This excerpt is taken from Msgr. Brunero Gherardini's book, The Ecumenical Second Vatican Council: A Much Needed Discussion (Chapter 7: The Great Problem of Religious Liberty). You can read all of the excerpts we offer from his book at: Vatican II: a much needed discussion.
So is it possible to inscribe Dignitatis Humanæ within the hermeneutics of continuity? If we are satisfied with an abstract proclamation, certainly so; but at the level of historic pertinence, I cannot see how it could be.
And the reason boils down to stating the obvious: the liberty proclaimed in the Decree Dignitatis Humanæ, which does not concern one aspect of the human person, but his very essence and, together with it, all his individual and public activity since he is free from any political and religious conditioning, has very little in common with, for instance, Mirari vos by Gregory XVI, Quanta cura and the Syllabus appended by Blessed Pius IX, Immortale Dei by Leo XIII (especially with regard to all that pertains to the relationships between civil authority and the government of the Church), Pascendi dominici gregis by St. Pius X and the Decree Lamentabili released shortly before by the Holy Office, or with Humani generis by Pius XII.
In fact, it is not a matter of a different language. The diversity is substantial and hence irreducible. The respective contents are different.
The content of the preceding Magisterium finds neither continuity nor development in that of Dignitatis Humanæ.
So, are there two Magisterii?
The question should not even be asked because, by its very nature, the Church’s Magisterium is one and indivisible: it is that created by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many are those who—given the climate of the present time—while reaffirming its unity and indivisibility, do not at all distinguish the danger of the split in two. The idea that today, as homage to the present changed circumstances, the Magisterium applies a principle in a way different from, or even counter to yesterday does not frighten them.
I could also declare myself in agreement, provided that the requisite and unquestionable condition of the “eodem sensu, eademque sententia” be always saved.
Unfortunately, everyone obviously seems to be going his own way, and this may well give the impression of a Magisterium split in two.