quinta-feira, 26 de maio de 2011

Religious Freedom - Why I do not agree with Gherardini, De Mattei, Rhonheimer

by Basile Valuet, O.S.B.

In Chiesa.espressonline.it

In the debate over the hermeneutic of Vatican II, I have been courteously invited to explain why I am in disagreement with three authors in particular.


The competency of Msgr. Brunero Gherardini (from this point forward, "G.") is recognized. And I read with pleasure his essay on ecumenism that appeared in 2000 (1). Nonetheless, in November of 2010, I published in the magazine "La Nef" both an extended (2) and a summary (3) analysis of his book "Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II. Un discorso da fare [Vatican Council II. It's Time to Talk]" (4), in which I formulated the following criticisms:

1. De iure, G. mistakenly believes that it should be enough that Vatican Council II did not employ its infallibility for one to reject the doctrines that it enunciated. This means forgetting that the non-definitive magisterium is due the religious assent, internal and external, of the will and the intelligence (5). This authentic magisterium enjoys the assistance of the Holy Spirit (6).

2. De facto, G. rejects some formal teachings of Vatican II (of "Lumen Gentium" [LG], "Nostra Aetate," "Gaudium et Spes" [GS] and "Dignitatis Humanae" [DH]) (7). Moreover, he does not demonstrate the effective presence of errors in the contemporary magisterium: what he denounces as error is not so (thus for GS 24), and I have also caught him in flagrante delicto of false accusations issued against "Unitatis Redintegratio" and against the responses of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith of June 29, 2007. He has not been able to respond to any of my arguments (8).


The errors of G. are partly responsible for the book by Professor Roberto de Mattei (from this point forward, "DM") (9), director of the wonderful magazine "Radici Cristiane." What a shame! His praiseworthy intention of contrasting the dominant historiography of the school of Bologna (10) did not content itself with precisely establishing the facts on the basis of the documents. The work is certainly brimming with data, some of it never published before. Sometimes, however, he is deficient in the exposition of the facts.

This is the case with the "Carli" petition that asked for an explicit condemnation of communism in "schema XIII" (11). Gratitude is due to DM for having cited "in extenso" the note of November 15, 1965 to Archbishop Felici, secretary general of the Council, with which Paul VI weighed the pros and cons of such a condemnation. But (p. 502) DM gives strong emphasis to only one of the arguments that Paul VI delineates. He overlooks the pope's fear of the pernicious effect of a condemnation for the faithful who were living under communism (12), a reason similar to that of the "silence" of Pius XII over the Holocaust. DM denies (p. 500) the good faith of Msgr. Glorieux (who discarded this petition), without even mentioning the justifications provided by this prelate (AS V/3, 611-620) (13).

He seems to have difficulty with Latin grammar. This must have made it uncomfortable for him to go through the "Acts and preparatory documents" and the "Synodal acts of Vatican Council II." Of these two official collections, of a total of 66 volumes "in quarto", he uses 8 and 28 volumes respectively, or 55 percent. He makes reference to them about 466 times, referring to blocks that run from 1 to 5 pages, more rarely 10 (14), which amounts to a maximum of 3-5 thousand pages out of a total of about 50 thousand. DM almost never cites the written and oral presentations of the conciliar drafting commissions, although these explained to the Fathers the meaning of the texts to be voted on. He also forgets that the councils of the past were always a theater of maneuvers, enriched by very lively controversies.

On pages 469-470, he cuts short the list of the juridical limitations indicated by DH 7, § 3 for the exercise of the right to religious freedom (RF). Against RF again, DM, citing the speech by Pius XII of December 6, 1953, forgets the following passage: "Could it be that in certain circumstances, He [God] does not give men any mandate, does not impose any duty, does not even give any right to impede and repress that which is erroneous and false? A look at the reality gives an affirmative answer." So in these circumstances, repression is an injustice, going against a right, that of the follower of the error not to be impeded. Whence the absence of absurdity in a negative right like that of DH.

DM claims only to be an historian (p. 591), but he enters into the field of theology when, citing G., he poses (p. 15) the erroneous equation: non-definitive Magisterium equals non-obligatory (16). In this field, he also commits the error of affirming that one must adhere to Tradition rather than to the Magisterium. But in the motu proprio "Ecclesia Dei," John Paul II, addressing the whole Church, condemned this view of things (17). In reality, it is the Magisterium that tells us what is contained in the divine-apostolic Tradition (18).

