Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vatican II Infallible?

I believe that VII has the authority of the ordinary Magisterium, but chose not to invoke the authority of the extraordinary. This is why:

First we have a statement from Paul VI froma general audience. The original is on Vatican.va but unfortunately I can't read italian, so I must rely on a translation:

"In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium which must be accepted with docility according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document" (Paul VI, General Audience of 12 January 1966).

This tells me that VII chose not to teach form the extraordinary Magisterium but from the ordinary, which requires docility and assent to its authority but is not required belief for salvation like a dogma is. This is not to say that it couldn't have taught from the extraordinary Magisterium, it most surely could have. But For reasons known to pope Paul VI they didn't.

Then there is this statement from that clarification on "subsistit" that I found interesting:

First Question: Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?

Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.

This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council1. Paul VI affirmed it2 and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution Lumen gentium: "There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation"3. The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention4.

This sounds to me like the purpose of the council was to treat pre-existing decrees that had already been made. I think this may be why they refrained from any new dogmas because the purpose was to treat already-existing ones. Basically renewed argumentation and reasoning behind the existing decrees.

And I also read this on Newadvent:

What teaching is infallible?

A word or two under this head, summarizing what has been already explained in this and in other articles will suffice.

As regards matter, only doctrines of faith and morals, and facts so intimately connected with these as to require infallible determination, fall under the scope of infallible ecclesiastical teaching. These doctrines or facts need not necessarily be revealed; it is enough if the revealed deposit cannot be adequately and effectively guarded and explained, unless they are infallibly determined.

As to the organ of authority by which such doctrines or facts are determined, three possible organs exist. One of these, the magisterium ordinarium, is liable to be somewhat indefinite in its pronouncements and, as a consequence, practically ineffective as an organ. The other two, however, are adequately efficient organs, and when they definitively decide any question of faith or morals that may arise, no believer who pays due attention to Christ's promises can consistently refuse to assent with absolute and irrevocable certainty to their teaching.

But before being bound to give such an assent, the believer has a right to be certain that the teaching in question is definitive (since only definitive teaching is infallible); and the means by which the definitive intention, whether of a council or of the pope, may be recognized have been stated above. It need only be added here that not everything in a conciliar or papal pronouncement, in which some doctrine is defined, is to be treated as definitive and infallible. For example, in the lengthy Bull of Pius IX defining the Immaculate Conception the strictly definitive and infallible portion is comprised in a sentence or two; and the same is true in many cases in regard to conciliar decisions. The merely argumentative and justificatory statements embodied in definitive judgments, however true and authoritative they may be, are not covered by the guarantee of infallibility which attaches to the strictly definitive sentences -- unless, indeed, their infallibility has been previously or subsequently established by an independent decision.

But as we heard earlier, VII did not and chose not to make any of those "definitive sentences". An independent decision was made not to invoke the charism of infallibility but a decision not to. What have left is argumentation and reasoning treating pre-existing decrees. The decrees may be infallible, but the reasoning and argumentation are not. But decrees were not part of the council.

So in conclusion, it is clear to me at least that the documents of VII do not enjoy the charism of infallibility. (Because it was decided not to be invoked, and the charism does not extend to argumentation and reasoning behind a teaching) So in a strict sense it is possible, but unlikely, for them to contain blatant error. But there is no guarantee that teachings will be in the most precise language, either. (Which of course opens the door to playing fast and loose with meanings to, say, support a liberal agenda maybe?)

I look at it this way: as far as clarity is concerned with teaching, the Church doesn't promise us a banquet all the time, only that we will not starve. Sometimes the clarity is great sometimes it could be better. But it can never be outright wrong.

Does that make sense? What do you think?


Daniel said...

I agree with your assessment of the status of Vatican II documents. I recently came to a similar conclusion using the same sources you have cited, namely, Pope Paul VI's discourse and the Catholic Encyclopedia's article on Ecumenical Councils.

Since I can read Italian, here is a literal translation of Pope Paul VI's quote, which includes some phrases omitted in what was posted:

Given the pastoral character of the Council, it has avoided pronouncing in an extraordinary way dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility; but it still provided its teachings with the authority of the supreme ordinary magisterium, which ordinary and completely authentic magisterium must be accepted docilely and sincerely by all the faithful, according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document.

The meaning is unchanged, but the Pope emphasizes that this is a "completely authentic" magisterium which is to be accepted "sincerely". Basically, even though these teachings are non-infallible, we can't take them lightly or ignore them. Since VII documents aren't noted for their lucid prose, it would take a lot of work to interpret them in a way that genuinely expounds the ancient decrees of the Church.

Unitas said...

Agreed. I've asked many people what is it exactly that we must adhere to about VII. What beliefs did a pre-VII catholic need to hold after VII?

No one has yet to answer.

I find it unfair that people demand the SSPX adhere to VII when they don't even know that it is that needs adhering.

Unitas said...

Agreed. I've asked many people what is it exactly that we must adhere to about VII. What beliefs did a pre-VII catholic need to hold after VII?

No one has yet to answer.

I find it unfair that people demand the SSPX adhere to VII when they don't even know that it is that needs adhering.