29 October 2008

What Does This Mean?

I understand the title of this article from CNA. I just don't understand the content. What, exactly, is the context of the Holy Father's words? What are the "fundamental tenets of Vatican II" and what constitutes the "vast doctrinal patrimony" of the Council?

I am not trying to be a provocateur, but am trying to ask a few sincere questions.

For if the fundamental tenets of Vatican II are not easy to define, then doesn't that somehow help explain why the "spirit" of Vatican II liturgical and doctrinal revolutionists got away with so much destruction and denudation? The Holy Father made it quite clear that the documents of the Council had to be analyzed with the "hermeneutic of continuity" and not an "hermeneutic of rupture".

Otherwise, why would we be "debtors" to the Council, as opposed to "creditors"? Therefore, the fundamental tenets of the Council would have to be the reiteration of constant Church teaching without novelty, yet perhaps with a new energetic approach to the dissemination of these teachings. Is this right? I know that many Catholics, clergy and lay, have not taken this approach.

Furthermore, if the Council was pastoral and did not issue a single solemn definition, how is it a vast doctrinal patrimony? What does this mean?

We are used to seeing these kinds of stories from time to time, about the vibrancy of Council, or the beneficial effects of the Council's "reforms", or other such. Because there is usually no specificity to these claims, I usually get the impression they are just polite words to smooth over hard feelings against the Holy Father's moves to reintroduce traditional doctrinal and liturgical formulae as he has done.

But I think it is legitimate to want some specificity, not only to try to implement the Council's intent, assuming it is ascertainable, but also to provide a ready defense against those who would try to challenge the Council's validity or goodness, as some mistakenly do.

So, I ask for help-- what are the fundamental tenets of the Council, and what is the vast doctrinal patrimony?


Fr. Andrew said...

Two drive-by comments...

We are used to seeing these kinds of stories from time to time, about the vibrancy of Council, or the beneficial effects of the Council's "reforms", or other such. The words "deadline" and "self-justification" as well as "advertising dollars," come to mind.

what is the vast doctrinal patrimony? While certainly not vast, nor necessarily defining, were not Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum doctrinal/dogmatic?

Off to teach confirmation...

Father G said...

more like victims of Vatican II...

Gerard said...

I'm afraid that until the Holy Father starts to defend Catholic teaching by directly and clearly condemning progressive errors and misinterpretations of the Council, I'm going to be skeptical of any value in the documents of Vatican II.

It doesn't matter how much tradition he allows, until that part of tradition that guards the deposit of faith by using "severity" against liberal error is applied, there will be no "continuity."

Anonymous said...

The questions you raise show me that you are not right path. Keep going down this path, the path of Truth and Tradition and honesty, and you will understand, I believe.

I asked the same questions about 10 years ago, and came to the conclusion that the Vatican II Council was not good, was not holy, was not compatible with certain dogmas of the Faith, and that those who uphold and promote the teachings of the Vatican II Council are not entirely men of good will. They are confliced, compromised.

But that is a hard conclusion for most people. So I suggest that they study and follow the facts and evidence and Truth where it leads them, bearing in mind always that the Glory of God and the salvation of souls are the most important things. The honor, glory and reputation of popes and bishops are not the most important things.


thetimman said...

Tom, I disagree. A faithful Catholic must find a way to reconcile the documents of Vatican II or any other council with the constant Tradition of the Church. That is a necessity, or else the Church would not be indefectible, and thus could teach error--the guarantee of Christ that the Holy Ghost would remain with the Church and that the gates of hell would not prevail would be false. Impossible.

I agree that the fact that it is difficult at times to reconcile the docs with that tradition is one of the problems of the council, but reconciled they must be.

I had the opportunity to talk with a priest reader today and he had some good points to make. I hope he will comment here.

The council did not call for the liturgical revolution we got. It did not call for the cessation of catechesis of our faithful that resulted. Clearly, many used the council for bad purposes and distorted it.

My questions tended to the issue of whether the Council did nothing much, or it did do something. I want to know what that something is that develops the doctrine of the faith and does not compromise it.

Anonymous said...


About two or three years ago I attended a talk at the St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis given by Monsignor R. Michael Schmitz, who is a leader in the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, one of the leading orders of priests dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass.

In this talk, Monsignor Schmitz constantly refered to the "crisis in the Church." But despite all the times he used the phrase "crisis in the Church," he never defined what the crisis was exactly, or what was causing this crisis.

But he left no doubt that there was a crisis IN the Church, in the very heart of the Church. He clearly was not talking about persecution of the Church or hostitly to the Church from outside the Church. He clearly was not just talking about bad liturgy.

