Msgr. Brunero Gherardini’s Judgement on the SSPX and the current Situation in the Church


In the May 2010 edition of Courrier de Rome (n°333), Professor Paolo Pasqualucci offers an enlightening commentary on Msgr. Brunero Gherardini’s study, that appeared in the theological journal Divinitas, under the title Quod et tradidi vobis – La tradizione vita e giovinezza della Chiesa (Quod et tradidi vobis.  Tradition, life and youth of the Church), a study that is also taken up again in a volume by Casa Mariana Editrice.

Msgr. Gherardini who is the author of Vatican II: An Open Discussion, which appeared in french early this year, presents in Quod et tradidi vobis a very pertinent analysis of the theological debate between Tradition and Vatican Council II.  Here is the large extract that can be found in the Courrier de Rome, offering a list of 9 stumbling blocks; to which list we have added the three paragraphs that follow, where Msgr. Gherardini does not hesitate to pass a very explicit personal judgment.

“In my effort to establish a synthesis of the positions defended by Bishop Lefebvre in favor of Tradition, and without pretending to treat exhaustively of the subject, it seems to me that the conflict establishes itself as follows:

  1. A priestly formation that founds its principles on ecclesiastical Tradition and in the supernatural values of divine Revelation, confronting a priestly formation open to the fluctuating horizon of a culture in a perpetual state of becoming.
  2. A liturgy that certainly has a strong point in the Mass called traditional, confronting an anthropocentric and sociological liturgy [that of the Novus Ordo mass], in which the collective prevails over the value of the individual, prayer ignores the latreutic aspect, the assembly becomes the principal actor and God gives way to man.
  3. A liberty that makes one’s “liberation” depend on the Decalogue, the commandments of the Church, the obligations of duty of state, and the duty to know, love and serve God, confronting a liberty that puts all forms of worship on an equal footing, is silent about the law of God, sets the individual and society free in the ethical and religious domains, and leaves the solution of all problems to the conscience alone.
  4. A theology that gathers its contents from specific sources (Revelation, Magisterium, Patristics, Liturgy), confronting a theology that opens its arms wide, day after day, to the cultural emergences of the moment, even to those that clearly contradict the sources just mentioned.
  5. A soteriology (editor’s note: study of the work of salvation) closely united to the person and redemptive work of the Incarnate Word, to the action of the Holy Ghost, closely linked to the application of the merits of the Redeemer, to the sacramental intervention of the Church and to the cooperation of the baptized faithful, confronting a soteriology that regards the unity of the human race as a consequence of the incarnation of the Word, in whom (cf GS 22) each man finds his own identification.
  6. An ecclesiology that identifies the Church with the Mystical Body of Christ and recognizes in His sacramental presence the vital secret of ecclesiastic being and action, confronting an ecclesiology that considers the Catholic Church as one component among others of the Church of Christ, and that, in this phantom-like Church of Christ, lulls to sleep the missionary spirit, dialogues but does not evangelize, and above all renounces proselytism as if it were a mortal sin.
  7. An expiatory Sacrifice of the Mass, that celebrates the mysteries of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, sacramentally representing the satisfactory redemption, confronting a Mass in which the priest is only a president and everyone takes an “active” part in the sacrament, thanks to the fact that the faith is not founded on God Who reveals Himself, but is an existential response made to God Who interpolates us.
  8. A Magisterium conscious of having the charge of guarding the sacred deposit of divine Revelation with the duty to interpret and transmit it to future generations, confronting a papal Magisterium that, far from feeling itself to be the voice of the teaching Church, subjects the Church herself to the college of bishops, endowed with the same rights and duties as the Roman Pontiff.
  9. A religiosity that realizes the common vocation to the service of God and, out of love for Him, the service of one’s brothers in humanity, confronting a religiosity that reverses this natural order, makes man its center and, at least in practice if not in theory, substitutes him for God.

“From what has just been said, one can easily deduce how the Society of St. Pius X understands Tradition.  Indeed, Tradition is the exact opposite of what the Society denies and of what it is opposed to.  Directly or in between the lines, the Society refuses the innovations of the Council’s documents and their postconciliar applications, and stands in opposition to the savage use that has been so casually made of them.

“It is true that in the writings of the Society of St. Pius X the concept of Tradition is not often explained, and we do not find it systematically developed.  But what is understood, just like what is conjectured, never remains in the dark.  At the base of all is “the faith of all times” for whose safeguard the Society was born.  “Safeguard” indicates an opposition to something present or possible, in favor of its contrary or of its replacement.  The “faith of all times” is the value that Msgr. Lefebvre wished to safeguard, a value that is being replaced by all the attenuations, reinterpretations, reductions and negations of conciliar ad postconciliar times.  This “faith of all times” is the loud and clear echo of the Augustinian teaching summed up in St. Vincent de Lérins’ words: “Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est[1].  The very institution of the Society, with its first goal which is the priestly formation, obeys this ideal and the commitment to safeguarding it.  Safeguard the faith and combat error.

“I will not enter into the details of the relations and difficulties between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X.  I stick to the common theme of Tradition and I observe that “safeguard the faith and combat error” should be the ideal and commitment as much of the Church as of her sons.  In the light of this, it is difficult for me to understand how the reproach of an “incomplete and contradictory Tradition” formulated by John Paul II in 1988[2], could have any real grounds.  What I understand is that it has nothing to do with the “spirit of Assisi”[3].  (Translated from the Italian – DICI n°218, July 10, 2010)

Brunero Gherardini, is a renowned, 85-year-old theologian of the Roman school, is a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica, secretary for the Pontifical Academy of Theology, professor emeritus at the Pontifical Lateran University, and editor of Divinitas magazine.

[1] St. Vincent de Lérins, Commonitorium, c. 23.

[2] Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, July 2, 1988.

[3] Msgr. Gherardini, Quod et tradidi vobisLa tradizione vita e giovinezza della Chiesa, Ed. Casa Mariana Editrice, pp. 241-244.