Rorate Caeli

An Interview with Monsignor Gherardini

Msgr. Brunero Gherardini, 85 years old, Canon of St. Peter's Basilica and renowned Thomist, has been called the last living theologian of the pre-Conciliar "Roman School". His book "Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II: Un discorso da fare" has been praised as one of the most important books of recent years to attempt to study Vatican II in the light of Catholic Tradition. Strangely enough, relatively little has been written about his work in the English-speaking Catholic blogosphere. Rorate published a note about him last year, and the Anglo-Catholic blogger Fr. John Hunwicke has recently devoted a series of blog posts to him (see here, here and here.) A selection of quotes from the book is available on DICI.

Catholic Culture has also published a brief article on the Monsignor.

From the Una Fides blog:

Soon to appear: the new book by Monsignor Gherardini: Quod et Tradidi Vobis. The Tradition, Life and Youth of the Church.

Interview with Monsignor Brunero Gherardini

Aletheia n° 153 – March 20 2010

Interview by Yves Chiron, Editor of Aletheia, Lettre d’informations religieuses
(the publication is no more available at Internet, please write to Yves Chiron, 16 rue du Berry, F - 36250 Niherne

March 20 2010

If you permit me to say so, Monsignor, the year 2009 has been “the Gherardini year”. You have published, one after another, the following works: Il Concilio Vaticano II. Un discorso da fare, in March 2009, then Quale accordo tra Cristo e Beliar? in April of 2009, on the “problems, misunderstandings and compromises” in interreligious dialogue. Then in September 2009 you wrote Ecumene tradita, on “the ecumenical dialogue, between misunderstandings and false steps”. Is this pure coincidence or a wish to draw attention to the necessity of a good “hermeneutics” of the Second Vatican Council?

A dear friend, professor Roberto De Mattei, Director of Radici Cristiane, in October of 2009 succeeded in making an interview with me – this is a genre from which I have always distanced myself. And here I find another friend succeeding in this enterprise…

Far from thinking that there has been a “Gherardini year”, I recognize that the publications to which you refer – and to which today we may add Quod et tradidi vobis. La Tradizione, vita e giovinezza della Chiesa – are not a simple coincidence but a simple attempt to create an answer and an objective content to the “hermeneutics of the continuity”, which – as everybody knows – has been the hope of the Holy Father.

Do you consider that the Report on the faith (better known in English as "The Ratzinger Report" -- CAP) published in 1985 by the then Cardinal Ratzinger was a turning-point in the reflection of the Church on herself? Was it the sign of a “prise de conscience”?

Maybe more that than in the reality, it was a new understanding in the intentions of eminent writers and in the hopes of various theologians, among them myself. The dangers and the misunderstandings were dimly seen; the causes were however not discussed and even less there was the least intention to eliminate them. Consequently one was always standing at the same departing point.

It is said that you are the last representative of the school of “Roman theology”, which was made famous by Cardinal Palazzini or by the dear and regretted Monsignor Piolanti. Is your voice as a theologian an isolated voice in Italy, or do you see in some university, some magazines, theologians who share your preoccupations and your analysis of the situation?

I do not know how far I may be considered as an epigone of the glorious Roman School. Even the illustrious names which you refer to belong to a descending stage of this school. After the Second Vatican Council, the voice of this school, increasingly weak, could still be heard through two Roman academies (the Pontificia Accademia di Teologia and the Pontificia Accademia San Tommaso d’Aquino), the reviews Divinitas and Doctor Communis, and the Thomistic Congresses. Today, if risking oneself still to be aware of it, it is just an isolated voice, admired by some, but more often despised and scorned. This is how I perceive the situation. However, listened to or not, it still resounds, and if you recognize the timbre of the Roman school in my voice, I am pleased.

Fortunately (?? It must be “Sfortunadamente” = unfortunately, CAP), this glorious school today is deprived of university or episcopal chairs. However, also from this point of view, things are beginning to change: On the 25th of this month, I am invited by the academic authorities to hold a conference – in the Lateran university – on the subject of “Thomism and the Roman School of the 20th century” (Il tomismo e la Scuola Romana del XX secolo) and L’Osservatore Romano has already asked for my text to this conference.

