Saturday, April 15, 2006

Is Vatican II infallible? (Appendix 2)


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A post by Don Paco.


Quaeritur: In part 6 you said that if you cannot reconcile the new (e.g. Vatican II) doctrine with the old, you said, "I simply suspend judgment on the new teaching and hold firmly to the old. So I don’t deny the new, but simply remain in aporia (state of puzzlement)." Why do you give a special preference to the old in this situation? Why wouldn't you simply suspend judgment on the old teaching and hold firmly to the new, not denying the old, but simply remaining in aporia (state of puzzlement)?

Respondeo: I take this interpretive approach (and I want to be clear and say that it is my approach, and I do not intend to speak for any of the other contributors to this blog), not out of a blind prejudice against the new, but simply because the old is generally clearer.

For example, Trent teaches that Protestants (viz., those who deny the Real Presence, the Sacraments in general, justification through works, etc.) are anathema or excommunicated and therefore are not part of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. On the other hand, there is Vatican II's Lumen gentium, which seems to say that Protestants are somehow part of the Church and to possess some degree of communion with the Mystical Body.

So in this case I understand very plainly what Trent teaches (infallibly, I might add), but I'm not sure what Vatican II is trying to say (which, whatever it may be, is not de fide). So what I do is hold fast to what I do know, and simply suspend judgment on what I don't understand, until I understand it.

And let me remark that this is not some sort of universal rule of theological interpretation, but simply my own personal way of dealing with it. In fact, traditional Catholic theology does not, to the best of my knowledge, have a way of dealing with contradictory, or apparently contradictory, ecclesiastical documents--because, as a rule, that just didn't happen in the past! So this way of dealing with (apparent) contradictions that I have come up with is my best shot at trying both to be faithful to the teaching of the Church and to avoid assent to contradictory propositions. If anyone suggest a better approach I will gladly take it up.

See also:


6 comments:

Br. Alexis Bugnolo said...

I think you can find a rule on the interpretation of unclear ecclesiastical documents in Autorem Fidei, and thus you need not rely upon your own personal rule. Infact, I would caution against using any personal rule as a reflex principle for the interpretatino of anything, let alone Church documents. Better, in the absence of a rule given by Church authority, hypotheticallly, to revert to a rule of interpretation given by, Aristotle, or one of the Doctors of the Church.

Anonymous said...

What constitutes the Universal Ordinary Magisterium (this concept is thrown around like no other in traditional circles, and I have yet to see it given a real definition)? According to the Dogmatic Theology Manuals, is not the Ordinary Universal Magisterium infallible? If these are answered, maybe I could ask a few more questions pertaining to these issues that are far from settled in my mind?...thanks

Francisco Romero-Carrasquillo said...

You will find clear and definitive answers to all these questions in the traditional Latin Scholatic manuals of Sacred Theology. Here's a typical answer (this one specifically is taken from the Sacrae Theologiae Summa, by the Patres Societatis Iesu in Hispania Professores, ca. 1950):

"The extraordinary magisterium is the manner in which the Bishops, united in a Council under the Roman Pontiff, exercise their teaching office.

The ordinary magisterium is the manner in which the Bishops, persevering in communion with the Roman Pontiff, dispersed throughout the world in their Dioceses, exercise their teaching office."

Both are infallible, i.e., both have the CAPACITY to teach infallibly (not just according to the Manuals, but according to the dogmatic definition of Vatican I). Now, obviously, not everything that occurs in the context of a reunion of Bishops is infallible. The key is that they must all intend to bind the faithful to believe or hold what is taught. If there is no such intent, then the charism of infallibility is not exercized. That is how it was possible for the Fathers of Vatican II to say that they did not intend to define any new doctrines or to bind the faithful in faith; rather, they said, everything in the council must be accepted with a religious submission of mind and will.

Francisco Romero-Carrasquillo said...

Br. Alexis,

Your correction is well taken. I will investigate that document further.

Best,
-FJR.

Anonymous said...

So let me see if I have this straight…we have both the extraordinary magisterium and the universal ordinary magisterium, both, which you say have the "capacity" to teach infallible. As far as I understand it, the
A.) Extraordinary Magisterium can give solemn pronouncements by ecumenical councils, or by the popes speaking "ex cathedra".
B.) Universal Ordinary Magisterium is exercised when the whole Episcopate (the totality of Bishops is infallible when they, either assembled in general council or scattered over the earth, propose a teaching of faith or morals as one to be held by the faithful) is united and teaching.

