Saturday, March 02, 2013

John Lamont on Cardinal Koch & SSPX

N.B. -- This is a long, substantial theological analysis and critique. Click on the "Read more >>" link at the bottom to continue reading. (Site manager)

John Lamont, "Cardinal Koch and the SSPX" (Angelus Blog, February 21, 2013):
Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, recently made the following statements about the theological positions of the SSPX:
It is only the group of Lefebvrists that doesn't accept... ecumenical dialogue, relations with the Jews and religious liberty... One must ask how it can present itself as Catholic...

These are central points of the teaching of the Holy Father, and if [there is] a group that does not accept a council and does not accept a teaching, one must ask how they see each other as Catholic... This is the fundamental problem...
Cardinal Koch has also made a broader criticism of traditionalists as a whole:
The progressives profess a hermeneutics of discontinuity and break. The traditionalists profess a hermeneutics of pure continuity: only that which is already noticeable in the Tradition can be Catholic doctrine, therefore, practically, there cannot be a renewal.
These criticisms of traditionalists are often made. Cardinal Koch’s high curial post, and the fact that he was one of the members of the Vatican committee that ruled that the Society’s proposed doctrinal preamble was unacceptable, makes it desirable to offer a response to them. As a traditionalist and a theologian myself, although not one affiliated with the SSPX, I will attempt to do so.

We can distinguish three main criticisms in his remarks:

a) the criticism that the SSPX is not Catholic because it does not accept the Second Vatican Council and the teachings of the current pope,

b) the criticism that traditionalists accept a false ‘hermeneutics of pure continuity’, and

c) the criticism that it is only the SSPX that does not accept ecumenical dialogue, relations with the Jews, and religious liberty.

The expressions ‘ecumenical dialogue’, ‘relations with the Jews’, and ‘religious liberty’ are rather vague in themselves, but in the context it is clear that Cardinal Koch is using these expressions in the sense in which the SSPX denies that they are true.

Cardinal Koch’s first criticism sounds plausible only because of its unclarity. Some allowance should be made for the fact that he was giving an interview to the media in which a precise definition of terms would have been out of place, but even when all possible allowances have been made, his assertion cannot be understood in a theologically defensible way. What is necessary to be Catholic is to believe and confess all the teachings of the Catholic faith. The SSPX does this, and therefore can rightly call itself Catholic. Cardinal Koch raises questions about the Catholicity of the SSPX on the basis of the claims that the Society rejects ‘central points of the teaching of the Holy Father’, “does not accept a council and does not accept a teaching”. The expression “central points of the teaching of the Holy Father” is too vague. A teaching’s being ‘central’ does not suffice to make it an infallible definition or a repetition of previous infallible teachings. The ‘central points’ that the SSPX does not accept have never been claimed or established to be doctrines of the faith, and their rejection of them thus does not mean that they are not Catholics.

The assertion that the SSPX “does not accept a council and does not accept a teaching” suffers from a similar vagueness. It is not a doctrine of the faith that the Second Vatican Council was a genuine ecumenical council, but it is a dogmatic fact. Rejection of the validity of the Council thus might be argued to be incompatible with being a Catholic. However, the SSPX acknowledges that the Second Vatican Council was a genuine ecumenical council. As for the teaching of the council, the SSPX accepts all the teachings of the council that prior to the council were taught as doctrines of the faith. No new doctrines were defined by the council, as is evident both from the content of the conciliar documents themselves – which do not contain anything in the form of a solemn definition – and from Paul VI’s assertion in his discourse closing the council on December 7, 1965. In rejecting certain teachings of the Council, the SSPX thus does not reject any teachings of the faith. Its rejection of these teachings therefore cannot be said to be grounds for doubting that it is Catholic.


It is worth reviewing theological debates on the level of authority of the teachings of the council. Fr. Umberto Betti claimed that the teachings of the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium virtually reached the level of infallible teaching.1 This claim was contested by the then Fr. Joseph Ratzinger,2 who argued against Betti’s maximising interpretation. Even if Betti is correct, however, and we ignore the difficulties in the notion of a teaching being ‘virtually infallible’, his claim applies only to those conciliar teachings contained in dogmatic constitutions; he bases his argument above all on the application of the prefix ‘dogmatic’ to those constitutions.3 The teachings that Koch mentions as being rejected by the SSPX are not found in the dogmatic constitutions of Vatican II, but in decrees or declarations of the council. We may invert Fr. Betti’s argument and infer that since these teachings were not included in the dogmatic constitutions of the council, they cannot be considered to be pronouncements on the dogma of the Church.

In view of Cardinal Koch’s involvement in the decision on whether or not to grant a canonically regular status to the SSPX, we should consider not only the question of whether or not the SSPX is Catholic, but also the question of whether the SSPX, while Catholic, nonetheless should be denied a canonical status within the Church on the grounds that it rejects teachings that are not dogmas of the faith, but are authoritative magisterial teachings to which religious submission of mind and will is due. This is the real issue that arises with respect to the status of the SSPX; questions about the Society’s being Catholic are not serious ones.

A first question that arises is how a denial of canonical status to the SSPX on these grounds can fit into the current disciplinary practice of the Church. For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has judged that Sister Elizabeth Johnson upheld errors in her book Quest for the Living God. This judgement clearly states that these errors are denials of fundamental dogmas of the Catholic faith. Such denials, which Sr. Johnson refused to retract, are punishable by automatic excommunication in canon law (Canon 1364 §1). But Sr. Johnson in fact remains un-excommunicated, and is still a member in good standing of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood. Cases like hers are not uncommon; Fr. Hans Kung remains a Catholic priest in good standing in the eyes of ecclesiastical authority, despite having rejected the defined dogma of papal infallibility as long ago as 1970. It is not defensible to treat denials of the faith as undeserving of punishment, while refusing canonical regularisation to the SSPX on the grounds of its allegedly rejecting magisterial teachings that are not dogmas of the faith and are not infallibly taught.

There is a basis in Canon 1371 §1 for punishing those who deny authentic magisterial teachings that are not infallibly defined. The crucial question, therefore, is whether or not the positions of the SSPX can be judged to be punishable according to that canon. A clear and accurate evaluation of the Society’s positions shows that this is not the case. To see why, we need to distinguish between

1) the position of the SSPX on religious truth, specifically on the truth about religious liberty, ecumenism, and the other matters concerning which it is at odds with some current office-holders in the Holy See, and

2) the SSPX’s claim that the Second Vatican Council taught errors on these matters.

With respect to 1), the SSPX rightly understands that fidelity to the papal magisterium does not consist only in fidelity to the teachings of the current pope. This fidelity is due to the office of the papacy itself, not to the individual that holds it, and the basis of this fidelity is the authority of the apostle Peter, which exists in all holders of the papal office. In the same way, fidelity to the entire college of bishops united under the Pope is based on fidelity to the authority of all the apostles, which is perpetuated in all the bishops throughout the history of the Church acting in unison under the Pope. This authority of Peter and the other apostles is thus present in all the magisterial teachings of the Church, not just in those of the current pope and bishops. Fidelity to the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops thus requires acceptance of all the teachings of all the popes and bishops since the death of the last apostle. On the issues under 1), the SSPX bases its positions on the authoritative and sometimes infallible teachings of papal and conciliar documents such as Quanta Cura, Dei Filius, Mortalium Animos and others. Its’ positions are not peculiar and dubious interpretations of these documents, but the standard interpretations of these teachings, interpretations that were universally accepted at the time that the teachings were promulgated, and that can be seen to be correct from an examination of the discussions and preparations that led to the production of these documents.4

The Society can thus assert that it is following the magisterium of the Church in upholding these positions, and hence that its positions under 1) are not open to any theological objection. If they are not open to theological objection, far less can they form the grounds for any canonical sanction. In order for a theological position to be made the grounds for canonical punishment, it is not enough for it to simply be false. Holding a false theological view is not as such an offence of any kind, as is evident from the disagreements between schools of Catholic theology; at least one side in these disagreements must be in the wrong and hence hold a false view, but such disagreements are a legitimate part of the life of the Church. Even being hard to reconcile with magisterial teaching does not suffice to make a theological position a basis for canonical sanctions. A theological view can only be grounds for canonical punishment if it is a clear and manifest rejection of a magisterial teaching. It is absurd to say that upholding a plausible understanding of magisterial teaching can be such a rejection.

It is thus not possible for Cardinal Koch or other Roman authorities to reject this defense on the basis that these positions have been denied by the Second Vatican Council, and hence that it is no longer permissible to hold them. Such a rejection is incompatible with Benedict XVI’s rejection of a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ for that council, which the Roman authorities are committed to upholding. It does not matter here that the SSPX agrees that the Second Vatican Council denies these earlier teachings; we are not considering the position that the SSPX holds, but the position that Cardinal Koch and other Roman authorities would have to advance in order to make a canonical case against the SSPX. If contradicting earlier magisterial teachings is not a rupture, then nothing is. So if the Second Vatican Council is not to be understood as a rupture with previous teachings, it cannot be said to have contradicted any such teachings, and it is permissible and even obligatory to accept all previous magisterial teachings.

Cardinal Koch could abandon Benedict XVI’s rejection of a hermeneutic of rupture, and claim that the Second Vatican Council did indeed deny these previous teachings and hence that it is not permitted to uphold them. But this position is untenable for two reasons. One reason is that the magisterial documents upon which the SSPX bases its positions are both clearer and more authoritative than the conciliar texts that might be held to contradict them. Another reason is that it has never, in the more than 50 years since the council was opened, been officially stated that its teachings contradict earlier teachings and replace them; and there are many official denials that this is the case, beginning with the conciliar documents themselves. To state in so many words that the council abolished previous magisterial teachings is a radical rejection of the past 50 years of magisterial teaching, and as such cannot be advanced by the Roman authorities.

