Rorate Caeli

Msgr Pozzo on Aspects of the Ecclesiology of Vatican II

The following is a private, unofficial translation made by Fr. Charles W. Johnson (a U.S. military chaplain) on behalf of Rorate Caeli, of Msgr. Pozzo's speech on July 2, 2010 to the FSSP in Wigratzbad, the original of which has been posted on the Italian-language version of the main FSSP website. DICI has published a short article comparing this speech with the views of Romano Amerio and Brunero Gherardini (see here). CAP.
All emphases are in the original.

The text of a conference given by Msgr. Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” delivered to the European priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter on July 2, 2010, at Wigratzbad. That same day, Msgr. Pozzo had celebrated a Solemn High Mass in the church of Maria Thann, at which more than a hundred priests and seminarians of the same Fraternity were present. (Photos can be found here.) The following day, his Eminence Cardinal Cañizares Llovera ordained five deacons to the priesthood (Photographs of the ordination rites).



If one considers the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church by Vatican Council II, the grandeur and the fullness of the mystery of the Church and her inner renewal are immediately apparent, thanks to the efforts of the Council Fathers.

If, however, one reads or hears much of that which has been said by certain theologians—some of them famous, some of a more amateur theology—or that which has been broadcast in the post-conciliar Catholic press, it is impossible not to experience a deep sadness and to harbor grave apprehensions. It is truly difficult to conceive of a greater contrast than that which exists between the documents on the one hand, and, on the other, the many, ambiguous ideas and affirmations, which are debatable and often contrary to correct Catholic doctrine, and which have multiplied in Catholic circles and in public opinion in general.

When one speaks of the Second Vatican Council and the way it was received, the key point of reference ought to be one only, that which the papal Magisterium itself has formulated in an unequivocal and very clear way. In the discourse of December 22 to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict XVI expressed himself as follows: “The question arises: why has the reception of the Council, in many parts of the Church, unfolded up till now with so much difficulty? Indeed, everything depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or—as we would say nowadays—on its correct hermeneutic, the correct key for reading and interpreting it. The problems of its reception have been born of the fact that two contrary hermeneutics have found themselves opposed and have been in a struggle with each other. One has caused confusion, the other—silently, but always more visibly—has borne and continues to bear fruit. On one side, there is an interpretation that I [continues the Holy Father] would call the ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity and of rupture’; it has often been able to avail itself of the sympathy of the mass media and even of part of modern theology. On the other side, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in continuity of the unique subject-Church, which the Lord has given us; it is a subject which grows and develops, remaining nevertheless the same: the one, only subject of the pilgrim people of God.” [Cf. Benedict XVI, Insegnamenti, vol. I, Ed. Vaticana, Vatican City, 2006, pp. 1023 et seqq.]

Evidently, if the Holy Father speaks of two divergent interpretations or interpretive keys—one of discontinuity or rupture with Catholic Tradition, and one of renewal within continuity—that means that the crucial question or truly determinant point regarding the origin of the difficulties, disorientation, and confusion that have characterized and continue to characterize in part our own times is not Vatican Council II as such, the objective teaching contained in its documents, but it is the interpretation of that teaching. In this address, I propose to develop briefly two particular aspects, with the purpose of highlighting the fixed points for a correct interpretation of conciliar doctrine, in contrast to the deviations and obfuscations brought forth by the hermeneutic of discontinuity:

I. the unity and unicity of the Catholic Church;
II. the Catholic Church and other religions in relation to salvation.

Finally, I would like to conclude with certain considerations on the causes of the hermeneutic of discontinuity with Tradition, setting in relief, above all, the forma mentis that lies at the root of it.


1. Against the opinion, held by numerous theologians, that Vatican II introduced radical changes in regard to the understanding of the Church we must attest above all that the Council remained on traditional ground as far as its doctrine on the Church. That does not, however, mean that the Council did not introduce new orientations and propound some key aspects. The novelty, in regard to declarations prior to the Council, is in the fact that the relation of the Catholic Church to the Orthodox Churches and the evangelical [Protestant] communities born of the Lutheran Reformation is dealt with as a self-sufficient theme and in a formally positive way, whereas in the encyclical Mortalium animos of Pius XI (1928), for example, the intention was to delimit and distinguish with precision the Catholic Church from non-Catholic Christian confessions.

2. At any rate, in the first place, Vatican II insisted on the unity and unicity of the true Church, referring to the existent Catholic Church: “This is the one Church of Christ that in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” (LG 8). In the second place, the Council answers the question of where the true Church can be found: “This Church, constituted and organized in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church” (LG 8). And to avoid any equivocation regarding the identification of the true Church of Church with the Catholic Church, it is added that under consideration is the Church “governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him” (LG 8). The one Church of Christ, therefore, is realized, given existence, and established in the Catholic Church. There is no other Church of Christ alongside the Catholic Church. With this is affirmed—at least implicitly—that the Church of Jesus Christ is not divided as such, not even in its substance, and that her indivisible unity is not nullified by the many divisions among Christians.

This doctrine of the indivisibility of the Christ’s Church, of her substantial identification with the Catholic Church, is recalled in the documents of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973), Dominus Jesus, 16 and 17 (2000), and in the Responsa ad dubia [i.e., replies to inquiries] on certain ecclesiological questions (2007).

The expression “subsistit in” [“subsists in”] of Lumen Gentium 8 means that Christ’s Church is not lost in the vicissitudes of history but continues to exist as a unique and undivided subject in the Catholic Church. The Church of Christ subsists, is found, and is recognized in the Catholic Church. In this sense, there is full continuity with the doctrine taught by the earlier Magisterium (Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Pius XII).

3. With the formula “subsistit in” the doctrine of the Council—in conformity with Catholic Tradition—wished to exclude expressly any form of ecclesiological relativism whatsoever. At the same time, the substitution of “subsistit in” for the “est” [“is”] used in the encyclical Mystici Corporis of Pius XII was meant to confront the ecumenical problem in a more direct and explicit way than had been done in the past. If, then, the Church is one only and is found in a unique subject, there exist, nevertheless, outside this subject ecclesial elements, true and real elements, that impel Catholic unity because they are proper to the Catholic Church.

The merit of the Council is, on the one hand, to have expressed the unicity, indivisibility, and non-multiplicity of the Catholic Church while, on the other hand, having recognized that there exist even in non-Catholic Christian confessions gifts and elements possessing an ecclesial character, which justify and encourage the work of restoring the unity of all Christ’s disciples. The pretext of being the one Church of Christ cannot, in fact, be understood in a way that does not recognize the essential difference between the non-Catholic Christian faithful and the non-baptized. It is not possible, in fact, to place on the same level, in regard to adherence to the Church, non-Catholic Christians and those who have not received Baptism. The relation between the Catholic Church and the non-Catholic Christian Churches and ecclesial communities is not that between all and nothing, but between the fullness of communion and partial communion.

4. In the paradox, so to speak, of the difference between the unicity of the Catholic Church and the existence of truly ecclesial elements outside this unique subject, there is reflected the contradiction of division and of sin. But this division is something entirely different than that relativist vision that considers the divisions between Christians not as a sorrowful fragmentation but as a manifestation of manifold doctrinal variations of a single theme, in which all variations and divergences are in a certain way justified, and which should be mutually recognized and accepted as differences and divergences. The idea that stems from this is that ecumenism should consist of the reciprocal and respectful recognition of differences, and that Christianity should be, in the end, the sum of the fragments of Christian reality. Such an interpretation of the Council’s thought is precisely an expression of discontinuity and rupture with Catholic Tradition and represents a profound falsification of the Council.

5. In order to recover an authentic interpretation of the Council in line with an evolution in substantial continuity with the traditional doctrine of the Church, it is important to stress that the elements of “sanctification and of truth” that other Christian Churches and communities have in common with the Catholic Church constitute, taken together, the basis for reciprocal ecclesial communion and the foundation that characterizes this communion in a way that is true, authentic, and real. It would be necessary, though, to add for the sake of completeness that whatever they have that is proper to them and not shared with the Catholic Church, and which separates them from her, connotes them as not the Church. They are, therefore, “instruments of salvation” (UR 3) by virtue of what they have in common with the Catholic Church and their faithful, following that which is common to both, can attain salvation; but in regards to whatever in them is estranged from and opposed to the Catholic Church they are not an instrument of salvation (provided that one is treating of an invincibly ignorant conscience, in which case their error is not imputable to them, even if their conscience must be regarded as erroneous) [cf. for example the fact of ordination of women or homosexual persons to the priesthood and episcopacy in certain Anglican and Old Catholic communities].