I have noticed that many others in the Church, especially in "traditional" or "traditionalist" circles, are now using the term "crisis."

I have concluded that the "crisis" was caused by nothing other than the Vatican II Council, and the "crisis" continues because the reforms instituted in accordance with the Vatican II Council have not yet been disposed of.

I agree that it is NOT easy to understand the chaos, confusion and harm in the Church that followed the Vatican II Council. It is hard to see who popes and bishops could be responsible for all this mess. I believe it takes YEARS of reading, study, reflection and prayer to begin to understand the Vatican II Council and the reforms and new practrices and policies and theologies that followed it.

I don't think every Catholic should take the time to understand all this. The important things for all Catholics are personal holiness and gaining eternal life after life in this world.
But some feel compelled to gain an understanding of the "crisis" in the Church.

I just offer a few thoughts that I think are key to this matter:

1. PASTORAL COUNCIL. Vatican II Council was a pastoral council. Pope Paul VI proclaimed this repeatedly. As a pastoral council, every one of the changes it introduced could be utterly set aside by the Church's leaders. In the future, the Vatican II Council could be utterly forgotten, and just many church Councils are essentially forgotten and never discussed.

Church Councils that newly define dogmas are different, and cannot be set aside, of course.

Catholics are allowed to conclude that the Vatican II Council was harmful. As a merely pastoral council, its innovations do not come with an absolute Holy Spirit guarantee of goodness. So saying that the Vatican II Council was harmful does not bear on the indefectibility of the Church.

But, saying that the Vatican II Council was harmful DOES harm the reputations of the popes and bishops who promoted the innovations of that Council. That is why the Vatican II Council innovations will probably not be swept away until the popes and bishops whose reputations stand or fall with Vatican II Council have themselves been swept away by the march of Time and the Will of God.

2. WHOM DO YOU WORSHIP? The Christian Faith is about the worship of the Triune God. The old religion of the Roman Empire was about worship of the Roman emperor. We do not worship our popes, even though they sometimes seem like Roman emperors. They are not gods or demi-gods. They are men. They sin. They sin in the domains of pride, envy, vainglory, and all the rest.

The Scriptures clearly say: "ALL men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Popes are not exempt from that. Jesus is the real, ultimate Head of the Church. He, Jesus, is our Lord.

The pope is merely a servant. He may be a good servant, a bad servant, a so-so servant. As the temporal head of the Church, popes are offered aid from the Holy Spirit--but they can sin and refuse that aid. The guarantee of infallibility of the pope applies, ultimately, in very narrow circumstances and situations (mainly, when a dogma is to be defined) that have not come into play since the papacy of Pope Pius XII.

Many Catholics however seem to give very LITTLE thought about the Triune God, and are constantly talking about what the pope has done or said.

The situation SHOULD be the reverse. We should give very LITTLE thought about what popes do and say, and should be constantly talking about what Jesus has said and done, and what he is doing. God is NOT dead !!! Jesus lives !!! He is our Lord and Savior !!!

Jesus said: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away." But, mark my word, the words of popes and bishops WILL pass away.

Why? Because they are not gods or demi-gods. The writings of popes are not anything like Holy Scripture, the are not the Word of God.

I'm not saying that we should utterly ignore the pope and his writings. I'm just calling for the focus to be where it should be: ON GOD.

This focus has been necessary in all times in the Church. But it is especially necessary now, in this Vatican II Renewal Period, when the popes and bishops do not seem to be solid, or clear, or strong, or even fully faithful.

3. THE RENEWAL. I recommend that Catholics not focus so particularly and exclusively on the documents issued by pope and bishops in the Vatican II Council.

Rather, think of it this way: THE VATICAN II RENEWAL MOVEMENT. Think of the Council as launching a reform movement. This reform movement has come to called the "Renewal." But they are using the term "renewal" to mean the same thing as "reform" or "reformation."

This Vatican II Renewal Movement consists of all the changes already made that have received papal approval, or which were issued by a pope, or which no pope has moved effectively to stop or quash. In other words, it is more useful and accurate to talk about the "Vatican II Renewal Movement," rather than the "Vatican II Council."

Don't waste time trying to separate the Council from what followed the Council. How can you? The pope approved the New Mass, and approved nearly everything else that happened. The pope approved communion in the hand. The pope approved nuns no longer wearing the religious habits. The very same bishops that voted on the Vatican II documents then went back to their dioceses to implement the policies and doctrines in those documents. How could the bishops be right and righteous in the Council and then wrong and unrighteous back home? Plus, the pope knew what the bishops were doing back in their home dioceses, and supervised everything.

