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After the talks: 'You have to choose'

An open letter to Sì Sì No No

by Fr. Giovanni Cavalcoli, O.P.

Dear Friends,

I read the article “Punti fermi” ["Firm Points], in [the] 31st October 2011 [issue of Sì Sì No No, the influential Traditional Catholic Italian journal close to the Society of Saint Pius X], and the section by “Dominicus” on the matter of such sensitive character as truth in theology and our Holy Catholic Faith - with quotations from Thomist authors, as is your habit - made me think immediately of my mission as a Son of St. Dominic, of which you are already aware, having quoted me at other times in your journal. 

So I would like to take the opportunity of thanking you once again, as a Dominican professor of Theology in Bologna, who has been following you for many years - in fact, since the 1980s when I was working at the Secretariat of State, where even your interesting Bollettino used to arrive.

For some time now there has been a frank discussion going on between us, with regard to very important themes of topical interest in ecclesial circles; in particular, how to interpret and what value to attribute to some of the doctrinal teachings of Vatican II, which present novelty with respect to Tradition and the preceding Magisterium of the Church. Novelty which makes one think of a “rupture” or of a “contradiction”, rather like saying the Council was wrong or it teaches falsity, when referring to immutable truths from previous doctrine that cannot be reformed, i.e. dogmatic faith, or anyway, even if it is not defined as belonging to the faith, nonetheless of the substance of the faith. The first one, you are acquainted with well, in your knowledge of traditional hermeneutics, is de fide credenda or divine-theological faith, the second one is de fide tenenda or ecclesiastical faith.

I know that you insist with much argumentation based on Tradition, on Holy Scripture, on the preceding Magisterium of theologians, in sustaining the thesis of “rupture” and “contradiction”, which means, if I understand correctly, even if I note in you a certain reserve or reluctance in saying it, that, according to you, the Council contains heresies and thus, with that, the Popes and the teaching body of the Church have abandoned the true path of the faith previously defined, are leading us on a deceptive road, have betrayed Tradition, cheating us with empty and indemonstrable assurances of “continuity” advancing the pretext of doctrinal “progress” or “development”, which pleases the Modernists, and this makes it understandable why the Council itself has yielded to Modernism. (1)

At the same time, however, you consider yourselves and want to be Roman Catholics, recognizing the authority of the Pope as Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, infallible interpreter, who has the ultimate word in the teachings of Christ, Master, to whom we owe obedience in matters of faith; you must recognize the authority of the Ecumenical Councils as well as the Divinity of the Church, “pillar and foundation of truth” and light of the people.

Now, I ask myself, how can these two convictions be brought together: you say, “the Council is in error, but we believe in the indefectibility of the Church and we want to be Catholics; in fact, it is in the name of our being Catholics, faithful to Tradition and the Gospel that we say the Council is wrong de facto in dogma and in the doctrine of the faith.”

You sustain that, with the excuse of a mistaken notion of its “pastoral” [nature], the Council and the subsequent Popes, in reality, have manipulated doctrine, have deviated from the truth, have mutated that which should never have been mutated, and want to dish out novel doctrines which deny what the Church has always, everywhere and universally taught in matters of faith.

You say that the Council proposes a false concept of the Church, which is no longer the true one, previously taught. It is no longer the “Church of the Ages”. The concept of Revelation has been falsified. The Mass that has been submitted to us is half-protestant, it is no longer the “Mass of Ages”. A conciliar collegiality has been submitted to us, an ecumenism that suggests indifferentism, a “religious liberty” that suggests relativism. The Council is contaminated by the errors of the Enlightment, of the French Revolution, of anthropocentrism, of naturalism, of Liberalism, of pantheism, of Protestantism; in other words, of all the errors of modernity. But all of these doctrines are either false or heretical. So, the Magisterium of the Council teaches us heresy. Well, then, is the Church no longer lumen gentium? Is it no longer the pillar and sustainer of the Truth?

Yes – you say – we believe in the indefectibility of the Church as a teaching subject, but not in relation to the object taught, i.e. doctrine. This is the same distinction wrought by Küng, a heretic, with the difference, that while for him, as a historicist, the Magisterium is fallible because immutable truth does not exist, for you, who believe in immutable truth, the Magisterium is fallible because it can stray from this truth.

I notice that this distinction between subject and object has no sense when we are dealing with teaching the truths of the faith or connected to the faith or when the truth previously defined from Scripture and Tradition, has been taken up again, explained or developed. Here the object, that is doctrinal teaching, is ruled by the subject: the subject is indefectible because it teaches the truth infallibly. In the object, the Church cannot err, otherwise we would have to say that Christ deceived [Her] when He promised to assist Her until the end of time and lead Her to the fullness of truth.