From this follows the Church's infallibility breaking into a twofold division:

a.) Primary Object: Church's infallibility is the formally revealed truths of Christian Doctrine concerning faith and morals.

b.) Secondary Object: Church's infallibility is truths of the Christian teaching on faith and morals, which are not formally revealed, but which are closely connected with the teaching of Revelation. Included in this secondary object of infallibility is:

1. Theological conclusions
2. Dogmatic facts
3. The general discipline of the
Church
4. Approval of religious orders
5. Canonization of saints
It has been repeated continually that the Second Vatican Council kept “to a modest level” and therefore restrained itself from making any solemn pronouncements (which, as has been always taught, takes place by a pope speaking ex cathedra or through an ecumenical council). This I grant, and Paul VI said that this was his intent. Where things get a little tricky is where we talk about the Universal Ordinary Magisterium. You said, “Now, obviously, not everything that occurs in the context of a reunion of Bishops is infallible.” This I also understand, but only to the point where they (the bishops) are not called to a general or ecumenical council or are teaching scattered throughout the world (which can be determined from prayer books, catechism, and other sources as such which Dr. Ott explains). I understand that the Bishops posses “magisterial “power when they speak, but it is not infallible until certain “objective criteria” are met. If , lets say six bishops, are all teaching something, and the “reason” (lets say sufficient reason) is that they read some book that was issued by some theologian or what not, they clearly are not speaking as the Ordinary Universal Magisterium. They are not making the teaching “binding” on all the faithful. As far as I understand it, the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is something that manifests itself as a culminating point which the only sufficient reason for it, is that the bishops united with the pope intend to “bind” the faithful to believing it.
This brings me to my next point, you said, “If there is no such intent, then the charism of infallibility is not exercised. That is how it was possible for the Fathers of Vatican II to say that they did not intend to define any new doctrines or to bind the faithful in faith; rather, they said, everything in the council must be accepted with a religious submission of mind and will.” Just granting the fact that this is what the council Fathers of Vatican II have said (and I am not sure at ALL that is what they meant…you are giving your interpretation to it which, as I’m sure you know, is not the only interpretation) and meant, and I can grant it, because it has no real connection on what I am saying, or rather asking for clarification on this matter. And now after a lot of babbling, I’ll get to the issue…This is where the whole crux of the problem is for me… granting that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not intend to define any new doctrines (if you mean solemn pronouncements, I agree, but if you mean no new doctrine period , I’m not sure on that from the simple fact that I have read the text and pre-Vatican II documents…they might not of intended it but it sure seems as if they did change some teachings) or bind the faithful by a dogma or propose something that belonged to ecclesiastical faith, or even a truth of divine faith. None the less, the objective criteria for recognizing if the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is teaching, was represented by the assembly of an ecumenical council. Granting, once again, what you are saying about the faithful needing to accept the teaching of this council with religious submission of mind and will (which in a sense is “binding” because the faithful are subject to some measure issuing from the Magisterium directed to ALL the faithful)l, IT DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACT THAT THE COUNCIL WAS A MANIFESTITION OF THE UNIVERSAL ORINDARY MAGISTERUM OF THE CHURCH AND THERFORE INFALLIBLE.
This is where the whole issue boils down for me. One last thing that seems to me completely fallacious is the procedure that is employed by many traditionalists (FSSP, SSPX and some indult people for sure) to determine when the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is teaching, because everyone knows that the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is infallible, and therefore the faithful want to know when it teaches, which is reasonable to say the least. But if we are going to look at texts of Vatican II and “official” concilar documents and find in them doctrine that is at odds with what went before it (and can anyone with a straight face say that they have not done this…or at least with Fr. Harrison done back flips trying to explain the doctrine to settle their consciences?), we OUGHT NOT employ the principle that what cannot be reconciled with what came before simply has to be “suspended” and wait until it is explained in a traditional manner (and I also heard of the objection that we cannot know for sure what they say, because there are not real “theologians” – the criteria laid down by Pius IX and explained by Fr. Reginald-Maria Schultes OP, in his “Apologetic Lectures on the Catholic Church” teaching what a resume would look like to fit the official theologian chair and recognized by the Church, which is pretty enormous considering that according to Pius IX, we must believe those teachings of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium held by theologians to belong to faith – and we need real theologians to explain the doctrine…a simply refutation of that objection is that we have the POPE and all “official” Vatican offices (Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for instance?) which explain in “official” concilar documents what they intend for us to understand about a particular text…one cannot go back to infinity with each document saying, “ well this explanation seems to be at odds with what the traditional teaching is so I’ll just wait until another document comes out and another and another and another, until finally something looks orthodox and one hangs on it tooth and nail). I think this is the method used by the SSPX and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. What does this principle do? Well, when it is put into effect, it MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO RECOGINZE THE ORINDARY UNIVERAL MAGESTIRUM “LEGITMATELY”. I say “legitimately”, because they recognize it all right, because they keep it in their back pocket the whole time. The argument always runs something like this: Everyone knows that the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is infallible, so when what appears as the Ordinary Universal Magisterium (because it fulfills certain criteria) teaches something that is contrary to what the Church has always taught it cannot be the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, because everyone knows that the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is infallible and cannot teach error…this is fallacious because it is completely circular…ONE NEEDS TO FIND OBJECTIVE CRITERIA BY WHICH TO IDENTIFY THE ORINDARY UNIVERASAL MAGISTERIUM BESIDES THE ORDINARY UNIVERASL MAGEISTERUM.
I know this is short and all over the place, but it is what my poor head has come up with. Although, it might be walking into the den of say a Fr. Cekada or Bishop Sanborn, it is what I have come to resulting in the rejection of the camps of FSSP and SSPX which I would have considered myself not long ago (More FSSP). I hope for a friendly interaction on this issue and not name calling, which, unfortunately is not uncommon with traditionalists (I’ve been called some names by SSPXers that, since I’m from New York, would not feel comfortable whispering them to someone in Central Park). Thanks for posting my message…great blog on the side of philosophy! More Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange talk!

Anonymous said...

So let me see if I have this straight…we have both the extraordinary magisterium and the universal ordinary magisterium, both, which you say have the "capacity" to teach infallible. As far as I understand it, the
A.) Extraordinary Magisterium can give solemn pronouncements by ecumenical councils, or by the popes speaking "ex cathedra".
B.) Universal Ordinary Magisterium is exercised when the whole Episcopate (the totality of Bishops is infallible when they, either assembled in general council or scattered over the earth, propose a teaching of faith or morals as one to be held by the faithful) is united and teaching.

From this follows the Church's infallibility breaking into a twofold division:

a.) Primary Object: Church's infallibility is the formally revealed truths of Christian Doctrine concerning faith and morals.

b.) Secondary Object: Church's infallibility is truths of the Christian teaching on faith and morals, which are not formally revealed, but which are closely connected with the teaching of Revelation. Included in this secondary object of infallibility is:

1. Theological conclusions
2. Dogmatic facts
3. The general discipline of the
Church
4. Approval of religious orders
5. Canonization of saints
It has been repeated continually that the Second Vatican Council kept “to a modest level” and therefore restrained itself from making any solemn pronouncements (which, as has been always taught, takes place by a pope speaking ex cathedra or through an ecumenical council). This I grant, and Paul VI said that this was his intent. Where things get a little tricky is where we talk about the Universal Ordinary Magisterium. You said, “Now, obviously, not everything that occurs in the context of a reunion of Bishops is infallible.” This I also understand, but only to the point where they (the bishops) are not called to a general or ecumenical council or are teaching scattered throughout the world (which can be determined from prayer books, catechism, and other sources as such which Dr. Ott explains). I understand that the Bishops posses “magisterial “power when they speak, but it is not infallible until certain “objective criteria” are met. If , lets say six bishops, are all teaching something, and the “reason” (lets say sufficient reason) is that they read some book that was issued by some theologian or what not, they clearly are not speaking as the Ordinary Universal Magisterium. They are not making the teaching “binding” on all the faithful. As far as I understand it, the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is something that manifests itself as a culminating point which the only sufficient reason for it, is that the bishops united with the pope intend to “bind” the faithful to believing it.
This brings me to my next point, you said, “If there is no such intent, then the charism of infallibility is not exercised. That is how it was possible for the Fathers of Vatican II to say that they did not intend to define any new doctrines or to bind the faithful in faith; rather, they said, everything in the council must be accepted with a religious submission of mind and will.” Just granting the fact that this is what the council Fathers of Vatican II have said (and I am not sure at ALL that is what they meant…you are giving your interpretation to it which, as I’m sure you know, is not the only interpretation) and meant, and I can grant it, because it has no real connection on what I am saying, or rather asking for clarification on this matter. And now after a lot of babbling, I’ll get to the issue…This is where the whole crux of the problem is for me… granting that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not intend to define any new doctrines (if you mean solemn pronouncements, I agree, but if you mean no new doctrine period , I’m not sure on that from the simple fact that I have read the text and pre-Vatican II documents…they might not of intended it but it sure seems as if they did change some teachings) or bind the faithful by a dogma or propose something that belonged to ecclesiastical faith, or even a truth of divine faith. None the less, the objective criteria for recognizing if the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is teaching, was represented by the assembly of an ecumenical council. Granting, once again, what you are saying about the faithful needing to accept the teaching of this council with religious submission of mind and will (which in a sense is “binding” because the faithful are subject to some measure issuing from the Magisterium directed to ALL the faithful)l, IT DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACT THAT THE COUNCIL WAS A MANIFESTITION OF THE UNIVERSAL ORINDARY MAGISTERUM OF THE CHURCH AND THERFORE INFALLIBLE.