So I adhere on the whole to the refutation of DM's book made by Massimo Introvigne (19). I dare to suggest to Professor DM that he adhere to the historical data, in which he shows himself rich in talent. "The history of the Council never written" would be the one in which the historian made a painstaking examination of the pre-preparatory, preparatory, and synodal acts of Vatican II.


With the reverend professor Martin Rhonheimer (from this point forward, "R."), I find myself "on the other side of the barricade." R., in "The Hermeneutic of Reform and the Freedom of Religion" (20), comes to the defense of the conciliar teaching of RF, in function of a certain view of the "hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in continuity" (Benedict XVI, speech to the curia, December 22, 2005) (21). R. never saw my thesis (22) defended at the faculty of theology of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (where he himself teaches philosophy). In fact, he believes that it was published in Paris, and does not realize that it is composed of 6 volumes, not 3 (cf. his note 3, p. 346). He cites nothing from it, and falls into a misunderstanding (p. 347) about what I mean by the "right to tolerance" (what does he know about it?). It is not clear, moreover, how R. could think that the relations of the Church (a supernatural reality) and the state could fall under his faculty of philosophy. He does not say anything about the explanations of the drafting commission of DH on the maintenance of the traditional Catholic doctrine of the popes until Leo XIII, concerning the moral duty of the public authorities with regard to the true religion and the one Church of Christ ("Acta Synodalia," IV/VI, p. 719), nor of the notes of DH 1, nor of the references of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2105-2109 to the Magisterium from Pius VI to Leo XIII. He seems unaware that the commission explicitly admitted the compatibility of the concept of the confessional Catholic state with DH, as long as RF is respected (23).

He says (erroneously), on page 351, that the previous popes did not want to present their condemnations of freedom of conscience and of worship as definitive. And he paradoxically affirms, on page 356, that "Pius IX understood his condemnation of religious freedom as a necessity of a dogmatic nature." Here is one significant passage from "Quanta Cura":

"... And against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church and of the holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert 'the best condition of society is that in which the civil authorities are not recognized as having the duty to repress with the sanction of punishments the violators of the Catholic religion, except as required for the public peace."

This citation should invite R. to review the entirety of his position. And DH does not contradict this text, because according to DH 7, § 3 those who violate the rights of the Catholic religion can and must be repressed even if they do not disturb the public peace, with all the more reason if, as in the 1789 declaration of rights (which, whether or not R. likes it, Benedict XVI does not at all rehabilitate), this peace is defined in relation to civil law, an expression of the general will. It is sufficient that they disturb public morality or go against the rights of others, that which, by hypothesis, is the case.

According to Benedict XVI, Pius IX was taking aim at the "radical liberalism" of the 19th century, but not at other forms of the organization of society, rising from a further evolution of liberalism. The discontinuity between Vatican II and Pius IX stems from the fact that RF is not the "freedom of conscience" condemned in the 19th century: it did not have either the same foundation, or the same object, or the same limitations, or the same goal. So it will always remain true that the liberalism condemned by Pius IX was condemnable (R. does not see this), but it will not always remain true that the theories or the states of law that we have before us are the ones that Pius IX condemned (R. grasps this perfectly). If a change of situation cannot change the natural law, it can nevertheless make a principle of the natural law (let's call it P1: it is not contrary to the natural law that the state should repress religious error), valid in a previous situation of ius gentium (in which RF is not yet recognized in reciprocal form), no longer apply in the same way in a new situation of ius gentium (in which RF is mutually recognized), and make another principle be applied now (P2: the modern state does not have penal competency, not even delegated, in religious matters). In this way, if one wishes to have a truth that is valid in every situation, one is obligated to formulate a principle P3, more general, which combines P1 and P2, and which DH has made an effort to formulate: it is contrary to the natural law that the state - in any age - should repress religious error, unless, in the circumstances considered, it disturbs the just, objective public order. Could R. discuss this with me, but after perusing the synthesis of my doctoral dissertation? (24).


Dom Basile Valuet has developed the arguments of this text in a more extensive one, also written expressly for www.chiesa:

À propos du débat sur l’herméneutique du Vatican II


(1) "Una sola Fede, una sola Chiesa. La Chiesa cattolica dinanzi all’ecumenismo", Castelpetroso, Casa Mariana Ed., 2000, 334 pp.

(2) Cf. www.lanef.net

(3) "La Nef", no. 220, November 2010, pp.16-17.

(4) Frigento, Casa Mariana Editrice, 2009, 264 pp.