You insist on the fact that the Council did not want to define new dogmas in order to deny the infallibility of its doctrines, or that is the impression that you give, but you do not have the courage to say it openly: to conclude that the doctrines of the Council are false, wrong, heretical. This lack of courage, “courage” in fact, that would be a scandal worthy of the protestants, or modernists, in some way is what saves you. But this does not prevent you leaving a vague idea of your false conviction. Are you not aware, in fact, that there is something off in your reasoning? Is the Church’s Magisterium, in matters of faith, infallible or fallible? You have to choose.

It is here that we will see if you are truly Catholic or crypto-Protestants, or, despite your intentions to the contrary – crypto-Modernists. But at least the Modernists are coherent: as a principal, they have a relativist and evolutionist gnoseology. How can you, Thomists, who claim the existence of an immutable and definite truth and also see the Church as teacher of the truth, end up alongside the Protestants and Modernists by saying that the Church can err de facto in the doctrine of the truth?

The Magisterium is not only infallible when it proclaims or defines a dogma, but also when it simply teaches a truth of the faith or close to the faith, without declaring the need to define it. It is enough that is about matters of the faith, as in the case of the new conciliar doctrines. It is this teaching that is found in the [Motu Proprio] Ad tuendam fidem, which you most certainly know. Besides, when you negate infallibility, certainly with this you do not identify sic et simpliciter, the fallible with the actually false. And yet you do not exclude the possibility of error, you do not deny that in the future, that which is taught today will become false or show itself to be false.

Now this contrasts with the Divine mission of teaching the Gospel which was entrusted to the Church by Christ. Therefore, denying the infallibility of the Magisterium is against the faith and so it is heresy. The moment you accuse, even in a veiled way, the Council of having fallen into heresy, you do not realize that you have fallen in it yourselves.

If the Church cannot be other than infallible in doctrine (defined or non-defined) it can err in pastoral matters. And it is on this point that it is permitted to criticize the Council. For example, it has a far too optimistic attitude with regard to the modern world and it is too vague and indulgent in condemning and confuting errors. The Council’s language lacks juridical form, and it is at times imprecise and equivocal and lends to modernist interpretations. Modernism is a heresy and so it makes no sense to accuse the Council of heresy. It must be interpreted in line with Tradition.

Such errors or imprudence, then, instead of being corrected in the period after the Council, have further worsened, arriving at the present situation in which heresies of every type freely circulate without anyone intervening. I have also written a book to deal with this grave pastoral problem. (La questione dell’eresia oggi, Edizioni Vivere In, Monopoli (BA), 2008).

You say that the situation is disastrous, Modernism is reigning, heresies are spreading, orthodox (Catholics) are marginalized, priests do not intervene and even go off the tracks themselves and give scandal. All of this is true, but you, what are you doing to remedy this situation? Certainly faith in the indefectibility of the Church is good, but the Church is also indefectible, above all, in teaching the truth.

Trust in Our Lady is excellent, but Mary, Mother of the Truth and Founder of the Church, desires that you accept docilely and trustingly, not only the pre-conciliar Magisterium but also the post-conciliar one, making an effort to see the continuity and discerning in it, an enhanced knowledge of the Word of God.

The way to remedy this situation is specifically a correct interpretation and application of the Council, as the Pontiffs of the last fifty years have been saying. The problem is that Rome finds it hard to intervene in correcting the deviations because it does not have the support of the episcopate.

Modernism is indeed rampant and finds its greatest exponent in Karl Rahner (2). Modernism can be defeated, not by turning back to the past, but by a sound recall to Tradition and actually applying the Council which teaches us a healthy modernity. We are in fact, Christians of the 21st century not of the 19th or 16th [centuries].

If anything, let us ask the Holy Father to explain, to clarify or to interpret for us the controversial points in a definitive way, unequivocally and precisely, those that the modernists play with, but let us do it with trust not setting off with the false conviction that in reality there is no continuity.

It is true that continuity has to be demonstrated, but it is absolutely indemonstrable that there is no continuity. It is not because it is not objectively there, but it is because it is us, subjectively, that do not understand it. Otherwise, I repeat one more time, we will have to conclude that Christ has deceived us. Do we want to arrive at this conclusion? Do we want to correct the Church that has strayed from the truth? So, now, who is infallible? The Church or ourselves?


P.Giovanni Cavalcoli,OP

Christmas 2011

[1]As you know , along with the Pope I am sustainer of continuity and I believe that I have been able to show this in my recent boo,. Progresso nella continuità. La questione del Concilio Vaticano II e del Postconcilio, Edizioni, Fede e Cultura, Verona 2011.

[2] Allow me to indicate my critique of Rahner in the book – Karl Rahner- The Council Betrayed. (Il Concilio Tradito).

[Source: Riscossa Cristiana. Tip and translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]