It is vital that Vatican II be interpreted correctly, the reason for the 1985 synod discussed in this article from The Catholic Thing.

It focuses on the four constitutions and I have found the recent translation of them, The Second Vatican Council: The Four Constitutions, with introductions by five cardinals, to be the best study version available and surely should be part of your library.

An excerpt from The Catholic Thing article.

In 1985, on the twentieth anniversary of the close of Vatican II, John Paul II convened an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops with the aim of encouraging a deeper reception and implementation of the Council. The Synod set forth, in the document A Message to the People of God and The Final Report, a proper framework for interpreting the Conciliar texts. In particular, six hermeneutical principles for sound interpretation of these texts were set forth.

All would-be interpreters of Vatican II, who make claims about what the Council actually teaches, should adhere to these principles. These hermeneutical principles are important, particularly in our time, since we seem to be living in an ecclesial culture where some are suffering from amnesia about the invaluable contributions of John Paul II and Benedict XVI to the authoritative interpretation of Vatican II.

Massimo Faggioli, for one, claims that Pope Francis “perceives Vatican II as a matter not to be reinterpreted or restricted, but implemented.” Unlike his predecessors, adds Faggioli, Francis has “shown a full and unequivocal reception of Vatican II.” Another commentator, Richard Gaillardetz, claims that “Francis wishes to release Vatican II’s bold vision from captivity.”

I have elsewhere discussed the various types of Vatican II interpretations. Here, I will briefly explain the principles postulated by the 1985 synod for interpreting Vatican II texts:

  1. The theological interpretation of the Conciliar doctrine must show attention to all the documents, in themselves and in their close inter-relationship, in such a way that the integral meaning of the Council’s affirmations – often very complex – might be understood and expressed.
  2. The four “constitutions” of the Council (those on liturgy, the Church, revelation, and the Church in the modern world) are the hermeneutical key to the other documents – namely, the Council’s nine decrees and three declarations.
  3. The pastoral import of the documents ought not to be separated from, or set in opposition to, their doctrinal content.
  4. No opposition may be made between the spirit and the letter of Vatican II.
  5. The Council must be interpreted in continuity with the great tradition of the Church, including earlier councils. The Church is one and the same throughout all the councils.
  6. Vatican II should be accepted as illuminating the problems of our own day.

The hermeneutical norm of the first and second principles is twofold: one, intratextuality, meaning thereby interpreting the meaning of a particular passage within the context of the whole document; and two, intertextuality, meaning thereby interpreting any specific document in the context of the whole body of documents, particularly attending to the authoritative priority of the constitutions. The third principle states the unity and interdependence of the doctrinal and pastoral dimensions of the council documents.

This third principle is particularly important today where some Catholic theologians, such as Gaillardetz and Christoph Theobald, S.J., advance a so-called “pastoral orientation of doctrine.” That orientation is historicist in perspective. It collapses the dogmatic distinction of unchanging truth and its formulations into a historical context, meaning thereby, as Theobald puts it, “subject to continual reinterpretation according to the situation of those to whom it is transmitted.”

This historicist turn in a pastoral-oriented model of doctrinal change results in a model in which both truth itself and its formulations are subject to reform and continual reinterpretation and re-contextualization