This masterful work by Dr. Laurie Olsen uncovers the behind-the-scenes story of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium VIII based on unpublished records from the Vatican Apostolic Archives, including internal memoranda, private notes, never-before-heard audio recordings of closed-door sessions, and more. This monumental achievement of archival research provides a window into what really happened at Vatican II—the council’s inner workings and maneuvers to steer Lumen Gentium VIII in a direction that would profoundly affect marian devotion and the study of mariology from that moment on.

Dr. Laurie Olsen graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, earned her doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, and is a member of the Mariological Society of America.


“With their fairly recent move to the Vatican Apostolic Archives, scholars can at last consult all materials from Vatican II, including audio recordings of private deliberations of the coun­cil’s theological commission. Dr. Olsen is among the first to hear them, and the revelations she brings forth are important not only for mariology but for Vatican II studies overall. It is no longer enough to consult even the Acta Synodalia. Now we can—and must—get to the original, primary documents. The book in your hands does that. There is no other work like it on the day-to-day workings of the council. Gorgeous!”
Fr. José Antonio Riestra
Professor Emeritus, Pontifical University of Santa Croce, Rome Counselor Emeritus, Pontifical International Marian Academy, Vatican City

“This book tells the behind-the-scenes story of what actually happened during Vatican II discussions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Dr. Olsen’s balanced and objective account of the council’s dueling camps reveals the interesting results of the sincere and frank theological debate. It is written in clear and simple language, proving her mastery of style and expression. The findings of her detailed and systematic study will astonish.”
Fr. Denis S. Kulandaisamy O.S.M.
President, Pontifical Marianum Theological Faculty, Rome Counselor, Pontifical International Marian Academy, Vatican City

“Vatican II was the first Church council to articulate a systematic doctrine on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Much has been revealed about the council fathers’ important symbolic deci­sion to include the treatment of Mary in the council’s Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium instead of dedicating a separate document to her. Likewise, many scholarly works have been undertaken to reflect on and interpret Lumen Gentium VIII. Sixty years after the promulgation of LG VIII, Dr. Laurie Olsen’s research in the Vatican Apostolic Archives, investigating more than two hundred archival boxes with written and audio materials as well as eyewitness accounts from key periti, has opened up new vistas of the human elements that influenced the text of LG VIII. Dr. Olsen’s objective portrayal of the debates behind and in the council’s aula assists the reader to comprehensively understand why certain ele­ments of marian doctrine were included while others were avoided. This book is invaluable for anyone doing scholarly work or those interested in understanding Mary at Vatican II.”
Danielle M. Peters, S.T.D.
University of Notre Dame

“Coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (2024), Dr. Olsen’s groundbreaking study on the marian section of this document invites us to a deeper appreciation of that council. She brings Vatican II research to unprecedented heights and shares with the reader countless, hereto­fore unpublished protocols, memoranda, etc. The author meticulously unearths important findings from the Vatican Apostolic Archives—most for the first time—sharing with us the struggles that went into drafting the Mariological section of Lumen Gentium. The deliber­ations on Mary and her role in the Church are one of the defining moments of the council with long-term ramifications for the life of the Church. The fact that Mary and the Church are mutually enabling realities, has been downplayed since. One might add, the result is tout court an almost Arian Christology. Only together do Mary and the Church grant Jesus Christ preeminence in the daily lives of Catholics. Dr. Olsen’s brilliant study is magisterial and indispensable reading for every theologian. Enthusiastically recommended!”
Fr. Emery de Gaál
University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, Member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy

“Dr. Laurie Olsen’s Mary and the Church at Vatican II: The Untold Story of Lumen Gentium VIII successfully takes us beyond the familiar narrative of the council’s controversy on Mary to the lesser-known dynamics behind the scenes. Masterfully plowing through countless pages from the Vatican Apostolic Archives and other unpublished sources, the work addresses a lacuna in the neglected backstory of Lumen Gentium’s eighth chapter and allows the reader to discover how particular periti contributed to the debate and shaped the council’s teaching. Whether or not one concedes to assigning the proverbial smoking gun regarding the post-conciliar decline in marian theology and devotion to this squadra Belga, the data unearthed by Olsen’s meticulous archival research are to be reckoned with and surely to galvanize renewed interest in the council’s teaching on Mary. Mary and the Church at Vatican II thus makes an important contribution to the ongoing reception of Vatican II. For anyone interested in the history of Vatican II and its marian chapter, this is an indispensable source.”
Sr. Theresa Marie Chau Nguyen, O.P., Ph.D
University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas and Author of The Splendor of the Church in Mary. Henri de Lubac, Vatican II, and Marian Ressourcement

“This book is for anyone who has wondered about Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, ‘What were the Vatican II council fathers thinking?’ Olsen’s detailed and comprehensive research reveals the reasoning and motives that shaped the document that exists today. This interesting analysis brings to life the theologians and bishops involved while illustrating how the Holy Spirit can still work through such a human process.”
Gloria Falcao Dodd, Doctor of Sacred Theology
The International Marian Research Institute, Dayton

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