The Documents of Vatican II edited by Walter M. Abbott, S.J.

I am not a Catholic.  Neither am I an Atheist.  Call me, instead, an Absurdeist.  Nevertheless, I recommend (and say it with conviction freed of any and all irony -- yeah right) that every believer and unbeliever alike should read or at least skim as swiftly as humanly possible the The Documents of Vatican II.   So what if its consistent lapses into tiresome opacity makes reading it late at night, as I have, a more effective antidote to insomnia than Ambien or a double gin and tonic -- for what compendium or even lesser pamphlet attached with a rubber band to the metallic grate of my front screen door, for that matter, of religious dogma and/or philosophy isn't tiresome or opaque? Ever read the Book of Deuteronomy or that wondrously unimaginative tome of fantasy called The Book of Mormon? Even one I like such as What the Buddha Taught may make me yawn if I'm on the wrong page.  Likewise Ludwig Wittgenstein.  Even the most devout adherents of so-called sacred texts would have to admit they'd be breaking -- while if not, technically speaking, the letter of the law, then the spirit -- of the Ninth Commandment given to Moses, if they said their particular sacred text never put them into a thankfully brief comatose state once in a while, right? Tell me I'm wrong, if you dare.

My major complaint with The Documents of Vatican II is that, while addressing how Catholics (the priesthood in particular) are to behave specifically in a variety of religious and secular situations, it never once addresses the opposite: how the priesthood is not to act in those specific situations, secular or religious.  There’s nary a mention I could find of official disciplinary protocol should a member of the priesthood conduct themselves in a manner unbecoming their higher calling, including as it pertains to what’s appropriate and inappropriate interaction with younger generations of parishioners entrusted to their spiritual care.  But neither do The Documents of Vatican II anywhere in its pages I could find promote the kind of behavior that makes the spate of controversial scandals and cover-ups involving "pastoral indiscretions” with childhood laity, ongoing here in the States for at least the past two decades, ubiquitous and no longer shocking. The Documents of Vatican II, in fact, remain surprisingly silent on many contemporary and relevant topics confronting The Church today, unless one deems, say, Nostra Aetate (The Church's official stance toward non-Christians) or Gravissimum Educationis (its position on Christian education) topical or relevant.  But the same criticism, of course, could be levied at the Bible.

Hopefully, in the future, the Vatican will update its ecumenical council's documents to include disciplinary protocol for the priesthood, and maybe include as well some sections on “transparency” and “accountability” (wish I knew the important Latin spellings for the words; any Jesuit monks out there know them?) for those employed by the Church, so that the Church’s credibility and mission in the world as an instrument for God’s glorification and salvation for every man, woman, and child She's been allegedly divinely appointed to help save and to serve could be greeted hereafter by the world's applause, rather than its well deserved, abundant disdain.


  1. But Vat II was a step in the right direction (the sixteenth century perhaps), only to be reversed in the following decades by Humanae Vitae etc. I was raised a Catholic and I remember a couple of the more radical priests leaving because the church seemed to be moving back into its conservative shell.


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