14 October 2022


Gaudet Mater Ecclesia was the address to the Council on its opening day, the Feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 11 October1962. Fr Zed, on his unfailingly fantastic blog, has pointed out that the Vatican website still does not carry an English translation of this important document. I can explain why ... indeed, I think I have touched on this topic before and more than once.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will [shall?] begin.

This business goes back to a failed jesuit called Hebblethwaite, who regarded himself as an expert on the The Council. He promoted a story that the original text of GME as read out by S John XXIII contained a relativising sentence of questionable orthodoxy. According to Hebblethwaite, crafty conservatives then got together to substitute their own 'corrected' form of this passage. This narrative ... the tale of good, liberal pope John being subverted by wicked traddies ... then became the standard 'liberal' version of history. Basil Hume, incredibly, or perhaps credibly, accepted it and repeated it.

Until Professor John Finnis took matters in hand. By deft examination of the evidence (including a recording of S John XXIII reading the text, and the text as printed in Osservatore Romano the following morning), this dogged Oxford academic, a law professor, demonstrated that Hebblethwaite's narrative was comprehensively wrong ... from beginning to end. The Pope's 'official' words were authentically spoken by him in the aula and were accurately recorded by Vatican radio ... and the Failed Jesuit's account is ... whether intentionally or by accident or by virtue of the black-is-white-and-white- is-black trick  ...  mendacious. Smoke and Mirrors!

The crucial words as spoken by the pope were eodem sensu eademque sentententia. The holy Pontiff was emphasising the unchanging nature of the Faith. The Faith may be expressed in different ways, he said, as long as this is done keeping the same meaning and the same judgment.

Finnis explained all this in The Tablet, 14 December 1991 ... detail by detail, proof by proof.

What a glorious and heavenly hoot this simple, wholesome English story is! The authentic text of what the pope said in 1962 is still such a hot potato for the Vatican!! Ridete quidquid est domi cachinnorum ... Tee Hee, as Alison might have said ...

What is it that the trendies are afraid of? Still ... after all this time?

A five-letter Anglo-Saxon word?


1 comment:

Jesse said...

Thank you, Father, for reminding us of this eminently practical example of "textual criticism." It seems that my university does not provide us with online access to The Tablet, so I will have to consult Prof. Finnis's arguments when I'm next in the library. I have, however, been able to turn up a reference to the problem of the text of Gaudet Mater Ecclesia in an address that Prof. Finnis gave in August 1989 to the Thomas More Society in Melbourne, Australia. It was originally published as "Saint Thomas More and the Crisis in Faith and Morals" in The Priest 7, no. 1 (2003), pp. 10–15 and 29–30, and subsequently reprinted as "Faith, Morals, and Thomas More" in Prof. Finnis's Collected Essays, V: Religion and Public Reasons (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 163–78. It is from the 2011 reprint (which contains Prof. Finnis's own additions, in square brackets) that I quote the following passage (pp. 173–74), including a footnote that gives references to his whole controversial correspondence with Peter Hebblethwaite in The Tablet:

If this view of revelation and faith finds no support in Vatican II or the tradition, no matter—it can be given the support of a version of John XXIII’s opening address to that Council, in which (they say) the Pope declared that what matters is (only) the substance of the tradition. The Pope (they say) never said to the Council what he is recorded in the Acta Apostolicae
and in Gaudium et Spes 62 (the Council’s final document) as saying to the Council—that the Church and Council and faithful must hold—eodem sensu, eadem sententia—to the very meaning of, and position affirmed in, traditional doctrines. The new men’s favoured version of Pope John’s address you will find in the Abbott and Gallagher Documents of Vatican II, p. 715 (fourth paragraph; but cf. the first paragraph on p. 715).* It is argued to be authentic in Peter Hebblethwaite’s widely marketed biography (published 1984) of John XXIII, which claims that the Vatican bureaucracy subsequently falsified the Pope’s opening address by inserting into the Acta, the Vatican’s official Gazette, the words which you find attributed to Pope John there and in Gaudium et Spes and in the Council’s own official record of the Pope’s address. When one discovers that no changes were made in the version in the Acta; that L’Osservatore Romano’s report of John XXIII’s address the day after it was given (Oss. Rom., 12 October 1962, p. 2 col. 3) says exactly what the Acta weeks later said [and exactly what the Vatican Radio’s tape recording of the Pope’s address records]; that Hebblethwaite’s tale of subsequent curial falsification is itself, therefore, reckless falsehood; and that the mythical version of John XXIII’s address is far more widely quoted and known than the one which he actually delivered (reaffirming, at this precise point, the First Vatican Council’s teaching on revelation and the immutability of the affirmed content of doctrine); one then experiences something of More’s exasperation at the sheer scale of falsification of Catholic teaching to be found in the Reformers’ writings, and at the success of bad money in driving out good in the small change of theological currency which finds its way into everyone’s pocket or purse.

* The origins of this version are an unofficial Italian translation [of an early draft of the address] published by L’Osservatore Romano alongside the Pope’s own Latin words on the day after the address. [On Hebblethwaite’s wholesale fabrication and falsification of history, see now my letters to The Tablet (London), 14 December 1991, 4 and 18 January, and 1 and 8 February 1992, and Hebblethwaite’s letters of 11 and 25 January 1992; the true content of the tape recording (to which Hebblethwaite’s book had appealed) emerged, along with much else to the same effect, in the course of this correspondence.]