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The Real Second Vatican Council

December 1, 2018 Featured Today No Comments

By JOHN YOUNG

Since the Second Vatican Council, which concluded in 1965, the Catholic Church has been plagued with doctrinal confusion, rebellion, and an increased degree of moral corruption. The Council itself, some Catholics claim, is the main cause of this disastrous situation.
It is alleged that ambiguous language in the documents of the Council, inserted there through the efforts of modernist bishops and theologians, constituted a time bomb that would explode in the following years, leading to confusion and heresy.
I believe, on the contrary, that the confusion following the Council would have been avoided had the explicit teachings and instructions in the Vatican II documents been followed after the Council.
The documents themselves contain the necessary safeguards against the troubles that erupted later.
For example, take what the Council said about the necessity of belonging to the Catholic Church. “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved” (Constitution on the Church, n. 14).
The Decree on Ecumenism, which is sometimes criticized as watering down the uniqueness of the Catholic Church, in reality, insists on that uniqueness (see, among other passages, n. 3). Referring to the need for unity, the decree states: “we believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose….” (n. 4). The document recognizes the truth and goodness that are found outside the Catholic Church, but sees them as existing in their fullness within the Church.
The Declaration on Religious Freedom has been strongly criticized for allegedly promoting a bogus freedom leading to indifferentism. It is charged with defending a freedom to believe what you like, effectively putting the Catholic Church on a level with all other religious beliefs.
That is a complete misunderstanding, as is clear from the reference I’ve given above from the Decree on Ecumenism. And the Declaration on Religious Freedom, having asserted that the “one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church” (n. 1), goes on to explain the nature of the freedom that the declaration defends.
“Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore, it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies towards the true religion and towards the one Church of Christ.”
The words, “immunity from coercion in civil society,” specify what the document is about: guarding against intervention by governments and social groups in the citizens’ religious practices. The declaration does not defend complete freedom in this regard, but specifies that it is to be “within due limits” (n. 2).
Vatican II is blamed for the liturgical chaos so prevalent since the Council. But the liturgical changes called for by the Council are quite moderate, and the abuses and disobedience so prevalent today are ruled out in advance by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
“Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Catholic Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and as laws may determine, on the Bishop” (n. 22). It continues: “therefore, no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”
Had those directions been followed everywhere the current liturgical abuses could never have occurred!
The doctrinal authority of the Church is set out clearly in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 25. The various ways in which the Church exercises her infallibility are outlined. Also, the Constitution speaks of the religious submission of mind and will that must be shown to the Pope’s teachings, even when he is not speaking infallibly.
Had the Council’s directives here been followed, the doctrinal upheavals plaguing the Church for the past half-century would have been impossible. There would have been no questioning of doctrines taught infallibly — and there are a great many of these, despite assertions to the contrary — while teachings that are authoritative, although falling short of infallibility, would have been accepted and not attacked.
Since Vatican II many Catholic Scripture scholars have proposed erroneous interpretations of Scripture, ignoring what the Constitution on Divine Revelation lays down. “But the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (n. 10).
This confusion, likewise, would have been avoided had the directives of Vatican II been followed, instead of being flouted.
Regarding philosophy, the Decree on Priestly Training states that the philosophy taught in seminaries is to rely on “a philosophical patrimony which is perennially valid” (n. 15), which refers to the philosophy of which St. Thomas Aquinas is the greatest Master.
Regarding sacred theology, the decree states that students are to study these questions “under the guidance of St. Thomas” (n. 16), and the importance of this is stressed in a footnote.
The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity emphasizes the need for a holy and informed laity who will spread the faith. Among other requirements is this: “In addition to spiritual formation, a solid doctrinal instruction in theology, ethics, and philosophy adjusted to differences of age, status, and natural talents, is required” (n. 29).
Imagine how things would be today if that last requirement had been taken seriously by laypeople! Today we would have a laity more orthodox and better informed that at any time in history.
But aren’t there numerous ambiguities in the Vatican II documents, ambiguities planted there by dissident bishops and theologians at the Council? Certainly there are such ambiguities, although not so common as often alleged. Nor are they such as to throw serious doubt on the Council’s teachings.
Many causes have contributed to the chaos and confusion afflicting the Church and the world today, including the Modernism among theologians that had remained underground until the Council.
Prior to the Council, the Popes and bishops had taken firm steps to prevent errors spreading in the Church, including the requirement that a nihil obstat had to be obtained on theology works by Catholics. As a result errors remained hidden, only to emerge after the Council.
Another factor was the rebellion in the Western world as a whole that became so prominent in the 1960s, with challenges to authorities, whether secular or religious, and widespread rebellion against the moral law.
Certainly the Council, by its stress on the positive and on avoiding undue restrictions, left an opening for revolt.
Had Pope Paul VI taken a harder line against abuses, including excommunicating the worst offenders, things might not have become nearly as bad as they have within the Church. Likewise, the bishops as a whole have been too lax. But it is unfair to blame Vatican II.
Every ecumenical council is guided by the Holy Spirit, including Vatican II, and I believe this guidance can be clearly seen if we view the documents impartially.

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