Would anyone be reluctant to predict that fifteen or twenty years from
now, books and articles will continue to be published in the attempt to clarify what
the Second Vatican Council really said and meant, and to reconcile it with true Roman
A new book by Msgr. Brunero Gherardini, The Ecumenical Council II: A Much
Needed Discussion, was reviewed in the November 15, 2010 issue of "The
Remnant," The review, by Brian Mersshon, provides an excellent summary of the
problems with the Council as enumerated by Gherardini, especially regarding the attempts
at resolving the Councils teachings with those of Tradition. In his book, Gherardini
makes an "urgent appeal" to the Holy Father to undertake a "definitive
ordering" of the Council and to clarify its disputed points.
The fact that there is even a call or a need for this effort indicates a
serious deficiency in the Conciliar documents, since we are certain there is no such
deficiency in the Traditional Faith. This task of reconciliation is crucial, since
if Vatican II cannot be reconciled as a whole and in its specifics with Catholic
Tradition, then its Roman Catholicity is in question.
Mershons review article characterizes Gherardinis book as a
response to Pope Benedict's 2005 appeal to the Roman Curia to employ a "hermeneutic
of continuity" in order to illuminate the specific teachings of the Second Vatican
Council in the light of Tradition. Of course it does not really matter if there is
shown to be continuity between Tradition and Vatican II. There is continuity between the
book Gone with the Wind and the movie of the same name - there is continuity, but
they are not identical. What really matters is whether the Catholic Church at the time of
the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958 is the same, identical Church that has resulted from
Vatican II. Is it the same Church founded upon the Apostles with Jesus Christ as her Head
that joins in prayer with heathens and false religions at Assisi?
Putting that issue aside, let us briefly compare one or two of the
specific teachings of the Council to the teachings of Tradition.
We will let Tradition speak from the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X, promulgated
in 1908 under his authority for the Roman ecclesiastical province, and also
used in most of Italy.
Q. 12 (on the 9th article of the Creed): The many societies of persons who are
baptized but who do not acknowledge the Roman Pontiff as their head do not, then, belong
to the Church of Christ?
Ans.: No, those who do not acknowledge the Roman Pontiff as their Head do not
belong to the Church of Christ.
Q. 17: Why is the true Church called Holy?
Ans.: The true Church is called Holy because holy is her invisible
Head, Jesus Christ; holy are many of her members; holy are her faith, her laws, her
Sacraments; and outside of her there is not and cannot be true holiness.
Compare the Catechism's statements on the Church of Christ and on true
holiness to the following Council document:
Lumen Gentium no. 8: This Church constituted and organized in the world as a
society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and
by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of
truth are found outside of its visible structure.
Can these two teachings be reconciled? First we have to understand
what each intends to say, and with the Catechism there is little
difficulty since it is clear and precise. There is no hidden
meaning or agenda, and it reflects the mind of the Church.
Regarding Lumen Gentium, one wonders whose mind it reflects - who
were the progressivist periti and Bishops that engineered it and what were their
In 2007, over 40 years after the closing of the Council, the Congregation
of the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document attempting to clear up many of the
questions about the Councils teachings, including the above quote from Lumen
Gentium. "Third question: Why was the expression subsists in adopted
instead of the simple word is?" For those interested, the details of the
predictably ambiguous response are available at the www.vatican.va site for the document:
"Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the
And yet, as we read in Mersons review of Gherardinis book, three
years after that "clarification" and forty-five years after the Council's close,
there is still a "debate which is being undertaken about the meaning of the
Lest anyone object that the "subsists" issue has been too overworked
over the years, let us consider another of the "specific teachings" of the
Council. This one is not so familiar, and is quite possibly its most egregious novelty.
The Councils Pastoral Constitution on the Church, Gaudium et Spes, contains
this gem in section 24, para. 3:
Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as
we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a
certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in
truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which
God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.