(5) Cf. "Lumen Gentium" (LG), 25; Code of Canon Law, canons 752 and 1371, § 1. Msgr. Gherardini moreover passes in silence over the statements of Paul VI and John Paul II that recall the authority of Vatican II (here are some of the dates of these: 12/07/1965; 01/12/1966; 09/21/1966; 05/24/1976; 10/111/1976; 12/23/1982; 07/20/1983; 07/02/1988, etc.).

(6) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 892.

(7) This is not only a matter of the argumentations of these teachings, nor of their literary context, nor of their historical context, and therefore of their contingent aspects.

(8) Cf. B. Gherardini, "Concilio Vaticano II. Il discorso mancato", Lindau, Torino, 2011, 48-49.

(9) R. de Mattei, "Il Concilio Vaticano II. Una storia mai scritta", Lindau, Torino, 2010, pp. 632. We have not been able to read anything but the first edition of this, and space prevents us from dwelling on the article "Un Concilio può anche commettere degli errori. Replica alle critiche di 'Avvenire' et de 'L’Osservatore Romano'", Rome, May 5 2011, which does not add anything new.

(10) Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, in "Ma una storia non ideologica si può scrivere. Il Concilio Vaticano II nella lettura di Roberto de Mattei", "L’Osservatore Romano," April 14 2011, complains that DM exploited his work for this purpose.

(11) The author could have cited Jean Madiran, "L’accord de Metz: ou pourquoi notre Mère fut muette," Versailles, "Via romana", 2006, 75 pp. This is about an agreement reached in 1962 between Cardinal Tisserant and Metropolitan Nikodim (who died in the arms of John Paul I, not of John Paul II): the Council would not mention communism, and the patriarchate of Moscow would be able to send observers.

(12) AS VI/4 (1999), pp. 619-620. This volume of the AS is never cited by DM.

(13) DM even suspects Cardinale Tisserant of having encouraged Glorieux in this direction, which seems to be disproved by a letter (cf. AS V/3, 619-620).

(14) A hundred pages two or three times over, or even entire volumes.

(15) It is worthwhile to reread Saint Francis de Sales here ("Traité de l’amour de Dieu", l. II, chap. XIV, p. 106): "[…] ès conciles généraux, il se fait des grandes disputes et recherches de la vérité, […], mais, […] la détermination étant prononcée, chacun s’y arrête et acquiesce pleinement, non point en considération des raisons alléguées en la dispute et recherche précédente, mais en vertu de l’autorité du Saint-Esprit."

(16) In this regard, the arguments of Cardinal Scheffczyk cited on p. 542 backfire against him.

(17) John Paul II, apostolic letter motu proprio "Ecclesia Dei", 4.

(18) Cf. also the letter from John Paul II to Cardinal J. Ratzinger of April 8, 1988 "In questo periodo": "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" (AAS), 1988, pp. 1121-1125. DM takes a risky position and pushes far beyond his subject when he affirms (note 1, p. 367): "The teaching of the Church, reiterated up until Pius XII, is that in concelebration the Sacrifice of the Mass is unique and is not multiplied according to the number of celebrants." All the more so in that he refers to two texts of Pius XII (AAS, 1954, 669; and 1956, 717) which, precisely, affirm explicitly that there are as many actions of Christ who offers himself as there are true celebrant priests, as confirmed for me in 2001 by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith with an official letter further corroborated by a letter from Cardinal Ratzinger. Finally, the S.C. of rites declared on March 20, 1960: "Sacramental concelebration is that in which the celebrant priest, or better the main celebrant, together with other priests who assist him, carries out the Sacrament. So there are as many Masses or Sacrifices as there are concelebrant priests" (Latin original: AD, I – III, pp. 256-259). A position that was already common at the end of the 19th century, as Cardinal Gasparri noted.

(19) "Vaticano II. Non semplice continuità, ma 'riforma nella continuità'".

(20) "Nova et Vetera", 85/4 (Oct.-Dec. 2010), pp. 341-363. Cf. also his contribution to this site, www.chiesa: "More on the 'hermeneutic of reform'. A clarification," more clear and concise.

(21) Italian original: AAS, 2006, especially p. 50.

(22) "La liberté religieuse et la Tradition catholique. Un cas de développement doctrinal homogène dans le magistère authentique," preface by Cardinal Stickler, Le Barroux, 6 vol. (II ed., 1998, pp. 3050; III ed., May 2011, pp. 2524).

(23) For the sake of simplicity I omit the references, which are amply supplied in my two books.

(24) "Le droit à la liberté religieuse dans la Tradition de l’Église", preface by Cardinal Medina, Le Barroux, I ed., 2005; II ed., May 2011, pp. 676.