a break with the Magisterium!
Juan Valdivieso, Chile
In the Catholic world today, when the topic of Vatican II comes up, one finds two extremes: First, you have those who who would maintain that Vatican Council II was some type of "super" Council above all others, by which the Holy Spirit moved the age-old Church of 2,000 years into the modern era. For this first group, all past teachings of the Magesterium must be understood in light of this new Council. We can easily see the error in such thinking. Secondly, we also find a group which has reacted to the errors and excesses of the first: these are some "traditionalists" of various leanings (mostly the Sede Vacantists) who maintain that the errors that stem from Vatican Council II are such that prove false teaching was taught "officially" from the papal throne, (or at least) with the blessing of the pope. Of course, as they understand, if the popes of Vatican II are "non-popes" the whole argument about the Council makes little sense, as a false-pope cannot "teach" anything, official or otherwise. These maintain that since, on a magisterial level, the Church cannot approve error, that everyone associated with the Council is a non-Catholic and well, you know the rest! Truth be told, any discussion with either group does not end well for the level-headed Catholic. The Catholic knows, of course, that error cannot possibly be taught officially by the Roman Catholic Church.
Let's try to look at this problem by understanding some terms: The word "magesterium" comes from the Latin which means "teacher." The "teaching" authority of the Church is entrusted to Peter (the head of the Apostles) and with the bishops who are under Peter. The "magesterium" or "teaching office" of the Church is to be found both in the "solemn" or "extraordinary" exercise, when the Pope, or a General Council (presided over by a Pope) teaches infallibly that which must be believed by the universal Church. For that reason, the papal document "Quo Primum" on the Traditional Mass, is not an infallible act, since this was a directive for the Roman or Latin Rite of the Church alone. It did not contain universal teaching on faith or morals for the "whole Church." At the same time, Quo Primum cannot be tossed out lightly, or treated with disregard as it was (another story for another day).
I would ask any well-intentioned traditionalist to read the definition of Vatican Council I on the Infallibility of the Pope, prior to your writing or sending off an angry email. Please let me know as regards how Quo Primum figures into that definition of infallibility, and let me know how this was to be applied to the "universal Church" which also includes about 20 or so non-Latin Rites.
Besides the solemn or extraordinary magesterium, we also have what is called the "ordinary" magesterium of the Church. The ordinary magesterium is that which is the continual exercise of teaching. The distinctions between "solemn" and "ordinary" will be delved into later.
How do we, or how should we understand Vatican II? This Council, which ended in 1964, was in fact described as something unique: it was called as a "pastoral" Council. Something that is "pastoral" in nature would not seem to be the meat for an infallible ecumenical Council. Pastoral is often used in reference to perhaps a "pastoral letter" which might be in the form of a communication from a Diocesan Ordinary (bishop) to the clergy and faithful of his diocese. These are often read at a Sunday Mass, published in the diocesan press etc. "Pastoral" might mean that which touches the spiritual life of the people. We also have what is called as "Pastoral Theology." Would anyone maintain that Vatican II, a "pastoral" in nature Council, was on the level, or had the same authority as Vatican Council I or the Council of Trent? What dogma or teaching were solemnly defined for the universal Church at Vatican II? What does "pastoral" have to do with infallible doctrine being defined?
I would strongly urge souls, especially those who tend to either extreme mentioned above, to kindly read the words of those men who actually attended the Council of Vatican II. Cardinal Felici for one, was asked about the "theological note of the Council" (that is, the binding force of the decrees). The Cardinal replied:
"We have to distinguish according to the schemas and the chapters which have already been the subject of dogmatic definition in the past. As for declarations which have a novel character, we have to make certain reservations." -Cardinal Felici
Certainly, if Vatican II was intended as an infallible Council, a solemn act of the magesterium, the Cardinal would never urged anyone to "make reservations" -certain or otherwise! Is the Catholic ever permitted to make reservations about solemn doctrine? Doctrine is simply to be believed.
We will continue to look at "ordinary" and "extraordinary" as regards the magesterium of the Church and the very apparent and real errors of Vatican II. How can a Catholic address these errors? We will look at how other bishops who attended the Council viewed the Council:
John Cardinal Heenan of England:
“It deliberately limited its own objectives. There were to be no specific definitions. Its purpose from the first was pastoral renewal within the Church and a fresh approach to the outside.”(Council and Clergy, 1966)
Bishop Butler of England:
“Not all teachings emanating from a pope or Ecumenical Council are infallible. There is no single proposition of Vatican II – except where it is citing previous infallible definitions – which is in itself infallible.”
(The Tablet 26,11,1967)
“Vatican II gave us no new dogmatic definitions.”
(The Tablet 2,3,1968)
Bishop Rudolf Graberof Germany:
Since the Council was aiming primarily at a pastoral orientation and hence refrained from making dogmatically binding statements or disassociating itself, as previous Church assemblies have done, from errors and false doctrines by means of clear anathemas, many questions took on an opalescent ambivalence which provided a certain amount of justification for those who speak of the spirit of the Council.”
(Athanasius and the Church of Our Times, 1974)
Bishop Thomas Morris
“I was relieved when we were told that this Council was not aiming at defining or giving final statements on doctrine, because a statement of doctrine has to be very carefully formulated and I would have regarded the Council documents as tentative and likely to be reformed.”
(Catholic World News 1,22,1997)