Rorate Caeli

Book launch in London, 20th July - 'Vatican II: a Pastoral Council'

The Latin Mass Society is sponsoring a book launch in London for Fr Serafino Lanzetta's book: 20th July, from 6:30pm, in the basement of St Mary Moorfields, Eldon Street, London, concluding with Vespers at 8pm with the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge.

It is open to all and free, but since we are providing refreshments please let us know you are coming: emaile with 'Book launch' in the subject line.

Fr Lanzetta's book is being published in English for the first time, by Gracewing. Its translation into Englishw was sponsored by the Latin Mass Society.

Below is a written interview with Fr Lanzetta about his book.
                                            Vatican II, a pastoral Council
The Key-Problem of its Hermeneutics

Interview with Fr. Serafino M. Lanzetta about his latest work, “Vatican II: A Pastoral Council. Hermeneutics of Council Teaching”, with a foreword by Rt. Rev. Philip Egan, Gracewing 2016, 528 pp. (or. It. Il Vaticano II, un concilio pastorale. Ermeneutica delle dottrine conciliari, Siena 2014). This Interview appeared originally in French, for the Journal “Catholica” 125 (2014). The questions have been formulated by the same Journal.

1. Question: The Second Vatican Council poses first and foremost an epistemological problem even before a theological one, or rather to be precise, it poses a problem that, in as much as it is theological, is also necessarily epistemological. Are we talking about the interpretation or the understanding of its documents? The very interpretation is, in fact, a problem, both in the modern perspective of the constructivist interpretation and in the post-modern view of the deconstructivist interpretation. The interpretation does not explain the interpretation: in itself, it refers to a basic principle. More than being a solution, every interpretation is itself a problem within a problem. In the light of your studies, what do you think of this?
Answer: Hermeneutics, namely the interpretation of a text, and in our case of a Magisterial text, is never the solution to a problem but only the instrument with which to reach a solution, making reference to a basic principal that precedes the interpretation and the very development of the text. This principle is the faith of the Church, namely the organic development of her doctrine.
In my opinion, the problem is twofold. We must first of all realise that there is an interpretation problem of the texts of the Second Vatican Council. The texts – as every text, for that matter – are the object of a twofold interpretation depending on the method one adopts: that of “discontinuity and rupture”, or that of “renewal in the continuity” as Pope Benedict XVI told us. In other words, the choice of the hermeneutic approach depends on our concept of Church: what is the Church? A permanent synodality that becomes aware of itself in history through the extraordinary convocation of a council? Or a mystery that precedes time and becomes incarnated in history to then later surpass it in eternity? This means, from a theological point of view, to give to hermeneutics which is born in an existentialist and post-metaphysical context, an objective foundation in the mystery that one wants to study: in our case, a council in relation to the Church. Otherwise, we run the risk of making the method a solution, in a continuous and absorbing interpretation.
Having ascertained the fundamental approach to the hermeneutic method, a typical theme of modernity, one can also clarify another problem. It is not enough to clarify the hermeneutic approach and choose that which is consonant with the theme, it is necessary to go to the texts, the conciliar texts, by means of the hermeneutical method. In other words, it is not enough to choose the hermeneutic of “renewal in the continuity” in order to resolve the problem of the texts of Vatican II (admitting that at the epistemological level it has been recognised as such), but we must then apply it so as to allow the continuity to be seen, to demonstrate it, or rather, just show it. If the method, the approach, was the solution and not the point of departure, it would be enough to state it and to overcome the problem. In reality, if we read carefully Benedict XVI’s discourse to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005), we see how the Pontiff after having stated the correct hermeneutical principal as opposed to the erroneous one of rupture, goes on straight away to verify it in the example of religious liberty. He reaffirms that principles do not change, whereas the historical forms that bear those principles are in themselves subject to change. Therefore, continuity in the principles, while mutability or discontinuity in the historical forms. The problem, in Benedict XVI’s judgement, is precisely the coordination of continuity and discontinuity, which both lend themselves, even if on two different levels. Today, the situation of the 60s-70s of the last century in the West has already changed greatly. A great open-minded and tolerant trust towards the exercise of religious liberty has been replaced by a frightening relativist aggression, which should stimulate the theologian to discern new possibilities for a correct exercise of religious liberty in the external forum, concentrating one’s attention more on God’s truth than on the mere possibility of choosing among the varied religious panorama. This however, requires a separate discussion.
Let us return to the problem of the method. We are talking about interpreting the documents and reading them in the light of the Church’s faith, the true key-criteria from which we must begin and the foundation to which every theological interpretation must be led back. I was saying that it is not sufficient to state the hermeneutical criteria that one adopts in order to have the solution. This goes both for when one adopts an incorrect criteria like that of fundamental discontinuity and rupture, as for when one adopts the correct criteria of continuity. I will give an example to clarify this concept. Let us take a doctrinal element contained in the decree on ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio n.11: the so-called “hierarchy of truths”. What does it mean? Formulated in this way, this principle is rather new and typical of Vatican II. Certainly one must interpret this proposition correctly, which in turn serves as a criteria of interpretation of “Revelation”. Does this mean that there are truths hierarchically subordinated because less revealed than others or less binding than others because not so important? Certainly not, but it means that in the system of revealed truths (defined or not defined by the Church), not all of them have the same relationship with the basis of Revelation. For example: the Immaculate Conception of Mary is connected to God’s Revelation through the truth of original sin originated and of Christ’s Universal Redemption, but no one would dare to say that it is less important or less revealed than the truth of Universal Redemption. The hierarchy of truths must be read in view of the analogy of truth and not as subordination of some truths to others, to the point of being able to favour their momentary or permanent “pastoral freezing”. Therefore, using the hermeneutical criteria of continuity of the Council with all of the Church’s faith, analogia fidei is the only way to read this “hierarchy of truths” correctly and not using, on the contrary, as some theologians do, the precedence of praxis over theory – that is the precedence of ecumenical dialogue over the one and unique truth of the Church, claiming the unity of Christ’s disciples, invoked by the Lord Himself, more impelling today than the unity of the Church constituted by Christ. The hermeneutical principle can therefore constitute a problem. The only way that it can be used correctly is for it to be guided by what the Church has always believed and lived. In concise words, the only correct principle of interpretation of Vatican II is the uninterrupted Tradition of the Church, which also protects us from another risk: to resolve the whole of Vatican II in a hermeneutical problem, through an adaptation more or less favourable to modernity, which poses the problem of interpretation as the fundamental problem, and forgetting rather, the true reason wherefore a council is convoked within the Church. It is time, fifty years after the last ecumenical council, to make room for the faith rather then a sole interpretation of Vatican II.

