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The call for a new Syllabus of Errors, this time on Vatican II, should be heeded

Pio Nono’s Syllabus Errorum has had an undeservedly bad press: it is still relevant today

By on Friday, 21 January 2011

Blessed Pope Pius IX (CNS photo)

Blessed Pope Pius IX (CNS photo)

The recent declaration of the beatification of Pope John Paul II reminded me of one attack on him sparked off by another beatification, that of Pius IX. One of the articles of indictment in John Cornwell’s very hostile book about the late pope was that this was “an early item of poor judgment”, since Pio Nono “was chiefly famous for calling the First Vatican Council, which declared the dogma of papal infallibility and papal primacy, although he was known for his infamous syllabus of errors which denounced democracy, pluralism, workers’ unions and newspapers. A fine exemplar for the 21st century to be sure!”

Cornwell, of course, got it wrong about papal primacy, which had from the earliest centuries been taken for granted: it was no purpose of the Council to “declare” it. As for papal infallibility, that, too, was widely believed; Vatican I simply defined it formally. But he also got the Syllabus of Errors wrong: not one article of it mentions democracy, workers’ unions or newspapers, and if it rejects “pluralism” (not a concept anyone at the time was familiar with) it is mostly in the sense that any religion which claims to be true rather than a matter of opinion rejects it.

The Syllabus of Errors has had a bad press over the years: but this should not deter the present Pope from responding positively to a recent request for another Syllabus, this time one spelling out the errors that have circulated within the Church about the Second Vatican Council. This request was made by the patristics scholar Bishop Athanasius [excellent name for a theologian bishop] Schneider at an important conference held last December in Rome, “for a correct hermeneutics of the Council in the light of Church Tradition”. I quote simply the passage in which Bishop Schneider calls for a document clearly spelling out the errors of the post-conciliar years:

“In recent decades there existed, and still exist today, groupings within the Church that are perpetrating an enormous abuse of the pastoral character of the Council and its texts… Keeping in mind the now decades-long experience of interpretations that are doctrinally and pastorally mistaken and contrary to the bimillennial continuity of the doctrine and prayer of the faith, there thus arises the necessity and urgency of …  a sort of “Syllabus” of the errors in the interpretation of Vatican Council II.

“There is the need for a new Syllabus, this time directed not so much against the errors coming from outside of the Church, but against the errors circulated within the Church by supporters of the thesis of discontinuity and rupture, with its doctrinal, liturgical, and pastoral application.
“Such a Syllabus should consist of two parts: the part that points out the errors, and the positive part with proposals for clarification, completion, and doctrinal clarification.”

This seems to me so obviously a good idea that no more needs to be said by me here. I would like to add just one thing, however. A century of modernist propaganda against Pio Nono has left the impression that the original Syllabus Errorum was so laughably reactionary a document that any attempt to repeat such an exercise should be rigorously avoided. The fact is that almost nobody today has read it, so how do they know? When I was preparing my Spectator review of Cornwell’s book (quoted above), I thought, in view of his contemptuous remarks about it, that I ought to look at this notorious text. What I found was a document of mostly impeccable Catholic common sense, designed to defend Christian theology in a time of heavy rationalist attacks. Here, for instance, are extracts from the opening section. I haven’t space to quote it all: read it for yourself, here; all the following items, remember, are what Pio Nono is declaring to be errors:

8. As human reason is placed on a level with religion itself, so theological must be treated in the same manner as philosophical sciences….
9. All the dogmas of the Christian religion are indiscriminately the object of natural science or philosophy, and human reason, enlightened solely in an historical way, is able, by its own natural strength and principles, to attain to the true science of even the most abstruse dogmas…..
11. The Church not only ought never to pass judgment on philosophy, but ought to tolerate the errors of philosophy, leaving it to correct itself….
12. The decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman congregations impede the true progress of science….
14. Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation.”

There are later passages defending the temporal powers of the papacy which wouldn’t apply today: such passages are perfectly rational when the historical context which formed so many of Pio Nono’s attitudes is given its proper weight. The “Prisoner of the Vatican” had not merely been stripped of his temporal powers: the immediate result of his new powerlessness was a vicious totalitarian attack by the secular authorities on the Church itself. In 1872 Vittorio Emmanuele signed a law which provided for the expulsion of all religious from their monasteries and convents; 476 houses were confiscated, and 12,669 religious were dispersed. In 1873, the faculties of theology were suppressed in all universities, and seminaries placed under government control; the following year, all priests in Rome were forced into military service.
Pio Nono was fighting for the Church’s life. Under the circumstances, the famous article 80 of the Syllabus – which condemns as an error the proposition (with which, presumably, most Tablet liberals would enthusiastically agree) that “The Roman Pontiff may and ought to reconcile himself to, and to agree with, progress, liberalism and modern civilisation” – seems not only reasonable enough but beyond any question; it might be added that it is also entirely relevant to our own times: as Pope John Paul often said, Christians today are called on to be “signs of contradiction” in the face of secular culture. Article 80, in fact, sums up succinctly the real point at issue, even today, between the Church and the modern world.
It is particularly relevant to the erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council which Bishop Schneider has called on Pope Benedict to correct in a new Syllabus. I very much hope the Pope responds to this call; and that the new Syllabus will be as relevant to the Church in this new post-conciliar situation as the original Syllabus of Errors was in its own day and remains even now. I also hope that one day quite soon he will announce the forthcoming canonisation of that great and holy man, Blessed Pius IX. 

