The Second Vatican Council Is Problematic Itself – Bishop Schneider

The Second Vatican Council Is Problematic Itself – Bishop Schneider – 7/9/18

Bishop Athanasius Schneider has spoken out what everybody knows: The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was not only wrongly interpreted but there are “some problematic affirmations of the Council itself”.

Talking to (July 6), Schneider criticises “ambiguous formulations” in the Council’s texts from where “a lot of errors” are now arising.

Talking about the upcoming Synod on the Youth, Schneider fears that the Vatican’s working document “accepted the propaganda terminology” of gay ideology. This is “contrary to sane reason and to the revealed law of God”, Schneider adds.

He fears that the synod will be used as tool to promote “homosexual ideology, which is conquering almost the entire world”.

Get AQ Email Updates

2 comments on “The Second Vatican Council Is Problematic Itself – Bishop Schneider

  1. Is Bishop Schneider’s statement “The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was not only wrongly interpreted but there are some problematic affirmations of the Council itself” a “violation of canon law [making him] subject to punishments up to and including excommunication” (see note at the end of the first item below)?

    The Question at hand: Do the V2 documents have “some problematic affirmations” in se such as “ambiguous formulations … from where a lot of errors are now arising”?

    NO, according to the late (R.i.P.) neo-Catholic Ralph M. McInerny: From his 1988 book What Went Wrong with Vatican II: The Catholic Crisis Explained: Chapter One, pages 23-38: The Forgotten Teachings of the Council

    On October 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica with a speech full of hope and promise. Recalling the Church’s previous councils, the Pope said that Vatican II was called to reaffirm the teaching role of the Church in the world.

    In calling this vast assembly of bishops, the latest and humble successor to the Prince of the Apostles who is addressing you intends to assert once again the Church’s Magisterium [teaching authority], which is unfailing and perdures until the end of time, in order that this Magisterium, taking into account the errors, the requirements, and the opportunities of our time, might he presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world

    The problem facing us, the Pope pointed out, is the same today as it has ever been: Men stand either with the Church or against Her; and rejection results in bitterness, confusion, and war. Councils testify to the union of Christ and His Church and promulgate a universal truth to guide individuals in their domestic and social lives.

    Far from being motivated by foreboding and concern for the modern world, Pope John XXIII was full of optimism. Many had come to him lamenting the state of the world, seeing it in steep decline. We live, they implied, in the worst of times. Not so, said John XXIII:

    We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world was at hand.

    In the present order (if things, Divine Providence is leading, us to a new order of human relations which, by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfillment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs.

    John XXIII discerned even in troubling modem circumstances possibilities for the Church to fulfill Her mission of preaching the gospel of Christ more effectively. Throughout this opening address, he was filled with exuberant optimism.

    And he was quite clear about what he wanted the council to accomplish: the defense and advancement of truth.

    The greatest concern of the ecumenical council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.

    John XXIII said that in our day there is already sufficient clarity about the teaching of the Faith. The emphasis of the council should thus not be doctrinal but pastoral. It should consider how best to convey the truth of Christ to the modern world.

    He said that errors are best dealt with in a gentler way than heretofore. The same charity should suffuse our dealing with our “separated brethren.” Here the Pope strikes the note that will fuel the ecumenical movement among the churches.

    The closing prayers of his address convey the simplicity and faith of John XXIII:

    Almighty God! In Thee we place all our confidence, not trusting in our own strength. Look down benignly upon these pastors of Thy Church. May the light of Thy supernal grace aid us in taking decisions and in making laws. Graciously hear the prayers which we pour forth to Thee in unanimity of faith, of voice, and of mind.

    0 Mary, Help of Christians, Help of Bishops, of whose love we have recently had particular proof in thy temple of Loreto, where we venerated the mystery of the Incarnation, dispose all things for a happy and propitious outcome and, with thy spouse, St. Joseph, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, St. John the Baptist, and St. John the Evangelist, intercede for us to God.

    To Jesus Christ, our most amiable Redeemer, immortal King of peoples and of times, be love, power, and glory forever and ever. Amen.

    Lively Debate Characterized the Sessions

    The Second Vatican Council met in four sessions. The first session opened, with the papal address just recalled, on October 11, 1962, and closed on December 8 of the same year. Pope John XXIII, whose idea the council was, need on June 3, 1963. He had expressed the hope that, if he were not still alive when the council ended, he would watch its joyful conclusion from Heaven.