6. Vatican II teaches that all the baptized are, as such, members of (the Body of) Christ (UR 3), but at the same time declares that one can only speak of an “aliqua communio, etsi non perfecta” [“some communion, even if not perfect”] between the non-Catholic baptized Christians on one hand and the Catholic Church on the other (UR 3).

Baptism constitutes a sacramental bond of unity among those who believe in Christ. Nevertheless, this is in itself only the beginning and prologue, so to speak, because Baptism intrinsically tends towards the acquisition of the entire life in Christ. Indeed, Baptism is ordered to an integral profession of faith, to an integral communion with the institution of salvation willed by Christ, which is the Church, and finally to an integral inclusion in the Eucharistic communion (UR 22). It is clear, therefore, that belonging to the Church cannot be considered complete if baptismal life is subsequently something objectively defective and adulterated regarding doctrine and Sacraments. A Church can only be identified in the fullest sense where those various necessary and inalienable “sacred” elements that constitute it as a Church are found together: apostolic succession (which implies communion with the Successor of Peter), the Sacraments, and Sacred Scripture. When one of these elements is missing or present but defective, the reality of the ecclesial presence is altered in proportion to the defect involved. In particular, the term “Church” can legitimately be applied to the separated Eastern Churches, but not to the communities born of the Reformation, since in the latter there is an absence of apostolic succession and the loss of most of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. This loss wounds and weakens a substantial part of their ecclesiality (Dominus Jesus 16 and 17).

7. The Catholic Church possesses in herself all truth, because she is the Body and the Spouse of Christ. Nevertheless, she does not fully comprehend it; wherefore, she must be guided by the Holy Spirit “into all truth” (John 16:13). Being is one thing, the full knowledge of being another. Therefore, research and knowledge progress and develop. Even the members of the Catholic Church do not always live at the height of their truth and dignity. Thus, the Catholic Church is able to grow in the comprehension of truth, in the sense of making her own consciously and self-reflectively that which she is ontologically and existentially. In this context, the usefulness and necessity of ecumenical dialogue is recognized, in order to recover that which gradually had been marginalized or obscured in certain historical periods and to reintegrate partially forgotten notions back into the synthesis of Christian existence. Dialogue with non-Catholics is never without fruit nor merely pro forma so long as one presupposes that the Church is conscious of having in her Lord the fullness of truth and the means of salvation.

The following doctrinal articulations are meant to develop a theology in full continuity with Tradition and at the same time in line with the orientation and enrichment desired by Vatican Council II and the subsequent Magisterium up to the present.


It is normal that, in a world that increasingly grows more connected to the point of producing a global village, even religions should come in contact. So today the coexistence of diverse religions increasingly characterizes the daily life of mankind. This leads not only to an external encounter of the followers of various religions but also contributes to a development of interest in systems of religions unknown up till now. In the West the tendency of modern man to cultivate tolerance and liberality prevails more and more in the collective conscience, along with an abandonment of the notion that Christianity is the “true” religion. The so-called idea of the “absolutism of Christianity,” translated in the traditional formula that salvation is in the one Church, encounters nowadays incomprehension and rejection on the part of Catholics and Protestants. For the classic formula “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” [“outside the Church there is no salvation”] is often substituted now the formula “extra Ecclesiam multa salus” [“outside the Church there is much salvation”].

The consequences of this religious relativism are not only on the theoretical level, but they have devastating repercussions on the pastoral level. Ever more widespread is the idea that the Christian mission does not have to pursue the goal of the pagans’ conversion to Christianity, but the mission is limited either to a mere witnessing to one’s own faith or to working in solidarity and fraternal love to bring about peace among peoples and social justice.

