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How Novel Was Vatican II?

  • Norman Tanner (a1)


The Second Vatican Council is recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as the twenty-first ecumenical council. The largest in terms of participants and one of the longest-running, it also covered the widest range of topics and produced the largest volume of documents and decrees. This article, based on the text of the ninth Lyndwood Lecture, examines a number of characteristics of Vatican II in comparison with previous councils, arguing that, while in many ways Vatican II was novel, in its composition, agenda, influence and reception one can discern parallels with past councils back as far as the first ecumenical council at Nicea in 325.1



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2 Collectio Lacensis, vol 7, cols 845–846.

3 The Tablet, 27 February 2010, p 31.

4 McEnroy, C, Guests in their own house: the women of Vatican II, (New York, 1996).

1 This article is the text of the ninth Lyndwood Lecture, delivered on 4 October 2012 under the auspices of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland and the Ecclesiastical Law Society. A substantially similar text, with the same title, was published in the journal Asian Horizons: Dharmaram Journal of Theology, vol 6, no 3 (September 2012), and was subsequently given as a lecture at the Conference on Vatican II that was held at Dharmaram College, Bangalore, India, 31 January–3 February 2013. To accompany the present article, and for fuller context, readers may find helpful Norman Tanner's most recent book, New Short History of the Catholic Church (London and New York, 2011).


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How Novel Was Vatican II?

  • Norman Tanner (a1)


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