The main desire of the Council was to reinvigorate the Church’s mission of promoting a fully human life in Jesus Christ.
As far as I know, no participant in the Second Vatican Council summed up its goals or described its spirit as addressing the question whether God’s truth and love are effective, that is, whether they have the power to steer men on a course conforming to their dignity. Nevertheless, the overarching question that the Council did address leads to this question. For the Council Fathers the question was: “Ecclesia, quid dicis de te ipsa? Church, what do you say about yourself?” The context of the question is determinative of the Council’s pastoral nature. The concern was not to produce a technical treatise of ecclesiology, but to respond to the spreading perception that the Church is no longer relevant, that it has nothing to offer to a humanity that has taken its future and the aspiration for a better world into its own hands.
Why the Council?
Just a few years after upheaval of World War II, with the Cold War coming to a head in the Cuban Missile Crisis, with historic revolutions taking place in technology, science, politics, economics, and culture, the Church found herself in a position similar to that of John the Baptist. He lived differently than his contemporaries, putting God first in every way, and he spoke with the authority of a prophet. He did this in the name of fidelity to the God who called him and fidelity to the vocation that God entrusted to him. He had a message, a lifestyle went with it, and a baptism of repentance that attracted great crowds. He could not be ignored. Everything about him provoked the question: “Quid dicis de te ipso? What do you say about yourself?” (Jn 1:22).