“School of Bologna” and Progressive Navel Gazing — How Francis is Changing the Church
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
(Rome) The School of Bologna is a term among Church insiders. The official name is actually “John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies.” But the hardly anyone knows. The school originated from the environment of leading Italian Left Catholics who in the 60s formed a coalition with the progressive “Rhenish Alliance”. Their orientation is progressive today. However, it has been an ossified progressivism, and such is the recent criticism from their own ranks. Criticism is a type of progressive navel gazing that because of the importance of the “School of Bologna” shines a spotlight on the recent developments on the progressive margins of the Catholic Church.
The founding goal of the school to strive after the Second Vatican Council and to make the post-conciliar partial progressive “revolution” of the Catholic Church irreversible [and permanent].
Authority to Interpret the Council
An instrument for this was the conquest of the interpretation of the Council. The “hermeneutics of rupture” originates with the Bologna School, whose main proponent it is. For this, a five-volume Conciliar History was developed and conquered a far-reaching monopoly on interpretation for itself. The history of the Second Vatican Council is said to have cemented this progressive thrust.
With funds from the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), a German edition was issued. The promotion of “School of Bologna” by the DBK, meanwhile, followed an inner logic. The bishops of the German language area were the promoters, the organizers and the infantry of the progressive camp at the Council.
Now someone is leveling sharp criticism at the “School of Bologna” from a quarter one would not expect. “Selfishness, the creation of myths, self-interest, tension and decadence”, is how one of its founders, Paolo Prodi, smashed the progressive “temple” with these criticisms.
The historian Paolo Prodi is the older brother of former Italian Prime Minister and European Commission President Romano Prodi. Of the six Prodi brothers, three were deputies of the Italian and the European Parliament. Although the parties changed, they had in common an unwavering Left-Catholic orientation.
Paolo Prodi’s Criticism
The Prodi family is one of the most distinguished families of so-called “democratic Catholicism” which is settled politically left of center and seeks alliances with the non-Catholic left.
More than 50 years ago, Paolo Prodi was one among the founders of the “School of Bologna”, with Giuseppe Dossetti (1913-1996) and Pino Alberigo (1926-2007). His criticism is aimed at the current head of the school, the historian Alberto Melloni. It reveals for the first time there are in-house conflicts of a political and cultural center, which has been equipped for decades with generous public benefits. Recently, they received their regularly scheduled 400,000 euro and a further three million euros for research purposes, which were only paid in part.
Prodi’s criticism scratched the first time on the myth of an institution that was previously noticed by a missionary esprit de corps. Prodi has submitted a book on Giuseppe Dossetti, the “politician of the Council.” The report describes the now 85 year old historian in numerous anecdotes and memories from his time with Dossetti.
The importance of Dossetti’s institution is shown in the recent personnel developments in the Catholic Church. Both the new archbishop of Bologna as well as those of Palermo belong to it, as well as the “emerging” Philippine Cardinal, Antonio Luis Tagle.
Giuseppe Dossetti, the “Politicians of the Council”
Giuseppe Dossetti, “politician of the Council”
Dossetti was the procedural “organizer” of voting successes of “Rhenish Alliance” the Second Vatican Council. The Catholic antifascist was the head of the left wing of the Christian Democrats after the Second World War. From 1946 to 1948 he was a member of the Constituent Assembly and then in 1953 MP.Dossetti, headed of the left wing of political Catholicism and became convinced that the future consists in an alliance with the political left, including at the time, the strictly Stalinist oriented Italian Communist Party, whose goal at that time was the establishment of a Soviet Republic loyal to Moscow.
After Stalin’s death and the takeover by Khrushchev Dossetti, albeit with certain reservations, found support in that part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy which was represented by the Paul VI. on the papal throne. Many leading churchmen in the 1960s were convinced, whether they were for or against, that Moscow socialism would eventually triumph in the Cold War.
