Vatican II Decrees and Declarations

On this page I’ve provided outlines and links to twelve of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. These are not considered as “important” as the four constitutions, but they address concerns important to the Church in the 1960’s as well as today.

The decree Ad Gentes treats the “Mission Activity of the Church.” We looked at this document in a series of posts in the Spring of 2007. Here is a brief summation of each section to supplement the outline as given on the Vatican web page.


Chapter I Principles of Doctrine

Chapter II Mission Work Itself

Article 1: Christian Witness

Article 2: Preaching the Gospel and Gathering together the People of God

Article 3: Forming a Christian Community

Chapter III Particular Churches

Chapter IV Missionaries

Chapter V Planning Missionary Activity

Chapter VI Cooperation


  • 42.

There were three documents on the clergy.

Christus Dominus, the Decree concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops is organized thus:


Chapter I: The Relationship of Bishops to the Universal Church

section I: The Role of the Bishops in the Universal Church

section II: Bishops and the Apostolic See

Chapter II: Bishops and their Particular Churches or Dioceses

section I: Diocesan Bishops

section II: Diocesan Boundaries

section III: Assistants in the Pastoral Office of the Diocesan Bishops

1. Coadjutor and auxiliary bishops

2. Diocesan curia and commissions

3. The diocesan clergy

4. Religious

Chapter III: Concerning Bishops Cooperating for the Common good of Many Churches

section I: Synods, Councils and especially Episcopal Conferences

section II: The Boundaries of Ecclesiastical Provinces and the Erection of Ecclesiastical Regions

section III: Bishops Having an Inter-Diocesan Office

General Directive

Special Essays:

ordination to priesthood

The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests is outlined as such:


Chapter I: The Priesthood in the Ministry of the Church

Chapter II: The Ministry of Priests

SECTION 1: Priests’ Functions

SECTION 2: Priests’ Relationships with Others

SECTION 3: The Distribution of Priests, and Vocations to the Priesthood

Chapter III: The Life of Priests

SECTION 1: The Vocation of Priests to the Life of Perfection

SECTION 2: Special Spiritual Requirements in the Life of a Priest

SECTION 3: Aids to the Life of Priests

Conclusion and Exhortation

Additional essays:

The Decree on Priestly Training, also known by the Latin title Optatam Totius, covered the issue of the training of priests for ministry. The outline below is as given in the document. The headings are my own.


I: The Program of Priestly Training to be Undertaken by Each Country

II: The Urgent Fostering of Priestly Vocations

III: The Setting Up of Major Seminaries

IV: The Careful Development of the Spiritual Training

V: The Revision of Ecclesiastical Studies

VI: The Promotion of Strictly Pastoral Training

VII: Training to be Achieved after the Course of Studies


The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity was one of the first Vatican II documents examined on this site. A few essays combined sections or spread out the commentary on a single section to two or three posts. The numbers in the outline below reflect the section number–these are not typos. The document isn’t always quoted in its entirety. This is a series that, as I was editing it, I was thinking might benefit from a revisit. Another day, perhaps.

Chapter I: The Vocation of the Laity to the Apostolate

Chapter II: Objectives

Chapter III: The Various Fields of the Apostolate

Chapter IV: The Various Forms of the Apostolate

Chapter V: External Relationships

Chapter VI: Formation for the Apostolate

Exhortation: the invitation of Christ

The Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life is also known for the Latin title suggesting “perfect charity.” This document wasn’t divided up into chapters, sections, and such.


The Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite doesn’t get a lot of attention. This document isn’t about the Eastern Orthodox–you’ll need to consult Unitatis Redintegratio for that. But the council bishops do explore a bit of that relationship toward the end of this document.


The Individual Churches or Rites

Preservation of the Spiritual Heritage of the Eastern Churches

Eastern Rite Patriarchs

The Discipline of the Sacraments

Divine Worship

Relations with Sisters and Brothers of the Separated Churches


The Decree on Ecumenism outlines the council bishops’ approach to relations with other Christians. The outline is clear-cut. The bishops look in depth at some general principles. They stake out the Catholic position, then they look to our relations in turn with Eastern Christians and then to believers separated from us by the Reformation.


Chapter I: Catholic Principles on Ecumenism

Chapter II: The Practice of Ecumenism

Chapter III: Churches and Ecclesial communities Separated from the Roman Apostolic See

I. The Special Consideration of the Eastern Churches

II. Separated Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the West

The Decree on the Media of Social Communications gets some attention these days with the explosion in human participation in the internet. It was the very first Vatican II document to be promulgated, and was often overlooked, as the liturgy constitution came out at the end of the second session also.


Chapter I: On the Teaching of the Church

Chapter II: On the Pastoral Activity of the Church


Special Essays

The Declaration of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, otherwise known by the first two words of the Latin text, Nostra Aetate.

In 2005, we provided one post for each of the document’s five articles:

Additional essays from Neil and Todd:

The Declaration on Religious Freedom is often referred by the Latin title, from the first two words in the document’s official language. The subtitle of Dignitatis Humanae reads: On The Right Of The Person And Of Communities To Social And Civil Freedom In Matters Religious. It was one of the last documents to emerge from the Council in December 1965.



The Declaration on Christian Education and its straightforward outline: