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Pope: ‘The Council Fathers neither could nor wished to create a new Church’

By on Thursday, 11 October 2012

Benedict XVI at the weekly general audience yesterday (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI at the weekly general audience yesterday (Photo: CNS)

A reflection on the Second Vatican Council by Pope Benedict XVI has been published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on the eve of the Council’s 50th anniversary.

In the essay, the Pope recalls his presence at the opening of Vatican II, which he attended as a theological adviser. He both praises and criticises some of the Council’s most consequential documents, regarding religious liberty and the Church’s relationship with non-Christian religions and the modern world.

The essay is the introduction to a forthcoming collection of previously unpublished Council-era writings by then Fr Joseph Ratzinger. The collection will be published in German this November.

“It was a moment of extraordinary expectation,” the Pope writes of the procession of more than 2,000 bishops into St Peter’s Basilica on October 11, 1962. “Great things were about to happen.”

“Christianity, which had built and formed the Western world, seemed more and more to be losing its power to shape society,” he writes. “So that it might once again be a force to shape the future, [Blessed] John XXIII had convoked the Council without indicating to it any specific problems or programmes. This was the greatness and at the same time the difficulty of that task that was set before the ecclesial assembly.”

A crucial question for the Council Fathers, Pope Benedict writes, was the “relationship between the Church and the modern world”.

“From the 19th century onward,” the Church had “visibly entered into a negative relationship with the modern era,” he writes. “Did it have to remain so?”

Pope Benedict concludes that one of the Council’s best-known documents, Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, failed to offer an adequate definition of the “essential features that constitute the modern era”.

Instead, he writes, the “encounter with the great themes of the modern epoch” happened in “two minor documents, whose importance has only gradually come to light”.

The Declaration on Religious Liberty, “urgently requested, and also drafted, by the American bishops in particular”, clarified the Church’s affirmation of the “freedom to choose and practise religion and the freedom to change it, as fundamental human rights and freedoms”, he writes.

That declaration lent itself to troubling interpretations, the Pope writes, since it might seem to imply the “inaccessibility of the truth to man”, which would make religion a merely subjective matter. But he writes that the 1978 election of Blessed John Paul II, from a country where the state denied religious freedom, revealed the “inner orientation of the faith toward the theme of freedom, and especially freedom of religion and worship”.

The Pope also praises Nostra Aetate, the Council’s declaration that the “spiritual, moral, and socio-cultural values [of non-Christian religions] were to be respected, protected and encouraged”.

But the Pope writes that a “weakness of this otherwise extraordinary text has gradually emerged: it speaks of religion solely in a positive way, and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion.”

In conclusion, Pope Benedict reiterates one of his most prominent teachings about Vatican II: that it must be interpreted in continuity with the Church’s millennial traditions, not as a radical break with the past.

“The Council Fathers neither could nor wished to create a new or different church. They had neither the authority nor the mandate to do so,” he writes. “That is why a hermeneutic of rupture is so absurd and is contrary to the spirit and the will of the Council Fathers.”

  • gillibrand

    So the Pope can criticise the documents- are other Catholics allowed to do this- including the Society of Saint Pius X?

  • JabbaPapa

    So the Pope can criticise the documents- are other Catholics allowed to do this- including the Society of Saint Pius X?

    YES !!!

    What is *not* permitted is to reject the Council, or any of its texts, in toto.

  • gillibrand

    Clearly if a document is Pelagian in part as the Pope claimed in earlier writings about Gaudium et Spes, the whole has to be treated with a considerable amount of suspicion as an authority.  I have just checked the SSPX website and as of today no document seems to be rejected out of hand, although they are most critical of Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate.  The latter has been criticised today in the newly issued seventh volume of the Pope’s complete works.  “The
    document speaks of religion only in a positive sense and leaves aside
    very sick and disturbed forms of religion aside, which are
    historically and theologically of great importance: The Christian
    faith was thus also from the beginning, critical of religion, both
    internally and externally. ”   It is illogical, I am sorry to say, to speak of a continuity at the Council in those circumstances although because the philosophical and theological sources for the errors were pre-Conciliar, there is an illusion of continuity.  The Pope, after all, himself said that Gaudium et Spes was a counter-Syllabus of Errors. 

