Rorate Caeli

Giacomo Cardinal Biffi on the "Counterfeit Distillates of the Council"

A long quote from the about-to-be-released and greatly-augmented second edition of Giacomo Cardinal Biffi's memoirs, as translated in the English version of Sandro Magister's latest article on Chiesa, The Inconvenient Memoirs of Cardinal Biffi:

In order to bring a bit of clarity to the confusion that afflicts Christianity in our time, one must first distinguish very carefully between the conciliar event and the ecclesial climate that followed. They are two different phenomena, and require distinct treatment.

Paul VI sincerely believed in Vatican Council II, and in its positive relevance for Christianity as a whole. He was one of its decisive protagonists, attentively following its work and discussions on a daily basis, helping it to overcome the recurrent difficulties in its path.

He expected that, by virtue of the joint effort of all the bishops together with the successor of Peter, a blessed age of increased vitality and of exceptional fecundity must immediately benefit and gladden the Church.

Instead, the "postcouncil," in many of its manifestations, concerned and disappointed him. So he revealed his distress with admirable candor; and the impassioned lucidity of his expressions struck all believers, or at least those whose vision had not been clouded over by ideology.

On June 29, 1972, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, speaking off the cuff, he went to the point of saying that he had "the sensation that through some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, trouble, disquiet, dissatisfaction, confrontation. The Church is not trusted . . . It was believed that after the Council there would be a day of sunshine for the history of the Church. What has come instead is a day of clouds, of darkness, of seeking, of uncertainty . . . We believe that something preternatural (the devil) has come into the world to disturb, to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council and to prevent the Church from bursting into a hymn of joy for having regained full awareness of itself." These are painful and severe words that deserve painstaking reflection.

How could it have happened that from the legitimate pronouncements and texts of Vatican II, a season followed that was so different and distant?

The question is complex, and the reasons are multiform; but without a doubt one influence was a process (so to speak) of aberrant "distillation," which from the authentic and binding conciliar "reality" extracted a completely heterogeneous mentality and linguistic form. This is a phenomenon that pops up here and there in the "postcouncil," and continues to advance itself more or less explicitly.

We can, in order to make ourselves understood, hazard to illustrate the schematic procedure of this curious "distillation."

The first phase lies in a discriminatory approach to the conciliar pronouncements, which distinguishes the accepted and usable texts from the inopportune or at least unusable ones, to be passed over in silence.

In the second phase what is acknowledged as the valuable teaching of the Council is not what it really formulated, but what the holy assembly would have produced if it had not been hampered by the presence of many backward fathers insensitive to the breath of the Spirit.

With the third phase, there is the insinuation that the true doctrine of the Council is not that which is canonically formulated and approved, but what would have been formulated and approved if the fathers had been more enlightened, more consistent, more courageous.

With such a theological and historical methodology – never expressed in such a clear fashion, but no less relentless for this reason – it is easy to imagine the results: what is adopted and exalted in an almost obsessive manner is not the Council that in fact was celebrated, but (so to speak) a "virtual Council"; a Council that has a place not in the history of the Church, but in the history of ecclesiastical imagination. Anyone who dares to dissent, however timidly, is branded with the infamous mark of "preconciliar," when he is not in fact numbered among the traditionalist rebels, or the despised fundamentalists.

And because the "counterfeit distillates" of the Council include the principle that by now there is no error that can be condemned in Catholicism, except for sinning against the primary duty of understanding and dialogue, it becomes difficult today for theologians and pastors to have the courage to denounce vigorously and tenaciously the toxins that are progressively poisoning the innocent people of God.


  1. And yet neither Paul VI or his successors until to Benedict XVI have done anything of consequence to rectify, if true, what he Paul VI saw and knew.

    By the time Benedict XVI became Pope the damage was done, the power structure that Bugnini envisioned has become the new norm and the Mass was protestantized to its current state.

    Now it is this power structure that holds the Supreme Pontiff in this limbo of collegiality where he has been reduced to some sort of first among equals.

  2. Just look at how many of the Council's leading lights, eg Cardinals Suenens and Bea, acted after the Council and it's clear that they knew what they were doing right from the start. The "event" of Vatican II and its aftermath go together perfectly

  3. I don't buy it. Paul VI made no effort to stop it, and he could have had he so desired.

    John Paul II could have reversed it. Oh yes, there would have been a lot of screaming and gnashing of liberal teeth, but in a few years, they would have quieted down and backed off once they saw that their old tricks were no longer working.

    And now, 45 years later, these prelates are lamenting. Well, the error is deeply rooted now. Try yanking it up and see what happens at this late date. Plus, truth and lies are so entangled, it is difficult to separate the two.