2. Question: From reading the documents of Vatican II, it clearly emerges that it is the Council itself that poses the problem of the Council. It would be enough to refer to the first note of the introduction to Gaudium et spes to realise it. The Council itself appears needy of explanations: the case of the Nota explicativa praevia is emblematic. The conciliar texts objectively highlight the questions opened by themselves. To remember this simply means to take the documents seriously. To interdict discussion (on the grounds of a misunderstood “respect”, which is implicitly equivalent to an irrationalist conception of power) certainly does not contribute to clarifying the matter. The prohibition to ask questions – as Eric Voegelin has reminded us – is proper to (gnostic) ideologies. This differs from authentic theological intelligence, which is in itself, open to face questions and discussions. In your opinion, to what point are the analyses of the various problems open?
Answer: The hermeneutical problem of the Second Vatican Council does not originate simply after, during the receptive phase of the conciliar magisterium, but already in the phases of the conciliar assizes. It is very surprising to see how the theme of the Council’s pastorality, sometimes inflected as “aggiornamento” (a word never used in the papal discourses during the Council, but by John XXIII in reference to the Code of Canon Law in his speech for the convocation of the Roman Synod, and consequently of the new Council) was to be a key for passing from the schemes that had been justly prepared for the conciliar discussion, to the new schemes that arose from this discussion, and above all, from the heated theological disputes of the experts. For example, the prepared scheme De fontibus Revelationis, in the opinion of many, should have been rejected as such, because it was not very “pastoral” and furthermore, did not respond to the intentions of John XXIII in his opening speech Gaudet mater ecclesia. This manner of proceeding was like the leitmotiv in the discussion. The problem, however, was to establish what “pastoral” actually meant and if John XXIII had really wanted to pose pastorality (understood per se already in a new way) against the manner of proceeding of the previous Ecumenical Councils. This was the problem that was readdressed from time to time by the orators in session, most of all, regarding the more important schemes, such as that on the Church, which required an interpretation of the mens of the Pope. This would then require an interpretation of the mens of the Council itself. In fact, the manner of interpreting “pastorality” in relation to the opening speech, will orient the majority of the Council and therefore the votes. One is therefore obliged to ask himself, for instance, what “pastorality” means according to the mind of the Second Vatican Council.
I do not follow the footsteps of C. Theobald in the French circle, of H. Sauer in the German one, of G. Ruggieri in the Italian, who make of pastorality itself a hermeneutical principle of Vatican II, reading the entire conciliar magisterium by its light. I see pastorality rather as the problem to be resolved, indicating that which I believe to be the only solution and that is, the classic distinction between the dogmatic and pastoral. The pastoral draws its reason for being from the dogma of faith and from the one, undivided Church (in order to act, one must be), ever capable at the same time, to solicit new analyses and clarifications by reason of future challenges. It cannot become the hermeneutical motive for the conciliar movement towards a new Church, towards a “softer doctrine” that adapts itself to various situations, for the simple fact that pastorality is itself mutability linked to time and to concrete situations, whereas the Faith, protected and announced by the Church, precedes time, enlightening and redeeming it. This seems to me to be precisely a very relevant and open question for theology: the capacity to re-write, in view of the times, that ancient and harmonious binomial that sees doctrine in view of the pastoral and the pastoral for the salvation of the peoples. After all, what is necessary is to place faith and charity, reason and love, in their correct and wise circular order.
A historical and theological interest to deepen the understanding of how things really went is growing, and this without a doubt, is praiseworthy. In recent years, very useful studies have been produced on the hermeneutical theme of Vatican II and above all, on a theme that comes before every possible theological investigation: to clarify the distinction of the conciliar magisterium according to the documental hierarchy. A dogmatic constitution is not a decree or a declaration. It has been specified various times that the pillars of the whole magisterium of Vatican II are the two dogmatic constitutions: Lumen gentium on the Church and Dei Verbum on Divine Revelation, following which, Sacrosanctum Concilium on the liturgy and the pastoral Gaudium et Spes. These four constitutions, as one can see, are already different among themselves in regards to their doctrinal content. Gaudium et Spes cannot rise to a doctrine stricto sensu or in toto, as on the contrary, Lumen gentium. Rather, it presupposes some doctrinal principles: it is the word of the Church addressed to the world, with the aim of showing the way in which She understands her presence in the then contemporary panorama which has already changed today. This, as you mentioned, recalled the first note to the text of the pastoral constitution, not without letting the first difficulties transpire. It is already difficult to put together the two words that distinguish the document: “constitution” and “pastoral”. The Council is clearly adopting a new manner of teaching, which must necessarily be noted for a corresponding hermeneutic. If one then observes the two dogmatic constitutions, various levels of magisterium can be seen, even if one attests to this data: the general tenor of the teaching is solemn/extraordinary or supreme in respect to the subject who teaches (an ecumenical council) and authentic, ordinary in respect to the subject taught, deducing this from its re-proposition or initial proposition and from the way in which it is taught. In order to understand the Second Vatican Council, one must frequently make distinctions and not put “all our eggs in one basket.
Another factor must also be considered in order to approach the documents in a correct manner: it often occurs that a declaration or a decree reprises or deepens the study of the themes taught in the constitutions. One can think, for example, of the ecumenical theme and therefore, of the relation with the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church, with the other Christian communities or churches examined in Unitatis redintegratio with respect to Lumen gentium. This tells us that also a dogmatic constitution is not a closed and definitive text; its teachings can be completed by another document of an inferior juridical nature and by a theme developed elsewhere. Remember also the example of an inverse case, the theme of permanent diaconate dealt with in Lumen gentium and taken up again with a new but also problematic emphasis in the decree on the missions Ad gentes (where it speaks of “men who carry out the functions of the deacon’s office”, n.16, “functions” which however do not exist outside the sacrament). What does this say to us on a hermeneutical level? Above all that we must be cautious in distinguishing between doctrines, the way to teach them and the nature of the document that teaches them, bearing in mind the aim of the Council that is almost always present: the pastorality of the Council.
There are also other themes that would deserve new attention from theology, that I try to evidence in my work. In studying Vatican II in its conciliar phases, one witnesses a rather singular fact. During the sessions of conciliar debates and above all, in the Doctrinal Commission, some much more recent doctrines in terms of theological study and magisterial development – for example, episcopal collegiality, permanent married deacons, sacramentality of the Church – were proposed with notable zeal by skilled theologians to the Fathers, and were later taught; whereas other doctrines, much more ancient in their dogmatic development, to which was often possible to add the attribute of “common” – we can think of limbo, or the theme of creation and the snare of evolutionism, or the members of the Church (how does one belong in a perfect or full way to the Church?) in relation to the connection between the invisible mystery or mystical Body of Christ and the visible and hierarchical society or the social and historical body – were instead, set aside because considered not yet mature and to be left to theological discussion. Some questions were therefore excluded because considered disputed, whilst others not. It would be necessary to re-address the status quaestionis of many doctrines abandoned at the vigil of Vatican II and to re-propose their relevance to the present day. They could help us, above all, to resolve a great superficiality that often seems to prevail over the speculation and systematic reflection on the fonts of theological knowledge.
To pose questions is the proprium of every science, so also theology, which is the science of the Faith. It must be capable of raising questions, certainly not in order to embrace the Cartesian method which desires to demonstrate the faith by questioning it, but to clarify, as far as possible, the reason for its assumptions and to favour the development of the intellectus fidei: to read the faith from within, entering into it, so to say. What is important, however, is not to ask questions but to ask the right questions. This is precisely what I hope to do in my latest work, where I try to pose those questions which, in my opinion, are still to be answered, but which hold special importance for the object of our study.

