In 1959 Pope John XXIII called for an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church that would later be known at Vatican II. As a result of this council, the Catholic Church would dramatically change or reconsider its stance towards the world, it’s celebration of the liturgy, salvation, and the roles of clergy and the laity. Ending in 1965, the council would engender much debate, and even some reluctancy, by many conservative factions within the Church.
However, despite the growing pains that resulted from its declarations, it drastically redefined what it meant to be Catholic in the world and evidenced the Church’s desire to speak directly to the modern man.
Historically, the way that the Catholic Church decides doctrinal debates and moral teaching is through dialogue among church authorities and officials–this is what is traditionally called a council or synod. The Catholic Church distinguishes between two types of councils, ecumenical councils and synods or provincial councils. Ecumenical councils are authoritative while synods or provincial councils are mere discussions that do not retain any authoritative status. The very first ecumenical council was the Council of Nicea (convened in the fourth century) and was mainly a response to what is known in Church History as the “Arian Crisis,” a heretical teaching about the Trinity which purported that Jesus Christ was created by God the Father, verses being con-substantial with the Father.