Wednesday 22 January 2014

Those loyal to Vatican al

Those who celebrate the TLM and speak up for Tradition are frequently accused of being disloyal to Vatican II. The accusers are surely sincere in their belief, but they are decidedly wrong; many people who consider themselves Traditional -myself included- converted and were instructed in Catholic Doctrine as it was understood post-Vatican II; we entered seminaries forming priests in the same post-Vatican II doctrine. How then (or why?) would we be seen as disloyal -or worse, subversive? There are probably three reasons for this. First, we are not afraid of the Church’s liturgical patrimony (the Traditional Form of Holy Mass) but rather honour and revere it; second, we question any reading of Vatican II which puts it into discontinuity with our doctrinal, pastoral and liturgical past; and third, because we read the Council in continuity with the Church’s past –the only legitimate way to read any Council- and interpret ambiguities in the text according to the Tradition we have received.

What is disturbing is not that Traditional folk can be described as disloyal, but the platform from which our detractors make their accusations, because it is a platform which insists that there is a spirit of Vatican II that exists outside of the Council’s texts. The implication of this is clear: that the Council Fathers said one thing but meant another. I for one am not prepared to ascribe such a duplicitous spirit to them, and I am disturbed that purveyors of the so-called “spirit of Vatican II” -even if they are genuine in their efforts to give new life to the Church- can do so.

I am, however, prepared to say that a minority of the Bishops or their theological advisors acted in a duplicitous manner (Edward Shillebeekx is said to have acknowledged this in De Bauzuin, No. 16, 1965). In any case the ambiguities must be admitted; there is no other way of accounting for the divisions that erupted in the Church after the Council. Indeed, if there were no ambiguities in the texts liberals could not claim loyalty to the Council and yet propose that which is contrary to the received Tradition.

Liberals are content to ignore the Tradition so as to promote the ambiguities, but I cannot. I cannot, for example, read Unitatis Redintegratio saying Catholic means of salvation exist outside the Church and can give access to salvation to non-Catholics, without also recalling that the document also states that such means “belong by right to the Catholic Church”; that non-Catholic communities “derive their efficacy [to save] from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church”, and that Our Lord “established one Body of Christ on earth [headed by Peter] to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.” There is no reneging on the missionary impetus of the Church there. Nor can I read Dignitatis Humanae without noting that religious freedom, while deemed necessary to fulfil ones duty toward God, “has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society” and thus “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ”; that in fact “all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.” There is no spiritual right to follow error there; rather a call to seek the truth.

The ambiguities of the Conciliar texts are to be regretted in that they permit the Council to be read in discontinuity with our past by those who seek a new doctrinal, pastoral and liturgical beginning, thus providing for conflict and division within the Church. As Cardinal Kasper stated (L'Osservatore Romano, April 12, 2013):

“In many places (the Council) had to find compromise formulas in which, often, the positions of the majority are located immediately next to those of the minority, designed to delimit them. Thus, the conciliar texts themselves have a huge potential for conflict, open[ing] the door to a selective reception in either direction.” (emphasis added. GD)

The texts of the documents having been described as ambiguous so many times by so many voices, good Bishop Schneider proposed we formulate a kind of Syllabus of Errors regarding the teaching of the Council. I would support that call, and if it came to fruition, be more than happy to see him delegated by the Holy See to draw up such a Syllabus. We might also establish an oath to be attached to the Creed for recitation by those taking up a public role in the Church such as teacher, theologian, Priest, Bishop etc. (Hmm, that idea does not seem has a rather familiar ring...)


  1. Dear Fr. Dickson & Mr. McDowell,

    How timely your blogpost today was for me since I have a question regarding the Divine Office of Readings regarding Vatican II. It stated, "God’s plan of salvation embraces those also who acknowledge the Creator. Among these are especially the Mohammedans; they profess their faith as the faith of Abraham, and with us they worship the one, merciful God who will judge men on the last day." Is this accurate? I have read and heard just the opposite...that the Mohammedans (Islam?) do not profess nor worship the same God as we do, that their claim to Abraham is somehow perverted, and most certainly their false god judges quite differently than God along with what they will merit vs. what we hope to merit (eternal salvation).

    I'm so thankful to God that I found you through another link (God-incidence) this day!

    May God bless you,

    1. Hmm., far be it for me to contradict the Church, but I think the Muslims would repudiate the fact that they worship the same God as we do, and I suggest we need to acknowledge that. Let me say what I think answers your question regarding the text from today’s Office of Readings, which is from Lumen gentium.

