Rorate Caeli

The Council and the Eclipse of God by Don Pietro Leone: CHAPTER 10 (Part 6a.) III. FEATURES OF THE TEXTS INFLUENTIAL FOR PROMOTING THE COUNCIL’S WORK: 1. Authority; 2.Appeal to Charismatic Inspiration; 3. Appeal to the Senses


III    Features of the Texts Influential for promoting the Council’s Work


We here consider:


1.    Authority;

2.    Appeal to Charismatic Inspiration;

3.    Appeal to the Senses;



1.       Authority


The dynamism of the Council derives not least from its ecumenical (in the sense of universal) and Papal authority: that is to say the authority which the universal episcopate possesses in a Council in collaboration with, and under the governance of, the Pope; together with the papal authority in which it participates. This authority was then to be made concrete in law, official documents, catechisms, programs of seminary formation, and Religious Rules: a formidable and solid bulwark indeed against lone voices of dissent. Papal authority was to have a similar power shortly afterwards in the imposition of the New Order of Mass [1].


Cardinal Siri himself described authority as the ‘capacity to create an obligation of conscience’ and consequently accepted decisions of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI which he did not personally agree with, and so it was also with many of the other conservative Council Fathers. Father Wiltgen wrote: ‘When the point of view of the majority was clarified and promulgated by the Pope as common doctrine of the Second Vatican Council, they did not hesitate to adhere to it.’ Even Monsignor Lefebvre admitted signing many Council texts: ‘…under the moral pressure of the Holy Father… because I cannot separate myself from the Holy Father; if the Holy Father signs, I am morally obliged to sign’ [2].


Professor de Mattei observes that in order to resist, a Council Father would have had to possess not only the requisite theological knowledge, but also a prophetic attitude. The Abbé de Nantes remarks: ‘His appeal to the Truth revealed by God would suffice to block the entire machine of subversion’ [3]. Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliviera agrees, observing: ‘Had a public stand been taken at the right time with the necessary energy, the history of the Church would have changed’ [4]. It was just this attitude, though, which was lacking in the Council. Professor de Mattei explains: ‘If in the first phase of the Council [the first three sessions] the principal problem of the conservative Fathers was the lack of organization, in the last two sessions what was lacking was rather the will to resist to the very limit’ [5].


As the Abbé de Nantes’ words imply: the Faith is a principle higher than the Papacy, and the Pope only has authority to teach in accord with the Faith: the Pope and the entire Episcopacy possess authority in the field of doctrine only to re-iterate, deepen, or clarify the Faith, and none whatsoever to teach new or false doctrines, and if they are new then they are necessarily also false. What is regarded as the authority of the Council to impose novelty and falsehood is a false authority deceiving the whole world; it is a demon filling the members of the Church with inept joy, or a Sphinx squeezing and throttling [6] them, paralyzing them with fear even at the thought of questioning it.


‘What is regarded as the authority of the Council to impose novelty and falsehood is a false authority deceiving the whole world…’ (paraphrased from Abbe de Nantes)


‘Hence, however, beloved brethren, I not only admonish but counsel you, not rashly to trust to mischievous words, nor to yield an easy consent to deceitful sayings, nor to take darkness for light, night for day, hunger for food, thirst for drink, poison for medicine, death for safety. Let not the age nor the authority deceive you of those who, answering to the ancient wickedness of the two elders as they attempted to corrupt and violate the chaste Susannah, are thus also attempting, with their adulterous doctrines, to corrupt the chastity of the Church and violate the truth of the Gospel...


‘The Lord cries aloud, saying, “Hearken not unto the words of the false prophets, for the visions of their own hearts deceive them. They speak, but not out of the mouth of the Lord.... There is one God, and Christ is one, and there is one Church, and one chair founded upon the rock by the word of the Lord. Another altar cannot be constituted nor a new priesthood be made, except the one altar and the one priesthood. Whosoever gathereth elsewhere, scattereth. Whatsoever is appointed by human madness, so that the divine disposition is violated, is adulterous, is impious, is sacrilegious. Depart far from the contagion of men of this kind and flee from their words, avoiding them as a cancer and a plague, as the Lord warns you and says, “They are blind leaders of the blind. But if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch.” ...Let no-one, beloved brethren, make you to err from the ways of the Lord; let no-one snatch you, Christians, from the Gospel of Christ; let no- one take sons of the Church away from the Church; let them perish alone for themselves who have wished to perish; let them remain outside the Church alone who have departed from the Church...


‘Avoid the wolves who separate the sheep from the shepherd; avoid the envenomed tongue of the devil, who from the beginning of the world, always deceitful and lying, lies that he may deceive, cajoles that he may injure, promises good that he may give evil, promises life that he may put to death. Now also his words are evident, and his poisons are plain. He promises peace, in order that peace may not possibly be attained; he promises salvation, that he who has sinned may not come to salvation; he promises a Church, when he so contrives that he who believes him may utterly perish apart from the Church [7].



2.   Appeal to Charismatic Inspiration


Both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI laid claim to Charismatic, or Divine, inspiration for the Council [8]. Indeed the opening speech of Pope John XXIII in which he voiced such an opinion begins: ‘Gaudet Mater Ecclesia’ recalling the Exsultet (... Gaudeat... laetetur Mater Ecclesia) of Easter night, and insinuating that the Council was an event of charismatic magnitude similar to the Resurrection. What greater importance could he have lent it, other than calling it a ‘Second Pentecost’ as did Pope John Paul II, the other Supreme Pontiff who, by his active role in composing documents and in his subsequent enthusiastic promotion of the Council, may also be termed a ‘Conciliar Pope.’ And yet Pentecost is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, and having seen how the Council opposed this Spirit, we cannot be justified in attributing in a special way to the Holy Spirit [9] the Council’s inspiration or teachings.