  • Anneg16

    The Pope,as Head of the Church and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,has the awesome responsibility of guiding Christ’s Church on earth. Any Head of Department has the right to dismiss employees who  goes against the guidelines laid down by their company.The Pope also has the same right to rebuke or correct any person/s,or breakaway groups, who either through ignorance, malice,or deliberate disobedience, seek to change the truths of Jesus Christ.The Pope also has absolute right to challenge any document/s too.There is only ONE Church on earth and that is The Catholic Church. All other ‘christian churches’, of which there are now approx. 45,000, no two being in agreement, are not in fact ‘churches’ but ‘denominations’, starting with anglicanism, which started with Luther who was excommunicated, and was therefore cut off from the Apostolic Line.They therefore do not have any authority in Jesus to declare his truths.How can they since no two agree?The truth is not based on our opinions – it is based on what Jesus taught, and can never ever be changed by any individual. It is therefore the Pope’s absolute duty to protect and teach that truth which has been given to us by Jesus Christ, and which has been safely deposited with the Catholic Church for 2,000 years! May God Bless our Pope.  

  • JabbaPapa

    The Syllabus of Errors was itself an error of judgment, and it should never have been published.

    Not that all of the Errors that it denounces aren’t entirely wrongful — of course they are !!!

    But the text provides people with the very VERY false impression that you simply need to reverse the Errors to find good doctrine — except that in very many cases, the 180° opposite of an Error is ALSO an Error.

  • gillibrand

    Cardinal Newman contextualises the Syllabus in his 
    A Letter Addressed to the Duke of Norfolk on Occasion of Mr. Gladstone’s Recent Expostulation contained within A Letter Addressed to the Duke of Norfolk on Occasion of Mr. Gladstone’s Recent Expostulation (Section 7).  They remain, however, errors to be avoided to which no taint of heresy attaches.

  • Allan Daniel

     It is encouraging to hear the pope mention the fact that after 50 years there are still council documents that are unclear. It is discouraging to not hear the pope promise a vigorous effort to interpret those documents. The lack of clarity has caused an enormous problem in the Church. Had clarification been undertaken decades ago there very well might not have been a need for the SSPX. And certainly there would not have been the general craziness caused by the New Church as they blindly and faithlessly forge ahead building a church based on the “godliness” of man instead of worship of God.

  • Kevin

    “From the 19th century onward,” the Church had “visibly entered into a negative relationship with the modern era,” he writes.

    What does that mean?

    It is the sense of inferiority complex that is startling. And to what? The Church has God on its side. It speaks profoundly to the human condition and, as a by-product, built universities, hospitals and legal systems. Christendom was the cultural epicentre of the scientific revolution (though the creation of the lung should be infinitely more impressive than the invention of the iron lung).

    The fact that liberals within Christendom took over these by-products and put them under state control (and to perverse uses), and left the human individual to cope alone with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, is nothing at all to be in awe of. It is something to be fought against, starting (as always) with the battle for souls.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    The fact that he feels he has to say that the Council Fathers weren’t Vatican II Khmer Rouge Year Zero-ers just serves to show us what a Revolution HAS in fact occurred.

    I believe he is wrong: the Rhine Group of Bishops WERE Year Zero-ers and wanted the Revolution to happen. Major events don’t happen for no reason. A catastrophe. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Agree completely Allan.

    We HAVE to have the definitive interpretation of these vague and dangerous documents made as soon as possible. 

    But this is very problematic for the Pope, particularly as far as religious liberty and the nature of the Church are concerned. 

    Round pegs don’t usually go into square holes. 

  • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

    Strange. I find them neither dangerous nor vague.

    I’ve come to think that these kinds of accusations are often in the eye of the beholder, not in any defect, real or perceived, in the documents of Vatican II.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    There are very many learned and clever men who have serious issues with several of the Council’s documents. 