    His successor, Paul VI, called for the second session to begin on September 29, 1963, and it ran until December 4, 1963. The third session was held from September 14 to November 21, 1.964. The fourth and final session ran from September 14 to December 8, 1965.

    Anyone reading the exchanges between the bishops during the sessions of the council must be impressed by the high level of the discussion. For example, the discussion of the Declaration on Religious Liberty was feared by some to fly in the face of earlier Church teaching, obviously a serious reason for caution. Proponents, respecting this concern, were eager to allay it. Participants in the debate opposed one another against a background of a shared concern for the tradition of the Church. Some would, reduce this spirited and often profound exchange to a conflict between liberals and conservatives, but such a reduction misses the depth of the discussion.

    Some interventions in the council are more impressive than others, of course, but what is lacking from these actual sessions is the kind of ideological dogfight reported at the time in periodicals and shortly thereafter in the multi-volume histories of the council.

    Reading some of those accounts of the council sessions, especially those written at the time, is not an edifying experience. Even so relatively sober a book as Fr. Ralph Wiltgen’s The Rhine Flows into the Tiber portrays the debates as no nobler than a playground quarrel. Perhaps the saddest description is Fr. Wiltgen’s account of Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani being silenced:

    On October 30, the day after his seventy-second birthday, Cardinal Ottaviani addressed the council to protest against the drastic changes which were being suggested in the Mass. “Are we seeking to stir up wonder, or perhaps scandal, among the Christian people, by introducing changes in so venerable a rite, that has been approved for so many centuries and is now so familiar? The rite of Holy Mass should not be treated as if it were a piece of cloth to be refashioned according to the whim of each generation.” Speaking without a text, because of his partial blindness, he exceeded the ten-minute time limit which all had been requested to observe. Cardinal Tisserant, Dean of the Council Presidents, showed his watch to Cardinal Alfrink, who was presiding that morning. When Cardinal Ottaviani reached fifteen minutes, Cardinal Alfrink rang the warning bell. But the speaker was so engrossed in his topic that he did not notice the bell, or purposely ignored it. At a signal from Cardinal Alfrink, a technician switched off the microphone. After confirming the fact by tapping the instrument, Cardinal Ottaviani stumbled back to his seat in humiliation. The most powerful cardinal in the Roman Curia had been silenced, and the Council Fathers clapped with glee.

    Looking back on it from a distance of thirty-five year reader is more likely to be astonished by the reported reaction of the council Fathers than he is likely to share in it. Fr. Wiltgen was writing in 1977, and his account of the sessions was generally praised for its objectivity, but he, too, operates with the simplistic notions of conservative and liberal.

    Such accounts as Fr. Wiltgen’s – and let me stress that his is as evenhanded as one is likely to find – seek and find a drama in the proceedings that doubtless characterized the politics outside the hall. There are good guys and bad guys, and in the end the good guys win.

    But it is not in histories of the council, contemporary or otherwise, that the council itself should be sought. Nor are the records of the discussions between the bishops the final word. Where, then, is the council itself to be found?

    Catholics Cannot Reject the Council

    Sixteen official council documents emerged from sessions in which schemata were proposed, altered, replaced, argued, and ultimately voted on. Each of the conciliar documents can be parsed back into a written record of such debates and discussion, but there is no need to characterize such debates in terms of obscurantists and enlightened progressives – not even when, as in the case of the Declaration on Religious Liberty, the debate defines itself in terms of such opponents. For in the end, it is the final document that trumps all earlier arguments and discussion. Once voted on and promulgated by the Pope, a conciliar document is no longer the victory of one side or the triumph of a faction: it becomes part of the Magisterium of the Church.

    There is little doubt that, in the minds of many observers, reporters, and even periti, a struggle was going on between the traditionalists and the innovators. Even if this mirrored a struggle among the Fathers of the council, when the dust settled, when the final vote was taken, when a document was approved and promulgated by the Pope, it was the product of the teaching Church. And in Her role as teacher, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. Whatever spirited battles took place in the course of the council, the only spirit that matters is the Holy Spirit, whose influence on the promulgated document is guaranteed.

