Rorate Caeli

FSSP Superior speaks on Vatican II

From the FSSP North American District:

Father Berg Speaks and Offers Mass in Charlotte, North Carolina 

At the invitation of the Charlotte Latin Mass Community, Fr. John Berg, Superior-General of the FSSP, spoke on “Ephesus, Vatican II, and the Year of Faith,” and he compared different aspects of these two ecumenical councils in light of the Year of Faith. Fr. Berg also discussed various issues related to the Mass and Traditions of the Church, and accepted questions following the talk.

The talk lasted a little more than an hour and addressed many salient points about the founding principles of the Fraternity of St. Peter, which was based, in part, on the Protocol of 5 May 1988. Father Berg explained that the Year of Faith and the Second Vatican Council were both intentionally opened on October 11th – the Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary – which was established by Pope Pius XI to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of when the Council of Ephesus bestowed the title of Theotokos (“Mother of God”), to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Father Berg also outlined problems that arose after the Second Vatican Council, as theologians on both the left and the right radicalized one another. In the end those on the right came to the conclusion that the documents of the Council should be read as a break with the pre-conciliar Church (a “hermeneutic of rupture”), while those on the left, in their triumphalism, reached the same conclusion, seeing the documents of the Council as a radical departure which thankfully left behind the pre-conciliar Church. In this common conclusion, both parties ultimately decided not to do the more difficult work of finding the “hermeneutic of continuity,” which Pope Benedict XVI said must be present. He then reviewed the solutions offered by Pope Benedict XVI to these problems, as well as the many gifts to the Church provided during his pontificate.


Philosoraptor said...

Any chance of a transcript/link to the talk itself?

JM said...

"the more difficult work of finding the “hermeneutic of continuity,”

Doesn't this say it all? If it were in line with the past, why on earth would it be "difficult"? What other Council has been "difficult" to reconcile with the past? I think the difficulty arises from the simple fact it is in obvious discontinuity. And a million priests happily voted in concert with the documents because they had a clearer understanding of ecclesiastical obedience than they did of doctrine. A scandal. Just a couple of years after the Council the evangelical David wells wrote "Revolution in Rome" (InterVarsity Press). He in effect said, 'Rome has always said she doesn't change, and this has been her strength. But amazingly, here she has.' There have been countless official explanations of how Vatican II is not a change but a development, and none have been as convincing as Wells matter-of-fact explanations of how Vatican II was indeed a substantial change. Rome still insists there has been no change, even as its Cardinals press the changes.

Alphonsus Jr. said...

Very well said, JM. This suicidal obedience must end.

Anonymous said...

Alphonsus, I spammed your other comment because you mentioned a priest by name. I will publish the comment but don't mention any priest specifically. Thanks

Xiansiempre said...

Respect to Fr. Berg. Please post link to vid/transcript if possible, thanks!

Chris Lauer said...

It isn't really fair to form such strong opinions based only on this brief write up. I was at this talk I felt he gave a very orthodox presentation, for what my opinion is worth. If the Fraternity chooses to publish the recording, I am sure many of you would be enriched.

Clayton Orr said...

It has always been my personal belief that the documents of the Council were "difficult" to reconcile with tradition, not because of the documents themselves, but because of the concrete historical situation in which they were written and implemented. It is almost impossible to argue that everyone who played a part in their composition was orthodox in their theological orientation; it is certainly impossible to argue that, in the Council documents' implementation, all those involved were motivated by love for Church teaching. Yet that does not mean that the documents themselves are in error. It means that they are more difficult to interpret precisely because an easier interpretation, which is not in line with tradition, is more readily available. But maybe I'm wrong.

Gratias said...

It will be interesting to listen to the entire conference. The FSSP does wonderful work. They send out a monthly newsletter and we donate to their seminary twice a year. A great investment.

Father Berg is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College which is a great California institution.

New Catholic said...

The only other way around it is to ignore the documents altogether, pretend the assembly never took place. It is tempting, but intellectually hardly feasible...

Chris, I am sure the talk was edifying and solid, as is to be expected from this great priest.


Common Sense said...

Well, it isn't only SSPX, who finds VII objectionable! The commos held that lie repeated thousand times becomes 'truth'. The modernist subscribe to the same philosophy. They managed to fool many, though some don't mind to be decieved in hope that everything is just fine. But is it?It's time to pull the same end of the rope.

JMJ Ora Pro Nobis said...

Ah yes the good old 'Vatican 2 is orthodox everyone in the Church has just misinterpreted it these past 50 years' line, unfortunately its patently absurd.

And no NC the only other way round around it is not to pretend it doesn't exist its to believe what the sspx believe, its disingenuous to suggest that the only other approach or theirs consists of believing it didn't happen.

Alexander adulescens said...

"The only other way around it is to ignore the documents altogether, pretend the assembly never took place. It is tempting, but intellectually hardly feasible..."


They pretend all the other Councils and Trent in particular never happened.

But really - while not a Lefebvrist, I cannot see how some of the documents can possibly be reconciled with what we have received from the holy apostles, fathers and prior Councils. Why can it not be admitted that some of the documents erred? As a consequence of certain very active unstable men whose Faith was not sound in a climate of misplaced optimism in the post-War. It was a pastoral council. Dogma was not in question. It seems to me very tenable to hold that a pastoral council can err and absolutely certain that Vatican II did.

If this is not allowed you are either left to pretend contradictions align, go over to the SSPX or go further still over to the Eastern Orthodox communion. It is the first to my mind that is the least tenable.

I say this sadly.

- adulescens

augusto padilla said...

About the "orthodoxy" of Vatican II I recommend to read
Monsignor Gherardini´s books.
Augusto Padilla
Former Professor
(ex)Argentine(ex)Catholic (ex) University

Tracy Hummel said...

The hermeneutic of continuity can be applied to some extent to the documents of Vatican II but let's face facts. Cardinal Suenens called it 1789 in the Church and recently Cardinal Kasper admitted there were deliberate ambiguities inserted in the documents. And no matter how hard people have tried, no one has convincingly demonstrated how Dignitatis Humanae conforms with Tradition. This is why, although I respect many priests in the FSSP, I cannot support the organization as a whole. The leadership seems committed to this idea that Vatican II is basically sound and the New Mass is good but not as good as the TLM. Let us not forget that several years ago the superior of the French District of the FSSP actually defended Assisi. I realize there are priests in the FSSP that are in substantial agreement with the SSPX on these issues but the leadership is not and the ones that are have to tread very carefully.

Chris Lauer said...

Adulescens et al.,

I am not very academic, so please take my interpretation of Father Berg with the grain of salt.

I think he made the point that V2 is only one Council which limited itself in purpose. Citing the protocol of May 5th, Father outlined how the Fraternity examines the dogmas and teachings of the Church from all eras, and if one Council has a teaching that is more vague in a particular area, and another Council has a teaching that is more clear, the Fraternity will rely on the more clear teaching.

To use a silly example of my own, if V2 says that 2+2 equals some number between 0 and 50, and another Council says that 2+2 equals 4 ... than you simply rely on the other Council.

Those modernists who point to V2 to claim that 2+2 equals anything other than 4, are using a hermeneutic that is in error.

Theological documents, however, are not as easy to render as simple math equations. To find continuity interlaced throughout all of the documents of a 2,000 year old Magisterium is a more difficult task.

I am way out of my league here, please do not judge Father Berg negatively over my very sophomoric evaluation.

Unknown said...

My son, who is an SSPX priest, recalled that in a 2007 Remnant interview, Fr. Berg asserted that showing the continuity of religious liberty, collegiality and ecumenism with the doctrine of the Church was the founding charism of the FSSP.

One would have thought that if that were the case, the FSSP would have been shouting its explanation of the continuity from the housetops from then until the present day.

But of course it has not.

I therefore am interested in knowing whether his 2013 conference starts actually demonstrating the continuity, or contents itself with continuing to talk about demonstrating the continuity.

P.S. I don't think that Fr. Berg's description of the founding charism of the FSSP is quite accurate. It strikes me as an exercise in reading December 2005 back into June 1998.

MBlanton said...

Faith is greater than obedience. The ultimate goal of the Church is to save souls.

Throckmorton P. said...

“triumphalism”, an understatement, the Vatican II machinery went far beyond mere pride of its accomplishments or celebration of its success. The modernist power structure, in control during and after the Council, adopted the tactic Sherman employed in his March to the Sea and now expects us to hold hands and sing, “Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya”.

“both parties ultimately decided not to do the more difficult work”, a classic example of blaming the victim.

Eric said...

"...theologians on both the left and the right radicalized one another."


@MBlanton: "Faith is greater than obedience."

Perhaps. But the protestants think the same thing. And there's a lot of faith involved in obedience. I think generalized maxims are, at least in this instance, so useful to every side that they're useless.

edmond said...

Wasn't the reason it was a pastoral council only because they did not have any desire make doctrinal pronouncements and went out of their way not to? It was supposed to be pastoral, trying to devise solutions to modern times problems specifically so their answers are only specifically to our times only? Won't the time specific pastoral solutions be obsolete eventually, even if they were correct? So we will eventually be able to ignore them. That also gave them a loophole. No where in the past was it condemned the idea that in specific circumstances a confessional state should not be established. They just expanded that idea greatly, as with the death penalty statements of JP II. If the Inquisition was brought back today, you and I would be burned at the stake by Catholic authorities for being catholic, not the heretics.

Sarah said...

Wouldn't it be nice if our current pope would take it upon himself to revise the Vatican II documents and eliminate the ambiguous wording to make it truly, as so many Catholics feverishly argue they already are, in line with Tradition. At least an authoritative commentary by him on the documents, wherein he translates for the entire Church, how we ought to interpret it--instead of leaving it at the whims of individual readers (something the Church has never done before with sacred Scripture).

If we're supposed to interpret it one way and one way only, let our holy father show us that interpretation in clear, unmistakable language. And let all bishops in line with Rome be prepared to share our holy father's clear and unmistakable interpretation with the laity and put it into practice.

Unknown said...

The point of the "pastoral" character of Vatican II was to be able to make a revolution without admitting that it was a revolution.

Very early in the Council, Abp. Lefebvre proposed that the acts of the Council be explicitly divided into doctrinal and pastoral pronouncements. You can read the text in the collection of his interventions at the Council, "I Accuse the Council."

It was voted down. Clarity would have destroyed the whole strategy of the progressivists in its cradle, which is precisely what ABL sought to do.

This confusion has continued to be the style of the post-Vatican II Church. So in the absence of a conversion just a little less radical than St. Paul's on the road to Damascus, the thought of the current Holy Father's clarifying the acts of Vatican II is like expecting a dancer to fly.

P.S. Abp. Lefebvre's strategy shows how early in the game he understood what was afoot. Unfortunately, many who consider themselves traditionalists, and rightly, don't understand -- or don't want to understand -- a half century later.

David said...

If we look at the Pope Benedict's address to the Roman Curia on December 22nd 2005 he at no point declares that the continuity between the Council and previous magisterial teaching is actually binding. Rather, he offers, as he says, "the correct key to [the Council's] interpretation and application". It is impossible to read this as other than being a suggestion by the Pope as homo privatus which he believes "bore and is bearing fruit" and which can lead to an interpretation of the Council that "can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church". 

There is nothing here that binds the conscience of a Catholic and to which we must give assent. It is a key of interpretation, which the Pope Benedict believed is the correct one, which we may disagree with without any mark of temerity. Those who would make of the "hermeneutic of continuity and reform" a binding interpretation are saying something very different from what the Pope said to the Roman Curia. 

Indeed, if the interpretative key suggested by the previous Pope were to be truly convincing he would need to have demonstrated how his 1966 assertion (as Fr Ratzinger) that the Council was in discontinuity with previous magisterial teaching on the subject of religious liberty was mistaken. Further, for the assertion of the continuity of conciliar teaching on religious liberty with previous magisterial teaching to be in any way binding His Holiness would, as a matter of simple justice, be bound to have shown this with an authoritative declaration.

But, instead, what we have are the never-ending demands that Catholics subscribe to the "hermeneutic of continuity" as a kind of quasi-dogma without content, a teaching that, in the hands of certain 'conservative' Catholics, is meant to bind the will through submission without binding the intellect through a clear demonstration that this hermeneutic is actually true.

This is very disappointing from the superior of the FSSP.

Sarah said...

More of the same confusion. As David quoted Pope Benedict XVI, he offered "THE correct key" to interpret the Vatican II documents, yet, as he points out, the pope never asserts that every Catholic is bound to interpret it that way. And of course, he never so much as hints at the fact that during the council he referred to the council's documents as an "anti-Syllabus," openly admitting that it contradicted earlier Church teaching (specifically, I think, with regard to ecumenism and religious liberty).
So, I guess it makes sense that Pope Benedict XVI never wrote an official papal document essentially re-writing and summarizing the Vatican II documents in a way that would its supposed continuity with Tradition clear and unmistakable.

And now our current holy father tells us we shouldn't be afraid to apply the teachings of Vatican II in their fullness, but he doesn't really make it clear what that's supposed to look like.

More of the same.

Bwangi Kilonzo said...

Clearly there has been a problem.

Bwangi Kilonzo said...

"Unknown said...
The point of the "pastoral" character of Vatican II was to be able to make a revolution without admitting that it was a revolution.

But that was a blessing, had it been 'Dogmatic', we would all be in trouble.

But the Holy Spirit who sees all things and protects his Church would never 'like' ever let that happen.

Edward More said...


"The point of the "pastoral" character of Vatican II was to be able to make a revolution without admitting that it was a revolution."

Wow, you really hit the nail on the head there, my friend. Of course, the modernists who ran the show during the council never wanted any of their documents to be dogmatic because then their plan of introducing modernism into the church would have been clear as day. The best strategy was to cloak their modernist errors around sound Catholic doctrine, of which there obviously is a large amount in the documents.