Brian Mershon
Vatican II book review
By Brian Mershon
December 22, 2010

The Ecumenical Vatican Council II: A Much Needed Discussion
By Msgr. Brunero Gherardini

Translated into English from by the Franciscans of the Immaculate
Original Italian published March 25, 2009


Sede Generalizia
Casa Mariana "Porta del Cielo"
Via Palazzolo, 2–00040 — ROCCA DI PAPA (Roma)
Tel. 06 94790024

Soft cover 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.

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Volumes upon volumes — semingly ad nauseum — have been written in both the popular press and within the Church over the past 40 years about the Second Vatican Council. If only so much had been written and discussed about the previous two (Vatican I and Trent) or 20 Councils...

Few, however, have responded to Pope Benedict XVI's appeal in his speech to the Roman curia in December 2005 to undertake a serious attempt to use a hermeneutic of continuity with the specific teachings of the Second Vatican Council in light of Tradition. Indeed, a trace of this appeal was found in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta issued in 1988, when Pope John Paul II requested theologians take up this task to more explicitly show how the Council's teachings can be understood in light of Tradition. Aside from Fathers William Most and Brian Harrison, nary a serious theologian or orthodox Catholic scholar in the English world has taken up this challenge to date.

This 300-page readable work by the notable Thomistic scholar and 86-year-old editor of Divinitas magazine who serves as a Canon of St. Peter's Basilica, and is the secretary for the Pontifical Academy of Theology and professor emeritus at the Pontifical Lateran University, is a serious initial response to these invitations of the Popes. While Gherardini presupposes the attempt to provide an authentic interpretation of the Second Vatican Council's teachings with a hermeneutic of continuity, he believes an exhaustive analysis must be undertaken with an objective, critical and scientific analysis, and therefore he does not presume in advance that every jot and tittle of the Second Vatican Council can be squared with Tradition. This remains to be proven. In fact, he concludes in the book that Dignitatis Humanae may indeed be difficult, if not impossible, to harmonize with the doctrine taught continuously and unambiguously by the Popes of the late 19th century up to Pope Pius XII including Humani Generis.

While acknowledging the "greatness" of the Second Vatican Council and what has become known in the past 40 years as the "para-Council event," or "the Vulgate" of the Council, as the author dubs it, Msgr. Gherardini provides an incisive analysis of the key points of dispute in the post-Conciliar era: the Tradition in Vatican II, the liturgical reform, religious freedom, ecumenism and collegiality. The book concludes with a letter of urgent appeal to the Sovereign Pontiff to take action to clarify the disputed points of the Second Vatican Council in light of Tradition and to definitively declare the disciplinary and doctrinal weight and value of each of the documents of the Council.

The author's own assessment is that the Council itself has limited its authority to that of a pastoral Council, citing then Cardinal Ratzinger's address to the Bishops of Chile in 1988 as well as the declarations of Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, the theological note attached to Lumen Gentium and the declarations of the Council's theologian.

The book contains Forewords written by Bishop Mario Oliveri of Albenga, Italy, and Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, former Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, now Archbishop of Sri Lanka. Regarding Msgr. Gherardini's appeal to the Holy Father that the ecclesiastical magisterium undertake "a grand and possibly definitive ordering of the last Council in all of its dimensions and content," Bishop Oliveri writes, "Holy Father, please allow me to be united toto corde to this appeal."

Cardinal Ranjith expressed his endorsement and appreciation for Msgr. Gherardini's study of some of the key texts of the Second Vatican Council in this book: "This initiative takes on great value especially in the present context of the debate which is being undertaken about the meaning of the Conciliar teachings, above all according to the hermeneutical key proposed and valued by Pope Benedict XVI: namely that of the continuity of such teachings within the ecclesial Tradition."

In a recent interview with Superior General Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X, he opined: "I just hope there will be more than one theology professor who would begin to say such things. I think it would be a great, great help in helping to restore the Church."

Like Romero Amerio's Iota Unum, this book should be read, digested and reflected upon by every priest, religious, bishop and serious Catholic in order to gain clearer insights into doctrinal weight and authority of the Second Vatican Council documents in light of Tradition.

© Brian Mershon


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Brian Mershon

Brian Mershon is a commentator on cultural issues from a classical Catholic perspective... (more)


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