    Studying the record of discussions among the bishops, of drafts of documents, and the proposals for change can, of course, aid us in understanding the final approved results. But it is the final documents as approved by the bishops and promulgated by the Pope that contain the official teaching of the Catholic Church. And Catholics have a duty to accept the teaching of a council.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells out the infallibility of an ecumenical council:

    “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the Faith – he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to Faith or morals…. The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an ecumenical council.

    Consequently, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are the official teachings of the Church. That is why the more than thirty years that have passed since the close of the council are evaluated by the Church in the light of the council.

    That is why Paul VI and John Paul II have regarded their papacies as dedicated to the implementation of what was decided during those fateful three years of the council.

    That is why rejecting the council is simply not an option for Catholics.

    And that is why Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s schismatic movement involved an internal incoherence. He sought to appeal to earlier councils in order to discredit Vatican II. But that which guarantees the truth of the teaching of one council guarantees the truth of them all. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II exhibited a long patience with Archbishop Lefebvre. Eventually, he undertook to consecrate new bishops in defiance of the Vatican, and no more patience was possible. He was excommunicated.

    What Vatican II Says About the Pope

    The same long patience has been shown to dissenting theologians who have undertaken to appoint themselves the final arbiters of Catholic truth and to inform the faithful that they need not accept the teachings of the Holy Father.

    Often, they justify this dissent by citing “the spirit of Vatican II,” which one theologian explains as follows:

    Vatican Council II was an example of democracy in action. Opinion had been widespread that, with the definition of papal infallibility, councils would no longer be needed or held. After Vatican I, it seemed the Pope would function as the Church’s sole teacher. Vatican II, however, showed what could be accomplished in the Church when all the bishops worked together. There was significant input from theologians (some formerly silenced). Protestant observers made an important contribution.

    The spirit of Vatican II urges us to balance what the Magisterium says with other points of view throughout the Church. Magisterial teaching is referred to as the “official” teaching of the Church, as if there were another, rival teaching that could trump the Pope.

    But what does Vatican II itself say about this? After speaking of the college of bishops and the collegiality that characterizes the episcopal office, Vatican 11 declares that not even bishops, acting apart from the Pope, have any authority in the Church:

    The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head, whose primatial authority, let it be added, over all, whether pastors or faithful, remains in its integrity. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as the Vicar of Christ, namely, and as pastor of the entire Church) has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.

    Obviously, if even bishops, singly or collectively, have no authority apart from the Pope, no other group in the Church has such authority. No other group has the role of accepting or rejecting papal teaching and advising the faithful that they may rightly reject papal teaching.

    In a word, according to, Vatican II, the Pope is “the supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful,”24 the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth. He is head of the college of bishops. He can himself, independent of the bishops, exercise the supreme Magisterium.

    In light of this, there seems simply to be no way to read the teachings of Vatican II and find in them any basis for the postconciliar view promoted by some theologians that papal teaching can be legitimately rejected by Catholics.

    Yet some theologians continue trying. They suggest that Catholics are bound only by Church teaching that is infallible by dint of being formally and solemnly defined. According to them, such instruments of the Magisterium as encyclicals should be treated with respect, but Catholics have the option of setting their teaching aside.

    Catholics Must Submit to the Pope

    Is there any support in Vatican II for such a conception? Is acceptance on the part of the faithful limited to solemnly defined teachings, clearly infallible for that reason? The Second Vatican Council also answers this question clearly and forcefully:

    This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra, in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to the decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which. a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.

    Unfortunately, some theologians, particularly moral theologians, for reasons we will examine in subsequent chapters, have simply rejected this clear teaching of Vatican II. They have come to see their role as one of criticizing, passing judgment on, and even dismissing magisterial teaching.

    There is no surer protection against this attempted usurpation than the documents of Vatican II themselves and particularly the passages just quoted from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

    There is, of course, something odd in the effort to quarrel with what are obviously teachings of the Church and therefore require religious assent from Catholics. It is almost as if the aim were to discover how little one need believe. But surely, as Vatican II urges, it should be the mark of Catholics that they take on the mind and heart of the Church and show gratitude for God’s great gift of the Magisterium.

    The calibration of Church teachings that is suggested by distinguishing between the ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium is an important one, but it does not justify any distinction between magisterial, papal teachings that need to be accepted by Catholics and those that do not.

