV) : Divine Revelation.

* Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) : the liturgy.

* Gaudium et Spes (GS) : the Church in the contemporary world.

— 9 Decrees (texts of the practical order and concrete application) :

* Christus Dominus (CD) : the pastoral duty of bishops.

* Presbyterorum Ordinis (PO) : the ministry and life of priests.

* Perfectæ Caritatis (PC) : the renovation and adaptation of religious life.

* Optatam totius Ecclesiæ Renovationem (OT) : the formation of priests.

* Apostolicam Actuositatem (AA) : the apostolate of the laity.

* Ad Gentes (AG) : the missionary activity of the Church.

* Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE) : the Eastern Catholic Churches.

* Unitatis redintegratio (UR) : ecumenism.

* Inter Mirifica (IM) : the mass media.

— 3 Declarations  (texts addressed to all men) :

* Dignitatis Humanæ (DH) : religious liberty.

* Nostra Aætate (NA) : the relations with non-Christian religions.

* Gravissimum Educationis Momentum (GE) : Christian education.

Where did these texts come from ?

Before the Council an important preparation was in place.  About twenty preparatory schemas were released.  But the majority of the schemas were rejected by the Council fathers because they were judged too tainted with traditional doctrine1.  Thus the texts could be developed beginning with the schemas that adopted « the forms of inquiry and literary formulation of modern thought2, » as Pope John XXIII demanded.

Is this teaching complete ?

The teaching is extensive : the edition of the Acts of the Council by Centurion comprises more than 700 pages.  However, it lacks a key document : a text condemning the current errors imperiling the faith, as all the preceding councils have done.  There was even a schema prepared for a “dogmatic Constitution to preserve the faith intact”3, but it was rejected with the others.

Pope John XXIII called for “the medicine of mercy rather than the weapons of severity ; and, she thinks she meets today’s needs by explaining the validity of her doctrine more fully rather than by condemning.”4  Nevertheless, the « good pope John » recognized that « there are…false doctrines, opinions, or dangers to be avoided and dispersed 5. »  Among these false doctrines, there was the « new theology » condemned, among others, by the schema of the « dogmatic Constitution on the deposit of the faith, » and that one finds in a great part of the texts promulgated by the Council and the Conciliar Church 6.

(To be continued)


  1. See Ralph M. Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, Charlotte, North Carolina, TAN Books, 2014, p. 32 (Fr. Schillebeeckx, O.P., succeeds in opposing the first four dogmatic schemas on 16 October 1962) and p. 71-75 (the rejection of the schema on the sources of Revelation).
  2. John XXIII, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11 October 1962 (from the Italian text [Komonchak translation]).
  3. Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Œcumenici Vatican II, Volumen I (Periodus prima), Pars IV (Congregationes generales XXXI-XXXVI), Typis polyglottis Vaticanis, 1971, p. 653 et sq. [Komonchack translation: “On defending intact the deposit of faith” in The Council that Might Have Been].
  4. John XXIII, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11 October 1962 [Komonchak translation]
  5. Ibid.
  6. The Conciliar Church is the collection of Catholics who accept the Council as a norm of thought.  On the contradiction between the schema for a “dogmatic Constitution on the deposit of the faith” and the teaching of the Conciliar Church, see «La Révélation et la foi», Le Sel de la terre 92, spring 2015.