    Only Divine Intervention can straighten this conciliar mess out.


    "The first phase lies in a discriminatory approach to the conciliar pronouncements, which distinguishes the accepted and usable texts from the inopportune or at least unusable ones, to be passed over in silence.

    In the second phase what is acknowledged as the valuable teaching of the Council is not what it really formulated, but what the holy assembly would have produced if it had not been hampered by the presence of many backward fathers insensitive to the breath of the Spirit.

    With the third phase, there is the insinuation that the true doctrine of the Council is not that which is canonically formulated and approved, but what would have been formulated and approved if the fathers had been more enlightened, more consistent, more courageous."

    Very strong words and right to the point. I wish NO Church would revise the conciliar modernist teachings and recover her past resplendence and beauty.

  5. And because the "counterfeit distillates" of the Council include the principle that by now there is no error that can be condemned in Catholicism, except for sinning against the primary duty of understanding and dialogue, it becomes difficult today for theologians and pastors to have the courage to denounce vigorously and tenaciously the toxins that are progressively poisoning the innocent people of God.

    Sounds like the hermeneutic of discontinuity to me.

  6. It seems clear that more happened than simple craziness after Vatican II. While many bishops might have been serene in their ignorance of just what was happening, thinking the Church was going to continue to lumber on, semper idem, it should be clear that not all were of this mindset. Reading accounts like "The Rhine Flows into the Tiber" or more cheerleader accounts such as those of the likes of Robert Kaiser and Xavier Rinne it should not be anything groundbreaking to say that the Council and the aftermath really go together. Regardless of the "intent" of most of the Council Fathers, the actual wording of the documents etc. those Fathers with a revolutionary outlook got their way.

    There is some truth to the statement that there tends to be upheavals after Councils. Heretics challenged Nicea and other early Councils and caused all sorts of problems. Myriads of bishops sided with the heretics and plunged the world into greater confusion. The unfortunate thing about today's problems is that they are beige-washed and no one up top seems to be willing to call a spade a spade. There are no clear cut camps that one must decide between. In the old days, the heretics at least had the decency to leave and set themselves up as an anti-church.

    Now, even the most outspoken loons hide behind ambiguous words and rest easy in the knowledge that Rome will, at most, call them in to have a little chat or send a sternly worded letter. If you ignore that and go about your business like before you might not be able to teach at a Catholic institution. Of course, by that time, you've probably taught for decades and have already done your damage.

  7. How funny! If I understand Cardinal Biffi correctly, the second Vatican Council was a good council that was unfortunately hijacked by a bunch of rebels. Just one question: are we seriously supposed to buy this rubbish?

  8. Pope Paul VI (quote):
    ". . . It was believed that after the Council there would be a day of sunshine for the history of the Church. What has come instead is a day of clouds, of darkness, of seeking, of uncertainty . . . "
    The naiveté of this Pope and of those that believed the same thing in good faith is astounding. The human nature never changes and as experienced churchmen they should have known otherwise. The ones that open the doors of change are like those that open the gates that contain the waters. To relieve the pressure of the water when there is a threat of overflowing, the gates are opened very slightly so that the water drains slowly and without danger. If done otherwise, like at Vatican II, the torrent of the waters come cascading and destroys everything in its path.

  9. Is there a place to buy Cardinal Biffi's book in English translation?

  10. What a load of nonsense! Consider the leading figures at Vatican II, leading figures who were fully backed by Paul VI:

    - Cardinals Suenens, Dopfner and Lercaro, three of the four moderators of the council, who cotrolled its proceedings:

    - Rahner, Schillebeeckx,Congar; the dominant theologians influencing the documents and decisions.

    All these figures supported the supposed postconciliar distortion of the Council and its teaching; in the case of the theologians, they were the primary inventors of the content of this 'distortion'. Yet we are expected to believe that this 'distortion' has nothing to do with the council itself, and is a betrayal of its intent. Biffi's claim contradicts the evidence not only of books such as Ralph Wiltgen's, but of all the contemporary records and all the exhaustive historical documentation that has been done for the council. It is a great puzzle how such claims can continue to be taken seriously or pronounced with a straight face.

  11. Good try, but no, not true completely. We read in the The Rhine Flows into the Tiber that the liberal-modernist assault was not done overnight. Their pestilent influence and power was notorious and well known by the Fathers. Nobody can claim ignorance at that level, let alone Paul VI.
    We cannot say that "after" the Council it was a disappointment about the results. The Council was rotten during the event by hands very well known in the Vatican, who didn't hide their work, or intentions, or plans.