    Indeed, to advise Catholics to ignore clear magisterial teachings is to advise them to reject the clear teaching of Vatican II. How ironic that the council should be invoked as warrant for dissenting from the Magisterium when it is precisely the council that rules this out.

    To accept Vatican II is to accept what the council says about the Magisterium and the Catholic’s obligation to obey it.

    As we will soon see, public and sustained rejection of the Magisterium and of this clear teaching of Vatican II – largely by dissenting theologians – has caused and sustained the crisis in the Church.

    NOTES [all except for one are bibliographical references and thus omitted]: A 1998 apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II gave force of law to this requirement of Vatican II that theologians be faithful to the Magisterium. Called Ad Tuendam Fidem, the letter made deviation from such teachings as Vatican II a violation of canon law subject to punishments up to and including excommunication.

    YES, according to Traditionalist Atila Sinke Guimarães: Is the Catholic Crisis Really Explained? Book review of What Went Wrong with Vatican II? The Catholic Crisis Explained; by Ralph McInerny, Ph.D.

    McInerny’s work skirts around the authority of the Council

    Another book about the Second Vatican Council and its consequences has just been published. The title is suggestive: What Went Wrong with Vatican II – The Catholic Crisis Explained. Its author is Dr. Ralph McInerny, a professor at Notre Dame University.

    McInerny’s background as novelist helps to make the work easy to read. The cover attracts the attention and it has been nicely published by Sophia Institute Press in Manchester, New Hampshire.

    The method chosen by the author to present the subject deserves comment. He does not pretend to use scholastic rigor. At times, he adopts the method of proof ad absurdo: he prefers to take for granted that it is impossible that anything could have happened except what he wants. At other times, he presents ecclesiastical authorities supporting his thesis, but then he circles around them to avoid facing their corroborating consequences. These characteristics make it difficult to attribute clear and definite affirmations to him. For this reason his exposition seen more to skirt around the problem of the authority of Vatican II than to demonstrate a thesis in a Thomistic fashion. One could, nevertheless, presuppose the thesis and summarize it in three arguments.

    The first argument deals with the authority the Council would have. In McInerny’s opinion:

    A. Major premise – It is an error of simplification to reduce Vatican II to the confrontation of two currents (that is, traditional statements and liberal statements coexisting in the same Vatican documents). This is to have a human and limited vision of the Church. . Actually, the fact that a majority of Bishops approved the documents and unanimously promulgated them reveals the action of the Holy Ghost (pp. 27-30, 66, 150-151).

    B. Minor premise – Paul VI solemnly promulgated the sixteen documents of the Council (pp. 14-15, 30-31).

    C. Conclusion – Therefore, Vatican II was an infallible Council (pp. 31-32, 93, 114, 149) and its documents are an authentic expression of the Magisterium (pp. 18-19, 31-33, 36-37, 68, 147-148, 151).

    The second argument, drawn from the conclusion of the first, seeks to explain the crisis of interpreting the conciliar documents and the consequent crisis of authority that occurred after Vatican II. In the thinking of the author:

    A. Major premise – Based on the documents of the Council, various dissident theologians affirm that it is not necessary for the faithful to accept certain pontifical teachings (pp 60-64, 66, 73, 139, 154-155). Furthermore, these theologians should be censured for trying to equate their teaching mission with that of the Magisterium (pp. 64-65, 74, 77-78, 93, 113, 136, 140).

    B. Minor premise – Unfortunately, this dissidence has had free rein in the Church, causing a crisis of authority and arousing a lack of confidence among the faithful (pp. 67-69, 103, 125, 139).

    C. Conclusion – Therefore, in order to solve this crisis, it is imperative that these theologians be silenced (p. 97) or leave the Church (pp. 67-68, 80-81).

    Given, then, the crisis and the causes he presents would be indisputable, his third argument deals with the manner in which the excesses should be suppressed. According to McInerny:

    A. Major premise – One should no longer argue about the Council, but accept it as the expression of the Supreme Magisterium. In other words, obedience should be imposed upon the dissidents (pp. 97, 146, 148, 155, 158).

    B. Minor premise – Through its official bodies, the Holy See has issued norms curbing the action of the dissidents (pp. 129-134, 136-142).

