Monday, August 3, 2009

The Summons To Vatican II & The Unity Of The Church

In kicking off what is sure to be a mammoth series on the Second Vatican Council, I will begin at the "sort of" beginning. The conciliar summons, Ad Petri Cathedram, was issued by Blessed John XXIII back on June 29, 1959. Fifty years ago this June. Long time, yes?

Originally, I wasn't going to start here, but after seeing the Rorate Caeli treatment of the subject, I changed my mind. For a bit of a primer, I also invite readers to check out our prior run of posts on Blessed John.

Now that that's out of the way, let's hit a few of the high points that a lot of the "spiritists" of Vatican II either intentionally forget or never knew about in the first place.

As We have said, it is possible for us to attain natural truth by virtue of our intellects. But all cannot do this easily; often their efforts will result in a mixture of truth and error. This is particularly the case in matters of religion and sound morals. Moreover, we cannot possibly attain those truths which exceed the capacity of nature and the grasp of reason, unless God enlightens and inspires us. This is why the word of God, "who dwells in light inaccessible,"in His great love took pity on man's plight, "became flesh and dwelt among us,"that He might "enlighten every man who cometh into the world"and lead him not only to full and perfect truth, but to virtue and eternal happiness. All men, therefore, are bound to accept the teaching of the gospel. For if this is rejected, the very foundations of truth, goodness, and civilization are endangered.

A couple of things present themselves here. First, we see the natural/supernatural distinction that so many have sought to blur and the Pius XII tried to protect in Humani Generis. Second, we have Pope John presenting the Gospel as the last, best hope for the world, and no hope of grasping God's Truth without God's grace.

It is clear that We are discussing a serious matter, with which our eternal salvation is very intimately connected. Some men, as the Apostle of the Gentiles warns us, are "ever learning yet never attaining knowledge of the truth." They contend that the human mind can discover no truth that is certain or sure; they reject the truths revealed by God and necessary for our eternal salvation.

Such men have strayed pathetically far from the teaching of Christ . . .

Anyone who consciously and wantonly attacks known truth, who arms himself with falsehood in his speech, his writings, or his conduct in order to attract and win over less learned men and to shape the inexperienced and impressionable minds of the young to his own way of thinking, takes advantage of the inexperience and innocence of others and engages in an altogether despicable business.

This last paragraph is a good synopsis of why Fr. Jenkins and the President should have been roundly condemned for their speeches at ND.

Some men, indeed do not attack the truth wilfully, but work in heedless disregard of it. They act as though God had given us intellects for some purpose other than the pursuit and attainment of truth. This mistaken sort of action leads directly to that absurd proposition: one religion is just as good as another, for there is no distinction here between truth and falsehood. "This attitude," to quote Pope Leo again, "is directed to the destruction of all religions, but particularly the Catholic faith, which cannot be placed on a level with other religions without serious injustice, since it alone is true." Moreover, to contend that there is nothing to choose between contradictories and among contraries can lead only to this fatal conclusion: a reluctance to accept any religion either in theory or practice.

How can God, who is truth, approve or tolerate the indifference, neglect, and sloth of those who attach no importance to matters on which our eternal salvation depends; who attach no importance to pursuit and attainment of necessary truths, or to the offering of that proper worship which is owed to God alone?

When folks start rambling about Pope John as the Prince of Ecumenists rather than as the Vicar Christ, introduce them to the above quote. I've been challenged many times to produce the source of the statement and been met with complete shock upon doing so. It's amazing that such a basic tenet of the Faith could cause such a reaction and for no other reason than heretics have constructed a fake Blessed John for the world to admire.

The next few bits of the encyclical go through some social justice themes, ranging from harmony in the home to peace on Earth. Of course, all of these things are tied to the acceptance and practice of the Gospel. Having discussed unity across these other realms, he then turns his pen to the unity of religion. What sort of unity might that be?

When the Divine Redeemer founded His Church, there is no doubt that He made firm unity its cornerstone and one of its essential attributes. Had He not done this—and it is absurd even to make such a suggestion—He would have founded a transient thing, which in time, at least, would destroy itself. For in just this way have nearly all philosophies risen from among the vagaries of human opinion: one after another, they come into being, they evolve, they are forgotten. But this clearly cannot be the history of a divine teaching authority founded by Jesus Christ, "the way, the truth, and the life."

But this unity, Venerable Brethren and beloved sons, must be solid, firm and sure, not transient, uncertain, or unstable. Though there is no such unity in other Christian communities, all who look carefully can see that it is present in the Catholic Church.

Take note. Unity already exists. It is the Catholic Church alone that possesses it. There is no "convergence of religions" or "meta-Christianity" Frankenstein Monster to be forged by cobbling together Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and whoever else into some of of syncretist fantasy. This is probably even more strongly worded than Cardinal Ratzinger's words in Dominus Iesus. Yet how much wailing and gnashing of teeth did we hear on that one? Weeks worth.

Yet Pope John's words are forgotten. He doesn't even stop there.

Indeed, the Catholic Church is set apart and distinguished by these three characteristics: unity of doctrine, unity of organization, unity of worship. This unity is so conspicuous that by it all men can find and recognize the Catholic Church.