  • Anonymous

    Given that there has been almost universal indifference to Verbum Domini [Why? I have no idea – I sometimes think no journalist or cleric has read it]…
    …what good would a new syllabus do ?

  • Anonymous

    There already exists a Syllabus relating to post-Vatican II errors. It was written with great foresight by Pope St. Pius X in 1907 and is called Lamentabili Sane.

    For an in-depth understanding of the spirit that pervaded the Council itself, resulting in such deadly revolutionary initiatives as ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, I recommend the same saintly Pontiff’s Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis in which Modernism is exposed as “the synthesis of all heresies.”

  • Neville DeVilliers

    Another Syllabus? LOL LOL LOL

  • W Oddie

    What does LOL mean? Explain please.

  • Anonymous

    lol – Laugh[ing] out loud
    rofl – rolling of floor laughing
    pmpl – pee-ing my pants laughing

    yes it is that ludicrous….

  • Anonymous

    The Syllabus of Errors was a complete failure. Many of its condemnations were either vacuous platitudes or were based on assumptions that no serious philosopher or theologian could take seriously. For decades it confined the Church to an intellectual ghetto. Any new Syllabus would simply be ignored.

  • W Oddie

    So, what do YOU think of article 80? I bet you agree with the proposition condemned.

  • W Oddie

    I agree about Verbum Domini: but this would be a different kind of document. For a start, getting Catholics to think seriously about holy Scripture is definitely a work in progress; doctrine is different, and the chaos caused by distortions of Vatican is a matter of continuing concern to very many Catholics.

  • Anonymous

    Dr Oddie – I’ve been screaming from the rooftops to everyone who would listen for decades that we we need doctirinal, canonical, moral, liturgical, oecumenical procedural and major ecclesial clarification on virtually every issue under the sun – but what did we get in response?
    The CCC which made things a thousand times worse!
    The Vatican making milk-and-water responses while the west completely ignored and made praxis and teaching so-nearly universal that staing official Catholic teaching and practice would seem a virtual volte-face – and draconian enforcement from on-high !

    I have to repeat : Look at all the major issues that Verbum Domini addressed – and it has been utterly ignored! How could this be allowed to happen???!!

    Dr Oddie – I expect nothing from the Tablet, Universe and Catholic Times crowd on this – but when the Herald makes a few nominal comments on it [and no – a front page reportage doesn’t count when it doesn’t address the major concerns within it] and reports it with bugger-all reference to its contents – I feel – yet again- bloody let down! It should have been heralded from the rooftops and mentioned at every opportunity – but please concede the point that most of your lot haven’t even read it!

    It’s not too late for you lot to start….

  • Jessis

    Another Syllabus would be a sign of truth, hope, and love to the world.

  • Frbergin

    A Syllabus correcting the many errors of the false and devilish “spirit of Vatican II” is much needed.

    It would be ignored by those who think they are god’s unto themselves and it would be followed by those who love Jesus Christ.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Bill, “and the chaos caused by distortions of Vatican is a matter of continuing concern….”
    Chaos, what “chaos”? I accept that we have, in the last 50 years or so, moved to a position where there is a legitimate pluralism of theological viewpoints.It really is that simple and there really is no need to panic.

  • Legoman

    Martyjo…so RIGHT!!!

  • david

    I was reading the Syllabus and came to #78. “Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.” I don’t see how this could be maintained as an error. Not today, at least. The Church itself argues strenuously for religious freedom and the right to public worship. One supposes that it is not just freedom for Catholics?

  • Kyriakos

    Thanks to God for people like you for their prudence and zeal.Well I under stand your anguish,but I disagree when you say it is too late to start.No at least some are raising their voice now,better than never. Thanks to faithful sons of the Church like Bishop Schneider and William Oddie

  • Kyriakos

    Hope that the ‘spirit of Vatican 2′ you are denouncing is not the Vatican 2 proper and the true spirit of reform understood through the “hermeneutic of reform.”Hope I don’t read into your comment the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” of the liberals as well as traditionalists. Well you are right of some guys ,they place themselves above God’s Church. Either they are pre-Vatican(2nd)(traditionalists) or they are supra-Vatican(2nd)(liberal)

  • Anonymous

    So sayeth the man who would sell bags of ice while the Titanic was sinking…

  • t. lewis

    Well, I have to admit, this reading is far over my head. However, let me keep my comment simple. We in the One True Holy Catholic Church, have since Vatican 2, fell out of love with our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Allowing the faithful to receive the Holy Eucharist the hand is wrong. Allowing the Holy Eucharist to fall in ever so small particles to the floor than walking on him, is demonic. Problems with a marriage start in the marriage bed, problems with losing the faith start with failing to love, respect, and adore our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. How many go and receive him, and haven’t attended the sacrament of confession in years?

  • Diane at Te Deum

    The full text of this address is now available in the EWTN library:

  • Douglas Pearson

    I think the “spirit of VII” is dying of natural causes one Hawiian Shirt wearing priest/ business suit wearing nun at a time and is incapable of producing children to keep this spirit alive as it is sterile.

  • Anonymous

    hey – there are still enough youngsters going through Heythrop getting indoctrinated into all this for them to have enough duped acolytes to supply the quangocracies for decades to come…you should hear some of them…

  • DrMac

    Papal primacy, in the way the Roman Catholic Church defines it today, was something hardly taken for granted in the early centuries of the Church. 2 popes, in fact, were brought before Ecumenical Councils and convicted of heresy (Vigilius I in the 5th Council, and Honorius I – posthumously – in the 6th). This circumstance is actually forbidden by the very Syllabus of Errors (and current Canon Law) that you write about today.
    Pius IX was a brave man at a difficult time. Bravery, however, does not guarantee wisdom, and many elements of the Syllabus reflect that. I would suggest that before a new Syllabus was produced, the Church definitively accept or reject the original Syllabus line by line. And I also would suggest careful discernment before canonizing the individual who remains the single biggest impediment to Ecumenical relations with other faiths.

  • Charleswoodbury

    The comment by T Lewis says it all. When the catholic laity once again focus on Jesus in the tabernacle when they enter His house, when His house is again a house of prayer, and not a meeting hall, when reverence and awe are offered to His presence, then THE change of the spirit of V2 will be reversed.

  • Margaret Allain

    This would indeed be the answer to prayers for so many of us who have watched with sadness and horror what has happened in he Church since Vatican II

  • Peter Baker

    I think Benedict has had enough foot in the mouth problems that he does not need to do something so foolish as to hearken back to the nonsenses of Pio Nono. What we need is to get back to the spirit of Vatican II and bring the church firmly into the modern world. Hans Kung has noted that Benedict and his ilk are trying to make the church some kind of a sect. How false this is to being the Catholic and universal church. We need leaders to bring us together in unity with other Christians and those of other non-Christian religions. The most useful thing Benedict could do is die. Maybe the conclave will elect at least a moderate, or, by happy chance, a real liberal. Let us have a single church united on key things, the 1st few ecumenical councils, and a few other things, such as the dominical sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist, working together to help alleviate the many problems of our world.

    Peter Baker

  • Auricularis

    This such a laughable rant, that it needs no reply. It can stand on its own and be ridiculed for what it is. To wish someone death because they don’t fit our rebellious agenda, just shows how far removed from the spirit of Christ you are.

  • irishsmile

    Hans Kung and Red Charlie are the hetrodox thinkers/writers who have run millions of Catholics out of the church in the last generation. Literally the same number of Catholics in the pews who no longer believe in the Real Presence is virtually identical to the number who are soft on abotion, homosexual activity and think that it’s fine to vote for pro-abort poliicians. I hope that Benedict supports a new syllabus to restore legitimate Catholicity.

  • Zekscrab

    Pio Nino may have meant well, but he was misguided. Look up the incident involving a Jewish child that he wanted to convert.
    John Paul II deserves all the encomiums he receives–and sainthood.

  • Hieronymus

    Actually, such a syllabus already exists – “Iota Unum” by Romano Amerio (Sarto House, fifth printing, September 2004) – an extremely important reading for those who want to to realize the tremendous scope and depth of damage done to the Church after Vatican II.

  • Anonymous

    Given that you yourself delight in bashing those “Lefebvrists,” as you disdainfully refer to them, for upholding the condemnation of such as article 80, may we take it that you also agree with the proposition condemned?

    Let us recall the condemned proposition in question: The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself and come to terms with progress, Liberalism and modern civilisation.

    Was not this the declared purpose of Vatican II, to “throw open the windows of the Church,” as Pope John XXIII put it, “to let in some fresh air?” Well, a revolutionary huricane came in through those windows and wrecked the House of God, throwing into confusion, by its false ecumenism, every aspect of the true faith as it had been taught, believed and practiced since the time of the Apostles, and leading ultimately to the pan-religious outrage of Assisi.