3. Question: As is known, since its indiction, Vatican II was willed as pastoral (therefore, neither dogmatic nor disciplinary). A method and a praxis are manifested in order to precede and dispose the documents themselves. Thus a method is established and the content to be identified. Or analogously, the praxeological attitude is the premise, and the teaching is to be carried out as a consequence. Precisely for this reason, the primate of pastorality emerges (in the intentions, formulation, language). In this sense, pastorality itself undeniably opens a problem rather than contain a solution. Studying Vatican II in your latest book, you make use of the category of “pastoral epiphany”. What reflections do you propose in this regard?
Answer: As I said before, it is my opinion that pastorality is the problem to be resolved in the Council. Not in the sense that it is a problem in itself, but rather, because we do not have a definition of pastorality according to the mind of the Council. One simply retakes its classical meaning and definition in theology, or it is read according to the minds of some influential conciliar theologians, ending up with assuming more than one role or often going beyond its ambit. In the name of pastorality, discussions were cut short, by it, the agenda of the Council’s extraordinary magisterium was often planned and doctrine proposed, even if, like I said, their theological age was extremely young, and should rather have been left to further debate notwithstanding its long course. There is also another surprising factor: pastorality is also often inflected as an ecumenical effort of the Council, but this almost always means a one-way ecumenism with Protestants. And what about the Orthodox of the East? Some Fathers complained about this, seeing in this pastoral choice more a wound to unity than a new encouragement. For example, why was there an extremely long disquisition on the Traditio constitutiva of the Church, which had lasted over years, with the aim of toning it down, when it was the central and vital theme of Orthodoxy (above all in the liturgical ambit)?
Furthermore, I consider that the key problem is this: one cannot make of the object of study, that is, of understanding the new significance of the conciliar pastorality, the same hermeneutical method with which one approaches the problem. I reiterate: the problem cannot become the method as occurs in many hermeneutics. I would like to give a concrete example in order to show the different way in which the Council Fathers, and even before them, the theologians, debated in the name of pastorality, which was to be indicated by John XXIII as the new position of the entire magisterial structure. For this purpose, I present the definition of the word “pastoral” given by a conciliar Father and a theological expert of the Council’s Doctrinal Commission.
The General Master of the Dominicans, one of the Conciliar Fathers, Fr. A. Fernandez presents this definition of “pastoral” in one of his oral interventions during the Conciliar session as thus:
“1. The word “pastoral” is an adjective. It cannot be understood nor explained if not with regard to the substantive. The substantive admits a double case, and one must not mistake one for the other; a) either means the substantive that is the pasture or food; b) or otherwise the substantive that is the method of administering food and pasture. 2. Therefore, the pastoral munus of the Council refers principally to the substantive that is the food or the pasture. In fact, the Council defends the truth, it proposes the truth. The truth is clear, perspicuous, it is what one would expect of it. The pastoral munus of each one of us refers principally to the substantive that is the method. The conciliar doctrine belongs to the pastors, wholesome food to administer to all, attentive to the conditions of places, times and people. A simple way to the simple, a learned manner to the learned. […] We must not seek a pastoral nature that is obtained to the detriment of the truth. Wherefore, if out of two formulas, one more pastoral but less clear and exact, and another less pastoral but clearer and more exact, without a doubt, the second is to be preferred in council. In pastoral praxis the first is chosen; […]” (in Acta Synodalia [=AS] I/3, p.237).
Against this idea of pastorality in line with the constant vision of theology and magisterium, was the more theologically personal interpretation of E. Schillebeeckx, which was no less influential as can be seen from the discussions in Doctrinal Commission. He writes:
“The pastoral council becomes doctrinal, precisely on account of its pastoral character. “Pastoral” calls for doctrinal deepening” (The Council notes of Edward Schillebeeckx 1962-1963, Peters, Leuven 2011, p. 37). Here the Council’s pastorality clearly, rather than being food with which to nourish the faithful with the truth, becomes a “strategy” which makes the same doctrine blossom. Of course, not all the theologians shared in this vision, but the more influential and renowned did.