In such a context, one sees a fundamental deficiency: that is, the loss of the question of Truth. With a loss of the question about Truth, that is, about the true religion, the essence of religion no longer is differentiated from that of mystification. That is, faith can no longer be distinguished from superstition; authentic religious experience from illusion; mysticism from false mysticism. In fine, without the demand for truth, even the appreciation of that which is just and valid in various religions becomes contradictory, because a criterion of truth is lacking by which that which is true and good in other religions can be ascertained.

It is therefore necessary and urgent to recall today the fixed points of Catholic doctrine on the relation between the Church and other religions as concerns the question of truth and salvation, with special concern for the profound identity of the Christian mission of evangelization. Let us examine in order a synthesis of the teaching of the Magisterium, which will shed light on how even in this aspect there is a substantial continuity of Catholic thought, though with a richness of emphases and perspectives with their root in Vatican Council II and the more recent papal Magisterium.

1. The missionary mandate. Christ sent forth His Apostles so that, “in His Name,” “conversion and forgiveness of sins might be preached to all the nations” (Luke 24:47). “Teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). The mission to baptize, and therefore the sacramental mission, is implicit in the mission to evangelize, because the Sacrament is prepared by the Word of God and by faith, which is in conformity with this Word (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1122).

2. Origin and scope of the Christian mission. The missionary mandate of the Lord has its ultimate origin in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity, and the ultimate end of the mission is nothing other than to make men sharers in the communion which exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 850).

3. Salvation and Truth. “God wills that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). This means that “God wills the salvation of all by means of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth” (Declaration Dominus Jesus 22). “The certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not lessen but rather increases the duty and the urgency of proclaiming salvation and conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ” (ibid.).

4. The true religion. Vatican Council II “professes that God Himself has made known to the human race the way by which men, if they follow it, may find salvation and become happy. This unique true religion, we believe, subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord has entrusted the mission to communicate it to all men” (Declaration Dignitatis humanae 1).

5. Mission to the nations and interreligious dialogue. Interreligious dialogue is part of the evangelical mission of the Church. “Understood as a method and a means for a reciprocal acquaintance and enrichment, not only does it not oppose the mission to the nations, but it indeed has special ties to it and is expressive of it” (Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio 55). “Dialogue does not excuse from evangelization” (Ibid.), nor can it substitute for it, but it accompanies the missio ad gentes (mission to the nations) (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Jesus 2 and the note on evangelization). “Believers may draw profit for themselves from this dialogue by learning to know better “all that which is of truth and grace to be found in the midst of the nations, through a hidden presence of God” (Decl. Ad gentes 9). If, in fact, they proclaim the Good News to those who were ignorant of it, it is in order to consolidate, complete, and elevate the truth and goodness that God has diffused among men and peoples, and in order to purify them from error and evil “for the glory of God, the confounding of the devil, and the happiness of man” (Ibid.; Catechism of the Catholic Church 856).

6. As to the relations among Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the Council does not affirm, in fact, the theory that unfortunately has been spread in the consciences of the faithful, according to which the three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) are like branches of the same, divine revelation. The esteem towards the monotheistic religions does not diminish or limit in any way the missionary duty of the Church: “the Church proclaims and is bound to proclaim incessantly that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6),” in Whom all men find the fullness of religious life” (Nostra aetate 2).

7. The bond between the Church and other, non-Christian religions. “The Church recognizes in other religions the search still “amid shadows and images” (Dogmatic Const. Lumen Gentium 16) for the “God unknown” though near, for He it is Who gives to all life and breath to everything.” For that reason, the Church considers “all that is good and true” in other religions “as a preparation for the Gospel and as given by Him Who enlightens everyone so that he may have life in the end” (Ibid.; Catechism of the Catholic Church 843).
“But in their religious behavior, men show forth limitations and errors also, which disfigure the image of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 844): “very often men, deceived by the Evil One, have erred in their thoughts and exchanged divine truth for a lie, worshipping the creature rather than the Creator, or else living and dying without God in this world, they have embraced final despair” (Dogm. Const. Lumen Gentium 16).