    C. Conclusion – Therefore, it will not take long for such dissidents to either submit (pp. 137, 157) or to leave the Church (p. 142). Thus is the crisis explained, and one just hopes it will not be too long before it is resolved (p. 142).

    This is a brief summary of the explanation the author proposes for the conciliar crisis.

    I admire McInerny for having the courage to deal with such a controversial subject and for expressing his opinion frankly. His loyalty to the Papacy and to the teachings of ecclesiastical Magisterium is noteworthy. I commend him for fighting against the dissident theologians he mentions. Above all, I commend him for choosing to publicly deal with the subject and thus help to open a wholesome debate about Vatican II. What could be better than an elevated discussion to remove the doubts and confusion of so many Catholics about the Council?

    Notwithstanding these positive notes, it seems to me that there are problems with certain points of McInerny’s thesis. These are problems that bear mention. I hope the author will not refuse an honest critique and is open to a cordial intellectual discussion on the subject. I ask that he accept my analysis as a collegial attempt to gain a more objective understanding of reality.

    My observations will follow the same order as the arguments set out above.

    Two currents at Vatican II?

    With regard to the first argument, it would seem that the author’s major premise does not correspond to what is known of the chronicles of the Council. In fact, from Cardinal Achille Liénart’s first intervention in the first conciliar session (October 13, 1962), when he objected to the composition of the commissions presented by the leaders of the Council and demanded an election whereby the Assembly should choose its representatives, until the vote on the two documents Dignitatis humanae and Gaudium et spes in the last session (December 6, 1965), the participants and chroniclers record the fierce contention between the current of Prelates inspired by Nouvelle Théologie (New Theology) and the current that wanted to maintain the traditional doctrine of the Magisterium.

    This can be readily demonstrated by drawing on the chronicles of Vatican II. I suggest that on this point McInerny read the objective and well-documented accounts of Giovanni Caprile, René Laurentin, Antoine Wenger, Henri Fesquet, and Boaventura Kloppenburg, as well as the Bloc des notes of Yves Congar, published during the Council in Informations Catholiques Internationales. This is the very Congar that McInerny considers, along with de Lubac, one of the “stars” that shine in the Catholic intellectual firmament (p. 8, note 6).

    More modestly, I propose that the author read a recent work – In the Murky Waters of Vatican II – in which he can find a considerable number of trustworthy statements attesting to the existence of two opposing currents in the Council (op. cit. Chaps. IV, VI et passim). It can be easily shown that the conflict between these two currents was a determinant factor in the preparation of the final documents. Ipso facto, one cannot hold that there was unanimity among the Bishops during the preparation of the documents, nor during their approval. Such unanimity can only be found at the final signing of Vatican II.

    The assertion that the approval of a document by the majority or unanimity of the Bishops implies the guarantee of the Holy Ghost will be dealt with further detail when speaking of the authority of the Pope and the Bishops in union with him.

    Thus the fundamental affirmation of the major premise that it is an error of simplification to consider the Council as a fight between two currents has no base.

    For this reason, it is surprising to see the contemptuous treatment the author gives to Fr. Ralph Wiltgen’s excellent book The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, a work he dismisses as appropriate for those who consider the Council a “kind of ideological dogfight” (p. 28).

    Are the teachings of Vatican II infallible?

    Regarding McInerny’s minor premise, Paul VI did solemnly approve all the documents using expressions that were practically the same. These closing statements can be found at the end of each one of the sixteen documents. No doubt, this approval indicates the desire to give weight to the documents and makes one lean toward the idea that the Pontiff wanted to make use of his prerogative of infallibility. The question is: Did this fact happen? My response is the following:

    * If employing practically the same formula in all the documents indicates the desire to use infallibility, then that infallibility should extend to the whole. However, there are subjects to which infallibility does not apply, such as, for example, those in the decree Inter mirifica, which deals with means of social communication, a matter outside of Faith and Morals. Obviously, it was not Paul VI’s intention to impose upon the Church as infallible these considerations regarding the media. Therefore, employing the same formula in all the documents should not be understood as revealing an intention of using infallibility. It expresses a vague manifestation of authority, imprecise regarding what it actually obliges.

    * Furthermore, the Announcement written by the Secretary General of the Council, Cardinal Pericle Felici, that precedes the Preliminary Explanatory Note to Lumen gentium says:

    “Taking into account conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred synod has defined as binding on the Church only those matters of Faith and Morals which it has expressly put forward as such.”