  • Parasum

    “That declaration lent itself to troubling interpretations, the Pope
    writes, since it might seem to imply the “inaccessibility of the truth
    to man”, which would make religion a merely subjective matter. But he
    writes that the 1978 election of Blessed John Paul II, from a country
    where the state denied religious freedom, revealed the “inner
    orientation of the faith toward the theme of freedom, and especially
    freedom of religion and worship”.”

    ## That doesn’t amend the text. STM it needs to be magisterially interpreted in such a way as to make divergence from the pre-conciliar doctrine of the Church impossible. It can be taken in a Catholic sense that is faithful to Mirari Vos, the 1864 Syllabus of Errors, the teaching of Pius XII etc. – all others senses need to be absolutely ruled out. It is intolerable that it should be taken in a sense that rejects that past teaching.

    And not a word of Dignatis Humanae would need to be changed. But the sense of it needs to be made absolutely unambiguously in accord with the traditional teaching. There is no excuse for ambiguities in the teaching documents of a Council. To allow them causes endless problems.

    As for the US bishops, they had no business perverting Catholic doctrine & dogma just to make things easier for themselves in (what was then) a largely Protestant nation.

  • Parasum

    “It is encouraging to hear the pope mention the fact that after 50 years
    there are still council documents that are unclear.”

    ## No. It’s a disgrace. He was at the wretched thing, as a theological expert. So were the Council Fathers; they framed the documents. Don’t those who were present know the meaning of the very texts they put together ? Is that pathetic, or what ? Who else is going to know what the documents mean and are intended to mean, if not the people who framed them ? This is not the Holy Bible we’re talking about, which was the work of cultures and men dead for centuries – this is a very recent body of texts, emanating from a religion & ways of thinking still in existence; and the texts were composed by men of whom the current Pope was one. There are good reasons for ancient texts to be obscure – but these reasons do not hold for the documents of V2.  It is his business as a Catholic theologian, theological expert at V2, theology teacher, bishop of Munich, Cardinal, Prefect of the S.C.D.F., & current Pope, to know the meaning of these documents. If anyone now living has a duty to know the meaning of the documents, he does.

    “It is discouraging to not hear the pope promise a vigorous effort to interpret those documents.”

    ## Discouraging, but business as usual.

  • Parasum

    Some of them, however fine they may seem when not compared with previous teaching, awaken all manner of difficulties when compared with earlier teaching. The problems come largely from the comparison.

  • Parasum

    The Syllabus was a Godsend. It was no error of judgement, but a genuinely counter-cultural document; he was prepared to say a lot of very unpopular things, that needed saying; and he said them, unambiguously.

    Leo XIII (as he became in 1878) can apparently be given a share of the credit for the impetus to compile a syllabus of errors.

    “But the text provides people with the very VERY false impression that
    you simply need to reverse the Errors to find good doctrine”

    ## That is the method to follow in finding the positive teaching.

    “– except that in very many cases, the 180° opposite of an Error is ALSO an Error.”

    ## Good reasoning, but not applicable to the interpretation of the Syllabus.

    It is interesting, for those with a cynical turn of mind, that the Papal Magisterium of Blessed Pius IX can be disregarded, while that of later Popes can’t be. But if he was wrong, why should they be regarded as not wrong ? And if he was wrong, what is to stop a Jabba of 2200 AD saying that BXVI was wrong in his teaching ? The present Pope  cannot expect his own magisterium to be revered if the magisteria of his predecessors have to be disreguarded. The magisteria of past Popes can’t be sacrificed to the magisteria of later ones, for the earlier are the branches on which the later sit.

  • JabbaPapa

    It is interesting, for those with a cynical turn of mind, that the Papal Magisterium of Blessed Pius IX can be disregarded

    It is especially “interesting” given that I have actually said NO SUCH THING.

  • Sweetjae

    Put it to rest Benedict because you know and every abiding catholic knows that even IF Satan himself is present in the Council of VII it don’t matter, no power of Hell nor all the continous attacks coming from differing ultraTrads and modernists would ever influence the outcome of the Council!!!

    Your position is no different than Luther, ‘cherry pickin’!