    Or, to express the tragedy in the more subtle words of Cardinal Ratzinger:

    Let us content ourselves here with stating that the text [of Gaudium et spes] plays the role of a counter-Syllabus to the measure that it represents an attempt to officially reconcile the Church with the world as it had become after 1789. On one hand, this visualization alone clarifies the ghetto complex that we mentioned before. On the other hand, it permits us to understand the meaning of this new relationship between the Church and the Modern World. “World” is understood here, at depth, as the spirit of modern times.” ((Les Principes de la Theologie Catholique – Esquisse et Materiaux, Paris: Tequi, 1982, pp. 426-427).

    “The world after 1789″ that the Cardinal refers to is none other than that which was built upon the Freemasonic principles of the French Revolution, i.e., on a false notion of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity founded not on divine revelation and the rights of Christ the King, which is today rejected, but rather on science and the Rights of Man.

    Enter ecumenism and interfaith initiatives based on the error of man’s inalianable right to religious freedom and conscience, which the Church had long condemned before Vatican II as fatal to the true religion established by Christ Himself for the salvation of souls. Such misguided initiatives, the pre-conciliar Popes did not fail to warn us, have their origin in the very spirit of 1789. The Masonic Lodges were ecumenical and interfaith long before that fateful Council convened!

    Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world(John 18:36). Why, then, should Vatican II, for the first time in the history of the Church, seek to reconcile with the spirit of the world? And at what cost to divine truth?

    When was the last time you heard any senior Catholic prelate mention the infallible dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church no salvation)? And when was the last time you heard any of them speak of false religions? Do they not speak today of “other faiths” and “other religious traditions,” as though, contrary to dogmatic teaching, this change somehow validates the religions of heretics and non-Christians before Christ Our Lord, or that any of these non-Catholic entities can lead a single soul to heaven?

    As Psalm 96 puts it: “For the Lord is great, and exceedingly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the Gentiles are devils: but the Lord made the heavens. Praise and beauty are before him: holiness and majesty in his sanctuary.”

    Only in the Catholic sanctuary, in which the sacrifice of Calvary is daily renewed, and at which the faithful partake of the true body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ Our Lord, can holiness and majesty be found. They are found nowhere else. It is, therefore, the greatest sin against charity to pretend to non-Catholic souls that their false religious beliefs are somehow pleasing to God, worthy of respect or in any way conducive to their eternal salvation.

    True charity is a divine virtue that seeks only the glory of God and the salvation of immortal souls. False charity is that false human respect that seeks syncretist appeasement under the illusion of creating an earthly paradise wherein reigns a common Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, or ‘unity in diversity,’ as the conciliar liberals like to call it.

  • W Oddie

    “The most useful thing Benedict could do is die”. There you have it: the “Spirit of Vatican II”. What wonderfully benign and tolerant people they are, these “Spirit of Vatican II” boys and girls. Not.

  • Linus

    This reminds me that most Catholics, indeed this entire age and perhaps most of those who were adults in the 20th century, have forgotten the history of the ” civilized ” world in nineteenth century, especially from about 1850 on. A serious oversight. Perhaps some one could recommend a few excellent histories which would educate us, especially since the histories of England and Europe so strongly effected the life of the Church and the faithful both in America but especially in the English Empire and Europe. And even strongly effects us today.

  • W Oddie

    Do you call me “Bill” simply to be offensive, since I have made it clear that this is not my name and that I dislike being called by it”

    And if you have to ask “what chaos” , the only reply has t be, if you have to ask, you’ll never know. Do you REALLy think that he utter collapse for two decade of any notion of what Catholics believe (now, thank God, after the pontificate of JP II, a thing of the past) was a GOOD thing? “Pluralism” be damned.

  • W Oddie

    I agree with a good deal of this. And I have already apologised for my intemperate remarks about “Levebvrists”. Of course, a great deal of what they have said in these exchanges was quite correct. My argument was with the SSPX hostility to JPII: itself understandable, though what else could he do but excommunicate the SSPX when Archbishop L carried out ordinations without his permission?

    My argument has been with members of the SSPX calling the late pope a “liberal”: an obvious nonsense in view of Veritatis Splendor, the Catechism and so much else, for all of which the “Spirit of vatican II” lobby hates him so much. And I understand about JPII’s failure to degrade Kung, Schillebeekx et al from Holy orders at the same time as he excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre: the trouble is that forcible laicisation is a very difficult thing, legally, to actually carry out, even for a pope. Kung of course did have his license to teach Catholic theology removed: but he couldn’t be fired from a secular university the pope didn’t control. Butthe fact that he is still a Catholicd priest in good standing does grate on one’s nerves. Maybe something needs to be done about changing canon law, to make the deposition of heretical priests more easily accomplished. What do you think?

