Nothing Spesh, Just Me

I am a catechumen, negotiating RCIA in England as we speak, hoping to be baptised and confirmed this coming Easter.

And it is at this juncture that I would like to express my gratitude to the owners of and contributors to Fisheaters. When I at last, after many years, turned to the Church, I knew a fair amount of philosophy but precious little regarding practical devotion and traditional praxis. My local parish, alas, has not illumined me much, either. When I wanted to learn how to genuflect and make the sign of the cross, I was forced to fall back on Google, and Google brought me here. The main site has nourished me, stimulated my interest and filled that catechetical vacuum. For that, I am deeply grateful.

Also, Fisheaters saddens me. I am saddened because so much seems to have been lost, or is being lost, in the cause of modernism or 'being in touch with the times'. I came to the church through years spent in Constantinople, and a little time spent in Rome; all that theological, philosophical and liturgical splendour is being sold, seemingly, for base coin. That is a crying pity. It is a reversible process though, I hope.

So, I guess that sense of unease and concern inclines me towards the Traditionalist end of the spectrum.

Here's some light reading for you...

Quote:The unprecedented crisis in the Church will not be brought to an end by expatiating on the different hermeneutics and their value, but by denouncing false or heretical interpretations and excluding their authors from ecclesiastical functions or teaching. Indeed, if it is true that there are two hermeneutics in opposition, and if we admit, as we seem compelled to do, that at least one of the two is completely erroneous....Our most fervent wish and liveliest hope is that Peter, who since the Council was and continues to be Peter, no longer content himself with being Peter but that he act as Peter. In these hours of uncertainty and hope, we all have the duty to pray for this intention with renewed fervor.

The Erosion of the Council’s Authority

More than 40 years after its close, the debate about the correct interpretation of the Council continues. But an even more fundamental question must be examined: What authority can a council have when the contending interpretations of its documents involve the Church in something far more serious than academic disputes? For if the thesis of rupture with the previous magisterium were true, there would be two legitimate teaching authorities without continuity between them; it would spell the birth of a new magisterium and thus a new Church. If, on the contrary, the conservative, typically Ratzingerian thesis of continuity between the pre- and post-conciliar Church were true, it would be necessary to reconcile the irreconcilable: ecumenism, collegiality, religious liberty, and modern ecclesiology with the traditional magisterium; the dogmatic tenor of the Tridentine Mass with the dogmatic tenor of Pope Paul VI’s Mass, and so on. In the first case, the Church of all time would be finished for ever, having given way to a new Church; in the second case, the Catholic Church would continue to exist while legitimately and magisterially teaching the opposite of what was taught by the traditional Magisterium. The first thesis affirms the truth about “the rupture” between the two Teaching Authorities, but it destroys the indefectibility of the Church, which would have ended and then recommenced under a new identity; the second certainly saves the indefectibility of the Church but, despite considerable efforts, it entails renunciation of the principle of non-contradiction.


The solution to this impasse is literally Lefebvrian: this conciliar magisterium, which has succeeded in imposing itself as the keystone of the whole theological, liturgical, and pastoral edifice of the Council, never availed itself of the supernatural guarantees that make the Church’s magisterium what it is, as distinguished from simple affirmations having another value, another scope, and other objectives. This explanation certainly is not new; what is new, however, are the frank and important admissions of a prelate of considerable authority, the former Archbishop of Bologna and papabile, Cardinal Biffi. It is in light of his recent statements concerning the authority of the Council that we would like to reflect on this crucial problem. But we must first recall what the Council itself affirmed on the subject of the authority and scope of its decrees.

The Council Secretary’s Notices

On several occasions the Council was obliged to examine and to express itself on the dogmatic weight of its decrees, a clear sign of the doubt and unease which the Council Fathers did not conceal, aware as they were of the decidedly atypical character of the Council. An initial official declaration of the Theological Commission on the question dated March 6, 1964, was reprised several times by the Secretary General of the Council, Msgr. Pericle Felici, in particular on November 16, 1964 (in regard to a question about the theological qualification of Lumen Gentium), and on November 15, 1965 (in regard to a similar question about Dei Verbum). We cite in full the text of this last announcement, nearly identical to the others:

The question has been raised, what ought to be the theological qualification of the doctrine which is set forth in the schema of the dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation and is being voted on. The Theological Commission gave the answer to this question by referring to its own Declaration of March 6, 1964...:

“In view of conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so.

“Other matters which the sacred Synod proposes as the doctrine of the supreme teaching authority of the Church, each and every member of the faithful is obliged to accept and embrace according to the mind of the sacred Synod itself, which becomes known either from the subject matter or from the language employed, according to the norms of theological interpretation.”1

The repeated questions of the bishops and the repeated responses about the theological qualification of the conciliar documents clearly indicate that the Council Fathers themselves were aware that they were dealing with a Magisterium sui generis, about which they could not but question themselves as to its obligatory character long before the Society of Saint Pius X did.

