Vatican II: The Unfinished Agenda

November 12-13, 2015


The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council concluded its journey of nearly seven years in early December 1965. Pope John XXIII, now a declared saint, announced his intention to summon a universal council of the Catholic Church in January 1959. Preparations lasted three years and nine months before the council convened under his watchful eye in October 1962. After a fitful initial period of starts and stops, the council fathers gradually discerned ways forward, especially through the guidance of Pope Paul VI who succeeded Pope John after his death in June 1963.

The council gathered over three more fall periods, progressively taking on a life of its own.  No single person or group was in complete control of major initiatives. There were surprises, unexpected developments, disappointments and joys for everyone involved. In the end, most council fathers, the so-called “majority,” were more than satisfied with the final results. On December 6, 1965, they held their last working general congregation, the 168th in number. Then, on December 7, they gathered in their ninth public session, and formally promulgated the last four of the sixteen conciliar documents, giving the lengthy “Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et spes) their final formal vote. This pastoral constitution, longest of all conciliar texts and somewhat cumbersome in style, captured well the spirit of the foregoing conciliar acts and deliberations. It approved an inspiring charter for the church on a range of new and old topics, conceived through Pope John’s foundational vision for a council that would update the church to the modern world. Eleven of the sixteen conciliar documents were promulgated in three public sessions in that final period of 1965. Several were just as controversial and surprising, if not more contentious, than the pastoral constitution. This was especially true for two remarkable declarations, “On the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” (Nostra aetate) and “On Religious Liberty” (Dignitatis humanae).

On November 12-13, 2015, for its final in a series of five conferences that began in 2012 and has celebrated the jubilee of Vatican II, Georgetown University focused on these three extraordinary documents as unfinished agendas—Gaudium et spes, Nostra aetate and Dignitatis humanae. All three represent explorations rather than final opinions, agendas for the future than detailed policies for implementation, and beginnings more so than conclusions from those four years of deliberations. These three texts truly reflect a conciliar process extending beyond the council’s formal conclusion. In the tenth and closing public session, December 8, 1965, Pope Paul VI reminded those gathered and all in the world who might listen to think of the council as a whole existing through all its acts, documents, discussions and events taken together. He then prayed that this concluding conciliar greeting may “rise as a new spark of divine charity in our hearts, a spark which may enkindle the principles, doctrines and proposals which the council has organized and which, thus inflamed by charity, may really produce in the church and in the world, that renewal of thoughts, activities, conduct, moral force and hope and joy which was the very scope of the council.”


Thursday, November 12

Opening Keynote: “Gaudium et Spes and the Unfinished Agenda of Vatican II”  VIDEO HERE

WelcomeDr. John J. DeGioia – President, Georgetown University
Keynote PresenterJuan Carlos Scannone, S.J. – Professor, Philosophy & Theology, Universidad del Salvador, Argentina
Discussion Chair: Barbara Mujica – Professor, Spanish & Portuguese, Georgetown University
Respondents: José Casanova – Professor, Sociology, Georgetown University
Matthew Carnes, S.J. – Assoc. Professor, Government, Georgetown University

Friday, November 13

First Session: “Nostra Aetate: Unanswered Questions Then and Now”  VIDEO HERE

Presenter: John Borelli – Special Assistant to the President, Georgetown University
Discussion Chair: Drew Christiansen, S.J. – Distinguished Professor of Ethics & Human Development, Georgetown University
Respondents: Peter Phan – Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University
Heather Miller Rubens – Assoc. Director, The Institute for Islamic, Christian & Jewish Studies, Baltimore

Second Session: “Dignitatis Humanae and the Future of Religious Freedom”  VIDEO HERE

Presenter: Linda Hogan – Vice-Provost & Chief Academic Officer, Trinity College Dublin
Discussion ChairJosé Casanova – Professor, Sociology, Georgetown University
Respondents: David Hollenbach, S.J. – University Chair in Human Rights & International Justice, Boston College
Sharon Euart, RSM – Resource Center for Religious Institutes

Third Session:  “Joys and Hopes, Griefs and Anxieties: Pope Francis and Gaudium et Spes‘ Unfinished Economic Solidarity Agenda”   VIDEO HERE

Presenter: Christine Firer Hinze – Professor, Theology, Fordham University
Discussion ChairKaren Stohr – Assoc. Professor, Philosophy, Georgetown University
Respondents:  Drew Christiansen, S.J. – Distinguished Professor of Ethics & Human Development, Georgetown University
Stephen Hilbert – 
Office of International Justice and Peace, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops       

Fourth Session: “The Vitality of Vatican Council II”  VIDEO HERE

Presenter: Massimo Faggioli – Director, Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.
Discussion Chair: Gerard Mannion – Amaturo Professor in Catholic Studies, Theology, Georgetown University
Respondents: Conference speakers