Debate over the History of Vatican Council II

Source: FSSPX News

In December the latest work of Professor Roberto de Mattei, Il Concilio Vaticano II.  Una storia mai scritta (Vatican Council II, a Story Never Written), was published by Lindau editions.  This book stirred up a large debate involving academics and journalists such as Francesco Agnoli, Mario Palmaro, Alessandro Gnocchi, Corrado Gnerre, who claimed to be in favor of Professor de Mattei's theories, while progressivist historian of the School of Bologne, Alberto Melloni, and sociologist Massimo Introvigne declared themselves opposed.  Professor de Mattei intervened in the debate with an article, published in the newspaper Libero on December 12, of which we will reproduce here below a large extract.

(…) Msgr. Gherardini, professor emeritus of ecclesiology at the University of the Lateran, in his book The Ecumenical Council Vatican II, A Debate to Be Opened (2009), developed well the good criterium of theological hermeneutics.  Either one considers, like Msgr. Gherardini, that the propositions of Vatican Council II, because not continuous with preceding definitions, are neither infallible nor irreformable and thus are not even binding; or one grants the Council such an authority that it eclipses the Church's twenty other preceding councils, abrogating or replacing them.  On this last point, there would seem to be no difference between the historians of the School of Bologne, like Professor Alberto Melloni, and the sociologists, like Massimo Introvigne, who seem to grant a value of infallibility to Vatican Council II.

However there is a second problem that goes beyond the discussion about the continuity/discontinuity of the conciliar texts and touches upon not the theological domain, but the historical domain.  This is the subject to which I wished to contribute in my recent book, Il Concilio Vaticano II. Una storia mai scritta, published by Lindau editions in December 2010.  In this work, I do not propose a theological reading of the texts, in order to evaluate the continuity or discontinuity with the Tradition of the Church, but a historical reconstruction of what happened in Rome between October 11, 1962 and December 8, 1965.  This work is a complement to the theological approach, and should not cause worries for anyone.  Indeed one scarcely understands the preoccupied reactions of those who fear that this story might bring more water to the mill of the hermeneutics of discontinuity.  Must we then renounce to writing the history of Vatican Council II?

Or must we admit that only the School of Bologne, which has offered contributions that are certainly remarkable, but ideologically tendentious, has the right to write it?  And if elements of discontinuity must emerge, on the historical level, why fear their disclosure?  How can we deny a discontinuity, this time not in the contents, but in the new language of Vatican Council II?  A language not only makes declarations, but also gestures, silences and omissions, that can reveal the profound tendencies of an event even more than the contents of the texts.  The history of the inexplicable silence on Communism, for example, in a Council that should have concerned itself with the world facts, cannot be ignored.

The historian who prepares for this task cannot isolate the texts of Vatican Council II from the historical context in which they were produced, for it is precisely in this context that he is interested as a historian.  Likewise, Vatican Council II can not be presented as an event that concerns only three years of the Church's history, without considering its profound roots and the equally profound consequences that it had on the Church and in society.

The pretension to separate the Council from the after-Council is as untenable as that of separating the conciliar texts from the pastoral context in which they were written. No serious historian, and even no man of common sense could accept this artificial separation that is born of a pure taking of sides and not of a serene and objective evaluation of the facts.  We are still living today the consequences of the “conciliar Revolution” that anticipated and accompanied that of May '68.  Why hide it?  The Church, as Leo XIII declared when opening the Secret Archives of the Vatican to researchers, “should not fear the truth”.

- Roberto de Mattei

(Source: lepantofoundation, the bold print is from this edition – DICI 228, Jan. 20, 2011)

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