If I am not mistaken, you were asked by the Holy See to participate in the “theological discussions” which were initiated in 2009 with the Priesterly Fraternity of St. Pius X. Why did you not accept this invitation?

I am sorry, but discretion prevents me from answering this question.

Is there a possibility that there will be a doctrinal agreement between the Holy See and the FSSPX? And if so, in which form will it be?

Undoubtedly, and I wish it – and also the Church wishes it – for the good of the souls there will soon be an agreement. I would like to reply in an adequate manner, but would not like to go down into details. The Pope has already done a lot in order to find a solution, this we must understand. However, it is also necessary to discuss the “doctrinal framework” to which he himself refers. Nevertheless, this framework will not lead to any result if one permits – as it seems one will do – only the interminable confrontation of one point after the other: the two parties have each one of them appropriate arrows to put to their bow and the dialectics may present in evidence the reasons of the party that is at fault.

In my opinion, there is only one argument to discuss: and John Paul II suggested it when, during the famous excommunication in 1988, he reproached the Fraternity of St. Pius X for having “an incomplete and contradictory view of the Tradition”. Personally, I am of a quite different view, but it is just for this reason that I see in Tradition the only subject to be discussed in depth. If one would succeed in clarifying the concept of Tradition, without taking refuge in the subterfuge of the living Tradition, but also without closing one’s eyes to the internal movement of the apostolic-ecclesial tradition “eodem tamen sensu, eademque sententia” [even with the same sense, and with the same reasoning], the problem would cease to exist.

Objectively the Fraternity of St. Pius X ought not to cease to exist. It could become – in the firmament of the Church – a “society of priesterly life”, a family of “oblates” or just a “Prelatura nullius”, as it already has a number of bishops. But, please, let us abandon all dreams.

Translation from the Italian by Natasja Hoven of Katolsk Observator and slightly edited by Fr. Emmanuel Marfori and Carlos Antonio Palad. The original Italian can be found on the Una Fides blog


  1. Anonymous6:41 PM

    "...just a “Prelatura nullius”, as it already has a number of bishops. But, please, let us abandon all dreams."

    I wonder what Father means when he says,"let us abandon all dreams."?


  2. "Nevertheless, this framework will not lead to any result if one permits – as it seems one will do – only the interminable confrontation of one point after the other..."

    It seems that Monsignor Gherardini is not much in favor of the vast array of topics up for discussion -- as this will only likely produce "interminable confrontation" (very possibly the reason why he declined to be involved directly in the discussions themselves). It is interesting that he finds the root issue in the topic of Tradition itself. He seems optimistic -- but cautious -- when he says that we should "abandon all dreams."

  3. My opinion is Monsignor Gherardini allies himself more with the positions taken by the FSSPX than those of the modernists, particularly the concept of a "living" Tradition. Gherardini rightly limits the discussion to that which has always been believed and rejects those new and novel propositions which are advanced by the modernists.

    And his comment that he cannot speak about the supposed invitation to be part of the discussions is probably because he would be allied with the FSSPX and that would be inconceivable from the Roman point of view. But, he said in no uncertain terms an answer to the question in the following exchange: "Is there a possibility that there will be a doctrinal agreement between the Holy See and the FSSPX? And if so, in which form will it be? Undoubtedly, and I wish it – and also the Church wishes it – for the good of the souls there will soon be an agreement. I would like to reply in an adequate manner, but would not like to go down into details.

    The good Monsignor also seems to share my frustration with the snail's pace of the discussions as exhibited by this quote: "Nevertheless, this framework will not lead to any result if one permits – as it seems one will do – only the interminable confrontation of one point after the other: the two parties have each one of them appropriate arrows to put to their bow and the dialectics may present in evidence the reasons of the party that is at fault." Hmmmn...very interesting, indeed. Could it be that he is saying: "Let us define what is infallible and go on from there with the salvation of souls?" Methinks so.