Some theologians have claimed that the magisterial documents upon which the SSPX base their positions are really practical directives rather than statements of fact, or are statements about the particular historical circumstances that obtained at the time of the promulgation of the documents rather than statements of universal truths. On the basis of this claim, they argue that the SSPX actually falsifies the meaning of these documents, by wrongly holding them to teach universal truths rather than truths that apply only to a specific set of historical circumstances. Although the doctrinal conversations between the SSPX and the Holy See have rather unfortunately been kept secret, one has the impression that this claim is the basis of the case made against the SSPX by the theologians of the Holy See.

There are two points to be made in reply to this claim. The first point is that it cannot serve as an objection to the positions of the SSPX, because the circumstances in which these documents were promulgated are substantially the same as those of today; attacks on the Church and the faith by an aggressive secular liberalism that arises from Enlightenment thought. It has been asserted that these documents did not condemn a more benign form of liberalism that was not at odds with the Church, but only a more hostile form of liberalism. This assertion is not in fact true. This idea of a more benign form of Enlightenment liberalism that could be reconciled with the Church, as opposed to a radical secularism that could not, was the position of the Liberal Catholics of the 19th century. This position was rejected by the 19th century popes, who explicitly targeted it in their encyclicals. But even if it was true, it is hard to see how it is relevant to the positions of the SSPX. The allegedly benign form of liberalism has no representatives in society or governments today, which are dominated by a hostile secularism. It thus follows from the very position of the critics of the SSPX that the doctrines which the Society upholds, at least on religion and society, are the ones that are suited to current circumstances. The Society’s only error would be in holding that these doctrines, since they are universal truths, also apply to other possible circumstances, which do not in fact obtain and have little or no resemblance to the real circumstances. This is not a serious criticism, and is not a reasonable basis for denying canonical status to the Society.

The second point is that the claim is obviously false. The magisterial documents upon which the SSPX base their position proceed by first laying down and teaching fundamental principles that apply universally, and then applying these principles to the concrete situations which the documents address. They clearly enunciate an intention to teach truths that apply everywhere and always, and that are based on the essential attributes of God, man, and the Christian economy of salvation. This is seen, for example, in Leo XIII’s teaching on the religion and the state, which teaches about the essential nature of the state in itself, and in Pius XI’s teaching on ecumenism, which appeals in Mortalium Animos (§6) to these essential attributes of God, man, and the Christian economy. It cannot be claimed that the Second Vatican Council altered these teachings from universal truths into facts that applied only to a particular set of circumstances. That council did not claim and did not possess the power claimed by Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984, the power to change the past. The earlier magisterial documents say what they say, and that cannot be changed.

The actual positions of the SSPX on the content of Catholic teaching, referred to by 1), are thus beyond criticism, and do not violate any canon. As for 2), the SSPX’s claim that the Second Vatican Council taught error on some matters; this claim is not an assertion about faith and morals at all, and does not in itself contradict any magisterial teaching whether infallible or non-infallible. It is simply an assertion that a small proportion of the Church’s fallible teachings did, in fact, fail to be true. This assertion violates no canon or religious obligation at all, and variants of it are commonly held by theologians. Since neither the SSPX’s religious positions nor its claims about the Second Vatican Council are objectionable or subject to canonical penalty, it is unjust to deny canonical regularisation to the Society on the basis of them.

Although the SSPX’s claims about the Second Vatican Council do not justify any penal measures, I believe that there are some criticisms to be made of the Society’s position towards the Council. The Society tends to focus as much on the claim that the council contains errors as on denouncing the errors that it believes the council to contain. This gets priorities wrong. After all, there is no profit in a Catholic’s accepting that the council contains errors without learning what these errors were; whereas a Catholic who learns that the errors taught by the council are to be avoided, but who remains ignorant of the council’s having taught them, greatly benefits thereby – and is not really any the worse for his ignorance of the council’s assertions. The basis for objecting to the council’s having taught errors, after all, is that such teaching leads Catholics to accept these errors. If the Society were to focus on upholding its positive positions on doctrine, it would be in a much stronger position with respect to the Holy See and the Church generally. Rather than being in the position of defending the claim that some conciliar and post-conciliar teachings are false, it would put its opponents on the defensive, by saying “here are these authoritative teachings; all Catholics must accept them”. If its opponents are not to reject the authority of Church teaching altogether, they must either accept these teachings, or else claim that the Second Vatican Council had abolished them and hence accept that the council actually did reject previous teaching. Now that Benedict XVI has officially rejected the latter position, this approach by the Society would eventually force Catholics who intend to be loyal to the magisterium to accept the former.