    If we hold this passage to be valid for the sixteen documents of Vatican II, this would only oblige obedience in matters of Faith and Morals. Furthermore, this is the only statement on this matter that emanates from Vatican II. Therefore, it did not wish to be taken as infallible.

    * Above and beyond this, Paul VI himself, author of the aforementioned formulas, declared after the close of the Council:

    “There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification the Council intended to give to its teachings, knowing that it avoid issuing solemn dogmatic definitions engaging the infallibility of the ecclesiastical Magisterium. The answer is known by whoever remembers the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964: given the Council’s pastoral character, it avoided pronouncing, in an extraordinary manner, dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility.”

    Therefore, Paul VI’s solemn approval of the conciliar documents cannot be used as a conclusive argument in favor of the infallibility of Vatican II. Thus it can be stated that McInerny’s minor premise is true – Paul VI approved the conciliar documents – but it is inconsequential, because it doesn’t lead to his desired conclusion. That approval does not imply infallibility.

    Further, it can be affirmed that the approval by the majority or unanimity of the Bishops does not add the note of infallibility to the documents. This corroborates the analysis above about the weakness of the major premise.

    Since the two premises of the first argument are not as solid as the author would have hoped, the first conclusion – that the Council is infallible – is without foundation and must be relegated to the field of opinion.

    Is the Council an expression of the perennial Magisterium of the Church?

    The second conclusion – that the Council is an authentic expression of the Magisterium – must be addressed.

    McInerny argues that Vatican II should be followed in as much as it is an expression of the ordinary papal Magisterium, which calls for attitudes of respect and obedience (pp. 36-38, 88, 108). This affirmation is deserving of analysis.

    Holy Mother Church in matters of Faith and Morals has very precise and defined norms regarding progress. Progress is acceptable when it follows the same sense and meaning of the earlier Magisterium (in eodem sensu eademque sententia). The Church promulgated these prudential norms in order to avoid grave errors, at times taught even by Popes (Marcellinus, Liberius, Zozimus, Vigilius, etc) and Councils (Milan 355, Constantinole 360, Constance, Basle etc). Therefore, it cannot be categorically stated that Vatican II, nor any other Council, is the expression of the unchangeable Magisterium of the Church – except in the measure that it is coherent with prior teaching.

    In Vatican II many times it is very difficult to harmonize the present with the past. I will cite just one example among many.

    The conciliar decree Unitatis redintegratio teaches that the salvation can be found outside of the Church:

    “Large communities became separated from the full communion with the Catholic Church …. However, one cannot charge with the sin of separation those who at present are born into these communities and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers ….

    “Moreover, some, even very many of the most significant elements and endowments which go together to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; Faith, hope and charity with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements …. The brethren divided from us also carry out many liturgical actions of the Christian religion …. These …. can aptly give access to the communion of salvation”.

    This teaching is basis for ecumenism, which constitutes one of the greatest innovations of Vatican II.

    Comparing this thesis with the perennial Magisterium, we find the contrary affirmed. Pius IX, along with other Popes, firmly fought what we label today ecumenism:

    “And it tends to the same end as this horrible system of religious indifferentism tends in matters of religion, a system that is even repugnant to the simple light of natural reason. It is through this system, in fact, that these subtle artisans of the lie seek to destroy all distinction between vice and virtue, truth and error, honor and shameful torpidity, criminally thinking men of all cults and every religion can be led to the hope of eternal salvation. As if there could be a participation of justice with iniquity, and alliance of light with darkness, some sort of relationship between Jesus Christ and Belial.”

    How can this doctrine be harmonized with that of Vatican II? It is really very difficult.

    There are other conciliar novelties that clash with traditional teaching. Among these would be the notion of the “Church as mystery;” its affinity with modernist pneumatology and its opposition to the teaching of St. Pius X; the notion of “sinning Church,” which contradicts the divine nature of the Spouse of Christ; the adaptation of the Church to the modern world in contradiction to the anathemas of Pius IX; the acceptance of the so-oft-condemned motto “Liberty-Equality-Fraternity” in the ecclesiastical and civil spheres; and the acceptance of the principles of modern historicism and its application to the dogma resulting in a grave damage to the unity of the Catholic Faith. This is not to mention the questions that alter traditional teaching regarding the militant, missionary and Roman characters of the Holy Church.