The "Movement" continued on for years after the Council, and the Movement is actually ongoing still, and will continue to go on until the pope or a Council says it done. The Council itself callled for "continuous reformation" of the Church. The "Movement" of reform launched by the Council did not end in 1965 when all the bishops left Rome and went home. The "Movement" did not end when the New Mass was imposed on the whole Church around 1970.

The "Movement" continues to this day. For this reason, many bishops who are firmly attached to the "Movement" are vigorously opposed to the Traditional Latin Mass and to the document issued by Cardinal Ratzinger called "Dominus Iesus" (which comes very close to restating traditional doctrine on the Church). They see these things as being inconsistent with the Vatican II Renewal Movement. In fact, they are inconsistent. Much more could be said, but there's not time now.

4. A KEY PART OF THE SOLUTION: I recall that Monsignor Schmitz also said, with a smile, "We [he meant his order of priests] will not save the Church. Rather, the Church will save us." That puzzled me somewhat. He did not explain what he meant by this. But I think we can also say, truly, that Benedict XVI will not save the Church. Rather, the Church will save Benedict XVI. Is that shocking, outrageous? Well, is Benedict XVI a god? Is he God? Of course not. What is he then? He is a human being. Then does he not need to be saved by Christ just as you and I do? Of course. My point is that I think it is crucial that he STOP looking to our pope as our savior, as the savior of the Church. If we do that, we will ALWAYS end up disappointed and disappointed, maybe even shocked and scandalized.

But, if we see that JESUS CHRIST is our SAVIOR, we will always find absolute security and uncompromised Truth, and, salvation. The Church in a mysterious way IS Christ, and so Christ through the Church saves people. But the popes and the bishops are not God or gods. They remain humans and sinners despite their offices. They need our prayers.

But the main solution is to simply STOP paying so much attention to popes and bishops, even if they seem to want us to constantly listen to them and watch what they do.

Rather, do what the HOLY BIBLE and the Church Father exhort us to do: FOCUS YOU WHOLE HEART, MIND, SOUL AND STRENGTH ON THE TRIUNE GOD.

When someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, what did He answer? He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matt. 22:34-36)

We can and must do that, whether our popes and bishops are good, or bad, or so-so. Our salvation depends on it.

I know many people badly want a living human to follow, be devoted to, be a fan of, and to think of as savior. I feel that need too. But I say: Resist that impulse.

Rather, look to Heaven, where you true Savior is. Look to the Holy Eucharist--the Real Presence--there is your true Savior. Look to the Holy Cross--there is your real Savior. Look to the Holy Bible--it is the VERY WORD OF GOD.



P.S. I wrote this in the hope that it would help someone. But if it did not help, but only hurt, then forgive me and pray for me. Amen.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that the Catholic Church either as individual Catholics or collectively is "endebted" to Vatican II and its documents and its teachings. Rather, we should consider the last 40 years coming in large measure from the directives of Vatican II and Vatican II Popes as a disaster, from which it will take 100 years to gradually repudiate and recover from.
The beginnings of such repudiation are already manifesting themselves in the wave of younger religious priests,nuns, and faithful who seek to return to the true traditions and disiplines and ancient forms and expressions of Catholicism wrecklessly discarded in the wake of Vatican II as part of an enbrideled enthusiasm and repudiation of the Church's history and past and embracing a radical ecumenism which has nearly destroyed the Church.
The next Pope will be a product of, rathern than a participant in, the disasters of Vatican II. Perhaps as one who did not directly participate in the disaster, his eyes will be more open to the wreckage it caused, rather than to the dubious positive results it produced.

Alison said...

To me it would be hard to know what the Holy Father meant without reading the actual text of the letter referenced in the article.

I have been a more than just a little suspicious of Vatican II. I have read many of the documents over the last couple of decades.
A couple of things about Vatican II have suprised me in the last month. First, I did not know that the Council added the footnotes and they are considered part of the documents. Those footnotes make the document less ambigious and so far what would be in line with Tradition as they reference the Church Fathers.

Another thing which has caused me to study the documents closer (I am currently taking a class on Vatican II) is what Archbishop Chaput had to say about the document in his new book "Render Unto Caesar" and other sources. Archbishop Chaput does see the Council documents as a gift and one of the "great graces of God to Catholics in the 20th Century." He sees the impact on the laity as huge. I have certainly been re-examining the Council's influence on our duties in public life and also other areas of the Church. I can't say all my suspicions are resolved but I would be interested to read the full text of Pope Benedict's letter.

Anonymous said...

