THE SECOND SESSION, by Xavier Rynne (Faber, 30s.).
Reviewed by RAYMOND HILLIARD
SIIORTLY before the second session of the Vatican Council the CATHOLIC HERALD serialised Xavier Rynne's first book, Letters front Vatican City. The serialisation of such a book in an English Catholic paper, although not a sensation, certainly aroused comment—not all of it favourable.
After all, the second session had not begun and the hoped-for changes in Press relations at the Vatican had yet to materialise. The climate of opinion at the second session, however, was shortly to change dramatically due in no small measure to such courageous journalists as Rynne and Robert Kaiser.
Looking back one year and comparing the situation then and now one realises that tremendous changes have taken place in the Church. Books by Kaiser and Rynne were a sensation then. but today they arc almost commonplace. We have read most of their contents in our newspapers at the time when they occurred. What is good for the Church has been a loss to these writers.
Xavier Rynne relies on the welltried and successful formula of his first book and one would be at a loss to suggest how else he could have tackled it. Yet instinctively one feels that a new approach was necessary and will be even more so when he comes to report the present session.
One may be critical of the conception of Mr. Rynne's second volume, but one cannot fail to admire the style in which it is written. Far too many books, loosely classed as religious reading, lack the ability to communicate with the ordinary nonspecialist reader. Mr. Rynne nevet makes this mistake. He writes in a racy, everyday way which all may enjoy.
This book deals not only with the actual proceedings in the Council Chamber, and it does so in detail, but it devotes much space to the actions and influences outside it. However "progressive" one's own inclinations may be one does occasionally long to see a little more of the "conservative" side to balance things up.
No doubt some of the desperate efforts of the conservative dements in the Council and outside it were surprising, but one suspects that the "progressives" were able to match their talents in this. Although this might on occasion have put them in an unfavourable light it would have been fascinating. If you paint the angels too white and the devils too black we are apt to become sympathetic towards the villains.
The prefaces to both the first and second volumes light-heartedly indulge in some of the speculations that have surrounded the identity of Xavier Rynne. Some of this speculation has been in verse, to which Michael Novak, in another book on the Council. adds: There was a New Yorker named Rynne Whose reports when in doubt he kept thin
But Boh Kaiser of Time Thought conjecture no crime .4nd every doubt Rynne left out
lie put in.