    Thus, until the Council’s novelties can be shown to be congruent with the prior Magisterium, the former obviously cannot be taken as an expression of the latter.

    One sees, then, that the author’s second conclusion is hasty. Vatican II has still not been sufficiently shown to be an authentic expression of the Magisterium. The Council will or will not be found to express the perennial Magisterium until these many doubts are cleared up.

    McInerny avoids making this clarification and hides behind formalism: Since the Council’s documents were approved by the majority or unanimity of the Bishops and endorsed by the Pontiff, then they must be the indisputable expression of the Supreme Magisterium (pp. 18-19, 31-32, 68, 147-148, 151). If the substance of matters dealt with in a Council were more important than the form observed to promulgate it, then the condemned statements at the Councils of Constance and Basel should be taken as an expression of the Magisterium, because they apparently followed the canonical formalities.

    Furthermore, intellectual honesty demands that a person be allowed to use any legitimate means to safeguard the integrity of the Catholic Faith from the introduction of justifiably suspect doctrines. Even should such doctrines come from three Popes and a Council. Should Prof. McInerny be interested, I can show him citations of Saints and Doctors of the Church who defend the right and obligation of Catholics to resist Prelates – even Popes – who endanger the Faith (In the Murky Waters of Vatican II, “General Introduction,” note 3).

    Would the cause of the crisis only be the progressivist theologians?

    The major premise of McInerny’s second argument is true: he affirms that certain theologians advocate a revolutionary defiance of the principle of authority. It is also true that these theologians claim a position of equality, and even superiority, in relation to the traditional Magisterium.

    In the minor premise it is necessary to make a distinction. Doubtless, the dissent of “progressivist” theologians is an important factor in the cause of the crisis of authority. From this angle, the premise is unassailable. However, although it is an important factor for the loss of authority, it is neither the sole or principal cause, even when considered from a broader perspective, which would include “trendy catechists, creative liturgists, and antinomian moral theologians” (p. 118).

    * In fact, the germ of the crisis of authority was inoculated in the very documents of the Council. For example, in the discussion on the schema of Lumen gentium regarding the actual makeup of the Church, the conciliar fathers resolved to invert the accepted order and put the “people of God” before the Hierarchy. A greater emphasis was given to the faithful as the foundation of the Church than to the Hierarchy, which was relegated to a secondary position. Renowned Prelates, commenting upon this inversion that was included in the promulgated text, have called it a “Copernican revolution” in ecclesiology. Sooner or later this inversion was bound to foster a certain arrogance among some of the faithful, as in the case of the aforementioned theologians. Therefore, such theologians are neither the sole nor principal cause of the crisis.

    * Besides this, the abettors of the conciliar reforms were the Council, Popes and Bishops. For example, the demolition of venerable traditions effected by the liturgical reforms was initiated by the conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium, confirmed by Paul VI ‘s Apostolic Constitution Missale romanum, and put into effect by Bishops around the world. The decisive blow against a liturgy spanning centuries did not come from “progressivist” theologians, but from the official ranks of the Church. How can one not see in this “iconoclast period” an example for other traditions to be broken? Couldn’t the contesting of authority made by the learned be invoked as a precedent to change other institutional aspects of the Church, such as submission to authority? It seems undeniable. Once again, it is obvious that the “learned” dissenters were neither the sole nor principal cause of the crisis.

    * Another cogent example of this was the reform of the Holy Office and the abolition of the Index, which forbade the reading of books harmful to Faith and Morals. Paul VI effected this reform in his Motu proprio Integrae servanda (December 5, 1965). His stated objective was to mitigate theological punishments. Who doesn’t see that this lowering of the guard served to stimulate the audacity of the “liberals”? Again, the dissent of learned theologians was neither the sole nor principal cause of the crisis.

