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.

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