8. The Church as universal sacrament of salvation. Salvation comes from Christ by means of the Church, which is His Body (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 846). “It must be firmly believed that “the pilgrim Church is necessary to salvation. In fact, only Christ is the Mediator and the Way of salvation; He makes Himself present to us in His Body, which is the Church” (Dogm. Const. Lumen Gentium 14; Dominus Jesus 20). The Church is “the universal sacrament of salvation” (Dogm. Const. Lumen Gentium 48), because, always united in a mysterious way and subordinated to Jesus Christ the Saviour, her Head, she has in God’s design an ineluctable relation with the salvation of every man.

9. Value and function of other religions in relation to salvation. “According to Catholic doctrine, one must hold that insofar as the Spirit works in the heart of every man and in the history of peoples, their cultures and religions, He assumes a role of preparing for the Gospel” (Encyl. Lett. Redemptoris missio 29). It is therefore legitimate to maintain that the Holy Spirit brings about salvation in non-Christians even by means of those elements of truth and goodness that are present in the various religions; but it is entirely erroneous and contrary to Catholic doctrine “to hold that these religions, considered as such, are ways of salvation, because there is also present in them lacunae, insufficiencies, and errors, which relate to fundamental truths about God, man, and the world” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notification in regard to the book by J. Dupuis, Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism 8).

In summary, it is clear that the authentic proclamation of the Church in relation to her claims of supremacy is not substantially changed after the teaching of Vatican II. The Council makes explicit certain motives which complete her teaching, avoiding a polemical and bellicose contest, and bring back into balance doctrinal elements considered in their integrity and totality.


What lies at the root of the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture with Tradition?

There is what we may call the Conciliar, or more exactly the para-Conciliar ideology, which was imposed on the Council from the beginning and which overshadowed it. By this expression is not meant something that concerns the texts of the Council, nor (even less) the intentions of the subjects, but the frame of overall interpretation by which the Council was situated and which acted as a type of internal conditioning in the subsequent reading of the acts and documents. The Council is not, in fact, the para-Conciliar ideology, but in the history of the ecclesiastical milieu and the means of mass communication it, i.e. the para-Conciliar ideology, has operated in large part towards a mystification of the Council. Since all the consequences of the para-Conciliar ideology have been manifested as an historical event, the revolution of 1968 must indeed be acknowledged, taking as its point of departure rupture with the past and a radical change in history. In the para-Conciliar ideology 1968 signifies a new form of the Church in rupture with the past, even if the roots of this rupture had been present for some time in certain Catholic circles.

Such an overall frame of reference, superimposed on the Council in an extrinsic way, can be characterized principally by these three factors:

1. The first factor is the renunciation of anathema, that is, the clear contradistinction between orthodoxy and heresy.

In the name of the so-called “pastoral nature” of the Council, there has become current the idea that the Church has abandoned the condemnation of error, i.e. the definition of orthodoxy in contrast to heresy. The condemnation of errors and the anathema pronounced by the Church in the past on all that is incompatible with Christian truth has been distinguished from the pastoral character of the Council’s teaching, which never intended to condemn or censure but only to exhort, illumine, and give witness.

In reality, there is no contradiction between a firm condemnation and refutation of errors in the area of doctrine and morals and the attitude of love towards the one who falls into error, as well as respect for the dignity of persons. Indeed, precisely because a Christian has a great respect for the human person, he is endlessly obliged to free him from error and from false interpretations of religious and moral reality.

Adherence to the Person of Jesus, the Son of God, to His Word, and to His mystery of salvation demands a response of simple and clear faith, which is what is found in the Faith’s Symbols [Creeds] and in the Rule of Faith [regula fidei]. The proclamation of the truth of the Faith always implies as well the refutation of error and the censure of ambiguous and dangerous positions that spread uncertainty and confusion among the faithful.

It would, therefore, be erroneous and groundless to hold that after Vatican Council II dogmatic definitions and censures by the Magisterium should be abandoned or excluded, just as it would be correspondingly an error to hold that the expositive and pastoral character of the documents of Vatican II do not imply as well a doctrine that demands a level of assent on the part of the faithful according to the various degrees of authority of the proposed teachings.

