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Vatican II Studies Unit

Call for Proposals

Structural Reform for a New Epoch
The Second Vatican Council sought to reform the church for a world on the threshold of a new era. The social, cultural, technological and environmental changes of the late twentieth century continue their advance on a global scale and at an accelerated pace today. Observing that we are living through a change of epochs, Pope Francis has called for a renewal and reform of structures and practices. We invite critical reflections on need for and efforts to implement structural reform into the life and practice of the Christian community in the present context. Topics might include: synodal processes in church governance; reform of the Roman Curia; increased participation of women and laity; new forms of ministry; pastoral care of divorced and remarried persons; procedures for the investigation of bishops, priests, and pastoral agents in cases of abuse, etc. Priority is given to papers that attend to reforms inspired by the orientations conciliar teaching and respond to the unfinished business of Vatican II.

Re-Reading Vatican II in a World Church
Karl Rahner famously interpreted the Second Vatican Council as the coming to consciousness of a “world church.” Since the close of the council the global Catholic population has more than doubled, with two thirds now residing in the global south. With an increasing contextualization and indigenization of Christianity, scholars now observe a differentiation in the reception and interpretation of many of the orientations of Vatican II. Until now, standard reference works on Vatican II have reflected largely Euro-centric views. To address this lacuna and to provide a
point of reference for the next generation of scholars, an intercontinental group of scholars has mobilized to develop a new commentary on the documents of Vatican II and their reception history. This session invites only contributions from program participants concerning the effort to develop methodologies for a post-colonial hermeneutic in the interpretation of the documents of Vatican II and their reception history.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit gives scholarly attention to the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), one of the most significant events in the history of the Catholic Church — an event that had wide-ranging implications for other faiths, other Christian churches, and for the wider world alike. This Unit has a double focus: first, deepening the understanding of the history of Vatican II, its link with movements of renewal in Catholic theology and in the Church in the decades prior to Vatican II, and the history of the reception of the Council, and the redaction history of the different documents of the Council; second, a strong theological on both to the hermeneutical issues connected to methods of interpreting conciliar teaching and its ongoing reception in a changing context. By looking more closely at the past, our Unit hopes to promote greater conciliarity and synodality in the Christian churches in the present. In this second mandate of its presence within the American Academy of Religion (2018-2022) the Vatican II Studies Unit turns its attention to the reception of Vatican II within the various social and cultural contexts of the Americas and elsewhere, and to its continuing influence in the changing context of twenty-first century global Christianity.


  • Catherine E. Clifford, Saint Paul University
    Member Since: 2017
  • Kristin Colberg, College of Saint Benedict, Saint John's University
    Member Since: 2018

Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs and steering committee members at all times

Review Process Comments

We have used this process several times and found it to be the best way of putting together a strong session.