Research Centre: Vatican II and 21st Century Catholicism
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Attridge, Michael, Catherine Clifford, and Gilles Routhier. Vatican II: Canadian Experiences. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2011.

Vatican II

The Second Vatican Council (1961–1965) was one of the most significant religious events of the twentieth century. In Canada, it was part of a moment of unprecedented cultural and societal change, causing Canadian Catholics to re-examine the church’s place and mission in the world. For four years, Canadian Catholic bishops met with their peers from around the globe to reflect on and debate the pressing issues facing the church. This bilingual volume explores the interpretation and reception of Vatican II in Canada, looking at many issues including the role of the media, the reactions of other Christians, the contributions of Canadian participants, the council’s impact on religious practice and its contribution to the growth of interreligious dialogue.

Gaillardetz, Richard and Catherine Clifford. Keys To the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2012.

Keys to the Council Cover

As the church marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, too few Catholics have an adequate grasp of what the council contributed to the life of the church. The problem is understandable. The Second Vatican Council produced, by far, more document pages than any other council. Consequently, any attempt to master its core teachings can be daunting. There is a danger of missing the forest for the trees. With this in mind, Keys to the Council identifies 20 key conciliar passages, central texts that help us appreciate the vision of the council fathers. Each chapter places the given passage in its larger historical context, explores its fundamental meaning and significance, and finally considers its larger significance for the life of the church today. Chapters include exploration of Sacrosanctum Concilium’s demand for “full, conscious, and active participation” in the liturgy; Lumen Gentium’s eucharistic ecclesiology; Gaudium et Spes’s vision of marriage as an intimate partnership of life and love; Nostra Aetate’s approach to non-Christian religions; and more. It received the following awards: Midwest Independent Publishers Association: First Place: Religion/Philosophy; Association of Catholic Publishers (2013): Third Place: Excellence in Publishing Award. 

Clifford, Catherine. Decoding Vatican II: Ecclesial Self-Identity, Dialogue, and Reform. New York: Paulist Press, 2014.

 Decoding Vatican II

Fifty years on, Catholics are confronted with competing narratives concerning the event of the Second Vatican Council as well as the meaning and value of its teachings. How are we to make sense of the various characterizations of the council, often in polemical tones, as a disastrous departure from tradition, a disappointing compromise, or a moment of measured reform?

All agree that Vatican II marks a big turn in the history of Catholicism, marked by a dialogical engagement with other Christians, other religions, and the modern world. To fully comprehend the event of Vatican II and to correctly interpret its teachings requires a deeper appreciation of the new self-consciousness of the church as an actor in history, and of its mission of service to the whole human family.


Clifford, Catherine. Preface to Rejoice and Be Glad: On the Call to Holiness in Today's World, by Pope Francis, xv-xix. New York: Paulist Press, 2018.

 Rejoice and Be Glad Cover  

In this newest papal exhortation, released on April 9, 2018, and entitled Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), Pope Francis looks at the call to holiness in today’s world, which is something to which we all can aspire. No matter who we are, young or old, and no matter what our vocation, it is in the very act of living—with humility, kindness, and mercy—that we can become holy. 

Clifford, Catherine. "Vatican II and the History of Interpretation," in The Long Shadow of Vatican II, edited by Lucas Van Rompay, Sam Miglarese, and David Morgan, 58–82. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015. 

 The Long Shadow Book Cover

With the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the Roman Catholic Church for the first time took a positive stance on modernity. Its impact on the thought, worship, and actions of Catholics worldwide was enormous. Benefiting from a half-century of insights gained since Vatican II ended, this volume focuses squarely on the ongoing aftermath and reinterpretation of the Council in the twenty-first century. In five penetrating essays, contributors examine crucial issues at the heart of Catholic life and identity, primarily but not exclusively within North American contexts. On a broader level, the volume as a whole illuminates the effects of the radical changes made at Vatican II on the lived religion of everyday Catholics.

Lamberigts, Mathijs, Gilles Routhier, Pedro Oliveira, Christoph Theobald, and Dries Bosschaert. 50 Years after the Vatican II Council: Theologians from all over the World Deliberate. Paris: Fœderatio Internationalis Universitatum Catholicarum, 2015.

 50 Years Book Cover

This volume was created on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council by a small group of theologians from all over the world. Its purpose is to outline the future of the Church after Vatican II in the globalized world.


Selected Articles

  • Clifford, Catherine. “Learning from the Council: A Church in Dialogue.” Theoforum 44, no. 1 (2013): 27–46.
  • Clifford, Catherine E. “Style Is Substance: The Origin of John W. O’Malley’s Contribution to the Interpretation of Vatican II.” Theological Studies 79, no. 4 (2018): 745–760.
  • Dionne, Christian. “Le monde de la bible, cinquante ans après Vatican II: de quelques considérations libres inspirées par Dei Verbum.” Theoforum 44, no. 1 (2013): 91–120.
  • Gaillardetz, Richard. “Building on Vatican II: Setting the Agenda for the Church of the 21st Century.” Theoforum 44, no. 1 (2013): 67–90. 
  • Routhier, Gilles. “Vatican II comme fondement d’un projet de nouvelle évangélisation.” Theoforum 44, no. 1 (2013): 47–66.
  • Theobald, Christophe. “Vatican II: une vision d’avenir – une pédagogie de la foi – une manière de résoudre des questions particulières.” Theoforum 44, no. 1 (2013): 9–25.

Selected Student Projects

  • Labrèche, Chantal. “Le développement du droit particulier de l'Église catholique au Canada depuis son origine jusqu'à nos jours.” Ph.D., diss., Saint Paul University, 2016.
  • Laschuk, Alexander. “Assemblies of Hierarchs and Conferences of Bishops: A Comparative Study.” Ph.D., diss., Saint Paul University, 2016.
  • Kurnyek, Robert. “The Concept of Liturgical Reform in the Writings of Romano Guardini and Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI: A Comparative Analysis.” Ph.D., diss., Saint Paul University, 2016. 
  • Lepage, Rémi. “Le sacerdoce des baptisés exercé dans la liturgie : L’agent ritualisé dans la pensée de Catherine Bell.”  Ph.D., diss., Saint Paul University, 2016. 


  • Catholic Press Association Award (2013): First Place: Best Coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the Opening of Vatican II. Clifford, Catherine, Gerald O’Collins, Greg Kandra, Dolores Leckey, Martin Marty, and Ladislas Orsy. “Anniversary of Vatican II.” America Magazine, 2012.