  12. The bishops who attended the Council, drafted the documents, and voted in favor of them were the same bishops who all flew back home and presided over Catholicism's forty five year long self-destruction. I find it hard to believe every one of them misunderstood the documents they themselves voted on, or that they were all the helpless victims of smooth talking hijackers.


  13. Poor V2, still misunderstood, a whole generation bewildered....virtual, counterfeit, hijacked. Time to cut bait on this loser council. Reminds me of the psalm when God led the Israelites for 40 years with no success either..., a stubborn generation.

    First time I have been called a despised preconciliarist....I like it. Says what it is.

  14. Makes one miss Pius XII. Brilliant but also commanding.

  15. Oh well, I guess most of these commenters don't believe in the Ecumenical Councils of the Church being guided by the Holy Spirit. Or, at least the Councils they dislike.

  16. All the SSPX types who like to flood the comments boxes here should read this comment from another thread:

    "I'm not really sure what the 'ambiguous' teachings of Vatican II (that are so often alluded to, in this report and elsewhere) are meant to be.

    Maybe some practical directives of 'Sacrosanctum Concilium' left a lot of leeway for 'interpretation', but as far as doctrine itself goes, I'm not aware of real ambiguity in a reasonable reading of any of the conciliar texts themselves.

    One possible exception that might be argued, discussed elsewhere on this site, is 'Dei Verbum' 11 on inerrancy, but as many commentators have shown, a careful reading, especially in full context, shows the continuity with previous doctrine. But 'preconciliar' documents themselves often require a 'careful reading' , even just to make them consistent with one another.

    'Unitatis Redintegratio' 3 affirms that only in the Catholic Church can the fullness of the means of salvation be obtained. 'Dignitatis Humanae' says that the traditional doctrine on the moral duty of individuals and societies to the true religion and the One Church of Christ remains intact, and has a whole section on the limits of religious liberty. (The 'Catechism of the Catholic Church', 2104-2109, had no great trouble synthesising preconciliar and conciliar teaching on the topic. And indeed the post-conciliar Magisterium has achieved a comparable synthesis over virtually the whole range of doctrine. )

    If, in the same text, one sentence is clear and another sentence is ambiguous, it seems fairly obvious by the normal rules of human communication that to get at the true intention of the author, we interpret the ambiguous sentence in the light of the sentence whose meaning is clear.

    This necessity isn't a particular 'defect' of Vatican II - it's a general fact of language. It just isn't possible to pack all possible clarifications into a single sentence. Certainly in the Scriptures, and in the teachings of Our Lord himself, we interpret a sentence that seems obscure to our minds (of which there are quite a few), in the light of another sentence which is clearer.

    Liberals in the Church make their way, not by bringing forward supposedly 'ambiguous' texts, but by ignoring and contradicting the relevant texts altogether, and appealing to the notorious 'spirit' of the Council."

  17. To Thomas Tucker and Anonymous l7/11 05:30:
    So if an Ecumenical Council is infallible, how do you reconcile a solemn Dogmatic Council, like Trent with a Pastoral Council (VII) intently summoned by JXXIII with the explicit purpose NOT TO CONDEMN, but to persuade by the Truth. Small task that even our Lord did not accomplish.
    The documents labled "dogmatic" like Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum contain no new dogmas, except that it be "the Church of Christ 'subsists' in the Catholic Church (Lumen Gentium).
    The language of VII documents is pompous eclessiastical phrases that try to educate the laity about what every Catholic knows, when worded correctly and vain admiration for the exploits of humanity (Gaudium and Spes) and recognition for apostate religions.
    The Hermeneutics of Continuity tries to sidestep the problem of reconciling past doctrine with what is now proposed, by subtly including the "evolution of dogma" according to historical circumstances (historicism), and with that purpose coin the notion of "living tradition". The essence of this approach is to imply that what was formerly belived is no longer valid, and so what is now accepted as truth might subsequently be revised.

  18. People do not understand just how dramatic the rupture in the texts of the council is. This is in the PLAIN meaning of the texts- ... if there can be such a thing (due to the wording many times).

    The primary reason for this is that the council took up a new philosophical system as the foundation of its thought- or at least ignored the traditional philosophy and terminology. In order to truly understand the degree to which the council texts themselves (and not just the interpretation) represent a rupture one must be familiar with the previous traditional philosophical backdrop.

    "Thus, the human race has passed from a rather static concept of reality to a more dynamic, evolutionary one. In consequence there has arisen a new series of problems, a series as numerous as can be, calling for efforts of analysis and synthesis."
    -GAUDIUM ET SPES paragraph 5.