In addition, the claim that the Second Vatican Council taught error is actually quite hard to maintain if we look closely at the words of these documents. These are often framed in such a vague way that if their meaning is examined strictly, they say very little. The claim that some passages of the conciliar documents logically contradict previous teachings misses the subtlety of the problem they pose. It is almost never totally impossible to give the conciliar documents an orthodox meaning, which makes it possible to dismiss traditionalist criticisms of them as unfounded; but the fact that they naturally suggest heterodox interpretations makes it easy to use them to attack the faith when addressing audiences other than traditionalists. This makes them much more effective tools for subverting Catholic doctrine than would be the case if they plainly contradicted earlier teachings, and thus provoked suspicion and debate. Showing beyond a doubt that the council taught falsehood is thus very hard to do, and attempting to do it falls into the trap that the documents set. Attacking the falsehoods that the council seems to teach, on the other hand, enables the documents to be used in the way suggested above, by forcing one’s opponents to either accept the orthodox doctrine or acknowledge that the conciliar documents reject previous teaching.

The subtlety of the problem is compounded by the fact that the vagueness and ambiguity of the documents are not simply the result of a deliberate strategy of deception on the part of their drafters. Certainly, some of the objectionable passages in the conciliar documents are due to the influence of modernists, who consciously held the heterodox views that the passages suggest and wished to produce an innocuous-sounding text that could later be used to undermine the faith. But sometimes the vagueness and ambiguity existed in the minds of the drafters themselves, and continue to exist in the minds of those who uphold the documents as beyond criticism. This lack of clarity is often due to an aversion to Catholic doctrines or a desire to avoid unpleasant choices between Catholic teaching and worldly beliefs, but it is also influenced by bad educational formation, lack of a natural capacity to think clearly, a love of cloudy high-sounding rhetoric, the wish to be positive and amiable, and other factors that are not in themselves sinful. The problem of getting over this lack of clarity is thus complex and difficult. Approaching it by insisting on the clear earlier teachings is better than trying to seize the jelly of the conciliar texts.

This answers Cardinal Koch’s criticism of the SSPX for rejecting papal and conciliar teachings. His attack on the traditionalist ‘hermeneutic of pure continuity’ can be dealt with more briefly. This attack again trades on vagueness – in this case, the vagueness of the word ‘noticeable’ in the cardinal’s rejection of the alleged traditionalist claim that “only that which is already noticeable in the Tradition can be Catholic doctrine”. Traditionalists take the Catholic position that Catholic doctrine must be present either implicitly or explicitly in Tradition. ‘Noticeable’ does not distinguish between what is implicit and explicit, since it is possible to notice what is implicit. If ‘noticeable’ were to be understood as meaning ‘explicitly present’, it would be false to claim that Catholic doctrine must be noticeable in tradition; but traditionalists do not hold that doctrine must be noticeable in tradition in that sense. If ‘noticeable’ includes ‘implicit’ as well as ‘explicit’, then traditionalists do hold that doctrine must be implicit in tradition; but in so doing, they simply hold the Catholic position. This alleged ‘hermeneutic of pure continuity’ is in any case irrelevant to the traditionalist position on tradition. This position argues that what is already explicit in tradition must continue to be upheld, and that nothing that contradicts what has been explicitly taught can be accepted. It is not concerned with claims that are not explicit in tradition but that do not openly contradict it.

Finally, there is Cardinal Koch’s criticism that it is only the SSPX that does not accept ecumenical dialogue, relations with the Jews and religious liberty. Whether or not others accept the SSPX’s views on these subjects is totally irrelevant to the strength of their arguments, so this criticism does not have much weight. It is somewhat disingenuous of Cardinal Koch to make it, since he knows well why people outside the SSPX are reluctant to publicly endorse the positions of the Society; they fear consequences of the sort that he himself was involved in imposing on the Society, when he recommended that they be denied canonical regularisation for holding them. These sorts of consequences, or worse ones, are the universal result of speaking in favor of the Society’s positions. No seminarian will be ordained, no priest will be made bishop, and no academic will be appointed to a post teaching theology if they are known to agree with the Society on these issues. This policy goes back at least to Paul VI’s removal of Fr. Antonio Piolante as rector of the Lateran University for holding traditionalist views, and has been applied with great thoroughness ever since. So it is natural enough that few Catholics are seen to agree with the Society on these questions.

Despite this policy, however, it is not the case that the SSPX is the only body to reject the positions that Cardinal Koch refers to, and the existence of agreement with their views is worth noting. Here we must distinguish between the SSPX’s position on the content of religious truth, and the SSPX’s claim that the Second Vatican Council contradicted earlier magisterial teachings. There are an enormous number of Catholics, probably a majority of Catholics who consider the question, who think that the council rejected earlier teachings. For example, Fr. John O’Malley S.J., university professor of theology at Georgetown University, recently claimed that it is absurd to hold that the documents of the council are entirely in continuity with Catholic tradition. Fr. O’Malley of course thinks that this is a good thing and the SSPX thinks that this is a bad thing, but they are in entire agreement on the existence of some rejection of previous tradition by the council.

