Gherardini in English

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Gherardini Brunero: A domanda risponde. In dialogo con Karl Barth sulle sue Domande a Roma
[A Question Answered: In Dialogue with Karl Barth on His Questions in Rome]***

***This English translation of the original title was provided by the curators of the Barth Literature Search Project (Center for Barth Studies, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Zeitschrift fur dialektische Theologie, Protestant Theological University). It is reproduced here with thanks.

In an interview granted to Roberto Davide Papini about ecumenism and the theologian Vittorio Subilia, Brunero Gherardini had this to say: He [Vittorio Subilia, a disciple of Karl Barth], an official "observer," was not enthusiastic about Vatican II. Nor was Karl Barth. For this very reason, perhaps, they could both show some gleam of light to the debate current in the Catholic area." [For the full interview published in Riforma in rete, 21 March 2012, go to: In dialogo per riconquistare la verità (in Italian).

Brunero Gherardini is no devotee of Vatican II, either. He is "for reading Vatican II in the context of the twenty councils that preceded it and a critically enlightened use of its documents" and "against the postconciliar vulgate that has been absolutizing it for about fifty years as the one and only council, the beginning of a new Church: [from: The Ecumenical Vatican Council II. A Much Needed Discussion] In 2009 Gherardini petitioned Pope Benedict XVI for a thorough examination and re-assessment of Vatican II (see Petition to Benedict XVI). The need for a re-assessment is asserted again in Concilio Vaticano II. Il discorso mancato and supported by much documentary evidence in Il Vaticano II. Alle radici d'un equivoco.

Over forty years earlier Karl Barth had studied assiduously (and critically) the documents of Vatican II. The result was a set of carefully prepared questions that Barth submitted in Rome to various prelates. The questions were published posthumously in Ad limina Apostolorum, translated to Italian as Domande a Roma. The answers (if any) that Barth received were less than satisfactory. Now a topnotch Roman Catholic theologian takes Barth seriously and answers him with a passion for truth.

For a biographical profile and bibliography of Brunero Gherardini, and a description of A domanda risponde. In dialogo con Karl Barth sulle sue Domande a Roma and other recent books of his, click here: La biografia di Brunero Gherardini su

Bibliographical information:

Title: A domanda risponde. In dialogo con Karl Barth sulle sue Domande a Roma
Author: GHERARDINI, Brunero
Publisher: Casa Mariana Editrice, Frigento (Italy)
Publication date: 2011
Pages: 336
Price: 20 euro. Available immediately (go to How to order)
ISBN: 9788890561115


[From the back cover]: The questions that the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth asked in "Rome" in 1966 did not find discussants either interested or ready to answer. Vatican II (1962-1965) had just come to an end and "Rome" was more concerned with the dissemination of the Council's message than with a thorough critical analysis of its contents. There is no question that the answers, published only today, are belated but not wanting in interest or effectiveness in order to clarify the doubts, remove the reservations, dismiss the uncertainties of as many as are not content with hackneyed praise, but wish to attain a firm grasp on truth.

Reviews online

Le risposte di Brunero Gherardini a Karl Barth, by Piero Vassallo, was published by Riscossa cristiana. An editorial note reads: "After many years and the appearance of satan's smoke in the Church, reading anew the riveting questions addressed by Barth to the Roman Church suggested to Monsignor Gherardini a proposal for a profound and unprejudiced criterion of evaluation on Vatican Council II.


Karl Barth or John Wayne? Occasional thoughts on A domanda risponde. In dialogo con Karl Barth sulle sue Domande a Roma

Apparently, a disturbing book. So disturbing that there are here and there (or so it seems) unduly protracted delivery times and problems with suppliers. Disturbing because it answers questions that were addressed to various prelates in Rome (at the Vatican, that is) by a Protestant theologian, an invited observer at the Second Vatican Council: a person eminently qualified to voice, way back in 1967, well-founded perplexities on the Council he had just followed.