  4. M. A.8:37 PM

    "The truth is (and this is serious) that we speak of living Tradition only to rubber stamp any innovation presented as the natural development of truths officially handed down and received, even if the innovation has nothing in common with the said truths and is something far removed from a new shoot out of the old trunk."
    I can't wait to read the book.
    This is what Traditionalists like the Abbe de Nantes were shouting from the roof tops, but hardly anyone was listening! Instead he was considered a fool.
    And then there is this shot at Rahner, and consequently at the heretical notion of the "anonymous Christian".

    ".... it will never be possible for the transcendental theology of Rahner to be declared an element of the living Tradition, because it is in fact its tomb."
    And I like this quote: "Something in the Council, and many things in the post-Council era have contributed to dig this grave."

    "In any case, the present call to living Tradition can be summed up as a genuine danger for the faith of each Christian and of the Christian community as a whole."

    I am left wondering what his reason was for not accepting the invitation to participate in the doctrinal discussions.

  5. Richard Friend9:43 PM

    "Undoubtedly, and I wish it – and also the Church wishes it – for the good of the souls there will soon be an agreement. I would like to reply in an adequate manner, but would not like to go down into details."

    I find this intriguing. Is Monsignor Gherardini privy to some confidential information regarding the progress of the discussions that enables him to form this positive opinion?

  6. Anonymous11:49 PM

    Let's all pray an agrement for framework is reached in this Pontificate. The Holy Father has shown that he is so interested in settling this for the sake of souls. Not another year should be lost. The SSPX represents not only the past but an integral part of the future of the Church. It is what the shift is gravitating towards. Pray for reconcilliation and the Holy Father. Bishop Fellay as well.

  7. Anonymous12:22 AM


    One thing is for sure: a prelature nullius is NOT a personal prelature. It is, in fact, what is now called a 'territorial prelature', just as an abbacy nullius is called, in the new Code of Canons, a territorial abbacy.

    I note that Opus Dei originally asked for a territorial prelature but was turned down and got a personal one instead. A prelature nullius or territorial prelature, however, is, in the practice of the Church, territorially defined. I'm not sure how this could possibly work.

    I think that the good Monsignor has used an incorrect term. He is, after all, a theologian and not a canonist. The structure will likely be an ordinariate or else a personal (arch)diocese or a personal apostolic administration. More misterms, more misterms.

    At any rate, he speaks of oneirism because it is clear that the S.S.P.X will not take a structure of any kind until all the doctrinal talks are solved, and I just cannot see that happening in the foreseeable future.


  8. DPH, I wonder if he is referring to his above comment on the two sides talking at each other...?

    Are Monsignor Gherardini's works to be found in English at all?

  9. "Are Monsignor Gherardini's works to be found in English at all?"

    None of the major ones, as far as I know.

    I think it's a pity that so many tradition-minded Catholic theologians who have written in Italian and Spanish in recent decades have been left untranslated into English. English may be the international language right now, but when it comes to theology the action continues to be largely in Italian, French, Spanish and German.

  10. From Fr. H's blog it appears that "The Ecumenical Council Vatican II: A Much Needed Discussion" is available in English and someone had already sent a copy to Fr. Hunwicke, whose posts on it show its evident great value.

    Another reader of that blog and I have corresponded and it will be of interest to Rorate readers to know that the book is being published by the publishing arm of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. My correspondent told me that he had contacted the US bookshop of the FI and was told that they had sold out of it here in the US. I am planning to call first thing tomorrow to put in my order for one copy from the next shipment to hit our shores.

    One can also email the FI in Italy, but I have yet to hear back from them in response to mine.

  11. Woody, would that be the Academy of the Immaculate bookstore? (

  12. Craig Smith10:14 AM

    Has Rahner's idea of "anonymous Christian" ever been condemned? I find it quite persuasive. Does Dominus Iesus not explicitly accept the notion?

