Every existential journey is worthy of respect, especially, if it has been marked by suffering, but the one who has changed his positions has no right to accuse another (in this case Mons. Gherardini who has stayed coherent), of being ‘ambiguous’ or ‘vague.’
Furthermore, nobody has the right to substitute the supreme authority of the Church in judging their brothers on questions of faith which are still undefined. There are some dogmas, such as the Immaculate Conception, that are infallibly defined by the extraordinary Magisterium of the Church. Whoever denies them, should be considered, without question, a heretic.
There are other truths of a theological order, such as that of the invalidity of the ordination of women to the priesthood which cannot be denied without falling into heresy or error, because, never having been defined by the extraordinary Magisterium, they have been proposed infallibly by the ordinary universal teaching authority of the Church. Nevertheless, there are other points in which theological discussion is open, for example, of attributing theological merit to the declaration of religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) or to the liturgical reform of Paul VI. In these cases the extraordinary Magisterium has never made any declaration and the conditions required by Vatican I for the infallibility of the ordinary Magisterium are missing.
Thus, discussions here, are free and wide open.
The Church throughout Her history, has always acknowledged theological disputes, even heated ones. Until a truth has been defined as such by the Church, it is licit to defend ones’ own opinion, even passionately, because we have the duty to sustain that which we believe to be true. We have no right, however, to “excommunicate” whoever thinks differently from us, just because we do not share their opinions. If Mons. Gherardini, Fr. Lanzetta or Professor de Mattei are in error, let the Church Herself condemn them. But if Mons. Gherardini lives in the Vatican and writes for “L’Osservatore Romano”, it means that his opinions, even if not necessarily shared, are at least tolerated by the ecclesiastical authorities. And how can they not be, when positions that are objectively heretical are tolerated, such as the Austrian or German parish-priests that demand the ordination of women and also married priests? It is no surprise that Mons. Gherardini’s positions are loathed by the progressive front. But why is there such aversion from the part of one who is not progressive? Why is there so much focus on the one who defends Tradition instead of unifying all their forces in order to fight those who deny Tradition?
Perhaps the accusers of Mons. Gherardini, who present themselves as the unique interpreters of the Magisterium, want the only alternative to their unconditional acceptance of Vatican II to be sedevacantism or at least, the irregular canonical position in which the Fraternity of Saint Pius X presently finds itself.
The accusation of “crypto-sedevacantism” offends the intelligence and honesty of those who assert it. And regarding that of “lefebvrism” , Mons. Gherardini himself has recently reaffirmed his position clearly: “I agree fundamentally with some of the Fraternity’s ideas: the sense that Tradition lives because it has never been interrupted, “ the romanness”, of its Founder, the criticism of the present worldly decadence, and even more. But not, however, the Fraternity’s autonomy with which it recognizes matrimonial causes, dissolves marriages, reducing them to the lay state: these come under the authority of the Church and Her tribunals, not of a “priestly society”, which is, after all, not yet canonically recognized.”
In short, sharing some doctrinal positions, does not mean being an accomplice in canonical life choices. The great merit of Mons. Gherardini is actually that of demonstrating that a serious and objective criticism of some of the documents of the Second Vatican Council can be done, remaining fully inside the Catholic Church, respecting the supreme Authority and leaving it with the task of resolving the question in a definitive manner. Until this happens, discussions are licit and should take place in a calm and respectful way.
One cannot be defined “sedevacantist” or “protestant” just because they have critically analyzed documents, acts or omissions by ecclesiastical authority not covered by infallibility, but those who deny, in principle or fact, the existence of this authority. This is not the case of Mons. Gherardini nor of the other authors under attack, who in other times would have been defined as “ultramontane” precisely because of their attachment to the Apostolic Authority and the Roman See.
The accusations which have been launched at us wound our Catholic honour and constitute an unfair denigration which implies a sin against justice, and is grave. It is in the name of violated justice that I write these lines and ask that the terms of the discussion in act be modified. If the opposite happens, nobody will be able to take away our right to defend ourselves and we will find ourselves faced with painful controversies, but perhaps they will be purifying.