The following is a final writing that I sent one of the bloggers in the Rorate Caeli blogspot after a series of messages and counter-messages from both sides, the purpose of which was my position that VII documents, in spite of two of them called “dogmatic”, do not contain any new dogmas and consequently we are not obliged to accept their contents. I am enclosing same for your consideration, in case that you deem it suitable for being published.

“In the final analysis what VII documents say or do not say is totally irrelevant to the average catholic layman.
If you make an enquiry among catholic faithful you may be surprised to find out that close to 95% or upwards have not read VII documents, the papal encyclicals or the Regional Latin American Conferences various documents, and I think they cannot be blamed. These last documents are ecclesiastical bureaucratic meetings that make a series of recommendations that none of them are going to comply with.
With respect to VII documents they are heavy reading, full of pompous ecclesiastical language and self complimentary remarks by the bishops, that tend to turn off the reader. I myself have had trouble reading them, and have only browsed them over to find the objectionable paragraphs, but have easily became bored by the circuitous wording, tautological remarks and numerous roundabouts about the subject of a given chapter.
The legacy of VII, that is, the fruits of the Council, is what matters, and I will try to make a list that is non-exhaustive, of the baneful effects of this event in the life of the Church, caused by the immediate implementation of the Council accords, when it wasn’t even finished, as if the bishops were in a hurry to remake the Church.
1- The first and foremost damage made by this wretched event is the desacralization of the Mass. The Tridentine Mass was de facto abolished after the Council without taking into account the faithful, as if we did not exist, or were not “the people of God”. What we found all of a sudden is that they turned around the altars, eliminated Latin, and changed the text of the Mass.
With the familiarity of the use of the common or vulgar language (vulgus=people), the informal use of celebrating Mass, the permission to receive communion standing and the elimination of railings to separate the presbiterium from the faithful, the sense of sacrality was lost and now people queu up for communion without confession, because a number of them think it is a memorial meal and not the body and blood of our Lord.
2- Secondly, the laicization of the clergy and religious orders, in order to “update” them according to the “signs of the times”. Religious were authorized to wear civilian clothes and permitted to leave convent premises alone, when formerly they had to be accompanied by another priest.
This originated a massive exodus first of the clergy, and then by the laity, who followed suit because they were disappointed by the conciliar reforms and looked elsewhere, especially in protestantism for refuge. In any event protestant cult became more palatable for former catholics, especially with the infiltration of Episcopalian practices, such as the singing and dancing of the Renewal Movement.
3-The laxity of Church discipline resulted in an ambient of permissiveness that led to experimentation with profane customs and mores. So the clergy was permitted to read books that were previously placed in the Index and taught communist ideology, such as Liberation Theology, who disseminated communist ideas in Catholic though. It also resulted in an infiltration of homosexuality (or an increase of it) into the clergy to the point that nowadays it is estimated that the percentage of homosexuals inside the Church, particularly AmChurch, is upwards of 50%. A derivative of this phenomenon is the abominable aberration of pederasty.
4-Last and not least is the loss of authority of the Pope, as a consequence of the concept of Collegiality contemplated in LG, and the independence of the particular Episcopal Conferences, that manage their respective churches as separate entities of the Catholic Church, going as far as to defy the Holy See if its directives do not suit them. The refusal to make use of papal authority, to admonish, condemn or excommunicate heretics inside the Church, has reduced the papacy to a decorative role and given lieuway to a host of abuses. The various Episcopal bodies have also been contaminated by the spirit of VII and follow the Pope’s example by also refusing to execute their authority with some of the faithful gone awry.

The present situation of the Catholic Church saddens me and causes me grief to contemplate what is left of her former beauty. As I yearn to discern a sign of change in the downward path that it experiments nowadays, I am turned off by attitudes from Church authorities, including the Pope. That is why I react harshly and express my feelings openly in frustration.
I think that the future of the Church lies in the Traditional Movement, that seeks to restore her to her former splendor.
The SSPX fraternity, although in a de facto schism (because it has not been declared officially so), has been a stalwart of the Traditional Movement.
When the PCED gave in to its exigency of celebrating exclusively the Tridentine Rite, they made and additional requisite: that SSPX recognize the VII documents.
Bishop Fellay responded by saying it was no problem, provided that those were interpreted in the light of Tradition. Of course, they refused to comply because the word Tradition is anathema in the Roman Curia.
Contrary to what you expressed in past exchanges, SSPX is not treated charitably by its counterparts in the French Church, neither in other countries; they are hated openly, as if they were the scum of the earth.
I expect that in spite of the harshness of past exchanges (from both parts) there remains no animosity on your part, as there remains none on me.”