Dossetti exchanged the robe of the politician with that of a priest. In 1958 he was ordained by Cardinal Lercaro (1891-1976) of Bologna, the highest-ranking representative of Italy’s progressive church. In connection with the Second Vatican Council this meant that he brought his political dexterity into the Church, which provided the progressive alliance unexpected benefits, because he thought and acted like a politician. His “weapon” was parliamentary procedure. He knew this from his time as an MP. The Rules of Procedure did not interest the majority of the bishops.Thus, Dossetti could dupe them downright. At least until it became too colorful even for Paul VI., and called for the removal of Dossetti from Rome.
Paul VI. became the object of the school’s adulation and hatred. He was charged with hindering the progressive “revolution” and to have at stalled it in the end halfway. Underlying this is the “explanation” why the promised “new springtime” of the Church did not take place until today.
Dossetti in “his” Red Bologna monastic community has long been quiet. It still exists, but it plays neither a role in the archdiocese of Bologna, nor in the cultural life of the city that Dossetti had nurtured his idea of a Catholic-Communist alliance.
Prodi accuses Melloni of pursuing a line without a clear, coherent program. The “School of Bologna” is a pampered house of the political left, a prestige project. The financing will be ensured by the left Catholic politicians who hold the ranks in leading positions of the ruling Democratic Left.
“In my opinion, he has remained true to the foundation of the Vatican II as well as loyal to its cult, but has not sufficiently pursued its development or not sufficiently pursued it,” said Prodi to Nuova Bussola Quotidiana .
Prodi did not say it explicitly, but sees “School of Bologna” wavering as a kind of political-religious think tank.
Prodi left the School of Bologna 40 years ago in a dispute with Alberigo. At that time Melloni, the current director, was only a university student. He had left the school because he regarded it as a service that provides the instruments for research on the major issues of our time. Instead, the school had tangled in conflicts of interpretation between the different currents within the Church.
This was due to the turnaround that began in Bologna with the appointment of Cardinal Giacomo Biffi by John Paul II., who brought the school the support of senior pastors. “All this has led to tensions in my opinion, and has done no good. The Institute was the interpreted by Lercaro and this put it in opposition to Biffi. ”
Criticism from Left and Pope Francis
The Second Vatican Council, Prodi sees as “the end of the Tridentine epoch, but not as a new beginning.” The criticism of the historian of his former companion is not directed against the basic orientation, but against the path taken for their implementation. Prodi accuses Melloni of having stopped at the Council. The Council was important to finish almost 500 years of church history. But what he missed, was looking to the future. The failed school. “One would have to look to the future, what this Pope does,” said Prodi.
Prodi’s criticism thus comes from the left. The historian and former member of parliament is positioned further to the left than Melloni. It is not sufficient to blame Pope Francis. Melloni actually made these attempts several times, trying to monopolize Francis for his direction. The school must, however, says Prodi, develop its own ideas and take cues for the development of the Church.
Pope Francis has so far sent, according to his nature, very mixed signals. The Curial Archbishop Agostino Marchetto and known disciple of the hermeneutic of continuity himself has been praised by Francis as the “best interpreter of the Council”. He also mediated Melloni and the School of Bologna , and thus gave proponents of the the hermeneutics of rupture and Marchetto’s direct opponents, the impression of being on their side.The dispute over the interpretation of the Council seems to have been left behind by the reigning pontiff. He is already one step further ahead (see What Pope Francis the Second Vatican Council – Cardinal Sarah to Jail? ).
The attack by Paolo Prodi will be seen in conjunction with the new Archbishop of Bologna. With the appointment of the former auxiliary bishop of Rome, Matteo Maria Zuppi, Pope Francis ended the “restorative” era of the archbishops Biffi and Caffarra. The reverse roller back to the era Lercaro is obvious. Zuppi belongs to the Community of Sant’Egidio.
Apparently some now see themselves encouraged to attack the untouchable, but ossified progressive stronghold of the School of Bologna. However, it is only in order to move it even further to the left.
Anyway, the criticism explains why a school representative was not present at the launch of Prodi’s recent book on April 12th at the University of Bologna.