This is why it is not easy to identify straight away and with absolute certainty what pastorality means in Vatican II. For this reason I chose the word “epiphania” (manifestation, apparition) to objectify where, from my point of view, this easy composition of doctrine and pastoral is manifested – that doctrine gradually formed for a pastoral motive, not for the presentation of a doctrine as such, but for a presentation to be made in a certain way, bearing in mind certain external requests, among which in a prevailing manner, the ecumenical afflatus. Following the distinction of Fr Fernandez, the Council already carries out the work of the pastor, that work of “translation” which would then have been assigned to bishops and priests with all-pastoral prudence and solicitude. I speak of “pastoral epiphanies” therefore, because I try to show precisely how the “principally pastoral aim” of the Council, as one deduces more than once from the official replies either from the Secretary of the Council or from the Council’s Doctrinal Commission (cf. AS II/6, 205; AS III/8, p.10), presides in a certain way over the magisterial development of Vatican II and therefore limits, besides the teaching itself, also the way of presenting a doctrine, doing it in such a way that Vatican II normally consolidates itself on the ordinary authentic magisterium. Vatican II was free to do so, but councils were normally convoked not to begin teaching doctrines, but to settle errors, to define truths of the Faith, or to teach them in a definitive and hence unreformable way. Here, for example, lies the difference between Vatican I and Vatican II. It is necessary to realise this difference, bearing in mind that it reveals itself precisely in this new fusion of pastorality and doctrinality. With my interpretation however, I intend to protect Vatican II from an excessive enthusiasm, which could end up generating a new re-interpretation precisely due to the “pastoral epiphanies”, finally concluding that for the first time, we truly find ourselves before a pastoral council! In fact, whilst I examine these epiphanies with the aim of applying a realistic hermeneutic, I keep to the traditional distinction between pastoral and dogmatic, seeing them as one being the reason of the other, but subordinating the praxis to faith and dogma.
I carry out an examination of the Council’s epiphanic pastorality fundamentally in three areas of the conciliar doctrines: 1) in the intentions and formation of the doctrine regarding the relationship Scripture-Tradition in Dei Verbum; 2) in the intentions and formation of the doctrine on the Church in Lumen gentium; 3) in the intentions of the Fathers and, therefore, in the formation of the Mariological doctrine in the VIII Chapter of Lumen gentium. The formation of the Marian chapter of the constitution on the Church is truly an emblem of a Council in fieri, fundamentally divided on the interpretation of the pastoral and ecumenical significance that is to be given to its teaching. Our Lady and the conciliar Mariology, though very rich and abundant, is however, also a reflection of a problem which already arose in the Council when, simply for a disparity of 40 votes, the Marian scheme was incorporated into that on the Church, with everything that this incorporation could and had to mean. What counts on the magisterial level is the doctrine taught in the final document, but its correct hermeneutic would be impossible without taking into account its formation and the mens that animated the Fathers. Vatican II is certainly a new council from various points of view, but not up to the point of having to transform the Church itself into a new council, which is capable of raising enthusiasm from time to time and according to the various stages of history.
4. Questions: In your work on Vatican II, after having dealt extensively with the problem of the conciliar teaching as an act of magisterium, you focus on the question of the Council’s position regarding the theological qualification of its very doctrines. The theories of those who made of it a “superdogma” (to use the expression of the then Cardinal Ratzinger), or in other words, the beginning of a “new Christianity” before which anything “pre-conciliar” is to be rejected, have emerged in these post-conciliar years. In this sense, coherently, they are surpassed by the theorists of the “spirit of the Council”, for whom Vatican II must go beyond itself: it is prolonged in the praxis that surpasses the “spirit”, to the point of exhausting (and emptying) it in this movement. Likewise, there are those who (they would say with a “conservatory” attitude) have “dogmatised” all the conciliar texts, making themselves their jealous propagators and aggressive custodians, but are paradoxically proved wrong by the very same conciliar texts. Could you indicate what are your theological conclusions in this regard?
Answer: It is particularly disconcerting to see how the Second Vatican Council has been “bent”, not without deliberate coercions, to the most varied interpretations that are all fundamentally ascribable to an over-estimation of the last council, with respect not only to all the other previous ones, but also to the Church’s history and the very mystery of the Church. Of course, if we start from the idea that between the first and the third Christian millennium there is a historical and conciliar gap – as the so-called “Bologna School” does – then Vatican II certainly serves to fill this void that was suddenly created. Undoubtedly, not all the councils were dogmatic like Trent and Vatican I, but certainly no council was pastorally dogmatic or dogmatically pastoral as Vatican II is made to become from time to time, both when it is made to rise as a new beginning and the North Star of the solemn and supreme magisterium of the Church, as well as when, in order to protect its new doctrines, they are “infallibilised” without realising that the Council itself does not desire this. What we ask ourselves however, is the “why” of such a tenacity on Vatican II. Maybe because it was supposed to represent the banner for a certain Catholicism which was very quickly auto-defined post-conciliar? A new “style” of being the Church and Christians? They do not realise that precisely this effort is to the detriment of the Council itself, reducing it to a dam, to a “superdogma” that in fact relativizes faith and morals.