    How can a concept of reality be anything other than static?? An evolutionary concept of reality is the definition of insanity! This is what the council did, it tried to synthesize our faith with the "more dynamic evolutionary" concept of reality.

    So, to those who do not see a rupture in VII documents- you are interpreting the council texts in the "dynamic evolutionary concept of reality". Chances are good, unless you have put a lot of effort into learning Thomistic Philosophy, you have an incomplete and flawed conception of reality and thus do not even have a firm basis to interpret the council and compare it to traditional teaching. You cannot see the rupture because you are drowning in it.

  19. Our Lord may well indeed have guided the Council, but he DDID NOT run it. Fallable humans. Having grown up right in the thick of it, when I learned to kneel and receive on the tongue in prepearation for First Holy Communion and was then told without delay we would re-learn standing and in the hands, I saw first hand the damage being done on a Parish level. I know nothing of the Curia and their workings. And Pope Paul VI, I am sorry, he could have stopped much of it. In fact it was his duty. He failed the Church miserably. Undo the damage, that is what the People of God want, and I believe God is giving up his own signals. Consternation, deception, wholesale abandonment of Church and Council. Please come off it, admit fully the damage and correct it. Another 40 years of complaining and re-evaluating means the loss of more souls. Is this the Catholic Church?

  20. C.M.

    (I'm not Anonymous 17/11 05:30, but I wrote the original post that was quoted there, so I might reply:)

    I believe all the teachings of both Trent and Vatican II, so I guess I don't find great difficulty reconciling them - I'd like it pointed out exactly what the contradiction is meant to be.

    As for Vatican II being 'pastoral' and Trent being all about 'condemning', I think these are matters of degree. Hopefully every Council is 'pastoral' in the sense that its intention is to shepherd the flock (which is what 'pastoral' means after all). And conversely, Vatican II by logical necessity 'condemned' the contradictory theses of all the propositions it committed itself to. I think John XXIII's meaning was more about the 'tone of voice' he wanted the Council to speak in. (And no harm in that, much as I like the expression 'anathema sit'!)

    One thing Vatican II rightly tried to do was to recognize as much as possible the seeds of truth and goodness the Holy Spirit has scattered through the world as a preparation for the gospel. This is both scriptural and traditional (Cf. St Paul's address at the Areopagus in Acts 17, or St Justin's 'seeds of the Word'.)

    The Holy Spirit put these seeds there for a reason - it's our job to help bring them to fruition in Christ. That means we first have to identify them. Also, it's appropriate and necessary that we give God due thanks and praise for these gifts, rather than deny him this due honour. So this is why we look for the good as well as the bad in the 'exploits' of humanity, or in other religions.

    Concerning the views of the 'post-conciliar Church' on the changeability of dogmas, useful reading is the CDF declaration 'Mysterium Ecclesiae', (1973) approved by Paul VI, firmly rejecting historicism and dogmatic relativism.


    I consider myself a good Thomist, in the school of Etienne Gilson, and also helped much by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. I think the 'dynamic evolutionary' concept of reality spoken of by Gaudium et Spes is referring not to metaphysics but to history - in the context in GS 5, I don't think philosophy is mentioned.

    The 19th-20th century Church had to grapple with new historical perspectives, just as the 13th century Church had to grapple with Aristotle. Modernism was partly a flawed attempt to come to terms with these new historical understandings. However, Blessed John Henry Newman had already shown the right path for orthodoxy to follow in this regard.

  21. "Toxins" & "counterfeit distillates" - indeed, my words precisely.

  22. The Councils were not guided by the documents originally prepared for it over the three years prior during the pontificate of Pope John XXIII (RIP). The liberal modernists were well-prepared to usurp procedings because they had taken years to establish their presence both liturgically & pastorally. The Councils represented in some measure a final push to "raze bastions".

  23. @ Ben

    "in the context in GS 5, I don't think philosophy is mentioned"

    Wow... Look again- I couldn't disagree more. A "concept of reality" is nothing other than philosophy. It cannot be anything else.

    We also have references to a "spiritual agitation" and how the "changing conditions of life are part of a broader and deeper REVOLUTION."

    "Revolution" is a key philosophical term here also.

    Furthermore, as any Thomist would readily admit philosophy IS a science (though not an empirical science). In GS 5, leading up to the quote I provided is a litany of scientific accomplishments who have
    shaped our world view:

    "This scientific spirit has a new kind of impact on the cultural sphere and on modes of thought"

    "Modes of thought" is a key term here too- this is also a definite reference to philosophy.

    It is interesting to note that these scientific accomplishments are empirical and there is NO mention of the neo-scholastic movement heavily encouraged by the past few Popes and headed by amazing minds such as Garrigou-Lagrange.

