School of Theology and Seminary Faculty Publications

After Vatican II: Are We All Protestants Now? Or Are We All Catholics Now?

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Arts and Humanities | Catholic Studies | Liturgy and Worship | Music | Religion


The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) met from 1962 to 1965, and so 2012 marks the fiftieth anniversary of opening of the great reformist council.

I will summarize how the council brought about changes not only in Catholic worship, but also indirectly in Protestant worship, with the result that there is much ecumenical convergence today between Catholic and Protestant worship and music.

Then I will attempt to explain why, fifty years later, the Catholic Church is in a state of crisis about the meaning of the Second Vatican Council and the implementation of the council's liturgical reforms. Since Catholicism and mainline Protestantism have grown so close together in the past half century and have had such an influence upon the life of each other, this crisis is bound to be of interest to Protestants as well as Catholics. As Lutheran liturgist Gordon Lathrop recently wrote to Catholics, "What happens to you, happens to me, as both Tertullian and St. Paul would say."

Finally, I will explore one particular controversy which well exemplifies Catholicism's liturgy crisis: the attack on singing congregational hymns from the ecumenical repertoire at Mass. As we will see, small but growing forces in U.S. Catholicism are opposed to such hymnody.