Fortress Press

On the Road to Vatican II: German Catholic Enlightenment and Reform of the Church

On the Road to Vatican II

German Catholic Enlightenment and Reform of the Church

Ulrich L. Lehner (Author)


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In the present day, there is widespread confusion regarding the theological achievements of the Catholic Enlightenment. This book outlines such contributions in the fields of biblical exegesis, church reform, liturgical renewal, and the move toward a more tolerant view of other churches and religions. Since some of the most important Catholic Enlighteners lived in Germany, this book concentrates on their endeavors, but also frequently points to other European players. Only an unpolemical historical assessment of the Catholic Enlightenment can help us to get out of the current gridlock of interpreting Vatican II: was there a break with tradition, or was there continuity?

By reviewing the historical debates that preceded Vatican II, the unknown, marginalized, or deliberately forgotten roots of the conciliar debates come to light that can help us fine-tune future hermeneutical endeavors. This history is hitherto unknown to most researchers. It is possibly the most neglected field of modern literary history. 

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506408989
  • eBook ISBN 9781506408996
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 414
  • Publication Date July 1, 2016


Reviewed in First Things by Nathaniel Peters


"This is an immensely erudite and stringently argued study of the leading scholars of early modern theology and Enlightenment Catholicism. Thoroughly accessible and persuasive, Ulrich L. Lehner offers new and striking vistas on Catholicism's complex response to the european Enlightenment, and on how that response subsequently informed and crucially shaped what happened at Vatican II."   

Thomas Pfau | Duke University

"With this extraordinarily informative book, Ulrich L. Lehner establishes himself as the leading authority on the  Catholic Enlightenment. Eminently readable and greatly instructive, Lehner's On the Road to Vatican II sheds light upon the most under-researched era of Catholic history in Europe and uncovers a veritable seed-bed of productive, creative, and decisive impulses constitutive of modern Catholicism. A 'must read' for every student of Catholicism in the modern world. A remarkable scholarly achievement."

Reinhard Huetter | Duke Divinity School

"Ulrich L. Lehner's meticulous and fascinating history of the Catholic Enlightenment continues a scholarly project of the first order. Not only does Lehner uncover a Catholic Enlightenment in Europe but also he revises what we can mean by 'Enlightenment' and thereby changes our very understanding of modernity."

Kevin Hart | The University of Virginia

"Arguing that the Catholic Enlightenment reflects not only the spirit of Vatican II but also the spirit of Trent, Ulrich L. Lehner brilliantly describes an extraordinary set of initiatives in ecumenism, liturgical renewal, appreciation for historical-critical exegesis, greater tolerance for the Jewish people, ecclesiastical reform, and so forth—alongside powerful polemics, vilification of opponents, persecution of new ways of thinking, strong contempt for scholastic theology and philosophy, denunciation and suppression of Jesuits, and much more.  This book should end once and for all the shameful theological neglect of the four hundred years between Trent and Vatican II.  There can no longer be any excuse: the full breadth of this period of Catholic theology simply must be retrieved post-haste."

Matthew Levering | Mundelein Seminary