    Are you denying that the council deliberately dodged the traditional scholastic terminology?? NO ONE who has any knowledge of previous councils' work and scholastic philosophy would say such a thing.

    ...(continued below)...

  24. ...(continued from above)...
    @ Ben,

    "The 19th-20th century Church had to grapple with new historical perspectives, just as the 13th century Church had to grapple with Aristotle."

    This is an echo of the typical modernist party line and catch phrase. Here is what it translates out to:

    'St. Thomas went against the grain and abandoned the platonic system in his time for the Aristotelean system- so we are in keeping with the 'spirit' of St. Thomas by abandoning Thomism and making a system for ourselves relevant to our time like he did. We are not so bad- after all, we are only doing what St. Thomas did. Its time to move on...'

    There are many flaws with this statement and mentality. It will suffice to mention a few.

    1. Scholastic language has been used in counsels and dogmatic definitions- so it CANNOT be abandoned without abandoning the faith. @ the Council of Trent, the Summa Theologica was placed on the altar alongside the Bible. Pope Leo XIII stated that Aquinas' theology was a definitive exposition of Catholic doctrine.

    2. The new system that was adopted to the almost utter exclusion of Thomism is based on the philosophy of Blondel and other modern philosophers- it is a philosophy which is based on (contradictory) principles that have embedded in them a "virtual atheism" as Cornelio Fabro demonstrates in his monumental work "God in Exile". The adopted philosophy, if unfolded to its logical end is a system inherently hostile to the idea of the existence of God and to a society ordered towards a common end (salvation of souls and Glory of God).

    3. The reason Thomas synthized his system of Philosophy is NOT because the system in use was getting old- but because it had flaws. Thomas's system is flawless and needs only to be developed further not done away with and revamped. Thomism is the true conception of reality. All other philosophies require the philosopher to take off his "philosophy mask" in order to function in the real world. Thomism has no such mask. It is real and true.

    "There are only two philosophies: Thomism and bullshitism!" -Leon Bloy

  25. Ben says: "I think John XXIII's meaning was more about the 'tone of voice' he wanted the Council to speak in. (And no harm in that, much as I like the expression 'anathema sit'!)"
    Here is how Cardinal Biffi replies to you, Ben:

    “We can understand that the avowed goal was above all to study the best means and the most effective instruments for reaching the heart of man, without reducing a positive outlook towards the traditional Magisterium..

    “Nevertheless, we would risk forgetting that the first and irreplaceable “mercy” for lost humanity is according to what is clearly taught in Revelation, the “mercy of the truth”, a mercy that cannot be exercised without the explicit, firm and constant condemnation of every distortion and every alteration of the “deposit of the Faith..”

  26. So Ben, there are no contradictions between Trent, Vatican I (which I forgot go mention) and Vatican II!!! and you have not found “great” difficulty reconciling Trent with VII and thus you had “some” not a great difficulty.
    If this is so, why the Hermeneutics of Continuity at all since former Councils are not difficult to reconcile with VII, and how about the condemnation of modernism in VI and the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX, Pius X and Pius XII, which were simply dismissed by Ratzinger when he affirmed that Lumen Gentium corrected the Syllabus of Errors, an added that LG was a sort of counter-syllabus.

    About the approach of JXXIII not condemning and the Council being pastoral, and not dogmatic, no Council in the history of the Church has been convoked for pastoral reasons, because this is a task pertaining to the bishops of their respective dioceses, or the priests (the pastors). They have been summoned to counter heresies or affirm dogmas.
    No Pontiff has to be afraid to condemn, following the example of our Lord who lashed out to the pharisees with His words and whipped the merchants at the Temple.
    If a Pontiff is not capable of following in his steps, he is not fit for the job, as are the bishops gathered in a Council who followed the same guidelines.

    Your roundabout about the efforts of the Council to recognize the seeds of the Holy Spirit if such was the purpose of the Council fathers, is futile, because God has spoken clearly through his word, and no need to try to find what is already in the Church, the fruits of the Truth that was bestowed by our Lord: “You sall find the Truth and the Truth sall set you free…”


  27. The claim that the Councils of the 1960s produced liturgical and pastoral continuity is totally absurd and a denial of the real outcomes we have witnessed ever since. Almost everything un-catholic & destructive that has taken place has been encouraged and mostly accepted by the hierarchy & presbyterate from its beginnings. It is only since the death of the last liberal modernist pope the reality of a church in near chaos and confusion on most fronts with the role of the Councils in some manner in the subsequent demise, is being accepted by many at the head. Finally, real Traditionalists are able to raise their heads above the parapet & be counted as Catholic.