When it comes to the positions on religious truth held by the SSPX, we must also distinguish between the Society’s objections to doctrinal statements and its objections to practical policies. It is very hard to describe, for example, exactly what the position of the Second Vatican Council on ecumenism is. The practical policy that has been implemented since the council is however clear; it is no longer insisted that non-Catholic Christians must submit to the teaching and government of the Roman Catholic Church in order to do God’s will.

On the questions of doctrine, we must distinguish between general statements about doctrinal problems with the Second Vatican Council and agreement with the SSPX’s particular doctrinal positions. The claim that heretics played an important role at the council is not confined to traditionalists. It is made by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen in his The Rhine Flows into the Tiber,the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his memoirs, and Fr. Henri de Lubac in his journals of the council; it is also admitted with commendable frankness by Fr. Hans Kung in his memoirs. The crucial – and sensitive – question concerns the nature of this role; did it lead to the council teaching the views condemned by the SSPX, and are these views in fact contrary to Catholic tradition?

There are voices outside the SSPX that answer ‘yes’ to both these questions. The issue of the teachings of the council has been addressed above, and I will simply note that the SSPX is not alone in making this criticism of the council. Agreement with the positions of the SSPX on religious truth demands more consideration. The negative consequences of agreeing with the SSPX have gravely limited public expressions of agreement with their doctrinal positions; private agreement is hard to measure, but seems to be not uncommon. These consequences have meant that the case for the SSPX’s positions has been made to a great extent by laymen who worked outside of universities. The important figures here are well known to traditionalists: Jean Madiran in France, and Michael Davies in England. Their non-academic status is not a problem for the quality of their work – something that has been recognised in the case of Michael Davies by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who described Davies as a man of deep faith who has left important publications. (One should however mention Fr. Paul Crane S.J., founder and editor of the English traditionalist journal Christian Order, as an exception to this generalisation about lay intellectual leadership in non-SSPX traditionalist circles.)

Despite all the obstacles, however, there are nonetheless significant academic contributions that agree in substance with some or all of the positions of the SSPX on religious truth. The most significant figure here is Msgr. Brunero Gherardini, former professor at the Lateran and editor of the theological journal Divinitas. Msgr. Gherardini has raised serious questions about the continuity of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council in a number of important works, including The Ecumenical Council Vatican II: a Debate To Be Opened. He has expressed his sympathy with the SSPX on a number of issues. Prof. Roberto de Mattei has done the same in his prize-winning book on the Second Vatican Council. The Swiss philosopher Romano Amerio produced a magisterial condemnation of conciliar and post-conciliar deviations in his Iota Unum and Stat Veritas,which largely agreed with the SSPX. The author of this article has argued for the traditional position on religion and the state in his Catholic teaching on religion and the state (and in ‘Pour une interprétation pieuse de Vatican II au sujet de la liberté religieuse‘, which appeared in Divinitas). The English Dominican Fr. Thomas Crean has attacked the common practice of praying with non-Catholic Christians, recommended in the post-conciliar document Ad Totam Ecclesiam, as contrary to divine law, and has attacked the understanding of religious freedom rejected by the SSPX (see his articles ‘Religious Liberty?’ and ‘Praying with Non-Christians – Is It Possible?’ at http://www.christendom-awake.org). Dr. Christopher J. Malloy of the University of Dallas has criticised the ‘Joint Declaration on Justification’ signed by Lutherans and Catholics in 1999, in his Engrafted into Christ: A Critique of the Joint Declaration(Peter Lang, 2005). Fr. Claude Barthe and the writers involved in the French review Catholica have also made very important contributions along the lines of the SSPX positions, which attain a scholarly level in the depth of their research and analysis. To sum up, there are no significant positions on religious truth that are held by the SSPX but not held by other scholars of substance – who, one should note, have not suffered canonical penalties for holding them.

When it comes to the practical policies that the SSPX criticises, no specialist theological expertise is required, and the people who agree with some or all of the Society’s criticisms are too numerous to even attempt to list them. Some of these critics are not even Catholics. To give some examples, the sociologists Roger Finke and Rodney Stark have offered devastating criticisms of the policies of the Church after the council in The Churching of America, 1776-2005.Christopher Ferrara and Thomas E. Woods have attacked these policies in The Great Facade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church,and Kenneth C. Jones has given extensive statistical backing to criticisms of conciliar and post-conciliar policies in his Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church since Vatican II.

