Monday, September 1, 2008

Vatican II Made Some Dogmatic Definitions (allegedly)

Anybody know what those might have been?

Yeah, me neither.

I bring this up because Patrick Keyes, C.Ss.R., mentioned it in his "Dear Padre" response in my parish's Liguori bulletin today. The question was "Was Vatican II a good thing?"

Fr. Keyes responds by first saying that, in the past, folks who questioned councils or criticized authoritative decrees were promoting schism. He then uses this as a reason why people who criticize Vatican II are "on shaky ground."

Two bits of weirdness immediately jump out here. First, why were folks who did these things only promoting schism "in the past"? Schism is schism. It's a sin against charity and one of the worst things a person can do. The attached historical qualifier has no place.

The second issue here is, of course, the fact that he's completely and totally wrong. If it wasn't for people criticizing the nothing that came out of Lateran V, we wouldn't have had Trent. If I criticize or question the Council of Basle/Florence as a failure, does that make me schismatic? Last time I checked, the Orthodox were still in real, pope-rejecting schism, so it seems pretty clear that it failed in its intended purpose. Anyways, the whole line of reasoning that criticizing a council = schism is nonsensical. Just because something happens via ecumenical council doesn't mean it's going to be an automatic positive result.

Fr. Keyes then drops the line that Vatican II gave us "dogmatic definitions." It's a shame that nobody told these guys about those newly defined dogmas.

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 Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciences in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. 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.

Blessed John XXIII

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 backed by the Church's infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility.

Pope Paul VI

I know what you're thinking. Three of the Vatican II documents are captioned as "dogmatic." That's nice. The problem is that, regardless of the label, the Vicars of Christ who have chimed in have said that the council did not exercise the charism of the Extraordinary Magisterium. Of course, this is a bad idea for anybody who wants to promote Vatican II as this great agent of change in Church teaching. After all, if there was no exercise of the Extraordinary Magisterium, then we're left with the old teachings still standing firm, as they always have. Try reading the footnotes to Vatican II sometime and see if the documents being referenced in any way resemble what you normally here about the Council. You'll probably be surprised.

And if anyone is wondering what Pope Benedict thinks of all the "dogmatic definitions" that came out of VII, here's his shpiel from when he was just plain old Cardinal Ratzinger:

Certainly there is a mentality of narrow views that isolates Vatican II and which provoked this opposition. There are many accounts of it, which give the impression that from Vatican II onward, everything has been changed, and what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II... The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council.

And in case that wasn't clear enough:

Some descriptions give the impression that everything was different after Vatican II, and that nothing that came before it could still be considered relevant, or could be relevant only in the light of Vatican II. Vatican II is not treated as a part of the greater living tradition of the Church, but as a totally new beginning. Even though it did not issue a single dogma and wanted to be considered a humble pastoral Council, some recount it as though it had been a kind of superdogma which makes everything else irrelevant.

Yet somehow, we still have this idea floating around out there that VII has all these magic dogmas that escaped the attention of even the popes. Weird. The post-conciliar chaos will never be over with until folks like this are able to start being honest about what VII said and why it said them the way that it did (ambiguity brought about through a hierarchical hijacking).


Alexander said...

Interesting to note is the fact that my friend’s liturgy of the hours (forget the publisher) is filled with citations of Vatican II and nothing else. It almost seems like the publisher is implicitly trying to say that Vatican II is a the Super Council of all councils.

I mean referencing Vatican II where it makes some great statements is nice but I always run into articles or something that cites it and only it like nothing else exists.

Aneas said...

Oh man this post rocks. Also, the progressive fathers at Vatican II were disdainful of doctrinal and dogmatic statements because they represented the "cramped" thinking of the pre-conciliar Church. They were too "legalistic" and "juridical." Vatican II wanted to avoid the path of previous Councils, which makes it unique and remarkable.

Aneas said...

Oh man this post rocks. The progressive fathers at Vatican II (who ended up carrying the majority) disdained doctrinal and dogmatic statements, and wanted to avoid them. To them, dogmatic and doctrinal statements were part of the Church's "cramped" pre-conciliar attitude and mode of thinking. Dogmatic/doctrinal statements were viewed as too "legalistic" and "juridical." Hence the Second Vatican Council avoided the characteristic of previous Councils in that it made NO dogmatic or doctrinal definition, making it unique and remarkable.