2. The second factor is the translation of Catholic thought into the categories of modernity. The opening of the Church to the concerns and needs begotten by modernity (see Gaudium et spes) is interpreted by the para-Conciliar ideology as a necessary reconciliation between Christianity and modern philosophical thought and ideological culture. This involves a theological and intellectual work that substantially proposes once more the idea of Modernism, condemned at the beginning of the 20th century by St. Pius X.

Neo-modernistic and secularist theology sought an encounter with the modern world just as the “modern” was beginning to dissolve. With the collapse of the so-called “Socialist Reality” in 1989 there collapsed as well those myths of modernity, which served as the postulates of socialism and secularism, and the myths of the irreversibility history’s emancipation. For the paradigm of modernity there has been substituted today, in fact, the post-modern paradigm of “chaos” or “pluralistic complexity,” whose foundation is radical relativism.
In the homily of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before his election as Pope, on the occasion of the liturgical celebration “Pro eligendo Pontifice” [“For the election of the Pope”] of April 18, 2005, the heart of the question was isolated thus: How many winds of doctrine have we known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many modes of thought! … The little barque of thought of many Christians has not infrequently been rocked by these waves, tossed about from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth …. To have a clear faith, one according to the Church’s Creed, has often been labeled as fundamentalism. Meanwhile, relativism—that is, allowing oneself to be carried “here and there by whatever wind of doctrine”—appears as the only attitude appropriate for today. A dictatorship of relativism has been established that does not recognize anything as definitive and that allows as the ultimate standard only one’s own ego and desires.
In confronting this process it is necessary above all to recover the metaphysical understanding of reality (cf. Encycl. Fides et ratio of Pope John Paul II) and a vision of man and society founded on absolute values, both meta-historical and permanent. This metaphysical vision cannot prescind from a consideration of the role of Grace in history, that is, of the supernatural, the depository of which is the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. The reconquest of the metaphysical sense by means of the lumen rationis [“light of reason”] must be paralleled by that of the supernatural sense by means of the lumen fidei [“light of faith”].
Contrariwise, the para-Conciliar ideology holds that the Christian message must be secularized and reinterpreted according to the categories of modern culture both inside and outside the Church, compromising her integrity, or rather under the pretext of an “opportune adaptation” to the times. The result is that religion is secularized and the Faith made mundane.

This pretext has led the Catholic world to undertake an aggiornamento [updating] which in reality constituted a progressive and, at times, unconscious blending of the Church’s mentality with the reigning subjectivism and relativism. This surrender has brought with it disorientation among the faithful, depriving them of the certainty of faith and of hope in eternal life as the highest end of human existence.

3. The third factor is the interpretation of the aggiornamento desired by Vatican Council II.

By the term “aggiornamento,” Pope John XXIII wanted to indicate the primary task of Vatican Council II. This term in the thought of the Pope and the Council did not, however, express what has occurred in its name in the ideological implementation of the post-Conciliar period. “Aggiornamento” in the sense intended by the Pope and the Council was meant to express the pastoral intention of the Church to find more adequate and opportune ways to bring the civil conscience of the present-day world to a recognition of the perennial truth of Christ’s message of salvation and the Church’s doctrine. Love for the truth and missionary zeal for the salvation of mankind are the foundation for the principles of putting “aggiornamento” into action as desired and understood by the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent papal Magisterium.

The para-Conciliar ideology, however, which was spread above all by groups of neo-Modernist Catholic intellectuals and by secularist, worldly centers of power in the mass-media, understood and proposed the term “aggiornamento” as a demolition of the Church in the face of the modern world: from antagonism to receptivity. Ideological modernity—which certainly ought not to be confused with the legitimate and positive autonomy of science, politics, art, and technological progress—posited as its starting-point the denial of the God of Christian revelation and of grace. It is, then, not neutral to the Faith. That which led to the idea of a reconciliation between the Church and the modern world led, paradoxically, to forgetting that the anti-Christian spirit of the world continues to be at work in history and in culture. The post-conciliar situation had already been described in this way by Paul VI in 1972:

By some fissure there has entered into the temple of God the smoke of Satan: there is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest. Doubt has entered our consciences, and it has entered through the windows which were meant to have been opened to the light. This state of uncertainty reigns even in the Church. It was hoped that after the Council there would be a day of sunlight in the history of the Church. Instead, there came a day of clouds, of darkness, of groping, of uncertainty. How did this happen? We will confide Our thoughts to you: there has been interference from an adverse power: his name is the devil, that mysterious being to whom frequent allusion is made even in the Epistle of St. Peter” (Paul VI, Insegnamenti, Ed Vaticana, vol. X, 1972, p. 707).