Criticisms of the policy on ecumenism are of particular relevance to Cardinal Koch in view of his post as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Since the Second Vatican council embraced a policy of ‘ecumenism’, there has been a greater departure of Catholics for other Christian groups than at any other time in history. In Brazil, for example, a country where 95% of the population was Catholic until the 1960s, Protestantism has grown to 22% of the population, and is projected to reach a majority by 2020. These losses, which run into the scores of millions, dwarf the losses to the Catholic Church in the original Reformation. No greater failure for the promotion of Christian unity can be imagined. These figures evidently do not lead Cardinal Koch to agree with the SSPX in its criticisms of ecumenism, but they should.

Since Cardinal Koch has a responsibility for promoting Christian unity, it is especially disappointing that he should have opposed the canonical regularisation of the SSPX on plainly inadequate grounds. It is to be hoped that he will withdraw this opposition and take positive steps to support this regularisation, which would heal a serious wound to the unity of the Church.

Footnotes
  1. Umberto Betti, “Qualification théologique de la Constitution,” L’Église de Vatican II, vol. 2, Commentaires, ed. Y. Congar (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1967). [back]

  2. J. Ratzinger, “Announcements and Prefatory Notes of Explanation,” in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, vol. 1, ed. H. Vorgrimler (New York: Herder and Herder, 1967). [back]

  3. Avant tout, il s’agit d’une Constitution dogmatique. Ce qui importe, ce n’est pas la denomination de Constitution – qui aurait pu aussi bien être remplacée par d’autres, comme Décret, Bulle, etc., mais la qualification de ‘dogmatique’. Celle-ci indique que le magistère universel a pour tâche comme tel de proposer la doctrine contenue dans la Constitution,” Betti, “Qualification théologique,” in Congar (1967), pp. 214-15. [back]

  4. For the discussion and preparation of the teachings of Gregory XVI and Pius IX on religious freedom, for example, see M. J. Le Guillou and Louis Le Guillou, La condamnation de Lamennais: dossier (Paris: Beauchesne, 1982): G. Martina, ‘Nuovi Documenti sulla genesi del Sillabo‘, in Archivum Historiae Pontificae, 6, 1968; Roger Aubert, ‘L’intervention de Montalembert au congres de Malines en 1863′, Collectanea Mechliniensia 35 (1950); and E. Lecanuet, Montalembert, vol. III: L’Église et le Second Empire, 3rd ed. (Paris: Vve. Ch. Poussielgue, 1905), pp. 374-374. [back]
Dr. John Lamont holds a degree in philosophy from Oxford University and in theology from Ottawa University. He is an honorary fellow in the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology at the Australian Catholic University. Dr. Lamont has taught at the University of Notre Dame Australia and the Catholic Institute of Sydney, where he had the canonical mandate to teach theology from the Sydney Archdiocese.


18 comments:








Quovadis7

said...

Mr. Lamont said:

"It is almost never totally impossible to give the conciliar documents an orthodox meaning, which makes it possible to dismiss traditionalist criticisms of them as unfounded...."

Sections 2 & 3 of Dignitatus Humanae (DH) state that the dignity of human persons gives them the "right to not be impeded" for the PUBLIC expression of their religious beliefs.

I concur with the late Michael Davies and the SSPX that this particular teaching of Vatican II is NOT easily reconcilable with prior traditional teaching of the Church.

Traditional Church teaching has been that no one has the right to propagate error. But, DH teaches that such persons have the right not to be restrained from the public expression of erroneous religious beliefs, i.e. non-Catholic beliefs.

Perhaps this one particular teaching of Vatican II is why Mr. Lamont said it is "almost never totally impossible ..."???

The teaching of Vatican II on religious liberty is most certainly one that is extremely difficult to reconcile with traditional Catholic teaching prior to Vatican II.

Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

Steve B





Anonymous

said...

I doubt if any new pope will be as patient with this sort of dissent as Benedict was.





Jeff

said...

Gosh, there seems to me to be so much wrong with this, it's hard to know where to begin.

I think the fundamental problem is that where a non-infallible teaching is at atake, Catholics submit themselves to the judgment of the Magisterium as to whether a teaching is a legitimate development of the past or an "obvious novelty".

The Magisterium is a LIVING reality from age to age. It's no use pointing to Quanta Cura and saying that submitting to THAT rather than to Vatican Two is submitting to the Magisterium. At any given moment in time, the Magisterium as an office in the Church exercises its authority. THAT is what one submits to.

There are LOTS of apparent conflicts in Scripture and in the history of doctrine. If I don't see how to reconcile God's omniscience with man's free will, I can pick one and make a stand. Or I can say I believe both and trust that there is a way to reconcile them, even if I don't see it.

Most faithful, orthodox Catholics who believe everything that the Church has taught infallibly disagree with the SSPX that what Vatican Two taught on the controverted subjects is irreconcilable with past teachings. Who is right?