    Meanwhile: the present pope has made it virtually impossible for bishops to prevent the celebration of the so-called Tridentine Mass: a very good thing, no? And soon we will all be in communion again, please God.

    So let us all, including myself, cool it. And be thankful for the pope we have.

  • W Oddie

    I don’t quite understand why CCC made things worse. What it achieved is to make it absolutely clear that Catholic doctrine is given and objective, and not something that some “alternative Magisterium” can just invent ex nihilo. Now, if you want to know what the Church teaches about absolutely anything, you can find out, beyond any dispute. It’s long, of course: that’s why I’d like something brief and accessible about Vatican II: the “syllabus errorum” format would do the job nicely.

  • W Oddie

    No: “the Spirit of Vatican II” and the real Vatican II, ie what the documents actually said, aren’t at all the same thing: on the contrary.

  • Anonymous

    Yes it would ! Speed the day it’s published.
    But hand on heart? Can you tell me the CCC is a valid comprehensive Catholic ‘Inquire within upon everything’?
    Schonborn shouldn’t have been let within a few thousand parsecs of it.
    It confuses: It obfuscates: It fails in its purpose on so many levels.

  • Anonymous

    I appreciate your very charitable response to my comments, and I apologise for having raised your earlier usage of the term “Lefebvrist.” I was unaware that you had already expressed regret in the matter.

    From what you have written, it seems that we are agreed that the Catholic Church is presently in the midst of a great post-conciliar crisis. We may even agree that a good many “Spirit of Vatican II” prelates and clerics bear a very great responsibility before God for their part in helping to sow confusion, not to mention dissent, amongst the faithful in matters pertaining to faith and morals.

    Where we appear to diverge, however, is in our understanding of the pivotal role of the conciliar Popes in all of this, particularly the role of Pope John Paul II.

    The SSPX says that the late Pope was a liberal (same as Modernist). You say that this is patent nonsense given Veritatis Splendor, the new Catechism “and so much else. I obviously support the view of the SSPX, and here is why.

    You are doubtless aware that a Catholic remains orthodox only in so far as he holds inviolate the unchanging teaching of the Church in FAITH and MORALS. Now, while there is no doubt that Pope John Paul II valiantly upheld the infallible moral teaching, as with Veritatis Splendor, can the same be said of his orthodoxy in matters of faith?

    Before going on to explain what I mean by this, may I just correct one error in your post; it was your use of the word “hostility” to describe the feeling of the SSPX towards Pope John Paul.

    Perhaps you confuse the sometimes-imprudent remarks of over zealous traditional lay Catholics with the official position of the SSPX. I can assure you that I have never witnessed hostility towards this Pope either on the part of Archbishop Lefebvre or on the part of any bishop or cleric of the SSPX.

    Indeed, Archbishop Lefebvre lamented that his decision to disobey the Pope in the matter of consecrating bishops was the most difficult decision he had ever made, and I can testify that the SSPX continued always to pray for the Pope at its Masses. There was, I’m sure, a feeling of injustice on the part of the SSPX, but never hostility.

    Now, back to the main issue. Despite your obvious good will, the new Catechism you mentioned cannot be quoted as proving orthodoxy on the part of Pope John Paul for the reasons outlined in the scholarly article linked here:

    In addition, it can hardly be said that Pope John Paul II acted in accordance with orthodox Catholic teaching when he kissed the Koran, received the mark of a Hindu goddess on his forehead, permitted a bare breasted woman to read the Gospel at his Mass, sat in the Synagogue of Rome with head bowed while a Rabbi prayed for the coming of the Messiah, orchestrated and participated in the pan-religious gatherings of Assisi, and wrote and spoke of the inalienable rights of man to freedom of conscience and religion.

    I could quote other examples, but these should suffice to show that Pope John Paul II, whilst certainly upholding orthodox morality, was very liberal in respect to the faith. Unfortunately, a Pope loses credibility when he compromises traditional Church teaching in faith matters while insisting that traditional moral teaching remain unchanged. The precedent is already set.

    Note that I make no judgement on Pope John Paul’s disposition of soul, but merely state what is obvious through a comparison of his words and actions with the teaching of the Fathers, saints and Magisterium throughout the ages.

    As regards the excommunication of Archbishop Lefebvre, did you know that the new code of canon law downgraded almost every punishment listed in the 1917 code for various offences and yet upgraded the punishment for consecrating bishops illicitly from suspension to excommunication? I would call that highly suspicious.

    At any rate, while Archbishop Lefebvre was being lined up for slaughter, bearing in mind that his sole intention was to preserve unaltered the sacred priesthood and faith handed down through the ages, the likes of Rahner, Schillebeekx, Kung, Curran, et al., remained, as you acknowledged, free to spread heresy.