Following the historical development of the idea of the council and its form (see the first chapter of my book), it is interesting to learn that it is not the juridical concept of “representation” (a council represents the Church) that defines a council in the strict sense – the conciliarists of the XIV century had mastered this concept in order to subordinate the Pope to the council – but rather the need, that was already felt at the first ecumenical council of Nicea, to defend the faith and to teach the truth: the greatest spiritual gift. The issue of a council has never been its infallibility, but the necessity to teach the truth.

Also those who see Vatican II as a break from Tradition, in my humble opinion, over-estimates the Council, dogmatising and infallibilising each of its doctrines, even those that are more dispositions or pastoral teachings relative to times, which were judged as new. If, in the judgement of some theologians, a solid biblical foundation is missing in order to establish, in the external forum, religious liberty as a foundation of a Christian State, from which “tolerance” towards the exercise of other religious cult is derived, how much more unsteady will such a biblical foundation be when one places all religions, because such, on the same level with regard to the exercise of cult in civil society, leaving to the laity the responsibility of announcing the Gospel to all?  Does the State no longer have any obligation towards God and the religio vera? I refer, to the example of positive religious liberty (exercised in the external forum) because it is one of the most debated subjects, whereas negative religious liberty remains biblically and traditionally clear (no matter of faith can be forced on someone’s conscience). This is one of the topics, perhaps the most heated, that requires like others, greater elasticity. It is necessary for Vatican II to be both read and interpreted for what it is, according to its mens, and not according to a personal (political) inclination towards the ecclesiastical right or left-wing, or a subjective sensitivity towards the conservative or progressive. Already in 1968 Dietrich von Hildebrand proved that a mere contraposition between conservatism and progressivism is simply sterile: the point is either truth or prevarication, the truth or a “spiritual house of cards”.

For this purpose, based on other studies that have been published along the same line, it has been my desire to interrogate the Council as such. I have sought to re-discover – as far as it has been granted to me and save for a better judgement – the mens of the Vatican on certain key doctrines. The theologian is interested in understanding above all, so as to move with surety, the grade of magisterial teaching of the doctrines that we have before us. Precisely because this is not always clear, it is necessary to have recourse to a systematic study of the Council’s sources. The grade of magisterial teaching to which corresponds a theological note and on the other hand, a theological censure – I re-engage the topic of notes and censures that are so indispensable to the theological discussion –, with which to indicate a doctrine, allows us to examine the conciliar doctrines in a sure way; and there, where one finds the need because dealing with doctrines not yet definitively taught, to also be able to indicate some suggestions for an organic dogmatic progress, realised in any case by the Church’s magisterium. Upon examining these doctrines, which are among the most important and significant in the whole magisterial structure: Scripture-Tradition, members of the Church/belonging to the Church, episcopal collegiality, the mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Christ and in the Church, I have reached the conclusion that we find ourselves before truths to which could be attributed the following theological note: “sententiae ad fidem pertinentes”, that is doctrines “upon which magisterium has not yet pronounced itself definitively, whose negation could lead to placing other truths of the faith in danger and whose truth is guaranteed by their intimate connection with revelation” (see pp. 423-432 of my book). A subsequent dogmatic development would still be possible for these doctrines, to reach the grade “definitive tenenda” and higher still, to their proclamation as dogma of faith. For a fair number of theologians in Council, only the question of the “sacramentality of the episcopate” is a definitive doctrine. Also on this point, however, there is no unanimity.

