In a response to the article of Mgr. Ocáriz "On adhesion to the Second Vatican Council", published in L'Osservatore Romano, Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, professor of theology in the International Seminary of Saint Pius X in Écône, Switzerland, and who also took part in the doctrinal discussions between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), wrote the following text, published at Courrier de Rome, and made available by DICI shortly before Christmas. We post the excerpt here now for the record of current events.
“A Crucial Question”.
(…) No doubt we could congratulate ourselves that we are finally seeing a theologian of the Holy See introduce all these nuances and thus deny quite formally, albeit implicitly, all the unilateral presentations which until now have presented the Second Vatican Council in a maximalist perspective, as an absolutely untouchable dogma that is “even more important than that of Nicaea”. However, as seductive as it may be in the nuances and distinctions that it offers, such an analysis radically conveys a postulate that is far from being self-evident. Msgr. Ocariz’ study thus avoids responding to the crucial question, which is still pending between the Society of Saint Pius X and the Holy See. More precisely, the answer to this question seems to go without saying in the view of the Opus Dei prelate, so much so that everything happens as though it had never been necessary to address it. Or as though the debate would never have to take place.
Yet this debate is more imperative than ever. It is in fact far from self-evident that the last Council could impose its authority, in all matters and for all purposes, in the eyes of Catholics as the exercise of a genuine Magisterium, demanding their adherence at the different levels that are noted. Indeed, if we recall the traditional definition of Magisterium, we really are obliged to observe that the proceedings of Vatican II hardly conform to them. Much less so, given that this wholesale novelty of the 21st Ecumenical Council explains itself in depth in terms of absolutely unheard-of presuppositions. (…)
The fact of Vatican II: new teachings contrary to Tradition
On at least four points, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are obviously in logical contradiction to the pronouncements of the previous traditional Magisterium, so that it is impossible to interpret them in keeping with the other teachings already contained in the earlier documents of the Church’s Magisterium. Vatican II has thus broken the unity of the Magisterium, to the same extent to which it has broken the unity of its object.
These four points are as follows. The doctrine on religious liberty, as it is expressed in no. 2 of the Declaration Dignitatis humanae, contradicts the teachings of Gregory XVI in Mirari vos and of Pius IX in Quanta cura as well as those of Pope Leo XIII in Immortale Dei and those of Pope Pius XI in Quas primas. The doctrineon the Church, as it is expressed in no. 8 of the Constitution Lumen gentium, contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius XII in Mystici corporis and Humani generis. The doctrine on ecumenism, as it is expressed in no. 8 ofLumen gentium and no. 3 of the Decree Unitatis redintegratio, contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius IX in propositions 16 and 17 of the Syllabus, those of Leo XIII in Satis cognitum, and those of Pope Pius XI inMortalium animos. The doctrine on collegiality, as it is expressed in no. 22 of the Constitution Lumen gentium, including no. 3 of the Nota praevia [Explanatory Note], contradicts the teachings of the First Vatican Council on the uniqueness of the subject of supreme power in the Church, in the Constitution Pastor aeternus. (…)
A new set of problems
In keeping with the [December] 2005 address [of Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia], Msgr. Ocariz posits the principle of a “unitary interpretation”, according to which the documents of Vatican II and the preceding Magisterial documents ought to shed light on each other. The interpretation of the novelties taught by the Second Vatican Council must therefore reject, as Benedict XVI says, “the hermeneutic of discontinuity” with relation to Tradition, whereas it must affirm “the hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in continuity.” This is new vocabulary, which clearly expresses a new set of problems. The latter inspires the whole observation by Msgr. Ocariz: “One essential characteristic of the Magisterium,” he writes, “it its continuity and its homogeneity over time.”
If we speak about “continuity” or “rupture”, this should be understood, in the traditional sense, to mean a continuity or rupture that is objective, in other words, related to the object of the Church’s preaching. This is tantamount to speaking about the set of revealed truths, as the Magisterium of the Church preserves and presents them, giving them the same significance, without the possibility of a contradiction between present preaching and past preaching. Rupture would consist of attacking the immutable character of objective Tradition and would then be a synonym for logical contradiction between two statements, the respective meanings of which cannot both be true at the same time.
But it is necessary to admit the plain truth and to recognize that the word “continuity” does not have this traditional sense at all in the current discourse of ecclesiastics. They speak precisely about continuity with regard to a subject that evolves over the course of time. It is not a question of the continuity of an object, of the dogma or the doctrine that the Church’s Magisterium proposes today, giving it the same meaning as before. It is a question of the continuity of the unique subject “Church”. Moreover Benedict XVI speaks not exactly about continuity but about “renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.” Conversely, he adds immediately afterward, “The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church.” That means that the rupture must be situated on that same level: it is a rupture between two subjects, meaning that the Church, the one subject [consisting] of the People of God, would no longer be the same before and after the Council. (…)
The knot of the dilemma
In the logic of Vatican II and of the 2005 Address [to the Roman Curia], the object as such is relative to the subject. In the logic of Vatican I, and of all the traditional teaching of the Church, the subject as such is relative to the object. These two logics are irreconcilable.