It becomes evident that we are far from the uncritical, enthusiastic acceptance that made of the Council a super-dogma, so imposing as to silence not only every objection but even the preceding magisterium of the Church. A detailed examination of the conciliar texts themselves to determine what the Council “explicitly intended to impose upon the Church,” yields the response that, concretely, it imposed nothing except what had been declared as such by the previous magisterium. And it could not be otherwise, “according to the spirit of this holy Synod.” The very finality of the Council, convoked with the explicit2 intention not to define truths of faith and not to condemn error (cf. Gaudet Mater Ecclesia), inaugurated a magisterium with a novel method and approach, even before its content is considered: a magisterium which, in the last analysis, was not intended to constitute an act of teaching, but rather a new style of conduct towards the world, a way to present the Church in a less strictly doctrinal, more existential aspect. The goal was to impart a completely new spirit rather than to communicate dogmatic content. According to the explicit intention of the Sovereign Pontiff who initiated it, the Second Vatican Council was convoked not to define dogmas, correct errors, or condemn doctrinal deviations as in the past, but to bond with the modern world. This decision to leave aside any intention of imposing certain truths of faith meant that the Council was intended to abstain from teaching in the objective, traditional, and magisterial sense of the term.

It is because of this novel intention that the Council was deprived of the assistance of the Holy Ghost, who would have guaranteed the infallibility of its affirmations, which, in fact, are no longer teachings. It must be remarked that in this regard, it is not a posteriori that Vatican II appears bereft of infallibility, that is, by the fact that errors can be found in its documents; rather, it is the fact that it deprived itself a priori of this infallibility because of an intention objectively not in conformity with the intention of a Church council, hence allowing the introduction of error. In other words, our argumentation does not consist in an examination of the errors of the Council, in light of which we desire to discuss its authority, in the measure that it is not possible for there to be contradictions in the assisted infallible magisterium: we do not wish to adopt a behavior towards the magisterium equivalent to that of the Protestants towards Sacred Scripture, that is to say, a sort of free examination; rather, we simply wish to verify if the Council actually constitutes an act of the infallible Magisterium, or whether it involves something else.

The Assertions of Cardinal Biffi

In his recent autobiographical work, Cardinal Biffi, through his extremely lucid and balanced judgments on the Council, authoritatively confirms the reading which to us seems the only one possible.

John XXIII aspired after a council that would obtain the renewal of the Church not by condemnations, but by the “remedy of mercy.” By refraining from reproving errors, the Council by that very fact avoided formulating definitive teachings that would be obligatory for all. And in fact, this original indication was continually followed.3

The Cardinal’s remark is fundamental, especially the weight of this “by that very fact” contained in this statement. Why should this be so? Because to affirm a notion while categorically refusing to deny the opposite notion precludes the will to consider the enounced notion as definitive and obligatory for all minds. This does not exclude the possibility that subsequently such a notion might be imposed peremptorily (as is the case for the conciliar documents after 40 years), but this imposition would not be the consequence of the intrinsic and absolute truth of the notion, which would imply “by that very fact” (that is to say, by a logical exigency) the condemnation of the opposite, but would be due to other, more or less valid, contingent motives: dialogue with the modern world, ecumenical relations, international relations (cf. the case of the “silence” about Communism), the politically correct, etc. It is thus clear that this way of teaching is alien to that traditionally present in the ecumenical councils of the Catholic Church, which consisted in clearly “formulating definitive teachings obligatory for all.” Pope John XXIII had no explicit intention of so obliging. To express this difference of intention from the traditional intentions of the Church, the designation “pastoral council” was adopted. Cardinal Biffi comments on this nomenclature as follows: spite of myself, I felt rising within me some difficulties. The notion [pastoral council] struck me as ambiguous; and the emphasis with which “pastorality” was attributed to the sitting Council, a little suspicious: did they mean to imply that the previous councils had not had been “pastoral” or that they were not “pastoral” enough? Was it not pastoral to affirm clearly that Jesus of Nazareth is God and consubstantial with the Father, as they defined at Nicaea? Was it not pastoral to clarify the reality of the Eucharistic presence and the sacrificial nature of the Mass, as they did at Trent? Was it not pastoral to set forth the primacy of Peter in its full value and with all its implications, as was taught by Vatican Council I?