  • Sweetjae

    Ambiguous??? Why do you people not blame the Holy Bible as well??? Scripture is also ambiguous in a lot of Catholic and Marian Dogmas! Just because it’s ambiguous doesn’t necessarily follows it has errors!

    What the holy Father is saying is, if the document clearly teaches X is X then it must be followed, if there exist ambiguity in some documents whether it says X or Y, then go for the interpretation with the light of Tradition.

  • Charles

    Beginning the council without a clear direction was the weakness which was exploited by Marxist elements; foremost, by changing the image of  Christ as king to the image of Christ as a passive poverty stricken hippie. Since Christians are to be Christ-like that false image of Christ produced liberation theology and the passivity and wish washiness of Church leadership.  Our leadership needs to shed the unbiblical and false Marxist image of Christ and
    become strong again; this can only happen when Catholicism reclaims a
    correct image of the Lord as King rather than as hippie.

  • Sweetjae

    So what?? Even the Doctor of the Church St. Aquinas had a trouble with the concept of Immaculate conception. It proves nothing.

  • Sweetjae

    “The Council Fathers neither could nor wished to create a new or different church. They had neither the authority nor the mandate to do so,”

    This should put a stop to those who keep on blaming a valid Council.

  • Sweetjae

    Yakete yak yak! You said you already wrote off this Pope actually the last 5 Pontiffs, right? Maybe you should run for Peters Chair?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    I think replying to you is a waste of time. 

    We got a new Church though, didn’t we?!?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    But we got one nevertheless. 

  • Andrew

    The last 3 paragraphs cited here are highly illustrative.  I hope and pray that a major Theological Commission (or even a Lateran Council) may now be instituted to intepret the documents in the light of the Church’s whole Tradition up to that point.  This is how Rome acknowledges errors privately, while continuing to deny them publically (of course there has been a hermaneutic of rupture, that is clear to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear) and how She then seeks to put them right.  Well, whatever her ‘method’, let us hope that Holy Mother Church now initiates a major programme of repair.  As Lefebvre always said: ‘our future is in our past’.  Yes, changes were necessary, but many were not and the remnants of the slime of Modernism (the ‘smoke of Satan, as Paul VI himself described it all) now need to be excised from Her bosom.  The collapse of Catholicism in the West (just look at the shocking news from Vienna this last week, the latest index) can only be reversed by the embrace of authentic Tradition.  This is why such a Theological Commission or a Lateran Council is so desperately and urgently reuired.  What better gesture Benedict XVI could make by, on conclusion of the current celebrations, announcing such a great thing. 

  • JabbaPapa

    I think that expressing hostility towards sweetjae will only garner hostility in return —

    Hosea {8:7} For they will sow wind and reap a whirlwind. It does not have a firm stalk; the bud will yield no grain. But if it does yield, strangers will eat it.
    {8:8} Israel has been devoured. Now, among the nations, it has become like an unclean vessel.
    {8:9} For they have gone up to Assur, a wild ass alone by himself.
    Ephraim has given presents to his lovers.
    {8:10} But even when they will have brought the nations together for the sake of money, now I will assemble them.
    And they will rest for a little while from the burden of the king and the leaders.
    {8:11} For Ephraim multiplied altars to sin, and sanctuaries have become an offense for him.
    {8:12} I will write to him my intricate laws, which have been treated like strangers.

    ___

    Galatians {6:6} And let him who is being taught the Word discuss it with him who is teaching it to him, in every good way.
    {6:7} Do not choose to wander astray. God is not to be ridiculed.
    {6:8} For whatever a man will have sown, that also shall he reap. For
    whoever sows in his flesh, from the flesh he shall also reap corruption. But whoever sows in the Spirit, from the Spirit he shall reap eternal
    life
    .
    {6:9} And so, let us not be deficient in doing good. For in due time, we shall reap without fail.
    {6:10} Therefore, while we have time, we should do good works toward
    everyone, and most of all toward those who are of the household of the
    faith
    .
    {6:11} Consider what kind of letters I have written to you with my own hand.