It is the will of God, the Church's founder, that all the sheep should eventually gather into this one fold, under the guidance of one shepherd. All God's children are summoned to their father's only home, and its cornerstone is Peter. All men should work together like brothers to become part of this single kingdom of God; for the citizens of that kingdom are united in peace and harmony on earth that they might enjoy eternal happiness some day in heaven.

That's right. He just told everyone separated from the Holy See that they are defying the will of God by remaining in such a state. Note also that it's "this single kingdom of God." There aren't any others lurking in the bushes out there.

The Catholic Church teaches the necessity of believing firmly and faithfully all that God has revealed. . .

Whenever a man has wandered from this path, the Church has never failed to use her maternal authority to call him again and again to the right road. She knows well that there is no other truth than the one truth she treasures; that there can be no "truths" in contradiction of it. Thus she repeats and bears witness to the words of the Apostle: "For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth."

The Catholic Church, of course, leaves many questions open to the discussion of theologians. She does this to the extent that matters are not absolutely certain. Far from jeopardizing the Church's unity, controversies, as a noted English author, John Henry Cardinal Newman, has remarked, can actually pave the way for its attainment. For discussion can lead to fuller and deeper understanding of religious truths; when one idea strikes against another, there may be a spark.

Note that dissent is only for those things open for discussion. Pope John is nice enough to tell us what things aren't open for discussion, namely, that which is "contained in sacred scripture and in the oral and written tradition that has come down through the centuries from the apostolic age and finds expression in the ordinances and definitions of the popes and legitimate Ecumenical Councils."

This makes me wonder what Blessed John's reputation would be these days if he had written Humanae Vitae, rather than Pope Paul.

At this point, Pope John turns his full attention to the non-Catholics of the world. Ask yourself what would happen if Pope Benedict wrote something like this. Especially consider what your own priest, bishop, and/or fellow Catholics might say:

We address Ourselves now to all of you who are separated from this Apostolic See. May this wonderful Spectacle of unity, by which the Catholic Church is set apart and distinguished, as well as the prayers and entreaties with which she begs God for unity, stir your hearts and awaken you to what is really in your best interest.

May We, in fond anticipation, address you as sons and brethren? May We hope with a father's love for your return?

When We fondly call you to the unity of the Church, please observe that We are not inviting you to a strange home, but to your own, to the abode of your forefathers. Permit Us, then, to long for you all "in the heart of Christ Jesus," and to exhort you all to be mindful of your forefathers who "preached God's word to you; contemplate the happy issue of the life they lived, and imitate their faith."

There is in paradise a glorious legion of Saints who have passed to heaven from your people. By the example of their lives they seem to summon you to union with this Apostolic See with which your Christian community was beneficially united for so many centuries. You are summoned especially by those Saints who in their writings perpetuated and explained with admirable accuracy the teachings of Jesus Christ.

We address, then, as brethren all who are separated from Us, using the words of Saint Augustine: "Whether they wish it or not, they are our brethren. They cease to be our brethren only when they stop saying 'Our Father.'" . . .

The peace, then, which we must seek, which we must strive to achieve with all the means at our disposal, must—as We have said—make no concessions to error, must compromise in no way with proponents of falsehood; it must make no concessions to vice; it must discourage all discord. Those who adhere to this peace must be ready to renounce their own interests and advantages for the sake of truth and justice, according to the words: "Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice."

The only ecumenism ever envisioned by Pope John was the return of those separated to Rome and the Successor of Peter. No compromise. None.

Finally, I add this last bit because I think there is some Caritas in Veritate foreshadowing:

There is never any need, therefore, to turn to proponents of doctrines condemned by the Church; for they only draw men on with false promises and when they obtain control of the state, try boldly and unscrupulously to deprive men of their supreme spiritual goods—the Christian commandments, Christian hope, and Christian faith. Those who adhere to the doctrines these men propose, minimize or eliminate all that our present age and our modern civilization hold dearest: true liberty and the authentic dignity of the human person. Thus they attempt to destroy the bases of Christianity and civilization.

All, therefore, who wish to remain Christians must be aware of their serious obligation to avoid those false principles, which Our predecessors—especially Popes Pius XI and Pius XII—have condemned in the past, and which We condemn once again.

We know that many of Our children who live in want or great misfortune often protest that the social teachings of Christianity have not yet been fully put into practice. Private citizens, and more particularly public officials, must take steps to see that the Christian social doctrine which Our predecessors have often clearly and wisely taught and decreed, and which we have confirmed, is really given full effect. Although this will have to be done gradually, no time should be wasted.

Pretty neat, I think. If you want some other references to Church unity, check out Pope Leo XIII's Satis Cognitum. Ad Petri Cathedram quotes Pope Leo about 8 times, I think, so Blessed John seems to have thought highly of him, and since he freaking rules anyway, you should give it a look.

Anyways, we're going to go through the other precursors to Vatican II, as well as the comments of its contemporary witnesses. We'll hit all 16 documents and take a close examination of what each says and doesn't say, as well as what it actually means in light of the footnotes and other Church teachings. Please join us and tell us where we're wrong.


Grant said...

I look forward to reading this.

Throwback said...

I hope I do not disappoint.