Extracts from a three-part review which I published in August; all three parts now together. It seems to me that our present 'Between the Synods' era makes it very topical.
For those of us who do get a buzz out of history, The Second Vatican Council An Unwritten Story by Roberto de Mattei (Loreto Publications) provides a read which is as gripping as it is erudite. Professor de Mattei has mastered a vast body of material and he weaves the results of his immense learning into a narrative which, more than any novel, keeps one turning the pages to discover what happens next. The only problem I can discern is that as bedside reading it is likely to make your wrist ache, even if you have acquired the paperback version. 598 pages; but, unlike many books, this one does not have large elegant empty spaces in order to set off its text (the bottom margin is only about eight millimetres); the whole thing is workmanlike and useful. Its usefulness is enhanced by the the fact that Professor Mattei makes no assertion for which he does not point you to the published evidence. For this reason alone ktema es aiei xugkeitai. The introductory matter includes good summaries of the State of the Question, just before the Council began, in matters ranging from Biblical to Liturgical studies. Footnotes give concise descriptions of the actors as they appear on the stage.
Mattei writes, he reminds us, as a historian rather than as a theologian. But, inevitably, history throws up its theological questions. A survey of the vota submitted by the Fathers when, before the Council, their views were sought, reveals preoccupations which failed to influence the Conciliar documents. One is the assumption that the Council would continue the very popular and triumphalist Mariology which, in the grim aftermath of the Second World War, kept up the spirits of bishops and flocks alike. The Definition of the dogma of the Universal Mediation of the Mother of God was confidently expected. Why did it not ....