The verification of the so-called “mens Sanctae Synodus” could be seen by some as a light-hearted or even dangerous exercise, since it is up to the Magisterium to justify itself. Such a cutting off however, would abolish the very being of theology and contradict the repeated invites of the Council’s General Secretariat to read the proposed doctrines from the conciliar magisterium (not dogmatically defined nor held definitively, which would not require any interpretation because self-explanatory and would therefore be clear) with the spirit of the Council itself, a spirit that can be deduced from the subject dealt with and from the manner of expression, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation.

The distinctiveness of my work consists in the fact that, with the aim of faithfully interpreting these doctrines of the Council, I avail myself of numerous first-hand sources. The numerous expert reports of theologians of the Doctrinal Commission were of great importance to my work, and which in the hierarchy of fonts, are to be placed at a much higher level than personal diaries, following straight after the Synodal Acts. They constitute the most authentic testimonies of what the theological mind of the Council prepared for the discussions, modifying or improving them based on the Council discussions, accepting or not the so-called modi presented by the Fathers. It is not hard to find the theological theses of various experts of the majority positions within the Commission. To follow the discussion of the Doctrinal Commission step-by-step is of great epistemic help in order to correctly evaluate the discussions of the Fathers in session. The Fathers frequently depended on their theologians, but their theology did not always depend on the Church’s Tradition. This is also a factor that one must bear in mind, and that can settle, so I think, many discussions that are still open regarding the correct hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council.

Serafino M. Lanzetta
Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.