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.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Is Vatican II infallible? (Part 3 of 6)

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

How do we determine whether Vatican II defined anything infallibly? –-It would be explicit. The authority of the doctrinal statements is to be interpreted according to the usual theological norms. What is binding in Faith and Morals is what is declared as such.

The Announcement written by the Secretary General of the Council, Cardinal Pericle Felici, that precedes the Preliminary Explanatory Note (known as the Nota praevia) to Lumen gentium says:

Taking into account conciliar custom and the pastoral aim of the present council, this holy synod defines as binding on the Church only those matters of faith and morals which it openly declares to be such. The other matters which the synod puts forward as the teaching of the supreme Magisterium of the Church, each and every member of the faithful should accept and embrace according to the mind of the Synod itself, which is clear either from the subject matter or the way in which it is said, in accordance with the rules of theological interpretation.

Hence, if there are any extraordinary pronouncements, they will be explicitly declared as such. Everything else falls under the scope of the ordinary Magisterium.

See Also:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Is Vatican II infallible? (Part 2 of 6)

A post submitted by Fr. 'Romanus'.

Was Vatican II, like the Sedevacantists say, an invalid Council? –No. Vatican II was a true Ecumenical Council, the 21st in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Vatican II was a true Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church, Approved, Decreed, and Established by Apostolic (i.e., Papal) Authority:

Paul, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God, together with the Fathers of the Sacred Council for everlasting memory. (Pope Paul VI’s opening words to Dei Verbum.)

Cf. the following:

Eugene, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. (Pope Eugene IV’s opening words to the 9th Session of the Council of Florence)
Julius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. (Pope Julius II’s opening words to the 3rd Session of the 5th Lateran Council.)
Pius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. (Bl. Pope Pius IX’s opening words to the 1st Session of the First Vatican Council.)

Vatican II was truly an ecumenical council in the sense that all the conciliar teachings were ratified by the Fathers present:

Each and every one of the things set forth in this decree has won the consent of the fathers. We too, by the Apostolic Authority conferred on us by Christ, join with the venerable Fathers in approving, decreeing, and establishing these things in the Holy Spirit, and we direct that what has thus been enacted in Synod be published to God’s glory…I, Paul, Bishop of the Catholic Church.

Its mandates are to be Religiously Observed by Catholics:

At last all which regards the holy Ecumenical Council has, with the help of God, been accomplished and all the constitutions, decrees, declarations, and votes have been approved by the deliberation of the Synod and promulgated by us. Therefore, we decided to close for all intents and purposes, with our Apostolic Authority, this same Ecumenical Council called by our predecessor, Pope John XXIII, which opened October 11, 1962, and which was continued by us after his death. We decide moreover that all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed by all the faithful, for the glory of God and the dignity of the Church… we have approved and established these things, decreeing that the present letters are and remain stable and valid, and are to have legal effectiveness, so that they be disseminated and obtain full and complete effect, and so that they may be fully convalidated by those whom they concern or may concern now and in the future; and so that, as it be judged and described, all efforts contrary to these things by whoever or whatever authority, knowingly or in ignorance, be invalid and worthless from now on. Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, under the [seal of the] ring of the fisherman, December 8… the year 1965, the third year of our Pontificate.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Is Vatican II infallible? (Part 1 of 6)

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

Quaeritur: Is Vatican 2 Infallible?

Respondeo per partes: That’s one of the most crucial issues that traditionalists press in the face of the “neo-conservatives” who accuse them of being heretics for siding with pre-conciliar doctrines when there is an (apparent) contradiction between Vatican II teaching and pre-conciliar popes. Let's break down the issue into several questions (dealt with in different posts).

Is everything that is stated in an ecumenical council necessarily infallible? –No. Doctrines are taught infallibly only when they are:

(a) Defined by the Extraordinary Magisterium as a doctrine that is "to be held" (tenenda) or "to be believed" (credenda) definitively by all the faithful,

(b1) Pronounced by the Ordinary Magisterium as a doctrine that is "to be held" (tenenda) definitively by all the faithful, or

(b2) Taught by the Ordinary Magisterium in consonance with previous Magisterial teaching.

Let me explain. The Magisterium of the Church has two functions, called the “extraordinary Magisterium” and the “ordinary Magisterium”:

a. The “Extraordinary Magisterium” includes the teachings of a pope when he is speaking ex cathedra, and the solemn dogmatic or moral definitions and doctrinal condemnations of an ecumenical council (traditionally expressed in conciliar canons and decrees).

b. The “ordinary Magisterium” includes the group of papal and episcopal teachings that are not ratified by a solemn definition, even if these teachings take place within the context of an ecumenical council.

Now, both ordinary and extraordinary functions of the Magisterium are infallible:

“Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed (credenda) as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal Magisterium.” (First Vatican Council, Dei Filius 8.)

However, the criteria for the infallibility of these two functions of the Magisterium are different.

a. Any individual dogmatic definition made by the extraordinary Magisterium is by itself infallible.

b. In contrast, for a certain doctrine of the ordinary Magisterium to be infallible, one of two things must obtain:

(b.1) it must be either a doctrine that is "to be held" (tenenda) definitively and universally by all the faithful--e.g., John Paul II's non-ex-cathedra pronouncement that women cannot receive the sacrament of orders and that this teaching is to be held: "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." (Declaramus Ecclesiam facultatem nullatenus habere ordinationem sacerdotalem mulieribus conferendi, hancque sententiam ab omnibus Ecclesiae fidelibus esse definitive tenendam.)

(b.2) or it must have been taught repeatedly, consistently, and unanimously by the pope and/or the bishops in communion with him.

A priest from the SSPX expressed this last point nicely (although I don’t necessarily agree with everything else he says in the book):

The infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, whether of the Universal Church or of the See of Rome, is not that of a judgment, nor that of an act to be considered in isolation, as if it could itself provide all the light necessary for it to be clearly seen. It is that of the guarantee bestowed on a doctrine by the simultaneous or continuous convergence of a plurality of affirmations or explanations; none of which could bring positive certitude if it were taken by itself alone. (Fr. Paul Nau, "Pope or Church?" p.18)

So, in short we have three possibilities for infallible magisterial teachings:

(a) The Extraordinary Magisterium solemnly defines a doctrine as one that is "to be believed" (credenda) or "to be held" (tenenda) by all the faithful.

(b.1) The Ordinary Magisterium teaches a doctrine as "to be held" (tenenda) by the faithful.

(b.2) The Ordinary Magisterium has always taught a certain doctrine consistently.

Given these principles, we can now ask, is everything within a council infallible?

In short, no. Councils can contain doctrines that are not: (a) officially defined (Extraordinary Magisterium), nor (b.1) taught as "to be held" (Ordinary Magisterium), nor (b.2) taught in consonance with previous unanimous teaching (Ordinary Magisterium). Obviously, conciliar canons and decrees, which officially and ex professo define doctrine and condemn errors, are infallible and irreformable because they fulfill (a). However, canons and decrees are a very slim portion of the proceedings of any council. For example, the proceedings of Trent occupy shelves after shelves of volumes, whereas its decrees and canons occupy only a few hundred pages. Thus, these parts of conciliar documents do not fulfill (a) or (b.1). But still, normally the conciliar doctrine that lies outside of the canons and decrees—that is, outside of extraordinary pronouncements—is itself part of a broad and unanimous consensus among the different popes, councils, sacred congregations, bishops, etc., and hence fulfills condition (b.2) for infallibility. This is normally the case. (However, Vatican II presents a problem and possibly an exception to all three possibilities—see part no. 5).

See Also: