Vatican II and its Authority (Part I)

Roma locuta est, causa finita est. There must be a demonstrable coherence and consistency between what the Roman Pontiffs teach firmly and definitively in one period of Church history and what they teach with equal force in any other age. I find it hard to see how any "cause" could be "finished" by Rome - that is, how any doctrinal dispute could be considered definitively settled by her - if Rome herself were to flatly contradict, in a forum as august and solemn as an Ecumenical Council, even one doctrine which she had previously proposed as certainly true by either her ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium. Such a contradiction would be, quite simply, suicidal for the authority of the See of Peter, and thus for the credibility of the Roman Catholic religion as such. [Fr. Brian W. Harrison]
I - Introduction:

The reason self-styled 'traditionalists' so often treat Vatican II with derision is precisely for the reasons Fr. Harrison noted above. They believe that the Council did contradict past teachings of an irrevocable nature. Because they believe this a priori, this assumption forms part of the foundation from which they approach this subject. It therefore seems appropriate to begin this examination by considering what a general (ecumenical) council is and its intended function in the Church.

A General Council is where the bishops of the Church in union with the Roman Pontiff represent the universal church. (And where doctrinal judgments to settle controversies are rendered as well as a revision of the disciplinary regulations binding on the whole Church.) Despite the well known prominence historically of the General Council as an authority whose decisions cannot be controverted, there is a problem today on many fronts. Dissident "liberal", Modernists, and so-called 'traditionalists' feel that somehow they have a privilege to act contrary to all of history with regards to the way the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is received. Other urls of this treatise will detail further the undeniable parallels between 'traditionalism' and earlier schismatic/heretical movements but in this url and the one following it will focus on the locus of their derision. As Stephen Hand has pointed out in his essay for The Wanderer on 'traditionalism', there were many substantive reasons for the calling of an ecumenical council as Pope John XXIII did on January 25, 1959:

There was...a desire to understand and speak to modern man. There was the desire to discern and acknowledge the elements of truth in the varied philosophies which had arisen in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and the decline of the Age of Faith. There was likewise a desire to strengthen certain elements for kerygmatic purposes (e.g., gentle effectiveness of Franciscan spiritual praxis and teachings) and the redressing of imbalances which arguably existed in some places and times (e.g., the desire for a more personal and less one-sidedly abstract application of philosophical principles and catechesis). There was also the recognition that more and more laymen in the modern age were able to avail themselves of post secondary school education and that they were asking more penetrating and sophisticated questions than was ever the case in the largely peasant cultures of times past.

As a consequence, it was apparent that high metaphysical abstractions — even though surely true — needed to incarnate themselves, as it were — make themselves more amenable to — the language of the 20th century. There can be no doubt that along with the well-known sinister influences which had been condemned by the Popes (e.g., theological modernism, indifferentism), there was also the desire on the part of many to enter into a sympathetic "dialogue" with the new educated middle class which blossomed in the West especially after World War II and to take their existential and philosophical questions seriously. For the influences of modern philosophy were ubiquitous and many were feeling the pangs of doubts in a cynical age...Modern science also posed new questions. Many other factors could be cited also. Only when we understand all of this can we understand the reasons for the council. [1]

As an ecumenical (or general) council is a gathering of the entire Church, Mr. Hand understands much as Fr. Harrison the implications of such a council erring in doctrinal pronouncements: it would be both disastrous and it would compromise the integrity of the Catholic Church. The very notion is tantamount to asserting that the universal church itself could err. St. Thomas Aquinas in speaking of a symbol of faith being prescribed by the General Council of Nicaea made the following notation on the matter which should provide some food for thought:
The universal Church cannot err, since she is governed by the Holy Ghost, Who is the Spirit of truth: for such was Our Lord's promise to His disciples (Jn. 16:13): "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth." Now the Symbol is published by the authority of the universal Church. Therefore it contains nothing defective. [2]
The Angelic Doctor recognized the same principle that the Church has always recognized when it comes to the universal promulgations as they relate to matters of faith and morals: they cannot contain anything doctrinally defective. 'Traditionalists' though do not seem to be able to grasp the principle outlined here. This is demonstrated in the frequent claim that the problems of the past generation have been because of the Council and what it taught: an assertion often made but one that has never been successfully proven. Instead it is taken as if self-evident that the Council itself was a substantial rupture with the past. To buttress this presumption, the self-styled 'traditionalist' is not above taking passages from context and misinterpreting them to "prove" that the Council "contradicts previous teachings". This is pretty easy to do with Vatican II as it is with any magisterial document of any period of history. And in doing this, the 'traditionalist' has another parallel with certain groups which they would be critical of for acting the same way: among them Protestants, atheists, and agnostics. This is correct, the same people who would criticize Protestants for interpreting Scripture apart from Church act the same way with the Second Vatican Council and the post Council papal magisterium the way Protestants do. (With regards to how the latter treat both Scripture and also all Magisterial documents.) This is also the same way atheists and agnostics act with the Bible whereby large lists of proposed 'errors' are produced to attempt to discredit the Bible.

Before these self-styled 'traditionalists' can effectively combat the evil of today, they need to get their priorities straight. And this treatise intends to provide assistance in that area by taking a look at the authority and dogmatic implications of the Second Vatican Council and its resolutions. What will be demonstrated in the next two urls is that not only is Vatican II (VC II) a valid ecumenical council but it did also teach infallibly including several "new" teachings. In addressing the subject of VC II, there are two schools of thought among its detractors. The first is that it was not an ecumenical council at all but instead was a "pastoral council" (as if the two are somehow separated from one another). Hence the first step would seem to be vindicating the status of Vatican II as a valid Ecumenical Council.

II - Vatican II and its Status:

This should not even be necessary but experience has taught this author that nothing can be taken for granted with those whose minds are either stubbornly resistant to truth or who seek to distort the truth to serve their own means. Therefore the Ecumenical status of VC II has to be briefly demonstrated. On October 11, 1962, the first day of the Council, Pope John XXIII delivered this address in St. Peter's Basilica (the relevant points have been excerpted):

Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has
finally dawned when -- under the auspices of the virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is commemorated on this feast -- the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is being solemnly opened here beside St. Peter's tomb...
The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that he sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously. That doctrine embraces the whole of man, composed as he is of body and soul. And, since he is a pilgrim on this earth, it commands him to tend always toward heaven...
That being so, the Catholic Church, raising the torch of religious truth by means of this Ecumenical Council…
Venerable brothers, such is the aim of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council… [3]
It is clear beyond any shadow of doubt that VC II was convoked as an Ecumenical Council according to the manifest mind and intention of Pope John XXIII. Of course Pope John XXIII died before ratifying any of the Council decrees. Therefore it must be looked at to find out if his successor Pope Paul VI intended to follow in Pope John's footsteps or if he changed his mind later on and made the council merely a "disciplinary" or "non dogmatic synod." Certainly if anyone could tell us the intention of His Holiness in the matter it would be the Supreme Pontiff by his own words. Therefore, here are excerpts from the words of the closing allocution from the Council delivered on December 8, 1965:
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, assembled in the Holy Spirit and under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we have declared Mother of the Church, and of St. Joseph, her glorious spouse, and of the Apostles SS. Peter and Paul, must be numbered without doubt among the greatest events of the Church. In fact it was the largest in the number of Fathers who came to the seat of Peter from every part of the world, even from those places where the hierarchy has been very recently established. It was the richest because of the questions which for four sessions have been discussed carefully and profoundly. And last of all it was the most opportune, because, bearing in mind the necessities of the present day, above all it sought to meet the pastoral needs and, nourishing the flame of charity, it has made a great effort to reach not only the Christians still separated from communion with the Holy See, but also the whole human family.

At last all which regards the holy ecumenical council has, with the help of God, been accomplished and all the constitutions, decrees, declarations and votes have been approved by the deliberation of the synod and promulgated by us. Therefore we decided to close for all intents and purposes, with our apostolic authority, this same ecumenical council called by our predecessor, Pope John XXIII, which opened October 11, 1962, and which was continued by us after his death. [4]

Pope Paul VI claims in his closing address several times that VC II is Ecumenical. Therefore, its decisions were clearly ratified as such as only the Sovereign Pontiff can make that determination. There can be absolutely no doubt that VC II was a valid Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church - the twenty-first such Council held. As these assertions by both presiding pontiffs refutes the first 'traditionalist' objection, the rest of this url will focus on the contentions of those who adhere (with differing degrees) to a less rash and more moderate position on the authority of the Council - and one that seems to be a pretty standard one among most people who identify themselves as 'traditionalists'.

III - A Preliminary Examination of the Moderate 'Traditionalist' Council Thesis:

Yes it is true that not all self-identified 'traditionalists' deny the validity of the Second Vatican Council or its teaching authority. There are those of a more moderate temperament who are not so quick to ascribe error to the Council but at the same time entertain this option as a possibility. Since they are astute enough to know that the Council was Ecumenical, they circumvent the trap of the earlier more rash 'traditionalists' by advancing the thesis that since the Council did not define any dogmas; the teachings are therefore not "binding". Adam C. Kolasinski is one such self-identified 'traditionalist' who has advanced the latter thesis and done so in the following manner:

The Second Vatican Council was a validly called Ecumenical council and was validly promulgated by a validly elected sitting Pope, Paul VI. As such, this Council had the authority and capability of pronouncing infallibly on any matter of faith or morals since ecumenical councils are one of the organs of infallibility. The fact that a document is issued by one of these organs, however, is not sufficient to make it infallible. The 1983 code of Canon law says the following about conciliar infallibility:
'The College of Bishops also possesses infallibility in its teaching when the Bishops, gathered together in an ecumenical council and exercising their magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals, definitively declare for the universal Church a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals (Canon 749, 2)'
So a teaching in a conciliar document, in order to be infallibly decreed by a council, must be proposed definitively by the Bishops in Union with the pope, and they must intend for it to be binding on all the faithful. Furthermore, this criterion must be unambiguously met as "No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless this is manifestly demonstrated (Canon 749, 3)." Now then, the relevant question at hand is, did Vatican 2 intend to define any dogmas to be held by all the faithful? Why don’t we let Pope Paul VI answer that question for us:
'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 engaging the infallibility of the ecclesiastical Magisterium. The answer is known by whoever remembers the conciliar declaration…given the Council’s pastoral character, it avoided pronouncing, in an extraordinary manner, dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility." (General Audience, Jan 12, 1966)
So, according to the very pope who promulgated the Council, it did not issue any dogmatic definitions, which would seem to preclude any infallibility, except in those statements and texts that affirm what the Church had already defined. Now some might object that this is not an infallible statement, and therefore does not prove the Council is not infallible. I answer that no statement of a council can be infallible if the pope who promulgates it does not intend it to be such. This is an obvious truth since no Council can issue a definitive statement binding on all the faithful unless the pope approves it. Thus this statement, while not by itself infallible, accurately portrays the pope’s intentions which were decidedly against having the Council infallibly define any dogmas. [5]
This position is one that in essence can be summarized as follows: because there were no solemn definitions of dogma by Pope Paul VI's own admission, the Council did not formally teach anything infallible. Therefore, only in re-affirming previously defined teachings was the Council possessing of infallibility as an "organ" of teaching. On the surface his position sounds convincing; however appearances can be deceiving.

It is worth noting that Mr. Kolasinski has insisted that his questions are asked in good faith as he simply wishes to "attribute to the Council and its documents their proper authority" (From the same statement as the above quote was taken.) This writer will take him at his word on the matter and simply address the flaws in his arguments. To start with, Mr. Kolasinski referenced the Code before quoting Pope Paul VI; therefore that is how this writer will approach responding to the assumptions he makes. The language of the Code itself is clearly not understood properly by Mr. Kolasinski. He cited part of Canon 749 §2 and 749 §3 but he did not mention 749 §1. The whole Canon reads as follows (all emphasis is by the present author):

Canon 749 §1: In virtue of his office the Supreme Pontiff is infallible in his teaching when, as chief Shepherd and Teacher of all Christ's faithful, with the duty of strengthening his brethren in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals.
§2. The College of Bishops also possesses infallibility in its teaching when the Bishops, gathered together in an Ecumenical Council and exercising their Magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals, definitively declare for the universal Church a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals; likewise, when the Bishops, dispersed throughout the world but maintaining the bond of union among themselves and with the successor of Peter, together with the same Roman Pontiff authentically teach matters of faith or morals, and are agreed that a particular teaching is definitively to be held.
§3. No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless this is manifestly demonstrated. [6]
This writer has already demonstrated that on several subjects (Tradition/Living Magisterium and the Mass), there are numerous intricacies involved which the 'traditionalist' often overlooks. This is especially applicable to the Second Vatican Council and its levels of teaching authority. But this is also true of canon law too as will be briefly demonstrated at this time. In brief though, can. 749§3 does not in any way pose a legitimate argument against the status of VC II as promulgating new teachings infallibly. The rationale for this explanation will be set forth using the literal texts referenced above and pointing out a key distinction that Mr. Kolasinski not only overlooked but that he continually blurred throughout his debate with Dr. Sippo.

Can. 749§3 would not be applicable to all infallible teachings indiscriminately. Instead it would apply to a very specific kind of infallible teaching: a solemn definition of faith. The rationale behind this assessment is that the dividing line intended by the legislator of the Code at this point was not between infallible and non-infallible teachings. Instead the dividing line at this point is between between teachings of faith and teachings which were not of faith but which were still to be held. Both types of teaching are definitive but they do not have the same theological qualification.

The language of the Code emphasizes the charism of infallibility as it pertains to teachings "to be held". This is an important distinction. A teaching that is a definition of faith is not specified in this manner - though teachings de fide are also to be held. The Latin terms are "credenda" (referring to dogma) and "tenenda" (referring to doctrine) signifying that the former was to be not simply held but also "believed". By contrast the later was simply to be "definitively held" (definitive tenenda) and such teachings are often taught in acts which are strictly speaking non-defining. As can. 749§1 and can. 749§2 both refer to infallibility pertaining to doctrines "to be held", they are thus referring to infallibility as it applies to both defining and non-defining acts of the Magisterium: the latter of which do not require any technical formulations of particular solemnity.

By the language of the Code itself, it is manifestly obvious that can. 749§3 cannot be as broadly applied as Mr. Kolasinski does. Instead it is very specific and refers to defined teachings of faith: teachings that carry with them a censure of heresy if they are culpably doubted or denied. Therefore, claims that a teaching is defined - which are implied in any accusation of heresy - places the burden of proof under the Code on the one making the accusation. As there were no solemn definitions of faith promulgated by Vatican II, there is no need to dwell any further on can. 749§3 as it is a non sequitur to the discussion. All of this is symptomatic of the failure of self-styled 'traditionalists' to make these kinds of fine but necessary distinctions on not a few of the relevant subjects involved in any discussion of this nature pertaining to Vatican II. And because of these failings, the understanding of the binding authority of Vatican II is woefully misunderstood and misrepresented by such people — a point that this treatise url and the one subsequent to it will address in reasonable detail.

IV - The Proper Understanding of Key Concepts (Part I):

It is common for groups that are partial to the Tridentine Mass and the pre-VC II disciplinary norms to describe themselves as 'traditional Catholics'. Even some of those who are involved with organizations that are in communion with the Pope make similar types of statements at times. Despite the best intentions of the users of the term, the moniker of 'Traditionalist Catholic' is as redundant as the phrase "basic fundamentals". To be a Catholic by its very nature involves being in accord with Sacred Tradition. Most people who use this term to categorize themselves are separated from the Catholic Church by schism (and some by heresy). There is also the fact that the 'traditionalist' is as a rule very badly misinformed on a whole score of issues. (The gravest deficiency is that they have no idea about the requirements of obedience to the Magisterium of the Church or the degree of assent owed to different teachings.) Vatican II in some ways was different from the Councils that preceded it and this has caused no small amount of confusion. Veteran Catholic evangelist Dr. Art Sippo supplies an excellent concise summary statement of the pre-VC II period from which we can use as part of the foundation of this url and factor into the thesis which will be proposed in the next url:

The pontificate of Pius XII straddled the tumultuous period from the beginning of World War II (1939) to the middle of the Cold War (1958). He tried to hold the line on Catholic values, but the effects of World War II and its aftermath made that increasingly difficult. During the war, his value focus had shifted from the preservation of the traditional Catholic social order to the embracing of general human rights. He became more open to modern biblical and theological trends, while trying to put the brakes on untrammelled speculation. His encyclicals show the dynamic tension between modern ideas and the patrimony of the faith.
The entrenched conservative mindset in the Curia was loath to espouse anything but the "manual theology" of men like Garrigou-Lagrange and Ottaviani. Others like John Courtney Murray, von Balthasar, and de Lubac were open to newer ideas and methods. They remained faithful to defined Catholic dogmas but did not always agree with either the methods or conclusions of the dominant "manual theology." Some like Teilhard crossed over the boundaries of safe speculation into unacceptable extremes. Since the "manual theologians" occupied offices of authority in the Curia, they used their power to suppress all of those who disagreed with them. Even the older Catholic schools of thought following such notable thinkers as Scotus and Suarez were suppressed. The situation in the 1950s was that no alternative way of doing Catholic theology was tolerated. This was despite the fact that the dominant school itself had no dogmatic support from the Extraordinary Magisterium. The Popes since Leo XIII had always given tacit support to the dominant Thomistic school but they had never done so to the exclusion of all others.
Throughout this time, Pius XII fought hard to preserve the faith while trying to make it relevant to his day. For example, medical moral issues undreamed of at the turn of the century were now routine problems with which he dealt over regularly over the last years of his life. But this was a momentous task and achieving it was beyond the ability of the aged and ailing Pontiff. In the end, he restricted all speculation and allowed little-if any-criticism of the dominant "manual theology" at the behest of his advisors. The challenge of being Modern without being Modernist was left to his successors.
The new Pope, John XXIII, was the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli. He was elected as an "interim" pope who was not expected to do anything controversial. Instead, he surprised everyone by calling the 21st General Council of the Catholic Church. He realized that the approach towards Catholic theology taken by the Curia in the 1950s was no longer viable and that there needed to be a new effort to take advantage of other approaches.The errors that the Church was now faced with were many and widespread and it would not be practical to condemn each one individually. Instead he decided that a positive presentation of the Catholic worldview as a whole would be the best method of apologetics in the modern world...
Unlike previous councils that had attacked particular errors and anathematized those who promoted them, VCII was going to avoid formal condemnations and instead look to the explication of Catholic doctrine as its primary method of teaching. In other words, the traditional format of exposition, followed by numbered canons with anathemas attached would not be used. The expositions would stand alone.
This has caused some confusion among Catholic scholars because they were used to the more traditional canons-cum-anathemas as the normal form for the teachings of General Councils (the 5th and 6th Councils not withstanding). Some have mistakenly said that as a result, VCII did not intend to teach infallibly. This is grossly incorrect. Instead, it is more properly stated that VCII did not intend to teach infallibly by the usual norms of the Extraordinary Magisterium. Instead it intended from the start to use the norms of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium (or the Supreme Ordinary Magisterium), which is just as infallible although not as definitive or formal. This form of the Magisterium arises when the Pope on his own or in union with the bishops gives a positive teaching of the faith which clearly is intended for the universal Church. [7]
From this overview, a few more points need to be covered and then an examination of some of the teachings of the Council. The first place to start is with the proper usage of terms. A few of the terms that will factor into the upcoming examination are "Magisterium" and "Infallibility". To start with, here are the Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary's definitions of these terms:
Infallibility. Incapability of teaching what is false. It has always been believed that the Catholic Church of Christ is divinely kept from the possibility of error in her definitive teachings on matters of faith or morals, and this was expressed by the Vatican Council (sess. iii, cap. 4), "the doctrine of faith which God has revealed has not been proposed as a philosophical discovery to be improved upon by human talent, but has been committed as a divine deposit to the Bride of Christ [the Church] to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted by her." This infallibility resides (a) in the pope personally and alone (see below); (b) In an oecumenical council (q.v.) subject to papal confirmation (these infallibilities are distinct but correlative); (c) In the bishops of the Church dispersed throughout the world: this is the ordinary magisterium, is now in practice and confined to the maintenance of the definitive decisions of (a) and (b). Infallibility does not involve inspiration (q.v.) or a fresh revelation; so the Church can teach no new dogma but only "religiously guard and faithfully expound" the original deposit of faith (q.v.) with all its truths, explicit and implicit (q.v.); nevertheless, infallibity extends to secondary doctrines and facts whose connection with revealed truths is so intricate as to bring them within its scope. [8]
Secondary facts would include intricate elements such as the validity of a universally promulgated rite of Mass or norms of administration of the sacraments - to name a couple of examples of areas with an intricate connection to revealed truths. The instrument by which God teaches His people is the Magisterium, which is defined in the following manner:
Magisterium (Lat. magister, a master). The Church's divinely appointed authority to teach the truths of religion, "Going therefore, teach ye all nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. xxviii, 19-20). This teaching is infallible: "And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (ibid.) The solemn magisterium is that which is exercised only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or popes. Its matter comprises dogmatic definitions of ecumenical councils or of the popes teaching ex cathedra, or of particular councils, if their decrees are universally accepted or approved in solemn form by the pope; also creeds and professions of faith put forward or solemnly approved by pope or ecumenical council. The ordinary magisterium is continually exercised by the Church especially in her universal practices connected with faith and morals, in the unanimous consent of the Fathers (q.v.) and theologians, in the decisions of Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, in the common sense (q.v.) of the faithful, and various historical documents in which the faith is declared. All these are founts of a teaching, which as a whole is infallible. They have to be studied separately to determine how far and in what conditions each of them is an infallible source of truth. [9]
The Church's ordinary magisterium is the common level of teaching exercised by the Magisterium. However, at times the Magisterium can teach infallibly at this level. This presents a problem for the self-styled 'traditionalists' when analyzing and appropriating the proper teaching authority to the different levels of the Magisterium. (They demonstrate in technicolour both their lacuna of knowledge on the subject as well as the inconsistent nature of their positions.)  There is no consistent criteria in the theological paradigm of the 'traditionalist' for what makes one teaching infallible and another not so. This inadequacy is demonstrated when they take the flawed view of infallibility as a property uniquely manifested in the Extraordinary Magisterium. In light of the above quotes from the Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary, this is a profoundly erroneous and untenable position.

'Traditionalists' tend to use infallibility as the criterion for the truth or irreformability of a teaching. Arguing from the insistence of particular forms being required for teaching infallibly, they use this criteria against teachings they do not like while exaggerating the authority of the ordinary magisterium for teachings that they do like. This view presents more than a few problems especially if they were to be asked to point out all the papal ex cathedra pronouncements throughout history. Council infallibility was strictly speaking not verifiable in the first three centuries - as prior to 325 there were no ecumenical councils. Yet it is not as if the Church did not recognize herself as handing on in a definitive fashion the truth of the Gospel even in the ante-Nicene period:

During the first three centuries the concurrent action of the bishops dispersed throughout the world proved to be effective in securing the condemnation and exclusion of certain heresies and maintaining Gospel truth in its purity; and when from the fourth century onwards it was found expedient to assemble ecumenical councils, after the example of the Apostles at Jerusalem, it was for the same reason that the doctrinal decision of these councils were held to be absolutely final and irreformable. Even the heretics, for the most part recognized this principle in theory; and if in fact they often refused to submit, they did so as a rule on the ground that this or that council was not really ecumenical, that it did not truly express the corporate voice of the Church, and was not, therefore, infallible. This will not be denied by anyone who is familiar with the history of the doctrinal controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries... [10]
In short, the dissidents of today who refuse to submit to the Second Vatican Council are no different than the heretics or schismatics of old who justified their refusal to submit to earlier synods. And distinctions such as the previous councils defining dogma and Vatican II not doing so are irrelevant because (i) most of the directives of earlier councils were disciplinary but were still considered requiring of assent and (ii) obedience to a teaching is not contingent upon it being handed on infallibly. As an Ecumenical Council, the teachings of Vatican II are to be heeded with a religious submission of mind and will even in areas where doctrinal decisions are not being rendered definitively. Failure to do this is to be in violation of Church teaching and Church law. To quote the Catholic Encyclopedia on the subject of the ordinary magisterium and infallibility:
During the interval from the council of the Apostles at Jerusalem to that of their successors at Nicaea this ordinary everyday exercise of episcopal authority was found to be sufficiently effective for the needs of the time, but when a crisis like the Arian heresy arose, its effectiveness was discovered to be inadequate, as was indeed inevitable by reason of the practical difficulty of verifying that fact of moral unanimity, once any considerable volume of dissent had to be faced. And while for subsequent ages down to our own day it continues to be theoretically true that the Church may, by the exercise of this ordinary teaching authority arrive at a final and infallible decision regarding doctrinal questions, it is true at the same time that in practice it may be impossible to prove conclusively that such unanimity as may exist has a strictly definitive value in any particular case, unless it has been embodied in a decree of an ecumenical council, or in the ex cathedra teaching of the pope, or, at least, in some definite formula such as the Athanasian Creed...[11]
In essence the Encyclopedia article is saying that the ordinary magisterium (OM) can at times be infallible and in fact, functioned effectively in this role prior to Nicaea. Even under certain circumstances today the OM can be infallible. Since the Catholic Encyclopedia is not a Magisterial document, its conclusions as to the effectiveness of the ordinary magisterium as teaching a truth definitively are in no way binding and this author rejects them. However, even if the assertion is correct, this is still not a justification for rebellion against the authority divinely vested in the bishops of the Church - and in particular the pope - by Our Lord Jesus Christ. (*)

For a teaching is to be obeyed if it is a part of the ordinary magisterium. That is what is important, not if it is infallible or not. Infallibility is not the criterion of the truth or irreformability of a magisterial teaching. Nor is it the criterion for obedience to a magisterial teaching or directive either. However, these principles are nonetheless utilized by those who claim that Vatican II as a "pastoral council" was therefore not "dogmatic" and is therefore of optional import. As this is a common  canard wielded to justify disobedience to the teachings of the Council - or otherwise undermine its authority - it would be beneficial to examine how the term "pastoral" and its derivatives are to be properly understood according to traditional usage.

V - The "Dogmatic/Pastoral" Artificial Dichotomy:

There is some truth to the assertion that the Council was "predominantly pastoral in character" but the dichotomy made between "dogmatic" and "pastoral" - as if something "pastoral" is automatically not "dogmatic" in any sense whatsoever -  is frankly a facile one. It has no support whatsoever from the Magisterium of the Church and therefore it should not be handled with the kind of smug certainty that many so-called 'traditionalists' like to utilize it. At the very least, it seems to this writer that "pastoral" and "dogmatic" as concepts should not be interpreted not in a vacuum. Instead, the meaning of the expressions should be sought in light of the way pastoral theology and dogmatic theology respectively are viewed. The following quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia article Pastoral Theology defines this concept as it applies to theology in general:

Pastoral theology is a branch of practical theology; it is essentially a practical science. All branches of theology, whether theoretical or practical, purpose in one way or another to make priests "the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God" (I Cor., iv, 1). Pastoral theology presupposes other various branches; accepts the apologetic, dogmatic, exegetic, moral, juridical, ascetical, liturgical, and other conclusions reached by the ecclesiastical student, and scientifically applies these various conclusions to the priestly ministry. [12]
Before delving into all that pastoral theology entails, a look at how it differs from dogmatic and other fields of theology would be in order as well:
Dogmatic theology establishes the Church as the depository of revealed truth and systematizes the deposit of faith which Christ entrusted to His Church to hand down to all generations; pastoral theology teaches the priest his part in this work of Catholic and Christian tradition of revealed truth. Moral theology explains the laws of God and of the Church, the means of grace and hindrances thereto; pastoral theology teaches the practical bearing of these laws, means, and hindrances upon the daily life of the priest, alone and in touch with his people. Canon law collects, correlates, and co-ordinates the laws of the Church; pastoral theology applies those laws to the care of souls. In brief, pastoral theology begins, where the other theological sciences leave off; takes the results of them all and makes these results effective for the salvation of souls through the ministry of the priesthood established by Christ. [13]
In "presuppos[ing] the fields of apologetic, dogmatic, moral, juridical, and other fields of study in its applications to the care of souls", pastoral theology would not be divorced from the other sciences. (Indeed to some extent it would rely on them.) Hence one could accurately say that pastoral theology is indirectly concerned with dogmatic theology as well as moral theology and juridical theology (canon law). Transposing these distinctions onto the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council by corollary extension, it could be logically asserted that a Council that was "predominantly pastoral in character" would nonetheless have an indirect foundation in dogmatics; consequently a "pastoral council" would be "indirectly dogmatic" and presupposing the foundation of dogmatic theology in its pronouncements. (Which by asserting that the Council unlike previous Councils was not "directly dogmatic" is precisely what Pope Paul noted in several general audience speeches in the final thirteen years of his reign.)

By contrast, most of the earlier ecumenical councils were "predominantly dogmatic" but that did not detract from the fact that most of them also issued canons of disciplinary import as well. The distinction would be that most of the earlier councils were called to resolve a doctrinal crisis and disciplinary issues were an addendum issue if they were treated on at all. (Councils such as Constantinople II and III did not treat on disciplinary matters at all whereas by contrast of the five Lateran councils only the fourth was not predominantly concerned with matters of discipline.)

With the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, it was called not to address any one point of doctrine but instead to address the application of all Church doctrine to more effectively meet the conditions of the modern age. In the process, (i) previous dogmas of the faith would be reaffirmed, (ii) previously declared doctrines reasserted and perhaps developed a bit further, and (iii) theological controversies which touched on matters closely joined to dogma would be settled. Further still, (iv) doctrine would be developed to meet the needs of the age in certain parameters, (v) the disciplinary code would be revised, and (vi) the overarching approach in all areas would lean more to doctrinal exposition and its application then to dogmatic formulations. The tools used for this process would mirror those used in pastoral theology and include the following:

Tradition and the Holy Bible...are the first sources of pastoral theology. As evidence of Tradition the decrees of general councils are of the highest moment. Next come pontifical [documents]; decrees of Roman Congregations...the various sources of dogmatic and moral theology and of canon law, in so far as they bear directly or indirectly upon the care of souls. Decrees of various provincial councils and diocesan synods together with pastoral letters of archbishops and bishops are also among the sources whence pastoral theology draws. [14]
If one reads the index of every document from the Second Vatican Council, they will see copious references to Sacred Scripture. There are also numerous references to the documents of the General Councils. (Particularly Vatican I and Trent but there is also more than thirty references to other ecumenical councils - particularly the councils of Florence, Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Lateran IV, Constantinople IV, and Nicaea II.) There are also numerous references to documents from the papal magisterium - particularly Pius XII, Pius XI, John XXIII, and Leo XIII - along with various other papal pronouncements. (Such as Allocutions and Radio/General Addresses.) Included in this mosaic are references to the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church among other sources. Finally, the use was also made of documents from plenary councils which had received papal approbation, decrees from the Roman Congregations, etc.

Consistent with the understanding of "pastoral" in theology, the Second Vatican Council certainly meets the criteria in its usage of sources spanning the dogmatic, moral, and other fields of study. As far as the dependence of pastoral theology on dogmatic theology, the Catholic Encyclopedia article Dogmatic Theology had this to say about the correlation:

Pastoral theology, which embraces liturgy, homiletics, and catechetics, proceeded from, and bears close relationship to, moral theology; its dependence on dogmatic theology needs, therefore, no further proof. [15]
And just as "no further proof" is needed to demonstrate the dependence of pastoral theology on dogmatic theology, there is no further proof needed to refute the facile dichotomy of "pastoral" and "dogmatic" when it comes to Vatican II when compared with most of the previous ecumenical councils. It suffices to say that most previous councils were directly dogmatic and indirectly pastoral whereas with Vatican II the converse was the case. But it does not suffice to say that the predominantly pastoral character of the Second Vatican Council precluded any active dogmatic elements at all and (as a consequence) any formal infallibility. For as we will now see, to some extent this element is active in all General Councils where the resolutions have received the approval - either manifestly or tacitly - of the Roman Pontiff.

VI - Infallibility and General Councils in Brief:

A truth is always taught infallibly by the ordinary magisterium before it is ever set forth in more solemn forms of exposition (if it ever is). However, this does not mean that a teaching of the ordinary magisterium is necessarily taught explicitly in words; it may be expressed by a doctrine implicitly contained in a Church practice which thereby receives the universal consent to qualify as definitive. What cannot be overlooked in this is that the Pope and the college of bishops at the Second Vatican Council gave a comprehensive presentation of the Catholic faith demonstrating in the process the doctrinal and moral unanimity of the united episcopate. This is sufficient to fulfill the criteria for an exercise of the ordinary and universal magisterium in matters that directly involve the teaching of doctrine. Indeed properly understood, the charism of infallibility is present whenever the episcopate in union with the Roman Pontiff teaches in concurrence on a point of doctrine whether they proclaim it by a recognizably definitive act or not. The Catholic Encyclopedia emphasizes this point in its article on General Councils:

All the arguments which go to prove the infallibility of the Church apply with their fullest force to the infallible authority of general councils in union with the pope. For conciliary decisions are the ripe fruit of the total life-energy of the teaching Church actuated and directed by the Holy Ghost. Such was the mind of the Apostles when, at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts, xv, 28), they put the seal of supreme authority on their decisions in attributing them to the joint action of the Spirit of God and of themselves: Visum est Spiritui sancto et nobis (It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us). This formula and the dogma it enshrines stand out brightly in the deposit of faith and have been carefully guarded throughout the many storms raised in councils by the play of the human element. From the earliest times they who rejected the decisions of councils were themselves rejected by the Church...The infallibility of the council is intrinsic, i.e. springs from its nature. Christ promised to be in the midst of two or three of His disciples gathered together in His name; now an Ecumenical council is, in fact or in law, a gathering of all Christ's co-workers for the salvation of man through true faith and holy conduct; He is therefore in their midst, fulfilling His promises and leading them into the truth for which they are striving. His presence, by cementing the unity of the assembly into one body -- His own mystical body -- gives it the necessary completeness, and makes up for any defect possibly arising from the physical absence of a certain number of bishops. The same presence strengthens the action of the pope, so that, as mouthpiece of the council, he can say in truth, "it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us", and consequently can, and does, put the seal of infallibility on the conciliar decree irrespective of his own personal infallibility. [16]
A General Council in short by its very nature is protected from error in doctrinal matters. What this means is that any dogma or doctrine proclaimed by the Pope and the Bishops in union with him is properly understood as being set forth infallibly. To doubt this is to doubt the validity of the other twenty ecumenical councils of the Catholic Church. Also, even decisions not infallibly declared are still to be given a religious submission of mind and will (Matt. 10:40, Luke 10:16, John 13:20; Canon 752). Catholics who refuse to do these things are not Catholics at all but instead are schismatics. It should be pointed out that modernist/liberal and 'traditionalists' are not the only ones who err with regards to how they view the issue of obedience to magisterial authority. There are also many "conservatives" who are badly misinformed on the matter by theologians and instructors who are often either misinformed themselves or who are trying to mislead the faithful in obedience to some nefarious agenda. It ends up being a case of the blind leading the blind and this is one of the reasons why there are problems in the Church today. As the errors that all sides make on this subject are carbon copies of one another; it will require a look at the events and surrounding circumstances that inadvertently affected the perception that the dissident movements tend to possess. This is the only way to root out and kill the deadly virus infecting the Church today which has been present for about 200 years.