Unfortunately, the effects as enumerated by Paul VI have not disappeared. A foreign way of thinking has entered into the Catholic world, stirring up confusion, seducing many souls, and disorienting the faithful. There is a “spirit of self-demolition” that pervades modernism, which has wrested control over, among other things, most of the Catholic press. This kind of thought, foreign to Catholic doctrine, is revealed, for example, under two aspects.

A first aspect is the sociological vision of the Faith, that is, an interpretation that assumes the social dimension as the key to evaluating religion and that brings with it a falsification of the concept of the Church according to a democratic model. If one observes contemporary discussions on discipline, law, or celebration of the Liturgy, one cannot avoid taking note of the fact that this false understanding of the Church has become widespread among the laity and theologians, as in the slogan: “We are the People, we are the Church” (Kirche von unten [“the Church from below”]). In reality, the Council offers no foundation for this interpretation, since the image of the People of God, in reference to the Church, is always tied to a conception of the Church as Mystery, as a sacramental community of the Body of Christ, composed of a people that has a head and of a sacramental organism composed of members hierarchically ordered. The Church cannot, therefore, become a democracy, in which power and sovereignty derive from the people, because the Church is a reality that comes forth from God and that was founded by Jesus Christ. She is the intermediary of divine life, of salvation, and of truth, and she depends on the sovereignty of God, which is a sovereignty of grace and love. The Church is, at one and the same time, a gift of grace and an institutional structure, because her Founder has willed it so: calling the Apostles, “Jesus instituted twelve of them” (Mark 3:13).

A second aspect I would draw your attention to is the ideology of dialogue. According to the Council and the Encyclical Letter of Paul VI Ecclesiam suam, dialogue is an important and undeniable means by which the Church converses with the men of her own time. But the para-Conciliar ideology transforms dialogue from an instrument whose primary purpose and end are the Church’s pastoral work, emptying it of meaning more and more and obscuring the urgency and the call of conversion to Christ and adherence to His Church.

Against such deviations, it is necessary to retrieve and recover the spiritual and cultural foundation of Christian civilization, that is, faith in God, transcendent and Creator, provident and Judge, whose Only-begotten Son became incarnate, died, and rose again for the redemption of the world, and who has poured out the grace of the Holy Spirit for the remission of sins and for making men sharers in the divine nature. The Church, the Body of Christ, an institution both human and divine, is the universal sacrament of salvation and unity among men, of which it is the sign and instrument. It is in the sense of uniting men to Christ that the Church is His Body.

The unity of the entire human race, which LG 1 speaks about, does not have to be understood, therefore, in the sense of achieving concord between and the unification of various ideas, religions, or values in a “common or convergent kingdom,” but it is attained by drawing all to the one Truth, of which the Catholic Church is the depository entrusted therewith by God Himself. Here there is no harmonization of “various and strange” doctrines, but an integral proclamation of the patrimony of Christian truth, with due respect to liberty of conscience, and with esteem for the rays of truth distributed throughout the universe of the world’s cultural traditions and religions, but at the same time opposing views that do not agree with and are not compatible with the Truth, which is God revealed in Christ.

I conclude by returning to the interpretive categories suggested by Pope Benedict in his “Discourse to the Roman Curia,” cited at the beginning. They do not refer to the usual and obsolete three-fold division of conservative, progressive, and moderate, but they rest on an exquisitely theological duality: two hermeneutics, one of rupture and another of reform within continuity. It is necessary to take on this latter orientation in order to confront areas of controversy, and thereby free, so to speak, the Council from the para-Council—which has been intermingled with it—and preserve the principles of the integrity of Catholic doctrine and of complete fidelity to the deposit of faith handed on by Tradition and interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium.