Rorate Caeli

“The Council and the Eclipse of God” - PART XII – How the Council insinuated the heresy of Sola Scriptura into its teachings - by Don Pietro Leone


In this last part of his discussion on Catholic – Protestant relations, Don Pietro shows how the Council insinuated the heresy of Sola Scriptura into its teaching by a change of accent and other ploys.  This he considers the fundamental Lutheran heresy because it effectively dispenses with the authority of the Church and substitutes  it with the Bible interpreted as one pleases.        F.R.

“The Council and the Eclipse of God”




Don Pietro Leone


Part XII


The Protestantization of Council Doctrine

II  Protestantization of Council Doctrine


  We may identify the Protestantization of  Council doctrine in the following fields particularly:


·         Ecclesiology;

·         The Holy Scriptures;

·         The Priesthood; and

·         The Mass.



We shall consider the first two themes here, the third in chapter 6, and the fourth in chapter 7.






The novel ecclesiology that we have presented in our treatment of the attacks against the dogma of the Unity of the Church is largely of Protestant inspiration, in that:



a)  The concept that the true Church is wider in extent than the Roman Catholic Church and includes within its confines other denominations, is a heresy of the ‘German High Church’ 1 and of the Anglicans 2 ;

b)  The concept that there is more than one church is manifest most notably in the proliferation of the Protestant ‘churches’;

c) The concept of the ‘hierarchy of truth’ corresponds to the Protestant error concerning Fundamental Truths’ 3 ;  

d)  Ecumenism, is, in its origins, a Protestant fabrication4 .


The Holy Scriptures



In the texts below we shall see how the Council opens itself up to the Protestant heresy of Sola Scriptura, namely that the source of the Faith is the Bible alone. Now this principle of Sola Scriptura is commonly understood to signify not only that the Bible is the sole source of Revelation, but also that it is ‘self-interpreting’, which means in effect that the Christian reader is free to interpret it as he wishes. The principle, in this more general sense, is heretical in two ways: first, because it contradicts the -dogma that the source of Faith is double, consisting not only in the Bible but also in Oral Tradition 5 ; and second, because it contradicts the dogma that it is the Church Herself that is the authentic interpreter of the Bible 6 . The principle should be regarded as the fundamental Protestant heresy first, inasmuch as it accords to the Christian, relying on his ‘conscience’7 , the freedom to create a Christianity to his own liking without any reference to objective truth; second, inasmuch as it renders the existence of the Church entirely otiose.


The Council opens itself up to this fundamental heresy by raising in various ways the status of the Holy Scriptures above that of Oral Tradition. 


         i) Christ the Lord… commanded the apostles to preach [the Gospel]. This… was done by the apostles who handed on, by oral preaching…. what they themselves had received…; it was done by those apostles and others associated with them who… committed the message of salvation to writing.’(Dei Verbum 7)


This passage expresses the Church’s perennial doctrine that Revelation has a double source: namely the Holy Scriptures and the Oral Tradition. We read for instance more clearly in the First Vatican Council (Dei Filius) quoting Trent: ‘Supernatural Revelation, according to the Faith of the Universal Church, as declared by the Holy Synod of Trent, is contained in the written books and in the unwritten Traditions which have been received by the Holy Apostles and by the mouth of Christ Himself or through the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures have been handed down by the Apostles themselves, and have thus come to us’.


         ii) ‘Tradition and Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the word of God which is entrusted to the Church.’ (DV 10)


This passage, by contrast, while still teaching that Revelation has a double source, designates that source as the ‘word of God’, rather than for example ‘Tradition’ (oral or written), thereby expressing a predilection for the Word of God over Oral Tradition.



         iii) ‘…may it come that by the reading and study the sacred books… the treasure of revelation entrusted to the church may more and more fill people’s hearts… so new impulse of spiritual life may be expected from increased veneration of the word of God which “stands forever.’’ (DV 26).



While the first chapter of the document treats of Revelation, and the second chapter (from which the extracts (i) and (ii) are taken) treats of its double source, the following four of the six chapters treat of the Holy Scriptures alone, concluding with the portentous sentence just quoted. In such ways the Holy Scriptures are again given preference over Tradition. 


         iv) ‘The Church… has always regarded and continues to regard the scriptures, taken together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of its faith…they are inspired by God and committed to writing once and for all time… It follows that all the preaching of the Church, as indeed the whole Christian religion should be nourished and ruled by sacred scripture…’ [There follows an encomium of the scriptures.] (DV 21);

         v) ‘Sacred theology relies on the written word of God, taken together with sacred tradition, as its permanent foundation. By this word it is powerfully strengthened…’ [A further encomium of the scriptures follows.] (DV 24);



In texts (iv) & (v) we have two instances of a logical fallacy. What is predicated of two members of a set (that is to say the Scriptures and Tradition taken together) is then applied to one member only (that is to say to the Scriptures alone). In other words the relation between the two members is understood first as conjunctive and then as disjunctive. An illustration would be: ‘Laurel and Hardy are a comedy duo, therefore Laurel is a comedy duo’. The effect of this logical fallacy is yet again to accord preference to Holy Scripture over Tradition.



         vi ‘Catholic theologians… searching together with separated brothers and sisters into the divine mysteries… [taking account of the principle of the ‘hierarchy’ of truths … will bring about] a deeper realization and a clearer expression of the unfathomable riches of Christ’ (cf. Eph 3.5) (UR 11); 


         vii) ‘If… these translations [of the Holy Scriptures] are made jointly with churches separated from us, they can then be used by all Christians (DV 22);



         viii) ‘... in the Church, according to Catholic belief, its authentic teaching office has a special place in expounding and preaching the written word of God.’ (UR 21).



It belongs to Holy Mother Church alone, in the light of Tradition and through the agency of Her Popes and Bishops, ‘to judge the true meaning and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures’ 8 . She understands and declares such truths with ever greater profundity and clarity over the centuries. She does not search into these truths, nor understand, translate, or express the Scriptures ever more deeply and clearly with non-Catholics (any more than She seeks religious and moral Truth with non-Christians - see above); Her teaching office is not merely ‘special’, but divinely instituted, unique, and infallible.

           ix) ‘Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among those separated from us (UR 4);


         x) Such a heritage is described as: ‘the common patrimony of the Gospel and the resultant common duty of bearing a Christian witness’ (Apostolicam Actuositatem 27);


         xi) They [the non-Catholic Christians]… share our desire to stand by the words of Christ as the source of Christian virtue’ (UR 24).



Moral and doctrinal Truths derive from the two sources of Divine Revelation, that is to say both from Holy Scriptures and from Oral Tradition, as interpreted and declared by the Church. Protestants who reject Oral Tradition and deny the authority of the Church cannot be said to have a ‘common heritage’ with Catholics; nor a ‘common patrimony of the Gospel’ tout court; nor a resultant common duty of witness; nor a common desire to adhere to the words of Christ tout court.

We observe that the root problem of Protestantism, of the Council, and of any heresy altogether, may be framed in terms of the rejection of Tradition. We shall return to our consideration of the  Holy Scriptures in the later chapter on the Mass.   




The Council illegitimately accords to non-Catholic Christian communities and individuals a status approaching Her own, and recommends relations with them (‘Ecumenism’) which obstruct Her very raison d’être. In so doing it opens itself up to Protestant heresies concerning the nature of the Church, the Holy Scriptures, and, as we shall explain in chapters 6 & 7 below, also concerning the priesthood and the Mass.





The first chapter has treated of the Church, above all of Her Unity; the second has treated of the alleged division of this unity in Protestantism, and the Council’s irenism towards it. We conclude these two chapters with the following passage from St. Cyprian’s treatise de Unitate Ecclesiae 9 .




‘The One Church, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of Our Lord, and says: ‘My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her.’ Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the Blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets for the sacrament of unity saying: ‘There is one body and one spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God’ ?…




‘The Church is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. Separate a ray of the sun from its body of the light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a tree, when broken it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up. Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the outpouring of her fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated.



‘The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is incorrupt and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church, nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his Mother.’


1. see historical sketch above


2. known by them as the ‘branch theory’. We take Anglicanism as a form of Protestantism


3. see the quotation from Mortalium Animos above


4. see the historical sketch above


5. as was expressed in the preparatory schema on Revelation by its title ‘de Fontibus


6. In the Council of Trent, quoted later in the section


7. understood subjectivistically


8. Council of Trent, session 4, repeated in the First Vatican Council and later by Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus (1893), and Vigilantiae studique (1902), the latter document constituting the Pontifical Biblical Commission as a bulwark against the modernist historical-critical method of exegesis, cf. RdM I. 2 (b)


9. 4-6