Rorate Caeli

And the "much-needed discussion" continues: Basile Valuet responds to Brunero Gherardini

La Nef has published Débat autour du Concile Vatican II, in which Dom Basile Valuet OSB thoroughly criticizes Msgr. Brunero Gherardini's book on the Council. I am not aware of any English translations yet (there should be one in the near future) but it is good to be aware of the growth of this discussion. At one point, he wonders aloud if Msgr. Gherardini is really the author of the book, or if someone had simply used the old man -- a very serious charge. ("C’est à se demander si Mgr Gherardini, ancien professeur d’ecclésiologie et d’œcuménisme, est bien l’auteur du livre que nous examinons, ou si quelqu’un a profité de son âge respectable pour l’abuser.")

The Benedictine also hints that he will be coming up with another article on La Nef specifically defending Vatican II's teaching on religious liberty from the criticisms of Msgr. Gherardini.
Fr. Valuet is a monk of the Benedictine monastery of Le Barroux and author of Liberté Réligieuse et la Tradition Catholique, a massive work controversial in Traditionalist circles, as it claims to show that the teaching on religious liberty as found in Dignitatis Humanae is a legitimate development of, and in continuity with, the teachings of the pre-Vatican II popes on the same topic.


  1. John L6:39 AM

    Not a strong contribution judging by the excerpt on the website to which you refer.

    1) Fr. Valuet rejects as unacceptable Mgr. Gherardini's claim that because Vatican II did not exercise the church's infallible teaching authority, some of its teachings can be questioned on the grounds of seeming incompatibility with tradition. His weak argument is that 'non-infallible teaching' does not mean 'teaching that can be disputed', and that authentic magisterial teaching that is not infallible still calls for internal assent. No-one denies this. The question at issue is that the teachings of Vatican II seem to contradict other teachings that are also authentic non-infallible pronouncements of the magisterium, and also seem to contradict teachings that are produced by infallible exercises of the magisterium, or that are found in other sources of the doctrine of the faith such as the universal agreement of the Fathers. This question cannot be dismissed by pointing to the authentic character of the teachings of Vatican II, as if these teachings were the only ones ever uttered by the magisterium.

    2) He claims not to see the link discerned by Mgr. Gherardini between the heterodox proposals made at the council, and the council documents. But the link is evident; the drafters and promoters of the documents are known to have been in sympathy with these proposals.

    3) He cites the letters of Paul VI and John Paul II to Mgr. Lefebvre on the authority of the council, as explicating the degree of authority of the conciliar teachings. But the content of these letters does not clarify the issue, and indeed gives rise to the problem Mgr. Gherardini tries to address.

    4) He brushes aside well-founded criticisms of the Catholic/Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification (see the book by Christopher Malloy for these criticism).

    5) He claims that the postconciliar magisterium has brought out the continuity of the council with the preconciliar magisterium. With ecumenism, religious freedom, the connection of the Catholic church to the Church of Christ, how has this continuity been maintained?

    Making allowances for French habits in controversy, Fr. Valuet's criticisms are still rather unsavoury. Some of his points are good, but the offensive and superior tone he adopts is not justified by the strength of his arguments.

  2. Anonymous10:27 AM

    this monk is a liberal who does not belong at La Barroux.

    If anyone studies what has been going on at La Barroux over the last 10 years, and especially since their saintly founding Abbot died (champion of Catholic tradition), they will see that the Abbey although still in some ways traditional, has lost much of it's zeal for Catholic tradition, and indeed has become rather moribund both in growth (about 20 fewer monks than 10 years ago), and has less support among traditional Catholics.
    They are too accomodating of and supporting of Vatican II.
    This priest and his opionions is proof. He and the likes of him (perhaps the present Abbot himself)have done much to bring a flourishing monastic house to a standstill.

  3. Gideon Ertner10:45 AM

    I'm not surprised that some people would want to level heavy criticisms at Mgr. Gherardini's book. But that it should come from a monk of Le Barroux, of all places?

    His suggestion that Monsignore is not the author is simply fatuous. Monsignore has indicated in various subsequent interviews that he is in full agreement with the book's conclusions.

    I'm reading the book at the moment, in fact. (The English edition can be obtained from the Franciscans of the Immaculate via this address: It certainly raises good points and questions, but contains little that is new - what is ground-breaking is that it is the first work largely in agreement with the positions of the FSSPX to be published by a theologian in a major Catholic university.

    I find that Monsignore's arguments are at times a little sketchy and some conclusions a bit hasty, but his overall conclusions are well documented: that (1) the Council did not intend to pronounce dogmatic definitions and the Council documents should not be interpreted as such, and (2) it is very difficult indeed to apply a hermeneutic of continuity to certain parts of the Council documents.

    This book is not the decisive nail in the coffin of Vatican II (and is not intended to be - Monsignore says himself that it is only a "starting point" for a discussion), but its existence is a hugely important development in itself.

  4. Anonymous10:50 AM

    Well Said, John L

    and Pere Valuet, if you are reading, can you tell me who said the following:

    "Not every valid [oecumenical] council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one. In the last analysis many of them have been a waste of time" ?

  5. Anonymous11:49 AM

    I bring attention to the 11/15/2010 edition of “The Catholic Virginian” – diocese of Richmond,VA. In two articles and a letter to the Editor discusses ecumenism and liturgy. In LARCUM Conference set Dec. 3-4 in Fredericksburg the paper informs us that the theme of this year’s meeting will be about the growing grassroots ecumenism.

    On the same page of the newspaper, we can read a report of a lecture delivered by Msgr. Kevin Irwin, Dean of the School of Theology and Religious studies at the Catholic University of America at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) as part of the lecture series of the Bp. Walter Sullivan Chair for Catholic Studies at VCU.

    According to Msgr. Irwin: “Just as the Lectionary provides a wealth of ecumenical consensus,” (with most major protestant denominations in the US) “so does the structure of the Eucharist itself and at least some of the Eucharistic prayers we pray.”

    The paper also publishes a letter, originally addressed not to the Editor but Msgr. R. Francis Muench, Judicial Vicar, Catholic Diocese of Richmond. The writer of the letter inquires if attending Sunday Mass at Syon Abbey, Floyd County, VA would fulfill the Mass obligation for a Catholic since the monastery is affiliated with the SSPX?

    Msgr. Muench advises the writer “It is doubtful that attending Sunday liturgy there fulfill’s (sic.) one’s obligation. Hence, one should go elsewhere until doubt is resolved.” As to the request “could the diocese publish an official statement on Syon Abbey?” Father Muench is not sure if that can be done but he was willing to pass the request on to the Editor.

    I find it more than a little ironic that in all the fuss made about Protestants and grassroots ecumenical activities, fellow Catholics do not even rate official recognition in a Catholic newspaper. The message from our Judicial Vicar and the Editor of The Catholic Virginian is: Traditional Catholics are dangerous, however modernist pro-abortion Protestant sects : not so much.

    A Catholic Virginian

  6. Castor11:55 AM

    At the time, Dom Gerard was not at all enthusiastic about Dom Basile's research. Almost an overcompensation? And it is difficult to put him on te level of Gherardini. Even f G. collaborated with others in the composition of his book (which he is clearly capable of authoring himself), this would have been for a very good reason, too refined and clever for B. to figure out. Always remember B. from his Roman days, as a rather 2-dimensional figure.

  7. Fr. Valuet, with all due respect, is an intellectual peon compared to Msgr. Gherardini. By the way Cardinal-designate Ranjith himself writes to preface to Msgr. Gherardini's book (you can find quotes and where to buy a copy in english here )

    Essentially, Valuet doesn't answer the obvious question as to why, though much of Vatican II comports with 2,000 years of Catholic Tradition, much of it does not.

  8. Anonymous1:38 PM

    I hope that Catholics committed to Tradition will hear that Le Barroux has lost the plot in recent years. Last year the Abbot caused great upset amongst the Ecclesia Dei communities by asking them all to lobby the Vatican to impose the 1965 Missal (in preference to 1962). Pere Basil has also argued in favour of concelebration at "traditional" Masses, a practice which I believe actually happens at Le Barroux. The monastery presents itself as a bastion of traditional Catholicism, but is actually working to undermine the cause. THey are also keen on the use of new prefaces, the use of the new lectionary, etc. People shouldn't give money.

  9. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Msgr. Gherardini's book is available from Casa Mariana Editrice in English. One has to contact them via email. I have read it, and it is a very fluid translation, as per the request of il monsignore. If you order it, they will send it to you with instructions (in Italian) of how to pay for it. Let the much-needed discussion begin!

  10. Msgr. Gherardini's book is available from:

    Academy of the Immaculate
    124 North Forke
    Advance, NC 27006

    Phone: 888.906.2742

  11. Msgr. Gherardini's book includes many interesting observations -- but it is not always clear and decisive in terms of conclusions. On one hand, the author denounces any "hermeneutic of rupture" with respect to the Church and Vatican II. On the other hand, the author remains unconvinced by Pope Benedict's "hermeneutic of continuity". So, the book leaves us somewhere between rupture and continuity with respect to Vatican II -- sometimes appearing to favor one or the other. For example, in one place Msgr. Gherardini makes the customary affirmation: "A Council, as I have repeatedly pointed out, is the undeniable guarantee of true Catholic doctrine, the supreme pinnacle of the authentic and solemn Magisterium of the Church." This seemingly decisive affirmation, however, is typically followed by pointing out some particular deficiency or apparent discontinuity: "...Yet, in DH we are given the impression that the ecclesiastical Magisterium has reduced itself to the level of an ethical State, a State which does not hesitate to make itself the foundation of morality over and above even the natural law." (p. 213)

    I have given other observations about the book here:

  12. Father Taylor5:08 PM

    Mgr Gherardini's book is available in english from
    Carmel Books
    EX2 8LB
    Tel: +44(0)1392 824255

  13. Knight of Malta, in his preface, Cardinal-des Ranjith points to Pope Benedict's "hermenteutic of continuity" as the answer to the questions being raised in the book. This is very interesting in light of the fact that Msgr. Gherardini calls this (hermeneutic of continuity) into question.

  14. K Gurries

    It is true that Cardinal-des Ranjith repeats the refrain of his Boss, that there is a "hermenteutic of continuity," and, of course, there has to be, in a sense (the Church didn't cease to exist after Vatican II.)

    But, as Anon at 10:30 pointed to, I think more interesting the fact that Pope Benedict said:

    "Not every valid [oecumenical] council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one. In the last analysis many of them have been a waste of time"

    It is also very interesting that Michael Davies was close to HH BXVI, and said that he was on the "team" of Traditionalists.

    My own take, and I could be very wrong, is that ̦Pope Benedict is trying to steer the giant ship that is the Roman Catholic Church very slowly, carefully, and deliberately, back to tradition, but is doing so in a way to win hearts and minds, and not rupture the Church as was done by Paul VI after Vatican II.

    And, of course, there can be a "hermenteutic of continuity," in the documents of Vatican II inasmuch as there is some "continuity" but much is not in continuity. You have to read between the lines, but nowhere did BXVI say there is a perfect continuity.

    There is not one single new Dogma pronounced in the documents of Vatican II. So all is up to interpretation, and possible future refutation.

  15. John McFarland3:23 AM

    According to Fr. Mathias Gaudron of the SSPX in his "The Catechism of the Crisis in the Church," p. 229, n. 28, another monk of Le Barroux, Fr. Jehan, demonstrated in a 2004 canon law dissertation that Fr. Valuet's treatise "radically falsified" St. Thomas on law. Fr. Gaudron cites Le Sel de Terre, no. 56, pp. 180-87 for this proposition. Le Sel de Terre is a scholarly quarterly of the traditional Dominicans of Avrille, who are close to the SSPX. Is anyone familiar with any of this?

