“A feature that most obviously distinguishes Vatican II from all previous councils is the new style in which it formulates its enactments. Unlike previous councils, Vatican II did not operate as a legislative and judicial body in the traditional sense of those terms. It laid down certain principles but did not, like previous councils, produce a body of ordinances prescribing or proscribing modes of behavior, with penalties attached for nonobservance. It tried no ecclesiastical criminals and issued no verdicts of guilty or not guilty. It most characteristically employed a vocabulary new for councils, a vocabulary filled with words implying collegiality, reciprocity, tolerance, friendship and the search for common ground. Instead of ignoring this distinctive feature, explanation and analysis of the documents’ literary form seem to be indispensable for understanding the council.” — John W. O’Malley, S.J., “Misdirections: Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Mix Up the Teachings of Vatican II,” America, Feb. 4, 2013
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