  28. rams:

    I guess the point I really intended about GS 5 (which maybe I didn't express well enough) was that it wasn't speaking on the topic of metaphysics. But one can come to a deeper understanding of historical processes, and particularly the history of ideas (true and false), than earlier centuries had, without abandoning Thomism (which, as you say, is permanently true).

    Vatican II stated in Optatam Totius that students for the priesthood 'should rely on that philosophical patrimony which is forever valid' and that they should examine the mysteries of salvation 'with St Thomas as teacher' (how much this happened after the Council is of course another question). Paul VI, writing in 'Mysterium Fidei' about Eucharistic doctrine, strongly defends the necessity of maintaining the concepts and terminology of the Church's definitions. John Paul II, in 'Fides et Ratio' quotes Pius XII (Humani Generis) on the same topic. The Magisterium simply hasn't taken on board this philosophical and dogmatic relativism you rightly oppose.

    Yes, rightly or wrongly the Council tried to dodge scholastic terminology. This was part of Blessed John XXIII's project of making the manner of presentation more 'attractive' while keeping the meaning unaltered. I'm certainly not committed to saying that the Council Fathers made no prudential errors, and we aren't bound to maintain the prudential assessments they made in the 1960s.


    As Our Lord shows in the gospels, there's a time for condemnation, and a time for gentle persuasion (e.g. the woman at the well). Sometimes the Church will use one, sometimes the other. I guess I like them both. And Vatican II did issue various condemnations (e.g. GS 51 against the 'abominable crimes' of abortion and infanticide).

    I admire Cardinal Biffi, but I wonder would 'constant condemnation', albeit of error, be a successful means of communicating the Good News to the lost sheep?


    Yes, there are 'some' difficulties in the reconciliation of Vatican II with previous doctrine, just as there are 'some' difficulties reconciling various pre-conciliar doctrines with one another, and 'some' difficulties reconciling the gospels with one another. But I don't think any of the difficulties is insuperable.

    'Dogmatic' and 'pastoral' aren't polar opposites. 'Pastoral' means to do with shepherding, and one of the ways of doing this is by feeding the flock with truth. So Vatican II was both a pastoral council and a teaching council. Like some of the medieval ecumenical councils, it defined no dogmas. (Some of the medieval ones, by the way, were concerned with disciplinary matters, not heresies.)

    We look for the seeds of the word outside the Church, if for no other reason than to use those seeds to help draw those possessing them to the fullness of the truth. Surely this was the very reason the Holy Spirit planted the seeds?

  29. Ben says:
    “Yes, rightly or wrongly the Council tried to dodge scholastic terminology. This was part of Blessed John XXIII's project of making the manner of presentation more 'attractive' …”
    While it may have been JXXIII intentions as quoted above, the sequesterers of the Council, Yves Congar and Henri de Lubac have openly manifested that they hated scholasticism and were intent on doing away with it, which they of course attained.
    “As Our Lord shows in the gospels, there's a time for condemnation, and a time for gentle persuasion (e.g. the woman at the well).”
    Well, yes, the Lord was especially gentle with women, when he saw their hearts were open to his words, but he treated the Pharisees very harshly, and called them “race of vipers” and other epithets. Any Pope or Council should be unafraid to speak the truth and condemn, when required.
    By the way the only condemnation that you quote is on abortion and infanticide, but what about Communism and heretical movements inside the Church, that were intent on destroying the pre-conciliar Church, as stated by JPII when he asserted that VII had left behind forever the pre-conciliar Church.
    “Dogmatic and pastoral are not polar opposites”…
    I agree, but only in the sense that dogma is a solemn teaching of the Church, but no need to summon a Council to teach the flock the Truth, which She has always taught.
    “We look for the seeds of the word outside the Church, if for no other reason than to use those seeds to help draw those possessing them to the fullness of the truth. Surely this was the very reason the Holy Spirit planted the seeds?”
    Why should we look for the seeds of the word outside the Church, when She has the fullness of Truth as was handed down to the Apostles by our Lord Himself?, and can you speak or attribute to the Holy Spirit your interpretations?
    Finally, your thinking tries to play to the tune of the Hermeneutics of Continuity, as you try to reconcile VII with previous Councils or Magisterial teaching of the Church. If so how do you accommodate “continuity” with Ratzinger’s comment that Lumen Gentium was a kind of counter-syllabus, and JPII’s assertion that VII had left behind forever the pre-conciliar Church?

  30. C.M.

    I guess my principal concern is to defend Vatican II from the charge of positively false teaching; however, possibly the Council Fathers erred prudentially in omitting to teach or condemn this or that.

    Maybe it would have been beneficial for Vatican II, e.g. to condemn communism more explicitly (though 'Divini Redemptoris' had already done this, so no one in the world doubted where the Church stood).

    As a historical parallel, one might say that the Council of Ephesus, naturally focusing primarily on Nestorius, omitted to give 'complete' teaching on the Incarnation, and 20 years later the Council of Chalcedon provided the complete synthesis that was required. The post-conciliar Magisterium has likewise filled various gaps and provided clarifications concerning Vatican II. This process of development will continue till the end of time, as the Church continues to more and more deeply understand and express the unchanging Apostolic Faith.

    Regarding 'seeds of the word', those outside the Church who already possess these seeds will more easily be led to the Church if they can be shown the continuity between some of what they already believe and some of what the Church believes. This is what St Paul attempted at the Areopagus. But to achieve this, we need to look at, not just the Church's teaching, but at the elements of Catholic truth which are echoed outside the Church.

    Also, we ourselves understand the Catholic Faith better in the process, just as studying Plato and Aristotle led the Fathers and the Scholastics into a deeper understanding of the truth the Church already possessed.

    I think Ratzinger's meaning about Lumen Gentium being a 'counter-syllabus', was that it certainly had a different trend to the Syllabus, in its emphasis on what was positive in modern civilization. I don't think his point was that they formally contradicted one another. Taking them together gives us a more multi-faceted vision of the complete gospel truth.

    I would need to know the context of the quote from John Paul II about 'leaving behind forever the pre-conciliar Church', to pass comment - it seems surprising, since from his teachings as a whole I think he fundamentally held the 'hermeneutic of continuity' view which Pope Benedict has articulated and named, even though Benedict emphasises it more.

  31. "Liberals in the Church make their way, not by bringing forward supposedly 'ambiguous' texts...."

    First of all, some texts are ambiguous and, secondly, the liberal modernists do all three of the things you suggest.

  32. Ben: I think you are well intentioned in trying to reconcile pre and post conciliar catholicism, which is the purpose of the Hermeneutics of Continuity. However this effort has been labeled by bishop Fellay as squaring the circle.
    You try to portray Ratzinger’s quotation on the Syllabus mildly by indicating LG ‘s emphasis on the positive side of modern civilization, but that was not the intent of JR’s remark. He explained that the Syllabus of Errors was justified “at a historical juncture” after the French Revolution, on account of the anti-clericalism generated by that event. However, in modern times it was no longer relevant. There you have a vivid example of the new theology according to which dogma may evolve according to historical circumstances.
    As pertains to JP’s quote I can assure you that it is accurate, although I do not have the reference at hand. I was a former admirer of him, but of course at that time I had not delved into his bioghraphy and deeds. I was greatly discouraged when I read that quote, that placed me as a pre-conciliar Catholic forever behind, together with St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, and Popes Gregory the Great and Pius V, to name a few of them.
    I wish that the Hermeneutics of Continuity were possible, but that is an impossible task: there is a fundamental break between pre and post-conciliar Catholicism.
    According to JXXIII the purpose of the Council was the “updating” (aggiornamento) of the Church, to put it at the center of the technological, and socio-political changes of the times. However, events change so fast in modern times that by the time the Coucil was ended it had probably become obsolete.
    Now the extreme liberal Carlo Maria Marini, Archbishop of Milan, aware that the language of the Council has become obsolete, is proposing that a Council be celebrated every 50 years. This nonsense is like chasing a will o’ the wisp, because trying to adapt to the spirit of the times (modernism) will leave the Church always behind.

  33. LeonG

    I'm still to see the specific examples of these 'ambiguous teachings' of Vatican II. As I said, statements can only be reasonably interpreted in the context of the whole document in which they appear.


    I think we have no alternative to the hermeneutic of continuity, because once we admit a substantial break in continuity, then we're saying either the conciliar doctrine or the pre-conciliar doctrine must contain a substantial amount of error.

    Let's suppose Vatican II contained a substantial amount of error - that would mean that the Holy Spirit didn't look after the Ordinary Magisterium as much as we used to think. But if that were the case, by that very token we'd also lose our reason for placing much trust even in the pre-conciliar Ordinary Magisterium, since this trust is based on the same idea that the Holy Spirit would only allow the Ordinary Magisterium to err in very few and very rare cases - an idea we would have now supposedly disproved, by the counterexample of the substantial errors of Vatican II.