    I strongly recommend Fr. Gaudron's book as a very good summary of the views of the SSPX on the crisis. It might be viewed as an outline of all the things that the Society's critics need to refute in order to maintain that criticism in good faith.

  16. John McFarland3:53 AM

    Dear Knight of Malta,

    Can you offer any hard evidence of the correctness of Mr. Davies' contention?

    It seems to me that the hard evidence shows that the Holy Father was willing to (1)
    admit that the Old Mass had not been abrogated or obrogated, and encourage its greater availability, and
    (2) "lift" the "excommunications" of the SSPX bishops (and implicitly those of Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer); but that so far he is not willing to (3) hiimself offer the Old Mass publicly.

    It seems to me fairly obvious that if it were just a matter of courage, it would take no more courage to do (3) than to do (1) and (2).

    This suggests to me that his failure to say even one public Old Mass so far has some motivation other than timidity.

    I don't know what that motivation is, but under the circumstances, his failure makes it very difficult to take seriously the notion that he is on the traditionalist "team" as regards the Mass.

    Frankly, I'm reminded of the supposedly "pro-life" Republican presidents' failure ever to appear in person at the annual March for Life. To those with eyes to see, this made it evident that they weren't really On Our Side.

    I'm afraid that the same is true of the Holy Father, mutatis mutandis.

  17. Knight of Malta, a fruitless council is one thing but an ecumenical council supposedly teaching doctrinal errors contrary to Tradition is an entirely different matter (Certainly Msgr. Gherardini does not go this far). I think the former is a matter of opinion while the latter is not a possibility -- as Msgr. Gherardini says himself. Certainly there can be just criticism of any council -- but they should be moderate and never asserting the impossible.

  18. Anonymous7:39 AM

    K. Gurries,

    You've never heard of the Council of Florence's erroneous teaching on holy orders, have you, which was only corrected by Pius XII.

  19. Anonymous 7h39

    The Council of Florence did not err in the matter of the Sacrament of Orders:
    1° The Constitution of Pius XII says only that henceforth (and, he adds expressly, independently of what has been in the past) the imposition of hands would be the only essential matter of the Order for the diaconate, pristhood and episcopate (leaving the porrection of instruments the matter for the lower orders). Note that Pius XII did not say that minor Orders were not Sacrament, but he cited these three orders to specify the orders concerned by his decision, without excluding the other orders.
    2° It is well known that the Church can determine matter and form for Sacraments that Our Lord instituted only in genere (for example the form of the absolution, the matter of the confirmation, which in the Eastern Church is the anointment (the Apostles used only the imposition of hands), whereas in the Latin Church it is the anointment joined with the imposition of a hand, the forms being also different according to the rite).
    3° The Church never decreed whether or not, between Florence and Pius XII, the essential matter of the Sacrament in the Latin rite was 1° imposition of hands; 2° the porrection of instruments (which exists also in Eastern rites, for example the receiving of the Holy Host by the new priests in Byzantine rite, or the imposition of the Gospel on the head of the new bishop in the Byzantine rite, exactly like in the Tridentine rite)); 3° both of them in the same ceremony; or 4° each one of them, in such a manner that each one could confer the Sacrament even if the second was omitted. In any case, Rome always imposed to bishops using the Latin rite, to reordain (do the whole ceremony again) if there is a doubt on the physical touching of the instruments by the ordinand.
    The theologians who held that only imposition of hands was the essential matter (position 1°), used to explain the decree of Florence in the following way: in the Latin rite, the porrection of instruments is not the essential matter but an integral part of it, and the council of Florence (which verified also the Greek rite books, and refused to modify them in this point) wished to introduce it in the Armenian rite (which knew only the imposition of hands).

  20. Anonymous3:52 AM


    You just don't understand the principle of contradiction.


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