[Update: Monsignor Brunero Gherardini's book can be purchased now. The English title is The Ecumenical Vatican Council II: A Much Needed Discussion. If readers "in the know" would alert us to the publication of his subsequent volumes, we would appreciate it very much.]
According to The Latin Mass magazine (subscribe here), Italy has just witnessed the publication of a soon-to-be blockbuster on Vatican II. Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, a renowned 85-year-old theologian of the Roman school, has descriptively entitled his work Vatican Council II: An Open Discussion. The volume is published by Casa Mariana Editrice, a publishing house connected to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and it boasts a forward by Bishop Mario Oliveri (of the Albenga and Imperia diocese) and an introduction by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the former secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who is now the Archbishop of Colombo and Metropolitan of the Church in Sri Lanka.
The web site of the Society of Scholastics, on whose Board of Advisors the author sits, says that Monsignor Brunero Gherardini resides “at the Vatican as a Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica, he is the secretary for the Pontifical Academy of Theology, professor emeritus at the Pontifical Lateran University, and the editor of Divinitas magazine.” Divinitas is a respected Roman journal of theology.
Alessandro Zangrando, the Rome Correspondent for The Latin Mass, gives us a sneak preview by way of some excerpts from the book, which he says has reportedly reached the Pope’s desk, and is soon to be published in English.
Monsignor Gherardini laments a “misguided ecumenism, in search of what unites, rather than of what divides. … We entered into a new spirit of conciliation, adaptation, resignation, wary of other people’s preconditions, almost as though we believed, perhaps without admitting it, that the truth was on the other side. Should somebody ask me whether modernism was ultimately let into the very fabric of the Council’s documents to the point that the Fathers themselves were infected by it, my answer would be yes and no. No, because the supernatural spirit is not at all absent from the Council thanks to its open profession of the Faith in the Trinity, the Incarnation, the universal redemption of the Word, along with its deep conviction about the universal calling to sanctity, its acceptance [of] and faith in the sanctifying effect of the sacraments, its particularly high regard for the liturgical and Eucharistic worship, the sanctifying role of the Church and a theologically nourished devotion to Mary. My answer is also yes, because modernistic ideas still can be found in several Council documents, notably in Gaudium et Spes, and a few prominent Council Fathers were openly sympathetic to old and new modernitsts. They wished to have a Church in a pilgrimage toward the Truth, like every other pilgrim, a friend and ally of every other researcher, endorsing even in the field of sacred studies, the same critical methodology applicable to every other science. In short, their Church was to be a kind of research laboratory rather than a dispenser of Truths from on high.”
The book ends by requesting that the Supreme Pontiff, “clarify definitively every aspect and contents of the last Council. Such omnia reparare [reparation of everything] could be accomplished through a great papal document, which would go down in history as a sign and witness of the vigilant and responsible exercise of His ministry as the Successor of Peter.”
I would think that the arrival of such a book is an occurrence of major import. First, it is authored by a weighty and respected theologian, who is a priest in good standing with the Church — not a man that can be taken as a spokesman for a movement, a mere controversialist, or an “interested party” in the debate. Second, its forward and preface are by two seated diocesan ordinaries (one, a former Roman curial official who may well return to the Holy See one of these days). Third, it is published by a publishing house attached to a vibrant and young branch of the Franciscan Order, raised to Pontifical Right status by none other than Pope John Paul II. That Order itself boasts some accomplished theologians (such as the American, Father Peter Damien Fehlner, FI). Finally, if Mr. Zangrando’s contacts are correct, and the book is indeed on the Pope’s desk, the Roman Pontiff may choose to respond positively to the just-quoted respectful appeal made to his authority, or at least pave the way for his successor to do this.
If the passages provided by The Latin Mass are any indication, Vatican Council II: An Open Discussion may also provide a wonderful catalyst for the Rome-SSPX dialogue.