Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Is Vatican II infallible? (Part 5 of 6)

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

What kind of assent do we owe to Vatican II? –Only the “religious submission of mind and will” (assensus religiosus), and not the adherence of faith (fides divina vel ecclesiastica).

As shown in pt. 4, the Council did not teach anything to be held or believed definitively; therefore, it does not demand the adherence of faith to any of its doctrines. However, we must note that, contrary to the opinion of many, it is an error to say, according to the proposition condemned by Bl. Pope Pius IX, that:

The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church. (Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, Tuas libenter, Dec. 21, 1863; cf. Denzinger, ed. 36, no. 2879)

Pius XI further explains:

[Christ] has constituted the Church the guardian and the teacher of the whole of the truth concerning religion and moral conduct; to her therefore should the faithful show obedience and subject their minds and hearts so as to be kept unharmed and free from error and moral corruption, and so that they shall not deprive themselves of that assistance given by God with such liberal bounty, they ought to show this due obedience not only when the Church defines something with solemn judgment, but also, in proper proportion, when by the constitutions and decrees of the Holy See, opinions are prescribed and condemned as dangerous or distorted. (Casti connubii, 103)

Thus, on the one hand, we must believe what is taught infallibly with fides divina or fides ecclesiastica, that is, with the full adherence of the theological virtue of faith; on the other hand, we must hold even those things that are not infallible with an assensus religiosus, that is, with a “religious assent of mind and will”:

The faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops’ decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated. (Lumen gentium 25)

In other words, the argument is the following. We owe the assent of faith only to officially defined dogma. And here the Magisterium is telling us that we owe assensus religiosus to non-defined doctrine. But the council, in its entirety, falls under non-defined doctrine (as stated above). Thus, we owe to it, in its entirety, only assensus religiosus, rather than the assent of faith, which we owe to dogmatic decisions.

Now, note the following. It is true that only the failing to assent with fides divina to a binding doctrine makes you a heretic and that failing to assent with assensus religiosus to a non-infallible teaching does not. The latter might not take you outside the Church, but it is still a sin; a mortal one, actually, because anything pertaining to the faith is grave matter. So non-infallible teachings are not to be taken lightly.

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