GETHSEMANE: Reflections on the Contemporary Theological Movement
by Joseph Cardinal Siri
Review by Marcel Clement in "L'Homme Nouveau" (January 4, 1981)
"What is an event? Commonly understood it is something that occurs. In our times avid for sensation, it is what surprises. In saying that the publication of Cardinal Siri's book on the contemporary theological movement is an event, I mean to say that this publication is an important landmark. It is going to mark, it already marks, the history of contemporary thought, and as a matter of fact, the history of the contemporary Church.
"The book which Cardinal Siri has just published simultaneously in Italy and in France (and now in the U.S.A.) seems to me a privileged example of that new strength of the Church, wise and sovereign critique and fully apt at exercising her discernment as regards the different 'novelties.' Some of the causes which engendered the 'crisis of the Church' especially in the intellectual order - I mean theological - have not yet been able to be put in sufficient light. In publishing Gethsemane: Reflections on the Contemporary Theological Movement, Cardinal Siri gives to all Catholics, and more broadly to all Christians, an instrument of culture which is absolutely unique. Those in the Church who exercise a responsibility which requires discernment regarding the theological currents of our times must read, or rather meditate these pages. In the service of the Gospel, this work - relatively easy reading moreover - can cause those who complete it to gain several years. Sooner or later certainly, the light diffused by this work will spread in the whole Church. But the purification of the intellect (and also of the heart) to which the Archbishop of Genoa invites us, will be different according to whether it will have been undergone and resented or loved and desired: 'Suffering is powerful,' said Verlaine in 'L' Annonce,''when it is as voluntary as sin.'
"Suffering? It is necessary to examine this point, since paradoxically, the author has entitled his study 'Gethsemane.'
"He explains himself regarding this in the final chapter: "It is only in Gethsemane's enclosure that theology can be divested of all vain, intellectual dilection, of all dead letter and of all the schemes of congealed thought, of all dryness of heart.'
"Under the influence of thinkers whose names are familiar and whom one believes to be without impact because they have been dead a long time (Vico, Kant), modern or quite contemporary theologians have interpreted and distorted the knowledge that Christ communicated about himself. While keeping the words of the Gospel, explanatory theories have been built which change the content of these words. Thanks to a large number of fictitious arguments," a direct or indirect contestation, hidden or admitted, of the integral reality of the 'Son of God' has been raised in the Christian consciousness.
"It is at Gethsemane, in the enclosure of Gethsemane where Cardinal Siri agreed to situate his prayer and his reflection, that temptations against the faith can be overcome: 'The 'Fiat' of Gethsemane was the accomplishment, in a-new stage, of the first 'Fiat' of the human being Mary.' Such is the theological thread of this beautiful book.
"It must be read. One must have others read it. It must be given. The most beautiful pages must be emphasized and made known. That is at least the conviction which has risen in me after having slowly meditated it, line by line, from one end to the other. "The L'Osservatore Romano devoted an entire page to a review of this book by Raimondo Spiazzi. It is a supplementary guarantee of the significance of a work which concerns not only a single diocese or a single country, but the universal Church."
- Marcel Clement