  13. No, it hasn't been formally condemned, but that's not really saying anything given the prevalent attitude that shuns the proscription of error.

    And no, Dominus Iesus does NOT explicitly accept the notion, and it's doubtful it even implicitly accepts it.

  14. Anonymous1:36 PM

    I demure with Monsignor Gheradini's thesis, published last year on the authority of Vatican II, wherein he attempts to affirm that a Ecumenical council is always magisterial.

    In this he shows himself to be a poor thomist, because "magisterial" as a notion refers to a secondary act of being; thus it cannot be rightly applied to describe an E.C. in se, but only in its actions.

    Yes, a E.E. is always potentially magisterial, but it is never actually such unless it teaches, since "magisterial" is from "magister"="teacher".

    Thus, his attempt to prop up the authority of Vatican II as magisterial, and demand respect for its verbal pronoucements, when it obliged no one to such respect, is a logical error.

    Sure, we should respect the pope and bishps always, and be always disposed to show this to their verbal statements, but if they make any statement which is not consonant with the truth, or which does not require our acceptanc, it is irrational to demand respect where one is required or where none ought to be shown.

    It is only with distinctions such as these can you discern the difference between the authentic infallible magisterium and the merely authentic, non infallible magisterium, to which distinction the Roman School of Theology undoubtedly admitted more than a century ago.

    Br. Alexis Bugnolo

  15. " incomplete and contradictory view of the Tradition..."

    No!no!no! he has left behind a documented testimonial to the liberal modernist ecclesiastical trend in liturgical, ecumenical and inter-religious form. It is SSPX who have rightly understood Tradition and resisted the very critic who has so embellished it with anthropological phenomenology that it has been lost sight of for many years now. We now reap the bitter harvest of the seed sown on thin brash soil. It sprang up, withered and is almost dead.

  16. "papabear"

    You are right, that is the Academy of the Immaculate Bookstore. I just called them at 1.888.90.MARIA and spoke with Br. Mike Coffey (FTI) there to place an order for two copies when the next shipment comes in from Casa Mariana in Italy. Emailing directly (which I did a week ago and have not heard back) to the Italian site apparently cannot be expected to increase the speed with which one receives a copy, which he says he is selling at his cost to US takers anyway.

    I also asked him to let us know when the next Dolindo Ruotolo book is translated (he thinks a translaton of another one is in the works now).

    All the best.

  17. Woody, thank you for your reply and the additional information!

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Well, I'm 27 pages into the book. Monsignor Gherardini comes out swinging. It's much stronger in tone than I expected.

  20. Thanks for the info that the book is, in fact, available in English. There has been much less fanfare about it than the publication of Archbishop Marchetto's work against the Bologna school.

  21. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for letting me relay your info on the book. Br. Mike said that he was amazed that, since they had not even put the book on the online catalog and done no publicity for it, it "flew off the shelf" from their store. I can't wait to get mine (but I guess Iam going to have to).

    All the best,

  22. Hopefully it is not to late in the life of this thread, but a matter of related interest would be the publication in English of "Fundamental Theology" by Fernando Ocariz and Arturo Blanco, both of Opus Dei (published by Midwest Theological Forum). Msgr Ocariz is the Vicar General of the Work but more significant for this purpose is the fact that he is one of the Vatican's interlocutors with the SSPX in the ongoing doctrinal discussions.

    The concepts of Tradition and Dogma are treated somewhat extensively. If I had a lot of time I would compare the treatment with the excerpts from Gherardini that are available (while one awaits the boart from Italy for copies of his book), but this is unlikely, so others will have to read this new work and see how it holds up.

    See to order.

  23. Anonymous6:47 PM

    This book can also be ordered through the Academy of the Immaculate, a traditional Catholic apostolate in the USA.

    Copies of Msgr. Gherardini's book are $25 each plus shipping. Mike Coffey, FTI can be contacted for orders directly at or 1-888-906-2742.

    I spoke with Mr Coffey this morning, which was a pleasure, and he has stock on hand.


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