Sunday, September 20, 2020

Vatican I and Vatican II – antecedents and “unfinished business”

The genesis of this post took place back on Sept. 2, 2019 when THIS COMMENT was published by Rory. Since then, explorations into the issues of apostasy, doctrinal development—corruption vs. legitimate— the validity of certain councils, and the possibility that we may be living in the generation that will experience the second coming of our Lord, have been discussed in the subsequent threads:

Development of doctrine, Dignitatis Humanae, and the Christianizing of paganism vs. the paganizing of Christianity 

John Henry Newman’s "acceptance of non-Christian religions” 

Accommodation for “the Gospel's sake”—the risk of paganizing Christianity  

The Great Apostasy - A provocative, book length contribution, from a Catholic perspective

Vatican I: a ‘rupture’ in Catholic tradition, or legitimate development of doctrine?

As my personal research into the aforementioned issues continues, I would like to bring to the attention of AF readers some germane, and valuable, contributions that I have recently read:

 First, three books that significantly informed my understanding of the conservative, Catholic viewpoint concerning the issue of infallibility—especially the Papal and Vatican I:

Anti-Janus: an historico-theological criticism of the work entitled "The Pope and the Council" 

The Vatican Council and its Definitions 

The True Story of the Vatican Council 

I would also like to recommend a 2018 dissertation that I read over the last couple days:

Eighteenth-Century Forerunners of Vatican II: Early Modern Catholic Reform and the Synod of Pistoia 

This work is so much more than title suggests, and is a must read (IMO). I hope the following selections provide enough impetus to at least take a look the contribution:

This dissertation sheds further light on the nature of church reform and the roots of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) through a study of eighteenth-century Catholic reformers who anticipated Vatican II. The most striking of these examples is the Synod of Pistoia (1786), the high-water mark of “late Jansenism.” Most of the reforms of the Synod were harshly condemned by Pope Pius VI in the Bull Auctorem fidei (1794), and late Jansenism was totally discredited in the increasingly ultramontane nineteenth-century Catholic Church. Nevertheless, many of the reforms implicit or explicit in the Pistoian agenda – such as an exaltation of the role of bishops, an emphasis on infallibility as a gift to the entire church, religious liberty, a simpler and more comprehensible liturgy that incorporates the vernacular, and the encouragement of lay Bible reading and Christocentric devotions – were officially promulgated at Vatican II. (From the Abstract, n.p.)

reform occurred at the Council in the form of the development of doctrine. The idea that doctrine could develop was rejected by most early modern Catholic theologians. It was totally antithetical to the Gallican tradition, and the immutability of doctrine was a primary claim wielded in anti-Protestant polemic. Because of the work of Newman and others, the concept of development became the established way of explaining doctrines that were not explicit in scripture or the earliest Christian sources (the Marian dogmas of 1854 and 1950 loom large here). The notion of development itself is embedded in Dei verbum, and defined in §8.

Development, however, is a fundamentally conservative type of reform, like ressourcement and unlike aggiornamento. By its very nature, development brings to light elements implicit in an existing doctrine or idea. The most conservative council fathers at Vatican II recognized at least some form of the development of doctrine. (Pages 32, 33 – bold emphasis mine)

Just as concerns about the “unfinished business” of Vatican I survived long after that Council closed in 1870, so have the concerns described by Routhier endured past the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of Vatican II. There were important moments in this continued debate in the Catholic Church in the postconciliar period, such as the revision of Canon Law in 1983, the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985, and the promulgation of Ut unum sint (1995) and Apostolos suos (1998) by Pope John Paul II. In the papacy of Francis, however, calls for a re-examination of collegiality, often through appeals to “synodality,” are increasing. In light of the collegial deliberations of the Synod on the Family (4–25 October 2015) and the widely diverging reactions to the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia (19 May 2016), the Catholic Church may again be preparing for a major debate surrounding the exercise of the papal primacy in light of episcopal collegiality. (Page 369)

Looking forward to some in depth discourse…

Grace and peace,



Dennis said...

Hi David,

I found this article which seems a good corrective to the excesses of the Vatican 1 Council:

Although Im not sure how infallibility of papal office helps much without qualifiers. If infallibility is equated with loss, I'd agree that this office along with all other Apostolic offices will not be overcome.

If it means inerrancy, I think that is a fantasy because history bears out the failure of popes, Apostolic Sees and Israel at certain times. Inerrancy kicks in when the Holy Spirit recorrects the Church by reawakening these institutions through various means & lining them up with Scripture, Holy Tradition & prophetic exhortation.


David Waltz said...