    It would not have been difficult for Pope John Paul II to have silenced these wolves. The Popes have always dealt swiftly and firmly with heretics by means of a range of Church censures. The truth is that Pope John Paul II just failed to act as he should have when there was a clear danger to the souls under his care. The only one he acted decisively against was the one who represented a bulwark against these and other Modernist heretics. I do not say this with bitterness, but with truthfulness.

    I started this response with an apology and I end with one. I am sorry to have gone on at such length, but please permit me to comment on your final paragraph before I shut up.

    Meanwhile: the present pope has made it virtually impossible for bishops to prevent the celebration of the so-called Tridentine Mass: a very good thing, no? And soon we will all be in communion again, please God.”

    I’m afraid some bishops find nothing impossible when they are driven. My own experience is of bishops who do actively oppose the good will of the Pope in this matter of the Mass, more than you know!

    As regards us being once more in communion, I have never considered myself to be anything other than a Catholic in communion with the Pope and the Church, my refusal of Modernist novelties notwithstanding. But does it not say all that needs saying that the fruit of that pastoral Council, Vatican II, has been to set Catholic against Catholic in a house divided between those who adhere to the Rock of sacred tradition and those who build anew on the shifting sands of conciliar reform. It is truly heart-rending.

  • Profidebookstsore

    All the past documents should be considered as constitutive of Tradition, and none may be taken as super document. And this Tradition which started with the Apostles is reflected in the Church’s doctrine, life and worship which is handed on from generation to generation (DV 8). Authentic interpretation of it at any stage of the Church’s history is entrusted to the living Magisterium at that stage (DV 10). In the present stage the living Magisterium is Pope Benedict and all the bishops who are in communion with him.

    Pius X and his bishops were the Magisterium in their time, but they are now dead, and no longer accessible to tell us what their teaching means for us here and now. Interpretation of that teaching is entrusted to the Magisterium of today,

    BUT is subject to approval of “traditionalists”. If anyone dares to reject this approval, which God forbid, anathema sit.

  • Anonymous

    W Oddie,

    That is one excellent article. I am very happy to be able to agree with you, almost without reservation. My one and only reservation is that Cornwell didn’t just get “it” wrong – he gets everything wrong.

    So, a Syllabus of Errors for Vatican II? Bring it on!

  • Anonymous


    Way back when, if someone had a bad cold, the doctor would say they were sick. Later on, medical advances and all that, this sickness was able to be diagnosed as a “cold.” Later on, doctors could say this was “flu” and so on. But they never said “No, he’s not sick, he’s got flu.” The first diagnosis remained true. If any doctor HAD said “he’s got flu but he’s not sick” then we’d know he was a quack.

    Similarly, no pope can ever overturn what has gone before in matters other than disipline. They can change the fasting laws, for example, but not the doctrine of the papacy or Real Presence.

    And, therefore, we can ALL (and must) use our intelligence to discern whether individual popes are teaching error. They will never make those errors binding on the faithful – that is the guarantee of infallibility and it is why we can ignore and criticise the pope’s personal views about condoms, intention etc. and why we can switch off the TV when it shows him demeaning his office by standing alongside papans to pray for world peace, at the same time as he seeks to bury Fatima.

    At one time, all Catholics knew this, not just those labelled as “Traditionalists” and that was because ALL Catholics were, by definition, “Traditionalists.” We knew that the Church was built on the twin pillars of Tradition and Scripture.

    You have painted a skewed view of the papacy, unfortunately. You speak of “their teaching” when you refer to past popes but that is the whole point: popes don’t HAVE “their teaching” – they are to safeguard and protect the teaching of the Church. Nothing more. Thus, when a pope departs from the traditional teaching of the Church, it is very clear and must be condemned. Canon Law gives the laity the right, duty and responsibility to rebuke prelates even in public, if they see a bishop or pope departing from Catholic doctrine. And that is based on the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas.

    Finally, I see Hieronymus below recommends Amerio’s Iota Unum – you would benefi immensely from readingt the text, Profidebookstore because the author was one of the experts (peritus) at Vatican II so can hardly be accused of being a “Traditionalist” in the derogatory sense the term is now used by allegedly “faithful” Catholics.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, Hieronymus – Iota Unum is a classic. A must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the crisis in the Church today and its relationship to Vatican II. Well said.

  • Profidebookstore

    Come on, my friend, the first doctor was evidently ignorant. The flue established by the last doctor couldn’t have taken more than two weeks to cure, so the bad cold was not the same disease if it was a disease at all: an ignorant doctor could have easily been cheated by a drug addict who simulated bad cough to obtain a prescription for codeine. And you would like me to not only to take your report for granted but also that the last doctor was bound to accept he findings of the first. I simply don’t trust you.

