PETITION (SUPPLICA) TO THE HOLY FATHER
(by Brunero Gherardini)
[Preliminary note:] "Supplica" is the technical term for a request addressed to the Pope. The following petition (Supplica), originally published by Monsignor Gherardini in April 2009, concerns not only Pope Benedict XVI, but also any and all of his successors. This "Petition to the Holy Father" is the culmination of, not an appendix to, The Ecumenical Vatican Council II. A Much Needed Discussion. On 24 September 2011 eighty-three scholars (Brunero Gherardini among them), headed by Paolo Pasqualucci, signed an expanded version of the Supplica. You can find it on the Riscossa cristiana website.
Most Blessed Father,
I am well aware that this direct communication is anomalous and I apologise for it. My turning to it rests, first and foremost, on the trust that Your Person inspires, and concurrently on the fact that You recommended to the whole Church, as interpretive principle of Vatican II, the hermeneutics of continuity on which, with your leave, I should like to speak to you briefly.
To this day, I always scrupulously refrained from conversing with the one who is responsible for the whole Church; I did request some rare telegrams under specific circumstances, but nothing more.
Our personal relationship within the theological debate has been only occasional; indeed, by my own choice, a mutual frequentation has not occurred. I seldom step forward, never put myself forward.
Responding to your invitation on the hermeneutics of continuity, Today I make an exception and submit to Your Holiness some thoughts of mine on that matter.
For the welfare of the Church - and more specifically to bring about the salus animarum [salvation of souls] that is her first and suprema lex, after decades of free exegetical, liturgical, theological, historiographical, and "pastoral" creativity in the name of the Vatican Council II, it seems urgent to me that some clarity be done by answering authoritatively the question on its continuity - a continuity not declared, but demonstrated - with the other Councils and its fidelity to Tradition, which has constantly been in force in the Church.
I do not know whether this writing will come to the hands of Your Holiness, nor whether it will come as it was conceived and as the worthy editor has produced it typographically, rather than through some staff briefing not designed to highlight its logical connexions.
For my part, I have arranged these very connexions in support of this petition dictated by my deep conviction of the pressing need, to be no longer deferred, that the Council's records undergo examination in all their complexity and extension. It seems indeed difficult, if not outright impossible, to undertake the desired hermeneutics of continuity if beforehand one does not proceed to a painstaking and scholarly analysis of the individual documents, both as a whole and in every one of their arguments, and of their immediate and remote sources, but continues to talk about them simply repeating their contents or presenting them as an absolute novelty.
I said that an examination of so vast a scope transcends by far the working capability of an individual person, not only because the same topic demands to be treated at different levels historical, patristic, legal, philosophical,liturgical, theological, exegetical, sociological, scientific - but also because every conciliar document touches upon dozens and dozens of topics that only the respective specialists can fully master.
Musing upon such matters, the idea came to me long ago - an idea that I now dare submit to Your Holiness - of a far-reaching and possibly final review of the last Council in all its aspects and contents. It seems indeed meet and logical that each one of its aspects be studied, both severally and jointly with all others, never losing sight of all sources; and that it be studied from the specific angle of the previous, solemn and ordinary Magisterium of the Church. From such a vast and unexceptionable scientific work, compared with the secure results of critical enquiry on the pluri-centennial Magisterium of the Church, it will then be possible to gather evidence for a fully assured and objective evaluation of Vatican II, in reply to the following questions among many others:
( 1 ) What is its true nature?
( 2 ) What is the relationship between its pastorality - whose notion will have to be authoritatively defined - and its possibly dogmatic character? is pastorality compatible with it? does pastorality presuppose it? does pastorality contradict it? does pastorality ignore it?
( 3 ) Is it really possible to define Vatican II "dogmatic"? hence, to refer to it as dogmatic? to found on it new theological assertions? in what sense? within which limits?
( 4 ) Is it an "event" in the sense of the Bologna professors; one, that is, which breaks the ties with the past and inaugurates an epoch new in all respects? or does the whole past live in it again eodem sensu eademque sententia [in the same sense and with the same sentiments]?
It is evident that the hermeneutics of rupture and that of continuity depend upon the answers that will be given to such questions. But if the scientific findings of the examination lead to the hermeneutics of continuity as the only meet and feasible one, then it will be necessary to prove - beyond declamatory asseverations - that the continuity is real, and shows itself as such, only in the underlying dogmatic identity. Should such identity not be scientifically proven, either partly or as a whole, it would be necessary to say so in all serenity and candour, in reply to the need for clarity felt and awaited for almost half a century.
Your Holiness might ask me why am I ever telling You what You know better than I do, since You already spoke clearly and courageously about such matters. In the end, I ask myself the same question, somewhat surprised at my boldness and grieved for the time I am taking from You. Yet, in my boldness I see an act of parrhesia and also of consistency, in line with the ecclesiology that my great Masters had learned from the revealed Word, from patristics, and from the Magisterium; the ecclesiology that - quasi in insipientia loquor [I talk like a fool] (2Cor. 11:17) - I also had the honour and the joy of handing down again to thousands of pupils. It is the ecclesiology that recognizes in the One-Holy-Catholic-Apostolic Church the mysteric presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ; according to this ecclesiology the Pope, even seorsim [by himself] is able, in the words of St. Bonaventure, to reparare universa [restore everything], even in the event that omnia destructa fuissent [all things were destroyed]. Most Blessed Father, one word from You is sufficient, because it is itself the Word, for everything to return to the orbit of the peaceable, joyful, and luminous profession of one and only Faith in the one and only Church.
I said in passing that the instrument to reparare omnia [restore everything] could be a major papal document destined to remain throughout the ages as a sign and testimony of Your vigilant and responsible exercise of the Petrine ministry. However, should You not wish to act alone, You could direct some Vatican department, or the ensemble of the Pontifical Universities in Rome, or a single, highly representative organization, to organise a series of highly qualified conferences in Rome or elsewhere, securing the cooperation of all the most prestigious, reliable, and recognised specialists in each of the sectors that make up Vatican II.
In this way, it will be possible to know whether, in what sense and up to which point Vatican II, and most importantly the post-conciliar developments, can be interpreted in line with an unquestionable, albeit evolutionary, continuity, or whether they are foreign, or even a hindrance to it.
Thanking Your Holiness in advance and renewing my sincere apologies, my wish for You is that the fulness of divine grace, the divinely revealed truth, and Tradition, by which revelation itself is conveyed through the succession of times and epochs in the history of the Church, may always be the light of Your magisterium. Bless me,