‘What was presented as charismatic inspiration turns out then to be not supernatural but natural, or at most preternatural (if inspired by the devil), in the tradition of Protestant ‘enthusiastic’ experience.’

Indeed we have seen the Council erring not only on a doctrinal, but even on a purely pastoral, level, in forseeing a continuing expansion of the world’s population and of Communism, so as not explicitly to condemn either contraception or Communism. As for Pope John’s inspiration for the Council, we observe that he was not the only instigator of world-shaking changes inspired by a vision [10]: we think of ‘The Buddha’, Mohammed, Luther [11], Descartes, Marx, Lenin, and, to a lesser extent, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin [12].  


What was presented as charismatic inspiration turns out then to be not supernatural but natural, or at most preternatural (if inspired by the devil), in the tradition of Protestant ‘enthusiastic’ experience. Removing its charismatic clothing, it remains little more than the emotion of hope for a glorious Church future.



3.     Appeal to the Emotions


We spoke above of the shift from Charity, that is from rational, supernatural love in the state of Grace, to the natural love of the senses as the motivating force of Ecumenism [13]; we noted a further preoccupation with sense love in the Council’s treatment of marriage [14], where ‘love’, no longer considered as mutual assistance but as carnal love, is presented as:


-         pertaining to the very essence of marriage;

-         the primary end of marriage;

-         the ground of its dignity;

-         the ground of the equality of the spouses; and also ostensibly as

-         a possible motive for contraception.


In general, we spoke of the Council’s adoption of an attitude of affection towards all men without regard for objective distinctions, and we have seen it insist on mercy over ‘condemnation.’ We also spoke of a shift from the rational, supernatural virtue of Hope [15], to hope as an emotion, or passion.

 ‘[The Council’s] attitude was very much and deliberately optimistic. A wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity.’      Pope Paul VI

We have seen this optimism in the texts of Gaudium et Spes,[16] in the texts on the reform of the sacraments [17]. As an example of the Council’s promotion of love and hope of the sensible order we take the following text from Gaudium et Spes: ‘The Church… courteously invites atheists to examine the gospel of Christ with an open mind.’ Michael Davies comments: ‘It is hardly being cynical to speculate on the amusement with which this courteous invitation would be received, if it was ever received in the guardrooms of the Gulag Archipelago or the garrisons of Hungary and Czechoslovakia’ [18].


In connection with this shift of meaning of ‘love’ and ‘hope’, we quote Pope Paul VI’s address to the last Council meeting: ‘[The Council’s] attitude was very much and deliberately optimistic. A wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for the persons themselves there was only warning, respect, and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful prognostics, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honored, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed.’


Michael Davies comments: ‘The values of the modern world are now clearly apparent even in nominally Catholic countries to-day in the legalization of divorce, contraception, pornography, sodomy, and abortion. ’ We could mention other iniquities in our current society 30 years after the publication of the book in which these words were written, but we refrain: si monumentum requiritis, circumspicite [19].


Both in the case of love and of hope we see a shift from supernatural to natural, from objective to subjective, from rationality to passion. We have referred to the shift from supernatural to natural above as the false metaphysical principle of naturalism; we have referred to the shift from objective to subjective as the false principle of antirealist subjectivism; as to the shift from rationality to passion, it can already be seen in the Modernist shift from rationality to vital immanence. We shall content ourselves with asking here: is the Church interested in the supernatural, in objective reality, and in rationality, or is She not?

[1] as we have noted in ‘The Destruction of the Roman Rite’ op. cit.

[2] RdM VI. 11 (c). Professor Plinio Corrêa de Olviera understands the Archbishop’s motives differently, referring to an ‘avowed optimism’ present in the conservative Fathers, and also in him, according to which: ‘they thought that all that was happening would be worked out in one way or another, and that therefore it was not worth it to engage that frontal combat’ Minha Vida Pública, ch. 9

[3] Lettre à mes amis n.211 1965 p. 13, RdM VI. 11 (c)

[4] ibid. cf. penultimate footnote

[5] RdM ibid..

[6] ‘sphinx’ means ‘the throttler’

[7] St. Cyprian, Epistle 39, 4-6

[8] see the Preface, section B

[9] at least not in a positive sense (see our essay ‘How to Regard the Second Vatican Council’)

[10] without wishing in any way to compare the person of Pope John XXIII with any of these other visionaries

[11] at least in relation to the Mass

[12] his vision of the ‘spirit of the world’ which entered into him (see above)

[13] ch.2, conclusion to sections B&C, (c)

[14] ch.6, A

[15] which is the hope for Heaven after this life, and the vision of the things of this life (especially suffering) in the light of Faith

[16] criticized for this reason by a number of Council Fathers and experts, notably Cardinal Lercaro who contrasted the ‘completely supernatural Christian optimism’ with the ‘naturalistic optimism’ RdM VI.5 (b)

[17] as also in the execution of this reform in the book Lex Orandi cited above

[18]  MD pjc p. 185

[19] MD rl, p.245. If you need a monument, look around