You are here

Vatican II Studies Unit

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

A Fresh Reception of the Council?: Synodality and the Global Church

In his 2023 article, “Synodality and the Francis Pontificate: A Fresh Reception of Vatican II,” the late Catholic ecclesiologist Richard R. Gaillardetz notes that the great gift that Pope Francis has given to the Church is a fresh and coherent reception of the Second Vatican Council, and at “the heart of that reception, serving as its unifying center, is the theme of synodality.” As we reflect on the period between the opening of the Catholic synod on synodality in October 2021 and its projected close in October 2024, this session will explore the extent to which Gaillardetz’ claim is accurately reflected in the life of the global church. In what ways does synodality advance the teachings of the Council? Does synodality go beyond the Council? What may be the limitations of synodality in light of the Council? Does synodality successfully achieve what Gaillardetz called a 'noncompetitive theology of church' inaugurated by the council?


Lay Voices Taking the Stage at Vatican II: Unveiling a Sixty-Year Legacy and Ongoing Reception

Sixty years ago, women first stepped into the council hall and for the first time during a session, a lay auditor – the Secretary General of the World Movement of Catholic Workers, Patrick Keegan – addressed the Council Fathers. Together with the other lay auditors and with the involvement of other members of the laity, they ensured the integration of decades of experience with the lay apostolate and their engagement in the public sphere, including with international organizations. This session seeks contributions to reassess the laity’s impact on Vatican II, explore their legacy in responding to and challenging the council, and discuss their ongoing influence on church teaching. What characterized the profile and role of the laity at Vatican II, did these aspects evolve in the post-Vatican II era, and how can their advocacy and identity be comprehended? How have they advanced notions such as the People of God, co-responsibility, active participation, the universal call to holiness, or the ‘see-judge-act’ method? How has the expansion of laypeople's roles in the church specifically impacted women? How did the laity and lay groups shape or resist the council’s reception and how do they interact with conciliar teaching in today’s local and international synodal processes or in other contexts, such as social media?

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, 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.


Steering Committee Members


Review Process

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