WHO GETS TO DECIDE WHO IS RIGHT?

The Living Magisterium of the Church, not the followers of Marcel Lefebvre.

A lot more to be said. But that'll do to go on with.





Charles

said...

Anonymous,

Exactly what doctrines or definitions of the Catholic magisterium are you suggesting that these traditionalists are disputing or rejecting?





Charles

said...

Jeff,

Well OF COURSE the Church "gets to decide" who is right. When bishops like Archbishop Athanasius Schneider are asking for the Pope to issue another "Syllabus" in order to definitively teach what the Church's proper interpretation of Vatican II documents is, however, does this not suggest that there is a deafening silence on the matter from Rome?

So perhaps the question you ask needs to be tossed back at you: in the absence of decisive teaching on the matter from Rome, who "gets to decide" who is right about how to interpret these Vatican II documents? Would you suggest Pope Weigel, as mentioned in a recent post here? Fr. Barron? EWTN? Those are mainstream neo-conservative examples you might be comfortable with, but they are not the Pope either.





Jeff

said...

I think the question is asked and answered, Charles.

The controverted doctrines of Vatican Two are taught by the Magisterium today. When asked to submit to the those documents and doctrines, the SSPX doesn't say, Well, we have a different reading of them, but we submit to whatever the Holy Father teaches. If we are wrong we are wrong.

The SSPX says, We reject certain teachings of Vatican Two. We aren't interested in interpreting them in conformity wit the Popes. We reject them. They are false doctrine.

That's the problem. If only they said, We accept the texts. Let's see how to interpret them in conformity with the previous teachings. AND WE SUBMIT OUR JUDGMENT ON THIS MATTER TO ROME.

That would be all that is required.





Jeff

said...

A legitimate council of the Church, signed by virtually all its bishops and in union with two legitimate Popes, taught outright heresy.

Virtually all the bishops of the world accepted and still accept this council and the practices sanctioned by Church authority as a result of it.

Virtually all the faithful do the same.

All this has been true for about fifty years and shows no signs of changing.

Two popes of the council and three popes after the council have accepted it and taught it, as will--surely--a fourth very soon.

Virtually the entire Church has embraced a liturgical form which is not only less adequate than the old form but hideous and almost blasphemous.

This is how the SSPX sees things. But it seems to me that if I believed all this, I could not but believe that the Church had failed. One could not trust the Church as a living reality. One could not live in it and worship in it.

Not in Diocese X or in Parish Y. Not even in such and such region or so and so country. But worldwide.

I think however hard it is for a faithful Catholic to square the teachings and life of the Church today with that of the past, it is IMPOSSIBLE to accept the SSPX way of looking at things.





I am not Spartacus

said...

The second point is that the claim is obviously false. The magisterial documents upon which the SSPX base their position proceed by first laying down and teaching fundamental principles that apply universally, and then applying these principles to the concrete situations which the documents address. They clearly enunciate an intention to teach truths that apply everywhere and always, and that are based on the essential attributes of God, man, and the Christian economy of salvation. This is seen, for example, in Leo XIII’s teaching on the religion and the state, which teaches about the essential nature of the state in itself, and in Pius XI’s teaching on ecumenism, which appeals in Mortalium Animos (§6) to these essential attributes of God, man, and the Christian economy. It cannot be claimed that the Second Vatican Council altered these teachings from universal truths into facts that applied only to a particular set of circumstances. That council did not claim and did not possess the power claimed by Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984, the power to change the past. The earlier magisterial documents say what they say, and that cannot be changed.

But, as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that is just what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger did; he said such teachings (and others, such as the authoritative decisions taken by the PBC) were tied to a particular time and place and, therefore, no longer applicable.





Kathi

said...

Jeff & Charles,

Who "gets to decide" the meaning of the Vatican II documents?

Apparently, anyone and everyone EXCEPT Traditional Catholics!

Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

Steve B





Charles

said...

Kathi, them words are about as certain as "Rome has spoken, the case is closed"!

Jeff, what does "accept Vatican II" mean? What doctrines does Vatican II teach that were not taught by the entire Magisterial Tradition? What doctrines must the SSPX accept that, say, Pope Pius X would not have accepted because it was not yet magisterially defined?

Not trick questions. Sincerely curious.





Charles

said...

Is "ecumenism" a new doctrine? Is it a "doctrine" at all? Or is it a "programme"? What is it?

What about "freedom of religion" and "freedom of conscience"? Are these "doctrines"? If so, are they new? Didn't Aquinas state that nobody should be coerced to covert to Catholicism? What's new here? Or isn't it a "doctrine"? If not, what is it?





Anonymous

said...

Dear Kathi,
Who are the “Traditional Catholics” to whom you referred.
Donna





Anonymous

said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.




Anonymous

said...

