The Disputed Teachings of Vatican II

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The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) radically shook up many centuries of tradition in the Roman Catholic Church. This book by Thomas Guarino, a noted expert on the sources and methods of Catholic doctrine, investigates whether Vatican II’s highly contested teachings on religious freedom, ecumenism, and the Virgin Mary represented a harmonious development of—or a rupture with—Catholic tradition.

Guarino’s careful explanations of such significant terms as continuity, discontinuity, analogy, reversal, reform, and development greatly enhance and clarify his discussion. No other book on Vatican II so clearly elucidates the essential theological principles for determining whether—and to what extent—a conciliar teaching is in continuity or discontinuity with antecedent tradition.

Readers from all faith traditions who care about the logic of continuity and change in Christian teaching will benefit from this masterful case study.


Thomas G. Guarino is professor of systematic theology at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, and co-chair of the initiative Evangelicals and Catholics Together.


Fr. Robert P. Imbelli
— Boston College
“In this lucid and illuminating study Thomas Guarino recounts Vatican II’s dramatic effort to hold in creative tension both fidelity and development, continuity and newness. . . . Offers new understanding and appreciation for the decisive ecclesial event of the twentieth century.”

Hans Boersma
— Regent College
“This book is vintage Guarino—erudite, crystal clear, ecumenically sensitive—the product of deep love for the church.”

Douglas Farrow
— McGill University
“Development or deviation? That is the question that for fifty years has refused to go away. Here is an irenic, accessible, and deeply instructive account of Vatican II that supports a hermeneutic of continuity rather than rupture, while recognizing the new world into which it ushered the faithful. How to interpret that new world is another matter, but Fr. Guarino’s book provides a wonderful starting point for informed debate.”

Jared Wicks
— Pontifical Gregorian University
“This should become a landmark in interpreting Vatican II, because it penetrates into the deeper theological strata of the major documents.”