The Magisterium, in whatever era it may be, must remain the organ of the deposit of the faith. It becomes perverted to the extent in which it alters that deposit. It is false to say that divinely revealed principles that have been made explicit by the previous Magisterium are not necessarily binding, on the pretence that the subject-Church experiences them differently through the contingency of history, or that the People of God finds itself being led to establish a new relation between its faith and the modern world. Some principles that are applied in contingent matters (for instance those that form the basis of the whole social doctrine of the Church) are not contingent. No doubt, the substantial immutability of revealed truth is not absolute, because the conceptual and verbal expression of that truth can acquire greater precision. But this progress does not involve any calling into question of the meaning of the truth, which only becomes more explicit in its formulation.The principles are still necessary principles, whatever the different concrete forms they may assume when they are applied. This distinction between principles and concrete forms proves to be artificial with regard to the social doctrine of the Church; when Benedict XVI resorts to it in his 2005 Address [to the Roman Curia] in order to legitimize the Declaration Dignitatis humanae, he does so in vain.
To return to Vatican II: the fundamental question is to determine the first principle that must serve as the ultimate rule for the activity of the Magisterium. Is it the objective data of divine revelation, as it is expressed in its definitive substance through the teaching authority of Christ and the apostles, to which the ecclesiastical Magisterium is only the successor? Is it the communitarian experience of the People of God, the trustee (and not just the recipient) of the gift of the Truth as the bearer of the meaning of the faith? In the first case, the ecclesiastical Magisterium is the organ of Tradition, and it depends on the divine-apostolic teaching authority as its objective rule; the question then is whether the objective teachings of the Second Vatican Council are those of a constant Magisterium and an immutable Tradition. In the second case, the ecclesiastical Magisterium is the amalgamating spokesman of the communal awareness of the People of God, charged with establishing the spatial-temporal cohesion of the expression of the sensus fidei; Vatican II is then for the subject-Church the means of expressing in conceptual language its sensus fidei, experienced and updated with respect to the contingencies of the modern era.
Hermeneutic and reinterpretation
In Msgr. Ocariz’ view, the teachings of Vatican II are novelties “in the sense that they make explicit some new aspects which were not yet formulated by the Magisterium but which, on the doctrinal level, do not contradict the preceding Magisterial documents”. An accurate exegesis of the documents of the Council would therefore apparently presuppose the principle of non-contradiction. But appearances are deceiving, since non-contradiction no longer has the same meaning at all as it did until now.
The Magisterium of the Church has always understood this principle to mean an absence of logical contradiction between two objective statements. Logical contradiction is an opposition that is found between two propositions, one of which affirms and the other denies the same thing predicated of the same subject. The principle of non-contradiction demands that if this opposition occurs, the two propositions cannot be true at the same time. This principle is a law of the intellect and only expresses the unity of its object. Since faith defines itself as intellectual adherence to the truth proposed by God, it verifies this principle. The objective unity of the faith also corresponds to an absence of contradiction in its dogmatic statements.
The hermeneutic of Benedict XVI now understands this principle in a sense that is no longer objective but subjective, no longer intellectualistic but voluntaristic. “The absence of contradiction” is a synonym for continuity at the level of the subject. Contradiction is a synonym for rupture, at the same level. The principle of continuity does not demand first and foremost the unity of the truth. It demands first and foremost the unity of the subject that develops and grows over the course of time. It is the unity of the People of God, as it lives in the present moment, in the world of this time, to quote the suggestive title of the Pastoral Constitution [on the Church in the Modern World], Gaudium et spes. This unity is expressed solely through the authorized word of the present Magisterium, precisely insofar as it is present. Msgr. Ocariz underscores this: “An authentic interpretation of the conciliar documents can be made only by the Church’s Magisterium itself. That is why the theological work of interpreting passages in the conciliar documents that raise questions or seem to present difficulties must above all take into account the meaning in which the successive interventions of the Magisterium have understood these passages.” Let us make no mistake about it: this Magisterium which must serve as a rule of interpretation is the new Magisterium of this time, the one that resulted from Vatican II. It is not the Magisterium of all ages. As it has been rightly remarked, Vatican II must be understood in the light of Vatican II, reinterpreting in its own logic of subjective, living continuity all the teachings of the constant Magisterium.
Until now the Magisterium of the Church has never compromised itself by begging the question in this way. It has always wanted to be faithful to its mission of preserving the deposit [of faith]. Its principal justification has always been to refer to the testimonies of the objective Tradition which is unanimous and constant. Its expression has always been that of the unity of the truth. (…)
That is why nobody could be content today with the so-called “spaces for theological freedom” at the very heart of the contradiction introduced by Vatican II. The profound desire of any Catholic who is faithful to his baptismal promises is to adhere with complete filial submission to the teachings of the perennial Magisterium. The same piety demands also, with increasing urgency, a remedy for the serious deficiencies that have paralyzed the exercise of this Magisterium since the last Council. To this end the Society of Saint Pius X still desires, now more than ever, an authentic reform, meaning that it is up to the Church to remain true to herself, to remain what she is in the unity of her faith, and thus to preserve her original form, in fidelity to the mission that she received from Christ. Intus reformari. [To be reformed inwardly.] (Source : Courrier de Rome – Emphasis in bold added by the editor. – DICI no.247 dated December 23, 2011)