Thursday, March 30, 2006

Is Vatican II infallible? (Part 4 of 6)

A post by Fr. 'Romanus' (edited by Don Paco).

Did Vatican II claim to make any solemn definitions on doctrine or morals? –No. It made it clear that it wished not to make any extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements.

None of the teachings at Vatican II fulfilled requirement (a) for infallibility. In other words, the council was not an act of the infallible extraordinary Magisterium. Neither was anything officially declared "to be held" (requirement b.1).

It was explicitly announced many times at Vatican II that this council was to be predominately “pastoral” in character and, though it would treat of doctrine, it would not do so in a dogmatic mode, but rather aimed at a new style of presentation. (Note, however, that “pastoral” and “doctrinal” should not be too sharply opposed in general, since all doctrinal statements are pastoral, feeding the flock with truth that will save their souls. Disciplinary measures can be based on doctrine—veneration of icons, liturgy, etc.). For example, Pope John XXIII opened the Council by saying:

The salient point of this Council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. For this a Council was not necessary. But from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council…The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a Magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character. (John XXIII, Opening Speech at Vatican II, Oct. 11, 1962)

Not only would there not be any new dogmatic definitions; there would not even be condemnations of errors:

[O]ften errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations. (Ibid.)

Paul VI confirmed the “pastoral” and non-dogmatic nature of the Council at the close of the Synod:

There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification the Council intended to give to its teachings, knowing that it avoided 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. (Paul VI, “General Audience of January 12, 1966” in Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol.4, p. 700.)

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