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been an official answer by any Vatican Congregation. From the outset, Vatican II was a holy cow and neither Catholics nor Protestants took kindly to doubts on the future glory and splendour of the post-Conciliar Church. Fourty-four years later, Monsignor Gherardini responds as is his want, with a discourse not limited to the narrow circle of believers, but meant to reach everybody, Protestant and Catholic, those who believe and those who do not.

As long as one considers Vatican II a church gathering summoned to deliberate on internal matters pertaining to the Catholic religion, there will be but slight interest (or none whatsoever) by those who Catholic are not. But even among the comparatively few Catholics who find time specifically for the Council, there are many simple souls who think that times before and after the Council differ only in matters of ritual and different prayers; in the end, they say, it is always the same church. As it happened to poor Gretchen who, overcome by the passionate eloquence of Faust bent on seducing her, answered him, 'Yes, it's just what the priest says, only in words a little bit different' (nur mit ein bisschen anderen Worten), these somewhat different words were a prelude to substantial changes - and not for the best.

Monsignor Gherardini commented on the theological aspects of Vatican II in the light of Catholic doctrine in his trilogy: The Second Vatican Council: A Much Needed Discussion, Concilio Vaticano Secondo. Il discorso mancato [no English translation as yet; the title could be, 'Vatican Council II: The Failed Discussion'], and Alle radici d'un equivoco ['At the Roots of an Equivoque'] (Lindau Publishers, May 2012). In A domanda risponde Gherardini tackles two basic problems, preliminary to theological inquiry and common to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

The first one may seem Lapalissian: freedom of discussion on the documents of a council that - take it from Pope Paul VI - deliberately eschewed dogmatic proclamations in the name of "pastorality." This freedom of discussion, Leitmotiv of Gherardini's trilogy on the Council, is the indispensable condition to answer the questions raised by Barth. To be sure, nobody questions freedom of speech, and the Congregation for the Doctrineof the Faith leaves, "to legitimate discussion the study of single expressions" of Vatican II (press release of 14 September 2011). But try to find A domanda risponde in bookstores; with one notable exception, it is an arduous task.

Among the questions raised by Barth, the crucial one, second and most important of the basic problems, is: 'Are there, or are there not, absolute evaluation criteria? Are there - in Antigone's words - unwritten but unpassable laws that transcend all those made by man? Is there, or is there not, truth? Is Catholic dogm unchanging truth, or does it change from pope to pope and from one council to the next?

The choice is not between the times before and after the Council, but between believing that truth is an absolute value, and the denial of any absolute value on the ground that absolute values do not exist. This stance seems to me well represented by the pragmatism of William James and John Dewey, and well exemplified in its various facets by the authors of The Philosophy of the Western, eds. J. McMahon and B.S. Csaki (Lexington, KY 2010). John Wayne, the undisputed hero of western movies, became such precisely because he embodied American pragmatism, ready to adjust to circumstances and to concentrate on achieving eminently practical goals (Csaki, p. 4). And do not tell me that it could not happen in this part of the world: a people that could be seduced to eat boxed cereals for breakfast and ketchup at supper could swallow, and does in fact swallow, the pragmatism of a do-it-yourself church; without even the rugged charm of John Wayne as an extenuating circumstance.


From: Corrispondenza

L'ultimo eccellente lavoro di mons. Brunero Gherardini, attraverso la mediazione teologica del calvinista Karl Barth, persiste nell'analisi sempre più incalzante dei testi e dei contesti, prodotti o subiti, dal Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II (A domanda risponde. In dialogo con Karl Barth sulle sue "Domande a Roma", Casa Mariana Editrice, Frigento 2011, pp. 336, euro 20).

Si tratta di un'opera di alta teologia che con taglio abbastanza divulgativo ed accessibile, si propone di rispondere al testo che Karl Barth (1886-1968) compose e pubblicò, quasi come ultima riflessione critica, all'indomani dell'Assise conciliare e a pochi mesi dalla sua dipartita: il libro delle Domande a Roma fu pubblicato infatti in prima edizione a Zurigo nel 1967.