    The joke aside, that any assertion proposed infallibly by the Church is binding forever is not disputable. But an assertion of an individual pope which is not proposed infallibly is binding his successor only in the context of the whole Tradition into which that assertion is incorporated, not as something special but as a contribution to the lot, to which also the subsequent contributions are made. And this includes not only the teaching documents but the life and worship of the Church as well (DV 8), Latin and Eastern. It is exactly because the present Holy Father cannot “overturn what has gone before” that he takes into consideration the whole, and not merely parrot an arbitrarily selected part of it, as a yardstick to what he may or mey not assert or do.

    What all this Tradition means for us here and now is up to the living Magisterium here and now to tell us. “The office of interpretation of the word of God, whether scriptural or traditional, has been entrusted exclusively to the living voice of the Church’s Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (DV 10/2).

    To “use our intelligence to discern whether individual popes are teaching error”, is to adopt an attitude that differs from the Protestants only in the object of interpretation. They insist that an individual can interpret the Scripture without the living Magisterium, while the Neo-Protestants insist that an individual can interpret the Tradition without the living Magisterium. They are not traditionalists but “traditionalists”.

    They are even worse than the Protestants, because, with regard to Scripture, the Protestants are at least in agreement with the Magisterium about the main part (80% of the OT, whole NT) of what is the object of interpretation; but, with regard to Tradition, the Neo-Protestants don’t agree with the Magisterium about what constitutes the Tradition, as an object of interpretation, at all.

    But that apart, to claim that one can “use our intelligence to discern whether individual popes are teaching error”, is naïve: the psychological process of understanding a received communication is more complex than you think, but I can’t dwell on it now because I have already written more than a reader can take in at once. However, I had lengthy dialogue with Martyo and another commenter in an earlier W.Oddie’s post.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I’ll pass on defending the medical analogy – that was given to me by ….er… a doctor!

    With respect, the rest of your post is confused and confusing.

    You equate a Catholic’s adherence to Tradition as a measure for testing papal teaching, with Protestant belief in the private interpretation of Scripture. You are, it seems, one of the papolatrists who think the pope can never err. But the Pope has warned us that he can make mistakes. For example, “ when his Jesus of Nazareth was published, Benedict XVI wrote in the preface: “Anyone is free to disagree with me.” The Pope’s last book Light of the World is a written interview with the Pope and therefore does not belong to the Magisterium. By the way, as a good theologian, the Pope warns us: “Naturally the Pope may have mistaken private opinions.”

    Read that entire link because it is rock solid on Catholic theology.

    I wish you’d given the link to your discussion with martyjo – that I would love to read!

  • Alan F.

    Here’s a very good talk on the Syllabus by His Lordship Bishop Williamson:

  • Profidebookstore

    The papolatry is evident in the “traditionalists’ “ slavery to Pius IX’s Syllabus. As for me, I know that the Pope – I beg your pardon: except Pius IX in his Syllabus, and, of course the “traditionalists” in their assessment what is or is not in conformity with “tradition” but that is another subject – can make mistake. All the same, it is a traditional moral doctrine that the Catholic ought to assent to his doctrinal proposition even when he is not speaking ex cathedra, and obey him in matters of discipline although in these there is no infallibility at all. Once we have embarked on recommendation of literature, google: The Way of the Lord Jesus by Germain Grisez, select Vol.II, find the table of content and open Chapter I, question (i) and Chpter 3, question (d); AND if you can afford an in depth study of the matter of communication and interpretaion: Vol.I, Chapter 20, Ap. 1 and 2. You might find a bit difficult, but that is the price of knowledge. There is a lot of information about him there, a list of +400 publications, some essays and one/two other books, and his biography.

  • Profidebookstore

    May I observe that the Anglicans are coming back on the basis of the CCC. A silly lot, aren’t they ?

  • Anonymous

    “But Peter and the apostles answering, said: We ought to obey God, rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

    The theologian Juan Cardinal De Torquemada O.P. († 1468) expressly related that Bible passage to the duty to resist a wayward pontiff.

    “Although it clearly follows from the circumstances that the Pope can err at times, and command things which must not be done, that we are not to be simply obedient to him in all things, that does not show that he must not be obeyed by all when his commands are good. To know in what cases he is to be obeyed and in what not, it is said in the Acts of the Apostles: ‘One ought to obey God rather than man'; therefore, were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scripture, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the Sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands, to be passed over.” (Summa de Ecclesia)

  • Profidebookstore

    Firstly, I am sorry for having read your earlier comment superficially and overlooked your request about my correspondence with Martyo, another one was “Leprechaun himself”. It is all scattered in the W. Oddie’s post: “If you really think you are more Catholic than the Pope….” of 13th January. Some comments are very close to the end. I am not familiar how this system of comments and comments on comments operates, and I am fairly sure that I did not menage to respond to everything.

