Rorate Caeli

Excommunicating Gherardini?

A guest-post by Côme de Prévigny

Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), said it in his sermon of December 8: the Roman proposals are at each time more interesting, but in their formulations there remains a point with a bitter taste, that demands before everything else the concession that Vatican II is consistent with the Tradition of the Church.

Following the declarations of His Swiss Excellency, pressure mounts, minds are enkindled. Now that the familiar sirens wave anew the red flag of definitive schism, that vaticanist Tornielli lets himself be taken by feeling - by imagining what Abp. Lefebvre would do in similar circumstances (by saying he thinks he would "say yes"), the Roman demands seem to receive, at the very heart of the Eternal City, a serious blow. For 25 years, the Holy See has not budged on the famous conciliar texts, and, at the very moment in which the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X delivers his note to the Vatican, one of the best students, among the most faithful and most learned, rises up to say that the demands of the master do not hold up.

Monsignor Gherardini is the dean of the theologians of the Lateran University, one of the most venerable Roman institutions. For half a century, he has formed hundreds of bishops and priests by attempting to present them Vatican II in continuity with the teaching of the Church. At the end of a long and serious career, he makes this terrible confession: the tireless attempt does not work. Speaking of the Council, he describes its continuity with Tradition as "problematic": "not because it did not declare such a continuity, but because, especially in those key points where it was necessary for this continuity to be evident, the declaration has remained unproven."

In other words, the theologian says that all displays attempting to make Vatican II the continuation of the teaching of the Church are to his eyes nothing but weakly convincing arguments.

At the moment in which one of the most distinguished living theologians declares serious doubts on the merits of the conciliar texts, at the moment in which he asks for a "critical examination" of these texts, how can the Holy See demand that their prior recognition be an indispensable condition for the regularization of the Society? How can the hope of thousands of faithful around the world be played with by making them believe that the ball is on Écône's side? The competent congregation has every ability to recognize, at the end of thorough doctrinal discussions, the perfect catholicity of the Society and to grant it the regularization that every work that is done faithfully with its zeal for souls deserves. While Sacred Liturgy and even the most elementary truths (the Ressurrection of Christ, the Real Presence, the salvific universality of Jesus Christ) are disregarded by a good number of bishops who need not sign any condition to be named and kept in place, would such recognition really prove to be a high-stakes bet?

If affirming that the texts of the Council are disconnected from Tradition makes the Society worthy of being considered outside the Church, is it to be thought that Monsignor Gherardini deserves excommunication for having dared to publicly affirm that which others will never have the boldness of saying?