Little catechism of the Second Vatican Council (Part One)
by Fr. Pierre-Marie, O.P.
Dominican in Avrillé
From Le Sel de la terre 93, Summer 2015
Vatican II is not a council like the others. This council, which was held in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in four sessions from 1962 until 1965 under the pontificates of Popes John XIII (1958-1963) and Paul VI (1963-1978), was the occasion, if not the principal cause, of the gravest crisis the Church has known in its history.
The studies concerning this council are numerous, but often voluminous and very technical. We have thought that it would be useful to provide for Catholics of good will a relatively short text, explaining what Vatican II declared and what is unacceptable for Catholics who want to remain faithful to the traditional infallible teaching of the Church.
After a brief introduction on the authority of the council, we will briefly analyze each of the 16 documents, presenting them in a thematic order.
The authority of the Second Vatican Council
What is an ecumenical council?
An ecumenical council is an assembly of bishops of the entire world convoked by the pope, who conducts its meetings (called “sessions”), whether directly or via legates, and who approves the texts, so that they have a binding value for the whole Church. There have been in the history of the Church twenty ecumenical councils since the Council of Nicaea in 325 until the First Vatican Council in 1870.
Is Vatican II a council like the others?
Vatican II is an atypical council because the popes who convoked and conducted it, John XXIII and Paul VI, declared that it was not a dogmatic council, like all the preceding councils, but a pastoral council. In other words, its aim was not to define doctrine against errors, but to perform an updating (aggiornamento) of this doctrine to adapt it to the thinking of our contemporaries.
Does Vatican II contain infallible teachings?
Here again, differently than all the preceding ecumenical councils, the Second Vatican Council does not contain any infallible teaching. For a council to be infallible, it must pronounce solemn judgments, which this council refused to do.
Even if it is not infallible, can it not be admitted that Vatican II was assisted by the Holy Ghost?
Our Lord Jesus Christ promised the assistance of the Holy Ghost for the transmission of Revelation: “the Paraclete the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and suggest unto you all things whatsoever I shall say to you.” (Jn 14:26) [Rheims version].
But, without renouncing the transmission of Revelation, the Council proposed the aggiornamento of the Church, i.e., its adaptation to the modern world, notably by introducing into the Church “the best expressed values of two centuries of ‘liberal’ culture”1, and by working to “smooth the way toward unity of mankind.”2.
Why cannot the Holy Ghost aid the Church in acquiring the values of liberal culture, once purified and corrected3?
Liberalism is an error condemned by two centuries of teaching from the Magisterium of the Church. Such a condemnation is infallible in virtue of the Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Church.
As the Holy Ghost cannot contradict Himself, He cannot assist the council fathers in making these values of liberalism enter into the Church.
Why cannot the Holy Ghost aid the Church in working toward the unity of mankind?
The Church was founded to save souls and unite them to Our Lord Jesus Christ. In so doing, the Church works indirectly for peace, propagating charity in souls: “Seek therefore first the Kingdom of God, and the justice of him [the union to Our Lord Jesus Christ by grace]: and all these things [including peace] shall be given you besides.” (Mt. 6:33) [Rheims version].
But today Freemasonry seeks to reshape the unity of mankind (“globalism”) by human means and by positively excluding Our Lord Jesus Christ in virtue of “secularism”.
As was especially seen after the Council (with the secularization of the States and inter-religious meetings), the men of the Church collaborate in this work by means of religious liberty, ecumenism, and inter-religious dialogue. The Holy Ghost cannot assist the Church in working toward an end that is not Her own.
(To be continued)
- Cardinal Ratzinger, interview with the monthly Jesus, November 1984, p. 72: “The problem with the 1960s was to acquire the best expressed values of two centuries of ‘liberal’ culture. There are values that, even if they are born outside of the Church, can find their place—purified and corrected—in its vision of the world. This is what was done.” The cardinal only specifies what the Council itself said: “This council, first of all, wishes to assess in this light [of the faith] those values which are most highly prized today and to relate them to their divine source. Insofar as they stem from endowments conferred by God on man, these values are exceedingly good. Yet they are often wrenched from their rightful function by the taint in man’s heart, and hence stand in need of purification.” (GS 11,2) [www.vatican.va translation].
- John XXIII, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11 October 1962, DC 1383 (4 November 1962): “While it [the Council] focuses the Church’s chief energies and earnestly strives to have people accept more favorably the message of salvation, it is, as it were, preparing and consolidating the path that can bring about that unity of the human race” [Komonchak translation §20].
- Cardinal Ratzinger, interview with the monthly Jesus, November 1984, p. 72.