Una Voce Miami has produced a reflection on the Second Vatican Council entitled, Vatican Council II: A bridge that unites or a wedge that divides?
One my Facebook friends asked for my thoughts on the statement and solicited input on how it might be improved. In looking it over, it occurred to me that it might be instructive for some readers if I answered with a post on the blog.
I offer the following, not as criticism, but in a spirit of fraternal support for Una Voce’s efforts. (Their entire reflection can be viewed via the hyperlink above.)
Below I will include portions of the Reflection in bold, with my suggestions as to how the statement might be better worded in italics.
The council did not define or reformulate any question of faith or of revealed truth; it merely proposed pastoral suggestions relying, when it came to doctrinal matters, almost entirely on the perennial Magisterium of the Church.
While it is true that the Council did not formally define or reformulate doctrine (indeed, it neither had nor claimed the authority to do so), it most certainly did set forth propositions that amount to a reformulation of the faith such as it had perennially been taught and understood to that point; e.g., with respect to the salvific nature of the heretical communities, the Church’s relationship with the Jews, the right to religious freedom, etc.
Clearly, the Council overstepped its bounds. For this reason, I believe it is better to keep the statement focused on the Council’s stated purpose and what it was actually authorized to do (i.e., the bounds themselves) rather than to mount what ends up being an inadvertent quasi-defense of the Council’s behavior.
With this in mind, I believe that the highlighted text would be better stated:
The Council was not given a mandate to define or reformulate any question of faith or of revealed truth. In matters doctrinal, it was called to, and indeed had an obligation to, rely entirely on the perennial Magisterium of the Church.
Neither the Council itself, nor John Paul II’s Catechism of the Catholic Church, nor any other official Church document say that the Council’s suggestions are dogmas or articles of faith. Therefore, to dogmatically impose the council; to erect it as an obstacle that separates, a wall that divides, or a barrier that excludes brothers, who precisely because of their fidelity to the Magisterium, cannot, in good conscience, accept the Council, not only violates the Council’s letter and spirit, but offends all that the Council represents such as tolerance, so-called “religious freedom”, respect for conscience and the vaunted “human rights.”
I would avoid citing the Council itself (as in the opening sentence of this paragraph) in the matter as it risks inadvertently undermining the point that was previously made in paragraph 2 of the Reflection; namely, that “renowned Catholic scholars, prelates, and theologians” have raised “serious … doctrinally and theologically well-founded objections” to the conciliar text.
The same can be said of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which relies heavily upon the conciliar text and likewise contains objectionable material.
It is also, therefore, a mistake to claim recourse to “the Council’s letter and spirit.”
As mentioned, the “letter” of the Council is all-too-often irreconcilable with the true Faith.
Consider, for example, that ecumenists who treat the practitioners of false religion, not as persons who stand in need of conversion to the Holy Catholic faith, but rather as those whose heretical community is being used by Christ as a “means of salvation” (UR 3), can also reasonably claim recourse to the Council’s “letter.”
Therefore, Una Voce should avoid lending credence to the notion that the “letter” of the Council is reliable.
As for its “spirit,” the history of this phrase is all-too-well-known. It is notoriously ambiguous and entirely subjective, which is precisely why progressives so often profess adherence to it.
In truth, the “spirit” of every ecumenical council should be objectively and clearly Catholic. This is not the case with Vatican Council II.
Likewise, claiming recourse to “all that the Council represents” is highly problematic. In fact, the examples provided in the Reflection (tolerance, so-called “religious freedom”, respect for conscience and the vaunted “human rights”) are nothing short of condemnable and should be struck.
While I understand that the authors of this text are perhaps attempting to highlight the hypocrisy of certain of the Council’s defenders, lending credence to the Council is ultimately counterproductive.
The only thing that is truly necessary in addressing the Council is reliance upon “the perennial Magisterium of the Church” as cited in the opening paragraph.
With all of this in mind, the paragraph in question would be better written to state something along the following lines:
Given that the Council proposed no new binding articles of faith, any effort to dogmatically impose the Council upon the faithful in such way as to make of it an obstacle that separates, a wall that divides, or a barrier that excludes those who, precisely because of their fidelity to the perennial Magisterium of the Church, cannot, in good conscience, accept the Council’s novelties, ambiguities and doctrinal deviations, is a grave injustice.
There are brothers in the Church who see no errors in the Council, as well as brothers that, without denying the Council’s binding nature, cannot in good conscience accept opinions and suggestions, they believe are in schism with the Church’s Magisterium and Tradition.
“The Council’s binding nature” must be struck from the statement; it has no binding nature – this is the central point upon which the entire Reflection stands!
Not to put too fine a point on this, but I would avoid referring to those who “see no errors in the Council” as “brothers.”
Consider that while among such persons there are many who are genuinely confused, mistaken or perhaps just ambivalent, there are also those who “see no errors” because they firmly embrace the falsehoods proposed by the Council; i.e., they are enemies of the true Faith.
With this in mind, it would perhaps be better to simply delete the entire sentence.
We at Una Voce Miami, fraternally opt to exercise our right and fulfill our obligation to love, understand and respect all our brothers alike, without excluding, marginalizing or discriminating against any brother for his position on the Council.
The intent here is good, but given that there are those militant defenders of all things conciliar who have chosen to oppose the true Faith, it may be better said:
Mindful of the genuine confusion caused by the conciliar text, and the varying opinions among those of good faith, we at Una Voce Miami are committed to fulfilling our obligation to love, understand and show respect to all of our brothers alike.
Finally, we reaffirm the great Saint Augustine of Hippo’s wise axiom that should always guide us: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, freedom; in all things, charity.” Therefore, in fidelity to the thinking and spirit of the Church, and even of the Council itself, we oppose any side imposing the Council as a “super dogma” or using it as a pretext to divide, or persecute, or to create discord among Catholics otherwise faithful to the Magisterium.
It is inopportune to include the quote from St. Augustine here as it doesn’t really apply to the situation being addressed in the Reflection. In fact, it risks giving one the false impression that the objectionable content of the Council somehow concerns matters “non-essential” to authentic unity. This is not the case at all.
Again, the intent is clearly good, but for the reasons previously given, it is a serious mistake to profess “fidelity to the thinking and spirit … even of the Council itself.”
For the sake of clarity, I think it is advisable to eliminate the reference to “any side” as it comes dangerously close to inadvertently suggesting “can’t we all just get along” or let’s “coexist.”
While there may be occasions where those who hold fast to the perennial Magisterium of the Church in some way mistreat those who embrace the Council’s novelties, the more important point – the one that the Reflection presumably hopes to make – is that the source of division concerns the Council’s deviations from the true Faith.
With these thoughts in mind, the paragraph in question may better articulate the Reflection’s intent as follows:
In fidelity to the mind and perennial Magisterium of the Church, we oppose the leveraging Vatican Council II as a pretext to divide, discriminate, persecute, or otherwise create discord among Catholics who sincerely wish to remain faithful.
If indeed these thoughts make their way to the good people at Una Voce Miami, it is my hope that they are received in the spirit with which they are offered and somehow prove helpful. My thanks to Judy Meissner for inviting my input.