Lesson 2: The Nature of the Church


The relationship between hierarchy and collegiality.

Varying concepts of the Church. Theological and legal approaches.

The Mystical Body and the People of God. The "Pilgrim Church." The Church as both human and divine.

The role of the laity. The Church as "democratic."

The role of Mary. Her relationship to the Church. Her role in the economy of salvation.

Suggested Readings

  • Council document -- Lumen Gentium
  • Walter Abbott, Twelve Council Fathers
  • Joseph Ratzinger, Theological Highlights of Vatican II
  • Rynne, Letters, I
  • Alberic Stacpoole, Vatican II: by Those Who Were There
  • Wiltgen, Rhine

Suggestions for Review

1) Are the concept of Church as Mystical Body of Christ and the concept of Church as the People of God in tension with one another?

2) Are the concept of Church as hierarchical and the concept of church as collegial likewise in tension?

3) Did the Council weaken the concept of papal authority, as compared with the First Vatican Council?

4) What was the Council's view of the role of the laity in the Church?

5) Why was the Council's discussion of Mary placed within the decree on the Church?

6) Using Abbott's and/or Stacpoole's books, discuss the role of one or more prominent Council fathers. What were their distinctive views of the Church, and what affects did these fathers have?

7) Discuss Wiltgen's thesis concerning the influence of northwest Europe on the direction of the Council, with specific reference to the nature of the Church.


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