This is where the whole issue boils down for me. One last thing that seems to me completely fallacious is the procedure that is employed by many traditionalists (FSSP, SSPX and some indult people for sure) to determine when the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is teaching, because everyone knows that the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is infallible, and therefore the faithful want to know when it teaches, which is reasonable to say the least. But if we are going to look at texts of Vatican II and “official” concilar documents and find in them doctrine that is at odds with what went before it (and can anyone with a straight face say that they have not done this…or at least with Fr. Harrison done back flips trying to explain the doctrine to settle their consciences?), we OUGHT NOT employ the principle that what cannot be reconciled with what came before simply has to be “suspended” and wait until it is explained in a traditional manner (and I also heard of the objection that we cannot know for sure what they say, because there are not real “theologians” – the criteria laid down by Pius IX and explained by Fr. Reginald-Maria Schultes OP, in his “Apologetic Lectures on the Catholic Church” teaching what a resume would look like to fit the official theologian chair and recognized by the Church, which is pretty enormous considering that according to Pius IX, we must believe those teachings of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium held by theologians to belong to faith – and we need real theologians to explain the doctrine…a simply refutation of that objection is that we have the POPE and all “official” Vatican offices (Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for instance?) which explain in “official” concilar documents what they intend for us to understand about a particular text…one cannot go back to infinity with each document saying, “ well this explanation seems to be at odds with what the traditional teaching is so I’ll just wait until another document comes out and another and another and another, until finally something looks orthodox and one hangs on it tooth and nail). I think this is the method used by the SSPX and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. What does this principle do? Well, when it is put into effect, it MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO RECOGINZE THE ORINDARY UNIVERAL MAGESTIRUM “LEGITMATELY”. I say “legitimately”, because they recognize it all right, because they keep it in their back pocket the whole time. The argument always runs something like this: Everyone knows that the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is infallible, so when what appears as the Ordinary Universal Magisterium (because it fulfills certain criteria) teaches something that is contrary to what the Church has always taught it cannot be the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, because everyone knows that the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is infallible and cannot teach error…this is fallacious because it is completely circular…ONE NEEDS TO FIND OBJECTIVE CRITERIA BY WHICH TO IDENTIFY THE ORINDARY UNIVERASAL MAGISTERIUM BESIDES THE ORDINARY UNIVERASL MAGEISTERUM.
I know this is short and all over the place, but it is what my poor head has come up with. Although, it might be walking into the den of say a Fr. Cekada or Bishop Sanborn, it is what I have come to resulting in the rejection of the camps of FSSP and SSPX which I would have considered myself not long ago (More FSSP). I hope for a friendly interaction on this issue and not name calling, which, unfortunately is not uncommon with traditionalists (I’ve been called some names by SSPXers that, since I’m from New York, would not feel comfortable whispering them to someone in Central Park). Thanks for posting my message…great blog on the side of philosophy! More Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange talk!