Hi Dennis,

Thanks much for the link to Deville’s excellent and informative article! I found the following to be quite insightful:

>>In the wrong hands, Church history can often descend into apologetics where one side is portrayed as heretics whose lives and works are traduced in the most lurid ways. The other side, of course, has its “heroic” lives and works rendered in hagiographical terms. O’Malley entirely resists these tendencies, giving succinct, impartial renderings of everyone who crosses his stage—arch-reactionaries, liberals, and many in between, offering enough context to each without overwhelming the reader. He also manages some fine sketches of second- and third-tier players in this drama, focusing not just on big names—Joseph de Maistre or Henry Manning, say—but on bishops from Ireland, Canada, and the United States who played often overlooked roles at the Council.

The other problem with some versions of Church history comes in failing to account, as I always say to my students, for the fact that the Church, like Christ, is dyophysite: divine and human. Some Catholics write history in a monophysite fashion, treating everything as somehow serenely orchestrated by God. Such history bleeds out human agency and personality, a major failing that O’Malley entirely avoids by paying detailed attention to who was on which commission determining what set of rules would govern the Council, and what the implications of such political machinations were.>>

Deville’s article has prompted me to order O’Malley’s book. His article, along with the Google preview of the book, suggests that there is some important overlapping material with the dissertation I mentioned in my opening post.

Concerning the issues of infallibility and inerrancy, Hergenrother in his book, Anti-Janus—linked to above-chapters IV and V—does an excellent job in clarifying the distinctions between the two, as well as dealing with historical examples of supposed claims to infallibility that he clearly demonstrates are NOT actual examples of infallibility at work.

Grace and peace,


leeseykay said...

Dave, Hi.

Assuredly there is unfinished business with regards to the papacy and the episcopate. If the Lord tarries His coming, a future council is going to be necessary to clarify a lot of issues that have been raised since Vatican I and II.

I believe everything the Catholic Church believes and teaches. I do not know if the Church teaches that Jorge Bergoglio is the pope. I assume he is until I am instructed otherwise. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, known to have been a critic of the Second Vatican Council and the popes who implemented it confided to one of his assistants more than once, that "a future pope and his cardinals might have to pronounce the finding that these men had not been popes." This is speaking of Paul V and John Paul II.

Like the archbishop, I do not consider myself competent to declare one way or the other. But I cannot condemn as non-Catholic, those who hold to the possibility that the papal seat has been empty for an extended period. I believe the document Pastor Aeternus affirms that there would be successors of Peter "in perpetuity" until the end of the world. I think it could be helpful if the Church would clarify what that means. Does it disallow, as so many conservatives and Traditionalists say, for a long period of time where the next Roman bishop has not yet ascended the papal seat?

I do not know. I do believe whatever the Roman Catholic Church teaches. At this time, with the Church being silent on the subject, I accept and act upon the papacy of Francis I, just as Marcel Lefebvre, with his understandable doubts about Popes Paul and John Paul II.

It will probably not happen in our lifetimes, but it also would be helpful to have clarified when an ecumenical council is speaking "ex cathedra" (infallibly). Many sedevacantists hold that ecumenical councils are of their nature infallible. If Vatican II is therefore doctrinally infallible, Paul VI could not be pope. That is not the direction I tend to go. But one way or the other, the sedevacantists, even if they are heretics, (I do not say so. I think they are trying to find their way in confusing times) help us to consider the difficulty of Vatican II criticism.

Does the pope (Paul VI) have the authority to declare an ecumenical council fallible? I think yes. But I think we have to wait to see what the Church finally says when she regains her balance. Are valid ecumenical councils infallible in every particular, in the canons only? Who knows? Is Francis pope? I think one can be a good Catholic, submissive to everything the Catholic Church teaches, and not know the answers to many questions.

With regards to what that article mentioned, those are motivated by ambition, ideology, and politics. There might be efforts to eviscerate the papacy by these haters of the Catholic faith who are in control of the Vatican. Francis himself is an enemy of the papacy itself. These synods of his today can become so-called ecumenical councils tomorrow designed to overthrow Catholic Tradition and I will never believe it.

I am much more interested in seeing what happens after Francis, the Francis bishops, and you and I Dave, are out of the picture> Look at Old Testament Israel, coming back to the Promised Land after the Temple is detroyed and God's people scattered. We have better promises for the Church. She will win. Our Blessed Mother will triumph. The serpent will suffer a crushed head from the Mother of the Son of Man and the Bride of the Son of Man.

Saturday night ramble. No editing. Have to go.


leeseykay said...

Archbishop Lefebvre is quoted above from True or False Pope? Refuting Sedevacantism and Other Modern Errors, p. 11, STAS Editions, (2015), by John Salza and Robert Siscoe