    ___

    Sweetjae is not one of the heretics or apostates or atheists, dear Benedict …

  • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

    I grant their learning, but have some problems with their “cleverness.”

  • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

    The command to love God and neighbor is inmutable. Every single one the Church’s teachings must be interpreted within the framework of the greatest of all commandments. Stringent teachings that may have made sense within constrained cultural milieu may not make sense later. This is specially true after the Holocaust.
    I have no problem with the Council Fathers reconforming to the Greatest Commandment. Nothing has changed, really.

  • JabbaPapa

    Well taught !!!!

  • Sweetjae

    The error lies in your interpretive version of the past and current Magisterial documents NOT the themselves! The “bad fruits” are the result of malicious willful acts by modernist elements within the Church NOT the valid teachings of the Church!

    You speak of ‘authentic’ Tradition but whose authentic Tradition are you referring to? To think of it all traditionalist movements (Sedevacantists, Old catholics,SSPV, Conclavists, SSPX etc) have the same pre-VII Tradition yet they diametrically opposed and arrived at differing beliefs from the same tradition.

    So whose tradition? For the Protestants, whose Bible?

  • Sweetjae

    Yes, we got one that is more in tune and welcoming though uncompromising with the super rapidly changing world. Look at the great evangelization of Africa and Asia, the letter of Eastern Orthodox Patriach Bartholomew summed it all up about the importance of VII today. Now, he and other patriachs are thinking of unity towards the ‘Nu Church’ (you so abhored) that is not even in the radar screen for 1,000 years since the Great Schism.

    What you Benedict would like the Church is a truimphalistic church, sorry but the Holy Spirit is thinking something different than yours, SSPX or Sedevacantists…really sorry to disappoint you.

  • Sweetjae

    Really true, all Teachings of the Church are based on these two Great Commandments of Christ so I’m having a rough time wondering why do these traditionalists are having such a problem with the Church opening, accommodating and sharing the Gospel to other people of differing faiths or no faith???

    There is no watering down of Faith rather Faith is watered down to the thirsty outsider.

  • Sweetjae

    The Church does not need to reclaim Christ as King because it always has been. The hippie image is borned by the few modernist elements within the Church as always had been since the beginning of Christianity 2,000 years ago.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    You are off your head. The Orthodox are absolutely nowhere near reunion, and will never be if we stay with the Protestant alignment of the last half-century. As for Africa, the great expansion in the Faith there was in the first decade of the 20th Century, not in this. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Modernism, in the Ancient Church?!?

    Tea sprayed all over computer screen.

    If only you would think for even a nano-second before starting to type.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Sweetjae is a stalker who attacks without either reading or comprehending.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Loony

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    St. Thomas, I suppose you mean.

  • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

    Many traditionalists – I’m not talking about those who are in full canonical communion with the Vicar of Christ. I myself am a “traditionalist” in that sense – felt that a number of pronouncements and syllabi gave them a sense of security while another minority still felt they had cover to hate, specially Jews. That’s gone and they resent it. They waste no time nuancing the Council into nothingness and expecting the Church to return to them, not they to the Church.

    It is a sad situation. We must pray for them, for us, for the Church who is the Bride of Christ.

  • JabbaPapa

    Read Judges again, dear Benedict.

    {21:24} … In those days, there was no
    king in Israel. Instead, each one did what seemed right to himself.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    That, Jabba, is not Modernism.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    In effect, it’s exactly what you have said.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Are you drunk?

  • Sweetjae

    Drunk in love with the Catholic Church, you however are drunk with your cockiness and self admiration.

  • Sweetjae

    What I’m saying is, that sins and corruption of men not sparing the clergy of the Church has always been there since the very first day of the Church 2,000 years ago.

    Anyways, there were lots of modernist and liberals within the Ancient Church….Arius, Nestorius, Sergius, Tertullian, John Huss, Martin Luther etc. So if you would think for even a nano second before you post a reply it would save you a tea.

  • Sweetjae

    The one and only, St. Thomas Aquinas.

  • JabbaPapa

    Each one doing what seems right to themselves is the heart of Modernism.

  • JabbaPapa

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Do you come here only after a visit to the pub?