EWTN Catholic Q&A
Vatican II
Question from Joanne on 02-01-2005:

An aquaintance keeps sending articles putting down Vatican II, saying that it was not inspired by the Holy Spirit, was not a dogmatic Council, and we need to pay no attention to it. A quote from one states,

"We can say that the authorities in the Church can call upon the Holy Ghost to guarantee, in a very narrow set of cases, that what comes from this council is de fide. And nothing in Vatican II was pronounced de fide.... Pope John XXIII himself said: "There will be no infallible definitions. All that was done by former Councils. That is enough." Pope John Paul II said: "Pope John conceived the Council as an eminently pastoral event."

Address Closing Vatican II on December 7, 1965 {Pope Paul VI said]: "The magisterium of the Church did not wish to pronounce itself under the form of extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements...." and at his General Audience of January 12, 1966: "There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification, the Council intended to give to its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church's infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmata carrying the mark of infallibility." And, in his General Audience of August 6, 1975, Paul VI again confirmed the non-dogmatic nature of the council: "Differing from other Councils, this one was not directly dogmatic, but disciplinary and pastoral."

Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 02-18-2005:

The straighforward question to ask such persons is, do you only accept acts of the extraordinary Magisterium? This is what liberals do. They won't accept Humanae vitae because the Pope did not issue it by a solemn ex cathedra act. They now say the same of the women priests issue. The problem with that logic is that the ordinary Magisterium is to be accepted by Catholics as "authentic teaching," even when it does not issue solemn acts, and many acts of the ordinary Magisterium will be infallible in their own right.

Vatican II did not intend, nor did it issue, any "extraordinary dogmatic decrees." These quotes are quite accurate. But to thereby dismiss the Council's teaching and that of the Popes since is very unCatholic. The Council taught as an apostolic college, and Pope Paul and Pope John Paul have taught as universal pastors. This is clear, for example, by the fact that both the Councils and the Popes have used the highest and most solemn form of ecclesiastical document, the Constitution. The Council issued Dogmatic (hummm?) Constititions on the Liturgy and on the Church, by overwhelming votes of the bishops. The Pope issued the discipline of the new Code of Canon Law and the teaching of the Catechism by Apostolic Constitutions. Are ultra-traditionalists REALLY saying they get to ignore everything after 1960 because their understanding of the faith is superior and more orthodox than that of the Apostolic College of the Bishops and the Popes? Yet, that is EXACTLY what ultra-traditionalists allege for the most part.

Ultra-traditionalist is a term used to distinguish traditionalists, who legitimately love the old Mass and the old ways, from those who for all practical purposes, even if they are not in formal schism, dissent from the teaching and governance of the Council and the post-conciliar Popes. This can also be called Integrism, the error of distrusting the work of the living Magisterium of the Church in favor of their own understanding of the "integral faith." Since they hold to all the formally and solemnly taught dogmas they appear technically orthodox in faith.

It seems to me, however, that this may not be true. There is every appearance of not accepting the dogma of Vatican I on Papal Primacy, which teaches the obligation, as necessary for salvation, of communion in disciplinary and other governance matters with the Successor of Peter. Or, if they do accept it intellectually, which I am sure they would say they do, they sin against it by their actions. This may exaplain why many integrists become sede-vacantists (the See of Peter is vacant). They see the inconsistancy of trying to remain in some fashing in union with the Pope while rejecting any consequence for themselves of Rome's decisions the last 50 years. By declaring there is no Pope, they are relieved of their schizophrenic and hypocritical position. Some go the next step of electing their own pope, which is why we have several claimants at this time, besides the one elected by the College of Cardinals, John Paul II.