      The Church, Islam and Judaism are all monotheistic religions, that is, all three worship the True God as they see Him, and profess to serve Him alone. Christianity is unique however, in that we worship the One Creator God as a Trinity of Persons.

      Even to speak of God as ‘Father’ is abhorrent to Muslims (never mind confessing in God a Son and Spirit who are co-eternal; co-omnipotent and co-omniscient). This being so, we might say that Christians worship the True God in His True Form; His Divinely Revealed Form.

      I think we are saying that since there is but one God and that Muslims, Jews and Christians all acknowledge this, we all worship the One True God, whether our perception of Him is accurate or not. The text is problematic in that it implies Muslims are happy to be presented as worshipping the same God as we do, when in fact worship of the Trinity is abhorrent to them. We need to respect them in holding their position, and refrain from implying something about them which is actually repugnant to them.

  2. 'Liberals are content to ignore the Tradition so as to promote the ambiguities.' These ambiguities have pretty evident fruits.

    Interesting answer and response, Father.

    I don't believe that the Truth is repugnant to muslims ipso facto, or indeed to anyone who heeds the call to seek. we are being taught to view false faiths these days in a way that says, the Truth that sets one free is not something we need to give to others, although because they find it 'repugnant' is new (IME many muslims find islam repugnant - but that's probably because the naughty west has perverted them).

    God made us for Truth. Christ was talking about everyone born and ever to be born when he extolled us to ask, seek, and knock, for the Truth and when he implored the Apostles to 'go forth'. If islam, and judaism, and akhenaton, and the freemasons' Great Architect, and the 'alien god' of the gnostics are the half-'truths' that still set one free because of there is a unitarian element which is ignorant of the Holy Trinity, then what other ignorances are salvific?

    In that case ignorance really is bliss.

    1. Thank you for this, viterbo.
      I agree; those who genuinely seek the truth will rejoice to find it, but many seem to get only so far in their search and stop at where they feel comfortable. That there is one God can be ascertained by reason: there can be only one beginning to anything, so there can only be one beginning (one creator) to the universe. We could not come to knowledge of the Trinity by reason alone; it needed to be revealed to us by God in Christ. Revelation cannot necessarily be ascribed to those who are Unitarian in their belief; we might say they have a ‘natural faith’, while we have a ‘supernatural faith’. I don’t think it is so much that their ignorance is salvific, but that their genuine search for Truth (which is Christ) is salvific. I think the Church is saying that whoever is seeking the truth about God is actually seeking Christ but does not know it, and that it is this which allows grace to flow to them through the channel established by God –the Catholic Church.
      God Bless.

    2. Viterbo January 23

      p.s. but then I guess if 'unitarians' were interested in the Truth they wouldn't be Unitarians, but confess the 'One God, and that in this One God there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that the Son took to Himself the nature of man...'

    3. Thank you again, viterbo.
      I think there are many who stay within their comfort zone, that is, as far as reason takes them. As we would say, "Faith is a supernatural gift from God which enables us to believe whatever He has revealed". (Penny catechism, Q#9)
      God bless.

    4. Thanks for your reply, Father. is this the 'invincible ignorance' teaching? What I find very confusing is when prominent Church-men seem not only to be being over-sensitive to other people who have not had an experience of supernatural faith so as to not encourage them into the Truth, but even to be encouraging other 'people of faith' to continue in lies, either to placate or, who can say?

      This seems very much at odds with how the Church used to think about false faiths. It seems a sin to even use the term false faith anymore, but the apostles were very clear about these things. When Pope Benedict reintroduced a prayer for the conversion of Jewish people, it was a 'scandal', whereas it feels more of a scandal to not pray that everyone comes into the One, True Faith. Things seem so upside down.

      God Bless. 'scuse going off the post topic except to say that ambiguity seems to be part and parcel of catechesis these days - maybe it always was.

    5. Thank you, viterbo.

      Invincible ignorance is ignorance due to no fault of one’s own. If leading Churchmen (as some do) fail to encourage people to come into the whole truth, they have really done them and the Lord an injustice: all men have a right to the fullness of truth, and those who have the fullness have a probably have a commensurate duty to present it. Not wanting to offend people is not a good reason for failing to share the truth with them.

      And no worries about “going off topic”: ambiguity was not always part and parcel of Catecheis; clarity was the name of the game. There may be grey areas in how we deal with people pastorally when there are choices and degrees of action, but there are no grey areas in doctrine: truth is truth and error is error; the two cannot co-exist, and half right means half wrong (or at least ‘half lacking’).


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