O’Malley, What Happened at Vatican II

O’Malley What Happened at Vatican II 129-141

Electronically reproduced by permission of the publisher from What Happened at Vatican II by John W. O’Malley, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Copyright © 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.


    1. Sorry! I’ll put the student worker right on it – the office opens at 8 tomorrow.

  1. O’Malley’s interpretation of Vatican II in this book should be read in light of another of his books, Four Cultures of the West. Those cultures can also be seen as spiritualities in light of the medieval Four Transcendentals.

    The four cultures are: the prophetic (the One), the culture of philosophers and scientists (the True) the culture of orators and statesmen (the Good) and the culture of art and performance (the Beautiful).

    O’Malley sees Vatican II as being distinguished by its choice to use the language of orators and statesmen rather than prophetic and/or the philosophical language, and therefore to concentrate more on the seeking the Good.

    This choice could be seen as very appropriate given the desire to provide the laity with a model of positive engagement in human society. It could also be seen as appropriate given that the other three spiritualities might have been better done before Vatican II.

    My sense is that critics of the post Vatican II era are concerned that we are neglecting one or more of the prophetic, the true, and/or beautiful in our desire to affirm the good that we find around us.

    We cannot each be equally prophet, scientist, orator and artist in our lives. Nor can we expect to manage our parishes, society or the world wide church in a way to maintain a balance among the four cultures. What we can do is affirm different spiritualities and each other’s talents, and offer our talents to others but refrain from imposing them on others.

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