    So the pre-conciliar and conciliar Ordinary Magisterium stand or fall together. This is unless we fall back on the Protestant-type idea, that yes, the Holy Spirit isn't protecting the Ordinary Magisterium in any major way, but still, we as individuals are able to make the final discrimination between the true and the false in the various documents, based on our personal theological expertise.

    Of course, if we took this path we'd still be left with the infallible authority of the Extraordinary Magisterium, but the Ordinary Magisterium of whatever era would have permanently lost most of that intrinsic credibility which derives from its presumed guidance by the Holy Spirit. This effective loss of the Ordinary Magisterium would be a terrible blow against the Church and the Faith.

  34. My answer (To Ben):
    I relent from following you back and forth on this subject about the infallibility of Vatican II that has been taken up in other forums (e.g.: with no definite results. As Catholics we want to believe on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and even if this be so, how do we explain the ruinous results and contradictions of VII regarding the present situation of the Church? We would like to believe that a Council is inspired by the Holy Spirit and consequently cannot produce bad fruits, but how do we explain the bad results and the infiltration of Satan, yes Satan, into the Council in the form of haters of pre-conciliar Catholicism, intent on destroying every vestige of it and founding a New Church? Did the Holy Ghost permit it for a later good, or are we suffering a period of 40 plus years of wandering in the desert?
    These are questions that I have no answer for, but I do not think the Spirit of Truth wants us to forgo the use of reason, a God given faculty. So as much as I want to believe in Catholic dogma (infalibillity), I refuse to go along your recommendation of no alternative but follow the Hermeneutics of Continuity, which my God given faculty of reason rejects.
    In addition to your comments I would like to point out that contradictions between the pronouncements of Ecumenical Councils such as Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II, render one of them non-infallible and the same goes for the pronouncements of ordinary magisterium, because contradiction is repugnant to reason.
    My opinion is that we cannot resort to the expediency of infallibility to validate whatever comes out from a Council, be it good or bad. If this sets me apart as apostate or heretic, so be it, but apostasy or heresy have lost any meaning post VII, as we contemplate how the Vatican Curia is teeming with such specimens, and nothing happens to correct them.

  35. C.M.

    (Don't feel obliged to respond if you think we're not going to get anywhere, but anyway, I think it's worthwhile adding the following:)

    We need to make similar efforts to show that Vatican II doesn't contradict past doctrine, as e.g. St Thomas Aquinas makes to show that the divine unity doesn't contradict the threeness of the divine persons; or that apologists make to show that the gospels don't contradict each other; etc etc. In the latter cases it's called careful theology, and careful exegesis; in the case of Vatican II it gets branded by some traditionalists as 'quibbling'.

    I think a faithful Catholic can say that VII led to some unfortunate consequences, or was imprudent in some respect, or made unfortunate omissions, or contained some ambiguities, or was influenced by heretics at various points into making less-than-happy formulations (not that I'm necessarily committing myself to all these things). Looking through history, I don't think the action of the Holy Spirit necessarily excludes any of these things in acts of the Magisterium.

    But an important line is crossed if we say VII actually taught positively false doctrine. I don't say this claim would be heresy strictly speaking, since Vatican II wasn't infallibly defining dogmas. Yet St Pius X said even of Decrees of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of Sacred Congregations that were approved by the Sovereign Pontiff, that those who go against them verbally or in writing 'are not free from grave sin' (Praestantia Scripturae). If this general principle is so for mere decrees of the Roman Curia, how much truer is it of the authoritative teaching of an ecumenical council approved by the pope?

    It was the clear intention of Paul VI that Catholics were bound to accept Vatican II as an expression of the Ordinary Magisterium. Granted that the grave obligation to accept authoritative teachings can admit of exceptions (since such teachings don't have an absolute guarantee of infallibility), yet these exceptions must be discerned with 'fear and trembling'. One could hardly be justified in taking this step without a clear personal certainty, (arrived at after prayer and deep study, including of what the Magisterium had to say for itself), that a given teaching (not just e.g. 'Vatican II' or 'Dignitatis Humanae' in some general way, but some very specific proposition) was false.

    You may well have gone through this process and reached this clear certainty for some propositions taught by Vatican II, but I haven't reached any such certainty, and I think it would be spiritually unhealthy for me to go looking for it.

    You say that Vatican II contradicts Trent and Vatican I. To establish this, you would need to show that one of its statements, carefully interpreted in context, clearly and formally contradicts specific earlier teaching.

    It seems to me that this isn't often attempted. Everything is typically left at the level of vague allusion, or relies on the writer adding their own interpretative gloss to some Vatican II statement, then, conflating this gloss with the actual Conciliar teaching, showing that (not the Council's very words but) the gloss contradicts pre-conciliar teaching.


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