Clearly, the explanation of truth and the condemnation of error cannot but be pastoral in that they confirm the faithful in the Faith and shelter them from heresy and error. Thus, as the Cardinal points out, every council is pastoral. For what reason did they wish to define Vatican II as a pastoral council? “One understands,” continues the Cardinal, “that the declared intention was to study the best ways and the most effective means of reaching the hearts of men without diminishing their positive consideration for the traditional teaching of the Church.” This last affirmation comprises two fundamental elements: 1) the declared intention of the Church was “original,” extraneous to the safeguard of the depositum and the condemnation of errors; 2) the avowal that Vatican II (and John XXIII, who convoked it) did not want to “diminish positive consideration for the traditional magisterium of the Church” signifies that this Council is placed beside the tradition of the ecumenical councils, and not necessarily in continuity with it. Vatican II was limited to not diminishing the Church’s traditional magisterium, rather than being in perfect continuity with it. We can deduce that a particular intention characterized the Council different from the will to impose a teaching.

The Intention to Teach: The Theological Viewpoint

Let us take, for example, the case of the inspiration of Holy Scripture. What particularly distinguishes the Catholic point of view from the Islamic point of view is the fact that divine inspiration in no wise substitutes itself for the faculties of the authors of Sacred Scripture, as would be the case if their writing were considered to be a kind of dictation. On the contrary, divine intervention supposes and uses their human capacities. We meet with the Thomistic principle according to which the first cause (the divine inspiration) conserves all the characteristics proper to the secondary cause (the human author) such that the latter is, in his proper order, a true cause. Now let us think of a sacramental action. The Church teaches that the minister of the sacrament must have the intention, even if it is not actual, to do what the Church does, that is to say, to ordain his action to the end for which Jesus Christ instituted it, so that without this intention, the sacrament is invalid. If this principle holds for the sacraments (munus sanctificandi), all the more true is it for the magisterium (munus docendi). Indeed, whereas in the case of inspiration or the sacramental economy, man is merely an instrument, in the case of the magisterium, the Catholic hierarchy acts in a way so as to be simply “assisted” to be preserved from error. In other words, the hierarchy is not “inspired,” as in the case of the authors of Holy Writ; this means that in the case of the hierarchy, God leaves men a much wider sphere of freedom than exists in the case of scriptural inspiration or the administration of the sacraments. Teaching the Faith is accomplished by ministers ordained to that end. These ministers are human beings and they keep their proper human characteristics. If then the pope or a council in the act of presenting a teaching does not intend to teach it as something revealed by Jesus Christ, as always taught by the Church, or if they do not intend to authoritatively demand assent, there seems to be no reason why God should guarantee the help promised to the Church Teaching when it has no intention of teaching. This human will is a condition both necessary and sufficient for guaranteeing its preservation from error by the Holy Ghost. The key Thomistic principle comes into play, according to which grace does not destroy nature but perfects it. In His assistance to the Church, God does not replace the mediations of men, but supposes them in the integrity of their faculties and uses them by elevating them above simple human possibilities. The acts of the Magisterium corroborate this understanding. Let us take for example the document of Vatican Council I that defines the Sovereign Pontiff’s infallibility. It affirms:

...the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority he explains a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, operates with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished that His church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable.4

We can thus deduct that infallibility presupposes the pope’s free will to exercise his function of supreme doctor of the Church by binding the Church, that is, by imposing upon every mind the content of its definitions. This is what we call teaching; when the pope does not intend to exercise this function, the assistance promised him does not come into play. Another text, cited this time from the Ordinary Magisterium, affirms:

But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter till then under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot any longer be considered a question open to discussion among theologians.5

We again find a reference to intention expressed in this passage; absent an intention to define, to decide definitively, or to condemn anything, infallibility is not guaranteed.

The Intentions of the Council

In this article we cannot examine everything that researchers have learned about the direction John XXIII intended to impart to the Council; however, we will summarize the declared intentions of the Council so that we can understand that they objectively differ from the Church’s intentions. These are John XXIII’s intentions:

1) Aggiornamento: “The salient point of this Council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church,” but to study and expound doctrine “through methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought.”6

2) The unity of the human race: “...such is the aim of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which...prepares, as it were, and consolidates the path toward that unity of mankind which is required as a necessary foundation, in order that the earthly may be brought to the resemblance of that heavenly city ....”7

3) The non-condemnation of errors: “Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.”8

The declarations of Paul VI are equally clear:

1) The self-awareness of the Church: “The time has come...when the truth concerning the Church of Christ must be explored, arranged, and expressed more and more, not perhaps in the solemn formulas called dogmatic definitions, but rather in declarations by which the Church may declare with greater clarity and understanding what she understands about herself.”9

2) Ecumenical intention: “...the convocation of this Council...tends towards an ecumenism seeking to be total, universal.”10