In another thread IANSpartacus wrote “Frankly, we all ought be thanking God that He has not punished the Catholic Church more than He has. And make no mistake about it, we are being punished for the sins of our Fathers.”

Amen.

In the Gospel of Luke the disciples were aboard a boat that was caught in a storm while Jesus slept. They woke Him to tell Him of their fear of drowning. Jesus, as you know, calmed the storm. Of course we no longer have to wake Him but the solution is still to turn to Him.

In Matthew 28 Jesus gives his authority to the disciples and tells them that He will be with them even to the end of the world. I have faith that He (God incarnate) will fulfill that promise. I was one of the many people who faced a spiritual storm as a young woman which caused me to think that the Church of my childhood (raised Catholic) was no longer the same Church. I thought that it had changed. So like many of my peers I left the Church. I was a member of the Lutheran Church (LCMS) for many years. Ever since my return it seems that the storm has not subsided but by God’s grace I plan to stay. I know that I must be in union with the Bishop of Rome. That is bedrock Catholicism. (As an aside here IANSpartacus I always look forward to reading your posts but your post beginning “Is there anyone who can tell me that what Pope Emeritus plans to do could not also be done by him had he remained Pope?” was you at your best.)

In this day and age, for my money the most frustrating of all people are those who are members
of the SSPX or the “Traditionalist” (who ever they are) who verbally side with them. We need them in the Church. I love the Latin Mass too. I believe that it is far superior to the N.O. for many of the same reasons that y’all write about here. I have been reading this blog for years because I believe it to be an oasis in the desert and have from time to time even posted here even though I realize that I’m out of my league when it comes to education and intellectual ability. But here I go again. A few years ago I spent quite a bit of time on the net arguing with SSPX sympathizers attempting to show them the error of their ways. Don’t ya know they always came up with reasons that they had a right to go into schism (even though they argue that they are indeed not in schism, the Pope got it wrong you see.) But the Bishop of Rome has always had the right to say who is and who isn’t in union with him. I don’t know anyone who believes that John Paul II was not a valid Pope so he qualified. Please read the quote I have taken from an unpublished book titled KEYS OVER THE CHRISTIAN WORLD.

“Pope threatening excommunication if a Bishop consecrates another Bishop without authority

When Pope Innocent died in March 417, his successor, Zosimus, made a major change in the Church in Gaul. On March 22, he wrote to the bishops of Gaul, granting extraordinary privileges to Patroclus, bishop of Arles. “It has pleased the Apostolic See,” the pope wrote, that clerics of any rank coming to Rome from Gaul must have litterae formatae, canonical letters of recognition from Patroclus, otherwise they “absolutely cannot be received by us.” The pope added that he had informed all quarters of this order, “so that all regions may realize that what we establish is altogether to be observed,” warning: “if anybody attempts to violate these beneficially established constitutions, let him know that, of his own volition he is separated from our communion.” [PL 20: 642-3]”

Donna continued in next post





Anonymous

said...

As I see it, it isn’t only the bad Shepherds who are causing this turmoil. I believe that we have met another enemy and it is us.

Quoting St. John Eudes:
“The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict on the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. Instead of nourishing those committed to their care, they rend and devour them brutally. Instead of leading their people to God, they drag Christian souls into hell in their train. Instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they are its innocuous poison and its murky darkness. When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, ‘Return, O ye revolting children... and I will give you pastors according to My own heart’ [Jer. 3:12-15]. Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge visited upon the people in consequence of sin.”
We are told the remedy to this dreadful problem in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Jesus isn’t asleep me thinks He may be waiting for us.
As for the members of the SSPX who have rolled up their collective sleeves to try to fix it themselves, I thought that I’d add just one more quote in this already too long post.

Although C.S. Lewis never converted to Catholicism he did have some wisdom to impart. Consider:

"The Devil always sends errors into the world in pairs - pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them." Mere Christianity

Donna





Anonymous

said...

A thousand pardons for posting the first part of my two part message twice. I posted it all at once at first but received a message that posts could be only “x” characters long. I had no idea that the first part was posted. My other excuse is that I posted it around 1 or 1:30 A.M. :) .
Donna





Pertinacious Papist

said...

Not to worry, Donna. I always appreciate hearing from you, a fellow convert, and value your comments. Moreover, as I spend a couple of decades teaching at a nominally Lutheran (ELCA) university in NC, I feel a certain kinship with you as a convert from a Lutheran background, even if it is not my own.





Anonymous

said...

Thank you very much Dr. Blosser.

I always tell people that I read my way back home to Rome. In my case Cardinal Newman was correct that “To be deep in history is to cease to be a protestant”. The topics I read were Church History the Early Church Fathers and the works of a few apologists. I read very little philosophy. The other night I did a little reading about phenomenology. I understand that that philosophy led many, including Edith Stein to Catholicism. I’m curious; do you number among those Catholics?

Donna