New Insights on Pope John XXIII and Vatican II

We are happy to have this report from John W. O'Malley, S.J., on the recent publication of the diaries of Cardinal Roberto Tucci.

Over the course of the years I have met Cardinal Tucci a number of times but only briefly and in passing. I have always admired him and of course read with great interest the portions of his diary that appeared in the recent edition of La Civilta Cattolica. The diary confirms, amplifies, and specifies aspects of Pope John's attitude on a range of topics. We knew he hated pomp. We knew he hated "prophets of doom." We knew, or thought we knew, of his discomfort (to say the least) with the Curia. We knew John tried to pursue a "hands-off" policy regarding Italian politics, and we knew of his concern with the then dominant party, the Christian Democrats. But in each of these cases Tucci provides us with a welcome and enlightening specificity. The diary is a valuable addition to the other diaries, such as those of Yves Congar and Albert Prignon, that throw new light on what was going on at the council.

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Two aspects of Tucci's diary especially struck me. I am not surprised, but I did not know of John's reservations concerning "la nouvelle theologie," the theological movement that would play such an important role in the unfolding of the council. He was of course nuncio in Paris at the time of the crisis over that movement in the years just after World War II and therefore was well informed about what was going on. His reservations are, on the one hand, a confirmation of what we knew, his traditional understanding of theology, and, on the other, an indication of his broad-mindedness, because he appointed Henri de Lubac to the preparatory Doctrinal Commission for the council. De Lubac was probably the best known of the promoters of "the new theology."

That brings me to the second aspect: John's efforts to make reconciliation a hallmark of the church, of his pontificate, and of the council itself. Why cannot we cooperate with people with whom we disagree? Must we always be zealots who "bash and slash" them? In this regard, John distanced himself from centuries of apologetics and polemics, which was the style (self-justifying and intransigent) in which the church expressed itself toward "the other," almost no matter who or what  that "other" might be. The good news is that the council made reconciliation one of its overriding orientations, perhaps its most pervasive and profound orientation. The bad news is that in many ways we have lost that orientation and seem to be shifting back to a sour, divisive, unproductive and often self-righteous state of soul.

John W. O'Malley, S.J.

 

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