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© Rod Rolle / COURTESY OF BASIC BOOKS

Top-down reform

Colleen McDannell on Vatican II

Fifty years ago, Catholic bishops from around the world were taking part in the Second Vatican Council, which from 1962 to 1965 made sweeping changes in Catholic life and practice. In her book The Spirit of Vatican II, Colleen McDannell explores these changes from the perspective not of church doctrine but of her mother, a Catholic woman living in suburban America. McDannell is a professor of history at the University of Utah.

Why did you put your mother at the center of this study?

Because the story of Vatican II has always been about bishops and priests—and men. I thought it would be interesting to put at the center of the story a woman who was not in any way a radical or a liberal and yet found the changes of the council to be important to her own spiritual life.

 

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