Happy 40th birthday, Vatican II
This week we mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council by publishing our first recorded panel discussion. We hope that our readers will agree that we have assembled an interesting crosssection of Catholics. They include a historian whose highly praised books have encompassed Hitler, Savonarola and Marian shrines; a radical, controversial yet delightfully well-connected parish priest; Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s official spokesman, who serves his boss brilliantly while holding very distinctive opinions of his own; and one of the world’s great virtuoso pianists, who was once a member of Opus Dei.
It would have been disappointing if the panellists had agreed about Vatican II – and, indeed, they did not. One of them hailed it as a “Copernican moment”; another compared its hasty liturgical changes to the erection of neo-brutalist tower blocks. Yet, by the time the debate was finished, we realised that something extraordinary had happened, or, rather, failed to happen. The “conservatives” and “liberals” did not divide along the expected party lines. Unexpected alliances were forged; when voices were raised, it was in laughter. That, surely, is the true spirit of Vatican II.