The Periti of Vatican II
The Periti of Vatican II is an open source project cataloging the theological experts (periti) who advised the Second Vatican Council.
Using the list of 479 council periti as published in the Acta synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II (1980) as a foundation, The Periti of Vatican II is a spreadsheet of all known periti, conciliar and private, with over 30 data points to prove their identity, connection to the Council, and influence in the Church. Complementing the spreadsheet is a Zotero library, with research by and about the periti.
The spreadsheet and reference library are freely available to download.
The Periti of Vatican II was created and is managed by Sharon Kabel, librarian and independent researcher.
Periti were priests invited by the Vatican to assist the Second Vatican Council as theological experts.
“There were two categories of periti: Council and private. The pope appointed the Council periti, they could be assigned to serve on Conciliar commissions in addition to advising bishops. Individual bishops invited private periti for personal consultation and had no official standing at the Council.”
Pyne, Tricia T. “The Archives of the Second Vatican Council Fathers Project: A Report from the United States.” U.S. Catholic Historian 30, no. 3 (2012): 51–63.
The periti wielded surprising influence on all stages of the Council.
Before the Council, they debated and drafted, working with other periti and Council Fathers.
During the Council, they revised and interpreted, established daily press briefings, and about 5% of periti became bishops during the Council.
Then they went home and promulgated and implemented the Council. They ran parishes, seminaries, radio stations, publishing houses, workshops, conferences, retreats, newspapers, missions, and universities.
Some wrote hundreds of volumes; some wrote nothing. Some faced criminal charges, some are on the path to sainthood, some left the Church. One became pope!
Despite being the most important religious event of the last century, the Council remains curiously under-documented in certain aspects. To date, there is no open access list of all known periti.
This project fills that gap, and hopes to shed light on a group of men whose influence can still be felt, inside and outside of the Catholic Church.
My primary sources
For council periti, my sole source was:
“Index Peritorum.” In Acta synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II. Indices, 937–49. Vatican City: Typis polyglottis Vaticanis, 1980.
For private periti, I found them either incidentally through my research, or from searching the Catholic News Archive for:
peritus OR periti OR “council expert”~3
The article below covered American periti, and I used Father Weiser’s list as a cross-reference.
Weiser, Francois. “The Periti of the United States and the Second Vatican Council: Prosopography of a Group of Theologians.” U.S. Catholic Historian 30, no. 3 (2012): 65–91.
Lists of periti were also published in the Commisioni Conciliari, Annuario Pontificio, Civilta Cattolica, and the Irish Ecclesiastical Review, although I have not found hard copies yet.
My data points
The project started very simply. As it stood, the Vatican’s 1980 Acta list was nearly useless for me as a research tool, because of the layout of the text and the Latin first names. My goal was to retype the list, and add in the “real” first names.
As I retyped the names and noted typos (which were depressingly frequent), the scope grew and grew and grew. I cataloged the original data points from the Vatican’s list (1-7), author identifiers (8-14), and information on their life, influence, and connection to the Council (15-33).
- Last name
- Latinized first name
- Order (if applicable)
- Attended Session I?
- Attended Session II?
- Attended Session III?
- Attended Session IV?
- Virtual International Authority File (VIAF)
- Worldcat Identities
- Find a Grave
- Selected mention (a non-standardized reference to the peritus that confirmed their existence, name, and connection to the Council, such as a newspaper article, obituary, or book review)
- Status (council or private peritus?)
- Number of Wikipedia pages (captured in December 2022)
- Country represented/country of origin (For example, some American periti were not American-born. They represented America at the Council, so I counted them as American. When I was unsure, I defaulted to country of origin, and the name of the country at the time of the peritus’ birth. I regret I may not have been perfectly consistent with this data point.)
- Birth year
- Death year
- Age at start of Council
- Age at death
- Highest episcopal title (I looked for Superior General, Bishop, Cardinal, and Pope. A Cardinal-Deacon was counted as a Cardinal. An Archbishop was counted as a Bishop.)
- Important (I have two definitions of “important”: was a peritus well known, or was their work highly influential even if they were not a household name?)
- Photo no reuse (a link to a photo of the peritus, with unclear copyright status)
- Photo reuse (a link to a photo of the peritus, in the public domain)
- Change during Council (did the peritus become a bishop or die during the Council?)
- Memoir on the Council (did the peritus write a book or article about their time as a peritus? I generally did not count autobiographies unless there was a chapter/section on the Council.)
- Typo (did the Vatican’s list have a typo?)
- Credibly accused (Was the peritus credibly accused of child sexual abuse? This is only applicable to American periti, because I lack access to or awareness of lists/databases of clerical abuse in other countries.)
- Humanae Vitae: where did the peritus stand on Humanae Vitae/artificial birth control?
- Ethics Watch (did the peritus take a public position on something contrary to Church teaching? Were they accused of a crime other than child sexual abuse?)
- Left priesthood (did the peritus leave the priesthood and/or marry?)
- Notes (was there any other fact about the peritus that I thought was important to highlight?)
My secondary sources
I used a wide variety of search engines and databases. The most useful and important are:
- Catholic News Archive
- Catholic Portal
- Worldcat Identities
- Find A Grave
- Pro Publica’s “Credibly Accused”
I owe a great debt to the Catholic News Archive, for making it so simple to find the first names of so many periti.
Send me data!
Periti work is never done! Periti with “null” as their first name are council periti whose identity I could not verify with online resources. There are more private periti out there, waiting to be cataloged.
Contact me with suggestions, corrections, or questions.