Barth, figlio di pastore calvinista, può essere considerato uno dei pensatori più sistematici del protestantesimo del XX secolo. La sua opera principale è la Kirchliche Dogmatik vera summa teologica calvinista in molti volumi. Rimase, purtroppo, sempre distante dal Cattolicesimo, a cui rimproverava tra l'altro, la teoria aristotelico-tomista dell'analogia entis (vero pomo della discordia secondo lui tra cattolici e riformati), la mariologia tradizionale e la teologia tridentina dei sacrameti.

Il teologo svizzero, nel clima ecumenico introdotto da Giovanni XXIII, fu invitato come osservatore fraterno ai lavori conciliari e poi, a Concilio concluso, volle recarsi a Roma per vedere coi suoi occhi i primi effetti del Concilio, compiendo quella che chiamò la sua "peregrinatio ad limina Apostolorum" (p. 6). Restò in Urbe dal 22 al 29 settembre del 1966 e poté incontrare numerosi teologi e accademici cattolici, tra cui Willebrands e Bea, e infine lo stesso Paolo VI con cui si intrattenne per un'ora. La sua intelligenza però era tale da non farsi influenzare da quell'euforia collettiva, non sempre spontanea, che fece seguito alla chiusura dell'Assise Conciliare. Anzi, le domande che pose al mondo cattolico, e che vengono qui sapientemente analizzate da mons. Gherardini, mostrano un Barth preoccupato, lui calvinista "antiromano", per il futuro del Cattolicesimo.

Molte di queste domande hanno per oggetto i passaggi salienti dei documenti emanati dal Concilio e da Paolo VI, ma alcune, forse le più interessanti e incisive, hanno un carattere generale e simbolico (cf. pp. 26-44). Per esempio, chiese rispettosamente ai cattolici Karl Barth: "Le decisioni conciliari hanno un punto focale, un centro di gravità?". Era come chiedere se Dio fosse il centro o l'uomo, l'umanità. Un'altra domanda tagliente è: "Che significa aggiornamento? Aggiornamento in base e in vista di che?". La domanda attende risposta e risposta autorevole da decenni. Ancora, con un quesito che larvatamente suggerisce quella risposta che non piaceva a Barth e non dovrebbe piacere a nessuno, specie oggi che abbiamo davanti agli occhi le macerie del post-Concilio: "[Al Concilio] Si è trattato a) del rinnovamento, teoretico pratico, della autocoscienza della Chiesa alla luce della Rivelazione che ne costituisce il fondamento? Oppure b) del rinnovamento del suo pensiero, della sua predicazione, del suo operare oggi, alla luce del mondo moderno?"...

A quest'ultima decisiva domanda il teologo risponde egli stesso con una domanda subalterna che suona così: "I rappresentanti della maggioranza progressista in Concilio, che optano per la soluzione b), sono coscienti del rischio che si giunga, nell'ambito del cattolicesimo, a indesiderate ripetizioni degli errori commessi dal protestantesimo contemporaneo?". La bonne question!

Brief notices

Claudiana Publishers has just published a new Italian edition of Ad limina Apostolorum, titled: Karl Barth e il Concilio Vaticano II. Ad limina apostolorum e altri scritti, eds. Fulvio Ferrario and Marco Vergottini, with an introduction by Eberhard Busch (ISBN 978-88-7016-883-9). Marco Vergottini contributes a postface with a chapter on 'A domanda risponde. Il dialogo di Brunero Gherardini con Karl Barth' (page 129-133).

Il settimanale di Padre Pio 10 (June 2011) notes on page 38 that replying to Barth's "Questions in Rome" gives Brunero Gherardini the opportunity to "redefine and offer some clarity on some obscure points" pertaining to Vatican II.

Another recent study by Brunero Gherardini: La Cattolica. Lineamenti di ecclesiologia agostiniana. For excerpts of the book (and a warning to theologians, not to try to fry with water), click here and here.
For a review and bibliographical information on: La Cattolica. Lineamenti di ecclesiologia agostiniana click here.