Monday, December 5, 2011
Expert addresses claim Vatican II ‘ruptured’ Church teaching
(EWTN) A leading figure involved in the Vatican’s negotiations with the breakaway traditionalist group the Society of St. Pius X says that the Society’s objections to some of the Second Vatican Council’s teachings are tied to persistent “misunderstandings” about how doctrine develops.
“The Catholic attitude,” explained Monsignor Fernando Ocariz on Dec. 2 in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, “is to seek a unitive interpretation in which the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the preceding Magisterial documents illuminate each other.”
Therefore, “not only should the Second Vatican Council be interpreted in the light of previous Magisterial documents,” but also “earlier magisterial documents can be understood better in the light of the Second Vatican Council.”
The Society of St. Pius X was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 as a response to what he saw as various ruptures in traditional Catholic teaching created by the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. The society has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since ordaining four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988.
Earlier this week the society’s present superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, said he cannot give the Vatican the doctrinal assurances required to heal their 23-year rift, although he hopes for further discussions.
Msgr. Ocariz, who is also Vicar General of Opus Dei, acknowledged that there are some persistent “misunderstandings” regarding the “continuity of some Conciliar teachings with previous teachings of the Church's Magisterium.” The Church would assert, he said, that such a rupture is simply not possible.
“An essential characteristic of the Magisterium is its continuity and consistency through history,” he explained, adding that continuity can also involve a development of doctrine as the Church “deepens in her knowledge, in her understanding and, consequently, also in her magisterial teaching of Catholic faith and morals.”
He also dismissed the view that the Second Vatican Council can be downplayed because it did not define any doctrines and was essentially pastoral in nature.
“The pastoral nature of the Council does not mean that it was not doctrinal,” he said, “since all pastoral activity is necessarily based on doctrine.”
Furthermore, he said, within the documents of the council “there are many strictly doctrinal teachings,” such as on Divine Revelation or the Church.
So while the Second Vatican Council “did not define any dogma, in the sense that it proposed no doctrine with a definitive act,” it is still the case that even when “the Magisterium proposes a teaching without directly invoking the charism of infallibility, it does not follow that such a teaching is therefore to be considered ‘fallible.’”
This means that the documents of the Council are not to be regarded as merely “provisional doctrine” or just an “authoritative opinion,” given that they were taught by pastors who, due to the nature of apostolic succession, spoke with the “charism of truth.”
Msgr. Ocariz also clarified that “not all the affirmations contained in the Conciliar documents have the same doctrinal value,” and therefore “not all require the same degree of assent.” He explained that these differing “levels of assent” are clearly set out in the Second Vatican Council’s constitution “Lumen Gentium.”
First, there are those Second Vatican Council teachings that “recall truths of the faith,” and thus require “the assent of theological faith,” not because they were taught by the Council but because “they have already been taught infallibly as such by the Church.”
Then there are the Council’s other doctrinal teachings that require a degree of assent called “religious submission of will and intellect.” This is “an act of obedience that is not merely disciplinary, but is well-rooted in our confidence in the divine assistance given to the Magisterium.”
Finally, he explained, there are elements within the Council’s documents that are “not exactly doctrinal” but are “more or less circumstantial,” such as “descriptions of the state of society, suggestions, exhortations, etc.” These items are to be “received with respect and gratitude” but “do not require an intellectual assent in the strictest sense.”
Msgr. Ocariz then acknowledged that Catholic doctrine can develop over time, pointing to “a number of innovations of a doctrinal nature” in the documents of the Council. Those include teachings “on the sacramental nature of the episcopate, on episcopal collegiality, on religious freedom, etc.” These are issues that give particular difficulty to the Society of St. Pius X.
While “not proposed with a definite act,” these teachings “still require religious submission of intellect and will,” even though some of them were or still are “the object of controversy with regard to their continuity with earlier magisterial teaching, or their compatibility with the tradition.”
In coming to a coherent intellectual conclusion about such controversies, Catholics must not view the Second Vatican Council through the prism of “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” as opposed to a “hermeneutic of reform, of renewal within continuity,” said Msgr. Ocariz quoting from Pope Benedict XVI.
So while such teachings are innovations in that they explain “new aspects,” not previously formulated by the Magisterium, they “do not doctrinally contradict previous Magisterial documents.”
This includes, for example, the development in the Church’s teaching on religious freedom which does practically imply “very different consequences at the level of historical decisions concerning juridical and political applications.”
Ultimately, said Msgr. Ocariz, an “authentic interpretation of Conciliar texts can only be made by the Magisterium of the Church herself.”
Where there is “space for legitimate theological freedom,” he said, is in the realm of explaining “how certain formulations present in the Conciliar texts do not contradict the Tradition” and thus “explain the correct meaning of some expressions contained in those passages.”
Earlier in the week, the Society of St. Pius X said it would give its initial response to the Vatican’s doctrinal proposition “in the next few days.”
at 3:10 PM