Roundtable Locating the Origins of the Second Vatican Council: Global Transformations, Spatial Shifts, and Refashioning the Sacred in Twentieth-Century Catholicism

AHA Session 247
American Catholic Historical Association 11
Sunday, January 9, 2011: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Room 102 (Hynes Convention Center)
Terence Fay, Toronto School of Theology for St. Augustine's Seminary and the University of St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto
The Dynamic 1950s: The American Laity before Vatican II
Timothy Kelly, Saint Vincent College
Repositioning the Sacred: Roman Catholic Church Architecture in Britain and the Second Vatican Council
Robert Proctor, Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art
Decolonization of the Filipino Church
Terence Fay, Toronto School of Theology for St. Augustine's Seminary and the University of St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto

Session Abstract

The Second Vatican Council has been traditionally interpreted as a momentous rupture in the history of the Catholic Church.  According to this view, liturgical reform and social change were perceived as originating from the hierarchy, while lay Catholics were deemed passive recipients of this transformation.  Yet recent scholarship on ordinary Catholics in diverse localities throughout the world has revealed that the Council, instead of being a decisive turning point, was rather a response, albeit a significant one, to a longer pattern of changes that began among the Catholic faithful in the early- to mid-twentieth century. 

This roundtable, composed of scholars representing this exciting new area of historical research and focused on distinct geographical and disciplinary contexts, will engage a variety of wide-ranging themes in order to stimulate a broad discussion among the panelists and audience concerning the future direction of Catholic historiography in particular, and the study of religion and social movements more generally.  The session will address the following topics: how the laity crafted, contested, and revised the Church’s pre-Conciliar discourse concerning the liturgy through their individual and collective actions; the ways in which the quotidian practices of ordinary Catholics in the decades preceding the Council generated alternative imaginings of faithful living and produced the re-conceptualization of conventional sacred spaces, such as altars and church buildings; the impact this proliferation of religious meanings had on the relationships among and between the laity, the Church hierarchy, and broader society; and the connections that can be identified between developments undertaken in Catholic communities throughout the world in the pre-Conciliar era and the post-Vatican II radical re-orientation encapsulated in the shift from “Church Militant” to “The People of God” as the primary means of referring to the ecclesiological community.

The discussion will begin with brief remarks from each of the panelists: Timothy Kelly, whose research focuses on the social history of American Catholicism; Agnès Desmazières, who recently completed a dissertation on the attitudes of Catholics towards psychoanalysis in the twentieth century; Trevor Kilgore, a graduate student investigating Catholic social movements in Tuscany, Italy; Robert Proctor, a researcher in the field of architectural history, whose current focus is Roman Catholic church architecture in Britain; and Terence Fay, who has published extensively on Canadian Catholicism and the role of Asian immigrants in that religious history.  The unique perspectives of this diverse panel will form a foundation for, and facilitate an extended and open dialogue with, the audience, which is the primary goal of this session.

There is a pressing need, and indeed a significant desire among historians of Catholicism, for a roundtable such as this, which will serve as an important step forward for this new research direction, by connecting local, regional, and national developments with broader trends in the global history of the Catholic Church.

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