    Also, I did not reply to your “You equate a Catholic’s adherence to Tradition as a measure for testing papal teaching, with Protestant belief in the private interpretation of Scripture”. It seems to miss my point, which I can only explain by reformulating it in other words. I’ll do if you wish, but please read the existing text again before requesting, so that I know more precisely what is not clear.

    Now, with regard to your most recent comment, I am grateful for the reference: it is a worthwhile collection of data to keep in file. But really they do not answer the question: how an individual can be certain that the conditions for “disobedience” (it is better to use the word “dissent”, or “non-assent” for doctrine, and reserve “disobedience” for discipline; a distinction itself, regardless of the label, is necessary because different norms apply) have been verified in actual fact. It is not the simple case in which all sane persons are in agreement, say: the pope teaches that there is no God, but the disputable cases in which parties in dispute are in disagreement: in the case of “traditionalists” v. pope himself whom they criticize, and v. my self, who disagrees with them..

    The matter is very serious, because if one dissents from and/or disobeys those who are appointed by Christ to teach and govern His Church, and said to them “who hear you hears me”, and his dissent/disobedience turns out to be in error, he commits mortal sin against faith (taken in broader sense, in Grisez Ch. 1) and the unity of the Church (Ch 3). The situations, in which one is entitled to or has to dissent/disobey, are very restricted. Knowing all that, one cannot say: I did not know, he cannot have an escape in invincible ignorance, because it is – vincible.

    Grisez is a reliable author, the greatest Catholic moral theologian today (I rule out those who stood up against Humanae vitae, and later, against Veritatis splendor); he claims that his Vol.II articulates consensus of the “auctores probati”, the authors who wrote pre-conciliar manuals of moral theology (mostly in Latin), which manuals were used, with approval of the hierarchy, for teaching seminarians. That was the way in which the bishops in communion with the pope were teaching moral norms, so that the consensus of the “auctores probati” has the authority of the consensus of the Ordinary Magisterium. The three Grisez’ volumes on his website, amount to ca. 2800 pages in books. Grisez was “peritus” of Father Ford, one of the “Minority” in papal commission for “Birth Control”. This group presented their case by showing to Paul VI why the existing norms, not merely should not, but cannot be changed, because the doctrine has been so constantly taught by the Church from the beginning. Grisez’ orientation can clearly be seen from his introduction to the vol.I, The Purpose and the Character of This Book, para 4 and 9.

    Also reliable, but dogmatic theology, is L.Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, a pre-conciliar classic, translated from German (Carmel books might have it), which I obtained in the Mass Centre in Paddington hotel in late seventies, the place where the Archbishop offered his first Mass in England (I was there). Here is the extract from p. 10, where he deals with those teachings, which are nor proposed infallibly: “(N)ormally they are to be accepted to with an inner assent. …The so called…’reverent silence’, does not generally suffice. By the way of exception, the obligation of inner aggrement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conclusion that the decision rests on an error.”

    Ott was a dogmatic theologians and did not go into details of what the “inner agreement which may cease” means. See more about it in Grisez, but even from this brief account it is fairly clear that it is immoral to make of it an open dissent, still more to influence others along the lines of dissent – that would be an usurpation of the teaching office, or incite others to organize themselves in groups etc which would be an usurpation of the governing office.

    These principles are applied in the Notificationes, attached to the Nota Praevia attached to documents of Vatican II, which deal with interpretation of the Documents. The paragraphs about the “pastoral purpose” of Council, on which the “traditionalists” capitalize in order to justify dissent, is followed by the paragraph which I have never seen quoted by them, which is, to put it mildly, unfair:

    “Other statements (my note: those which were not openly declared as binding) …are the teaching of the supreme magisterium. They must therefore be welcome and accepted by each and everyone of Christ’s faithful in the way which the sacred Council intended. This intention is conveyed either by the subject matter or by the manner of utterance, according to the norms of theological interpretation.”

    Personally, I am far from claiming to be the “competent expert”, who is able “after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds” to “arrive(s) at the positive conclusion that” a “decision of the Magisterium… rests on an error.” And would like to hear from anyone who dissents from Vatican II what are the “norms of theological interpretation.”

  • Profidebookstore

    Vatican II is higher authority than the Lamentabili, which is not even a papal document. If there are errors in the Lamentabili which one infallibly considers to be the truths against which the Vatican II came with its errors, it would be helpful to have one pair side by side so that we can learn something from that infallible comparison, of — to use the phrases from Ott’s: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p, 10 – “competent expert” who “after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds” has “has arrived (arrives, strictly quoted) at the positive conviction that the decision” of Vatican II “rests on an error”. It would be great to have on this site such an “in depth understanding of the spirit that pervaded the Council”.