3) Dialogue with the contemporary world: “Let the world know that the Church regards it with a profound understanding and genuine admiration, and is sincerely disposed not to subjugate it but to serve it; not to depreciate it, but to enhance its dignity; not to condemn it, but to sustain and save it.”11


For teachings of the Magisterium to engage the guarantee of infallibility, the intention with which they are pronounced is an essential factor. An act of the Magisterium must be made with the intention of teaching a truth of faith or morals, or condemning error, or settling a controversy, etc. Using Cardinal Biffi’s recent contribution, we have shown that the Council’s intention was different from the habitual intention of Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church. To us the conclusion seems obvious: It is legitimate to question the Council. All of contemporary theology, as well as the encyclicals of the last Pope, has been built upon the shifting sands of the Second Vatican Council. It has not been built on the rock of Peter because Peter did not wish to teach, but to propose; he did not wish to oblige, but to dialogue; he did not wish to avail himself of the guarantees our Lord promised him to confirm his brethren when he teaches. Yet this is what man today desperately needs. [Image: OMEGA2_fmt1.jpeg]

Fr. David Pagliarani, SSPX (La Tradizione Cattolica, No. 1, 2008). Fr. Pagliarini is the District Superior of Italy for the Society of St. Pius X. Translated exclusively for Angelus Press from the Courrier de Rome (Mar. 2008, pp.4-7).

1 English version: The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., general editor (New York: The America Press, 1966), pp.97-98.

2 It is necessary to distinguish between the explicit intention, openly declared, and the secret intention, of which God alone is judge. Of course, we can only speak of the first.

3 Giacomo Biffi, Memorie e digressioni di un Italiano Cardinale (Sienna, 2007).

4 Vatican Council I, Pastor Aeternus, July 18, 1870 (Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 1839).

5 Pius XII, Humani Generis, August 12, 1950, §20.

6 John XXIII, Pope John’s Opening Speech to the Council, The Documents of Vatican II, p.715.

7 Ibid., p.718.

8 Ibid., p.716.

9 Paul VI, Speech Opening the Council’s Second Session, September 29, 1963.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

Quote:Here's some light reading for you...

Thank you! :smile:

Quote:Our most fervent wish and liveliest hope is that Peter, who since the Council was and continues to be Peter, no longer content himself with being Peter but that he act as Peter.

I may be wrong, but I gather that quote encapsulates why the SSPX exists; the sense of just authority grounded in tradition having been abdicated for the sake of accommodating a world whose values are increasingly at odds with that tradition.

I believe there are grounds for that stance, certainly.

I am fortunate to live within a few miles of an SSPX chapel (there are not many in the UK, I believe) and I look forward to visiting.
Welcome, Reynardine! [Image: tiphat2.gif] We're glad you are here.
NewCatholic Wrote:Welcome, Reynardine! [Image: tiphat2.gif] We're glad you are here.

Indeed we are! Welcome!
S.A.G. ~ Kathy ~ Sanguine-choleric. Have fun...or else.

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
Reynardine Wrote:
Quote:Here's some light reading for you...

Thank you! :smile:

Quote:Our most fervent wish and liveliest hope is that Peter, who since the Council was and continues to be Peter, no longer content himself with being Peter but that he act as Peter.

I may be wrong, but I gather that quote encapsulates why the SSPX exists; the sense of just authority grounded in tradition having been abdicated for the sake of accommodating a world whose values are increasingly at odds with that tradition.

I believe there are grounds for that stance, certainly.

I am fortunate to live within a few miles of an SSPX chapel (there are not many in the UK, I believe) and I look forward to visiting.

Which chapel are you going to? There are quite a few UK SSPXers on FE...

Welcome, Reynardine! I pray for your beautiful country that is suffering through more plights as I heard they are adopting sharia in their legal system. May there be a reawakening of the Faith in the UK before it is too late.
Stevus, thanks for the informative text.

Only a lawyer could call that light reading.  [Image: wink.gif]


Thank you, all! :smile:

Quote:Which chapel are you going to? There are quite a few UK SSPXers on FE...

I haven't attended yet, though I hope to soon.

I am in Kent. There is a chapel in a village a couple of miles away from here; a rather pretty place, actually.

Given SSPX chapels are rare in Britain, I am fortunate to be within walking distance of one in a very nice setting.
Reynardine Wrote:Thank you, all! :smile:

Quote:Which chapel are you going to? There are quite a few UK SSPXers on FE...

I haven't attended yet, though I hope to soon.

I am in Kent. There is a chapel in a village a couple of miles away from here; a rather pretty place, actually.

Given SSPX chapels are rare in Britain, I am fortunate to be within walking distance of one in a very nice setting.

Oh jolly good :) Is that Groombridge or Herne?

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