Okay, well, they do meet behind closed doors, but they're not really that secretive. At least they're not any more secretive than every other body that meets behind closed doors. They even give notifications to the press of what they're talking about behind closed doors.
So anyway, there is a group that works for the Holy See known as the International Theological Commission. It isn't one of the regular Vatican dicasteries (departments) but an advisory body. Basically, it's a group of theologians from around the world who are selected by the Holy See to advise on various theological matters.
As such, it writes reports for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (whose prefect is also president of the ITC). These do not of themselves have the character of magisterial statements (at least they don't necessarily), but they are useful summaries of where mainstream Catholic theology is.
This is the group that, a few years ago, issued the document stating that limbo is not the only way to view the fate of unbaptized children.
While the ITC's work goes on throughout the year with work on various issues, the group meets once a year for a week in what's known as a plenary ("full") session.
Next week is that week for 2010!
So what's the group going to be talking about, you ask?
According to the Vatican News Service,
According to a communique published today the commission will study three important themes: the principles of theology, its meaning and its methods; the question of the one God in relation to the three monotheistic religions; and the integration of Church social doctrine into the broader context of Christian doctrine.
While not all topics that the commission talks about end up getting turned into position papers, this is an indication of what subjects the ITC may address in print. So: In the next few years we may see papers on theological method, God in relation to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and the relationship of social doctrine to broader Christian doctrine.
Each a worthy subject.
Also, there's this:
At the end of their deliberations the members of the International Theological Commission will be received in audience by the Holy Father.
I'll be interested to see the transcript of the address the Holy Father gives them. It may contain further pointers about what they're doing and what's likely to come out in the future.
Incidentally, there are two volumes out of the ITC's previous documents, the first collecting them from 1969 (when the commission was founded) through 1985 and the second from 1986 to 2007. Many of these are not available in English anywhere else (that I know of).
They make for fascinating reading. For example, back in 1985 they did a document on the consciousness of Christ (y'know… did he know he was God, know his mission, etc…. all that stuff the trendy theological kids want to deny). In the introduction to the document the commission writes:
In fact, who would trust a Savior who may not have known who he was or was unwilling to be what he was? It is clear, then, that the Church attaches maximum importance to the problem of the awareness (consciousness) and human knowledge of Jesus. We are not dealing with mere theological speculations but with the very foundation of the method and mission of the Church in all its intimacy.
Yeah! Take that, theological trendies!
Anyway, you might want to get the books (and there are Kindle editions, too!)