Here the Council reveals to us something that has been "closed to human
reason," to wit, that man, who must find himself, "is the only creature on earth
which God willed for itself." No matter that Holy Scripture teaches that "The
Lord hath made all things for Himself (Proverbs 16;4). No matter that Vatican I taught
that God is the beginning and end of all things (1785 Denzinger). No, Vatican II teaches
that man is an end in himself, created for his own sake and not for the sake of God. [see
To be certain that this is the way the concept is meant to be understood, here
is an example from one of the many times that Pope John Paul II almost obsessively
commented on it: "Created in the image and likeness of God, man is the sole visible
creature that the Creator has "willed for itself." In the world subject to God's
transcendent wisdom and power, man is also a being which is an end in itself, though
having his finality in God. As a person he possesses his own finality (auto-teleology), by
virtue of which he tends to self-realization." General Audience May 21, 1986,
Divine Providence and Human Freedom, www.vatican.va.
This previously unknown and novel revelation taught by the Council
opens up great new vistas for the concept of human dignity, which naturally flow into Dignitatis
Humanaes statement that "the inviolable rights of the human person"
are "over and above" the need to observe the Ten Commandments and the teaching
of Christ prohibiting the worship of false gods (Note 1). As the review article mentioned,
even Msgr. Gherardini admits that it may be difficult if not impossible to harmonize Dignitatis
Humanae with the unambiguous teaching of the pre-Vatican II popes.
And where does this new teaching on man as his own end take us, this
"self-realization" and "auto-teleology" of man, this unparalleled
exaltation of human dignity, this opening to any and all religions? To the doctrine of
After becoming Pope, John Paul wrote: "We are dealing with each
individual, since each one is included in the mystery of Redemption, and through this
mystery Christ has united himself with each one for ever." (Sec. 53, Centesimus
Annus www.vatican.va). Christ uniting himself with each person "for ever" is
a way of expounding Universal Salvation. John Paul could not be as open in his belief
after ascending to the Papacy as he was while still Cardinal Wojtyla, when he wrote in Sign
of Contradiction, "All men, from the beginning of the world to its end, have been
redeemed by Christ and his cross." (p.87). Thus, all men throughout history have
been redeemed, and are united forever with Christ.
One wonders what Pope Benedict had in mind when he recently stated that
"The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for
the people of that time and place he was to be the Savior of all people throughout
the world and throughout history" (2).
To see how this impacts the traditional teaching of the Church on Original Sin,
on the Redemptive Sacrifice of the Cross, and on the existence of Hell, please refer to
the four-volume work by Fr. Johannes Doermann, which explains in detail how the Pope
diligently weaved his concept of Universal Salvation into his major encyclicals.
Doermanns collection is available from Angelus Press, under the overall title Pope
John Paul IIs Theological Journey to the Prayer Meeting of Religions in Assisi.
Tradition and the Council, how can they be reconciled according to the
pope's "hermeneutic of continuity?" Perhaps the more accurate question is
not 'how' they can be reconciled, but 'if'. Bishop Athanasius Schneider has recently
called for a new "Syllabus," that would enumerate the errors made by false
interpretations of the various doctrinal, liturgical, and pastoral teachings of the Second
Vatican Council (3). Perhaps a more relevant Syllabus would be a listing of the errors of
the Council documents themselves.
Since the legacy of the Council documents continues to be obscurity and
ambiguity, it appears that the safest and best spiritual diet for a Roman Catholic is to
balance the reading of contemporary orthodox Catholic works with a study of the
pre-Vatican II teachings of the Church, especially the papal encyclicals, the earlier
councils, and the lives and teaching of the great saints.
1. Dignitatis Humanae vs. "Domine, non sum dignus," Vatican IIs
document on religious liberty and human dignity vs. "Lord, I am not worthy."
Frank Rega, Christian Order, March 2010. Online at http://www.frankrega.com/dignitatis.htm
2. Zenit.org. http://www.zenit.org/article-31339?l=english
3. EWTN.com. http://www.ewtn.com/library/bishops/schneider-proposte.htm