    * Furthermore, there are theologians who heretofore were considered suspect of heresy by the Holy Office. Yet after the Council, even though they did not change their thinking, they were promoted and are now considered representatives of official theology. These include Cardinal Yves Congar, Cardinal Henri de Lubac, Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar, Fr. Karl Rahner, Fr. Marie-Dominique Chenu and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

    Why does McInerny only condemn today’s liberals? McInerny does not mention the relationship of those who are now mistakenly taken for moderates with the liberals of yesterday. The principles that a Fr. Charles Curran defends are based on those preached by today’s “accepted” scholars that I listed. If McInerny wanted to point accurately to the causes of the present day crisis, he would need to point to both groups. Not doing this, he shields the most dangerous wing of theology. And these theologians were the ones who exercised a decisive influence at Vatican II. Ignoring these theologians and assuming the Council to be infallible, McInerny takes an incomplete position that can hardly be called impartial.

    * With regard to the minor premise, another observation can be made about the example chosen by the author to prove the evil of the dissenting theologians: the case of Humanae vitae. McInerny avoids dealing with the opposition to the encyclical that came from official ecclesiastical circles. He lightly dismisses such opposition as rare (p. 47). Unfortunately, this does not correspond to what actually happened. Not only did many Bishops contest the papal teaching, but entire Episcopates did so (in Belgium, Brazil, Holland, France and Germany, for example). McInerny can find proof of this in the book In the Murky Waters of Vatican II (Chap. X, note 24). Once again, it is obvious that the dissenting theologians are neither the sole nor principal cause of the crisis of authority.

    These are considerations that seem to me indispensable to make an objective analysis of the minor premise of the author’s second argument.

    Finally, McInerny’s conclusion is valid: the theologians he names should be silenced. But I will go a step further. If the disciples are to be condemned, why not also their masters? And if the masters are condemned, how can one avoid considering the influence of their thinking in Vatican II? This brings us back to the need for an open and objective debate on this subject.

    Punishment with or without explanations

    The third argument supposes the preceding ones. However, while the former two arguments are not indisputable, this one lacks solid foundation. The author advocates authoritarian disciplinary measures, which might be just if his argument had been solid. Since it was not, Prof. McInerny appears to have taken an arbitrary position.

    The major premise posits that one should not longer argue about the Council, but instead acknowledge in it the Supreme Magisterium and demand obedience from the dissidents. No more polemics. If McInerny had proved his thesis, perhaps the measures he asks for would be sufficient. But since he did not, without cause there is no effect.

    For argument’s sake, it seems that his suggestion to punish the guilty without due explanation would go against the normal practice of the Church. Since she is the Mistress of Truth, she can easily prove the truth or error of doctrine. To offer proof would reflect her sovereignty in teaching truth and guarding Revelation. On the contrary, railing to do so would be to hid behind papal infallibility, which would give the impression of an institution uncertain about what she asserts.

    Therefore, regarding the major premise of the third argument, it would seem to me both illogical and imprudent. Notwithstanding, I agree with McInerny that these theologians should be silenced. However, I believe that this should be done with a full explanation. Then, should they remain recalcitrant, a detailed investigation following due process should be carried out, a just sentence issued, and the punishment meted out.

    McInerny’s conclusion seems debatable: that punishing dissenting theologians would resolve the crisis. As I have demonstrated, these theologians are neither the sole nor principal cause of the crisis. It is not only because of the dissent of “learned” theologians that we are witnessing the sorrowful passion of the Catholic Church, but because of more profound and important factors. And among those factors is the apparent or real contradiction of many of the teachings of Vatican II with the earlier ecclesiastical Magisterium. For this reason, I do not believe that simply punishing theologians will solve the crisis.

    The need for an elevated and elucidating debate

    In order to find such a solution, the courage to debate the topic of the Council is necessary.

    We know that the Catholic Church is immortal and that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her (Matt. 16:18). Why not begin a wide-ranging discussion comparing Vatican II and the perennial Magisterium? That is my suggestion. This would be a frank and humble way to determine if there were deviations, to correct them should they exist, and to truly help to end the ecclesiastical crisis. On the contrary, isn’t it incongruent today to be continually asking pardon for the Church’s past when we lack the courage to investigate and correct the present?

  2. Guimaraes’ response to McInerny’s Neo-Catholicism is thorough, objective and decisive. As well, indicting the apologia Neo-Catholicism has gotten away with for 60 years was another decisive stroke of Thomistic force against the very same incoherence characteristic of Neo-Cat arguments that have propped up wildly destructive episcopal activity within that era.
    V2 was a revolution, a hijacking, an open civil war. The Liberals won it and until they are rightfully condemned outright and not skirted around, Liberals will only continue to win.

Leave a Reply