VII — The Sitz Im Leben of Vatican II in Light of Vatican I:

Before Vatican I, there was virtually no distinction made between teachings of the Magisterium in the technical forms we use today. The first explicit use of the expression "ordinary and universal magisterium" was in an 1863 Apostolic Letter TuasLibenter of Pope Pius IX. The terminology is recent but the principle is an ancient one as noted already earlier in this url. It was for all intensive purposes not necessary to make such distinctions as the dogmatic letters of the Popes (Apostolic letters/Bulls, Encyclicals, Constitutions) and the resolutions of the General Councils were to be obeyed. This is still the case today but Vatican I opened up a rupture in the manner in which adherence to the Magisterium was viewed; a rupture that impairs the thinking of the 'traditionalists' today much as it does the dissidents of the other extreme (be they "liberals" or "Modernists"). To cover the period in a sketch form, Monsignor Philip Hughes' scholarly study A History of the General Councils will be cited. The following are excerpts from Chapter 20 of that work (bolded parts are courtesy of this writer):

If we are to see the Vatican Council of 1869-70 in relation to any great formative world movement, it is with the French Revolution that our business lies. How the great crisis that opened in the year 1789 found the Catholic religion everywhere in chains, in the various European states, its vitality low indeed after generations of captivity to the Catholic kings, is one of the commonplaces of history. And the death of the aged Pius VI, in 1799, the actual prisoner of the French Republic, was hailed pretty generally by the observant as the end of the spiritual empire he had ruled so long. But this funeral of Christianity, as Chesterton once wrote, was interrupted by the least expected incident of all--the corpse came to life.
The world, as the Revolution and Napoleon left it, would indeed be a new world. But in the new world the Catholic Church, and its popes, would be readily discernible. In that new world there would begin, on the very morrow of the settlement of 1814-15, a grim struggle between the dispossessed of 1789, now once more in the saddle, and those who had for a quarter of a century kept them out. The struggle would be political, social, cultural; and religion would sensitively react to every shift and turn of the contenders. One political feature, common to the new world everywhere, was the presence, now permanent, of the new idea that "subjects" had a right to a say in the way they were governed--and over a great part of western Europe the right was recognised. The "subjects" had votes, they were citizens; there were parliaments, elections, parties, public controversies, a political press; and everywhere politicians, able and less able, endlessly planning, infinitely ambitious, and passionately idealistic--the first, and romantic, generation to operate an organ of national life still with us, and as important as ever, if long dulled and mechanical, for us, after the daily use of a century and a half…
We might begin with a truism: religious revivals are times of enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is not a critical thing. This particular Catholic revival was very consciously, in France, a militant reaction against the classical rationalism of the eighteenth century, the deism, the naturalism, the atheism…Pius IX had had the idea of a General Council in his mind for many years…What all wanted from such a council was the formal condemnation of the various anti-Christian philosophies of the time, and of the new rationalistic interpretations of Christianity and its sacred books. They asked for a restatement of the Catholic faith, particularly about the kind of thing the Church of Christ is, and about the rights and prerogatives of the pope; only ten, out of the fifty or so consulted, referred to the definition of infallibility. Another general demand was for the revision of the Canon Law--a dense forest that had been growing unsystematically, and unpruned, for hundreds of years. They wanted a reorganisation of clerical life and of the religious orders; the regulation of all the host of such new "inventions" as missions, sodalities, "devotions"; and a single official catechism for the use of the whole church. And they wanted, finally, a statement about the relations of the Church to the new modern democratic state, something that would show that the Church was not hostile to all but absolutist regimes.
A body of a hundred experts, theologians and canonists for the most part, was formed to prepare the first drafts of the laws which the council would discuss; sixty of them were Italian "professionals," the rest called in from elsewhere. The industry of this host of experts produced 51 drafts of decrees, 23 relating to Catholic belief and 28 to what may be briefly described as reorganisation of Catholic life. All that the council brought to the stage of sanctioning, out of this vast mass, were two definitions of belief: that called Dei Filius (a restatement of the fundamental truths of the Christian religion against the new rationalism) and that called Pastor Aeternus (that the pope is supreme head of the whole Church of Christ and cannot err when as shepherd and teacher of all Christians he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church). The council, it will be seen, had indeed barely begun its work when, after seven months of laborious discussions, political events brought it to a halt. [17]
This is a very key point and underscores in large part what Vatican II was called to accomplish. Along with a means of presenting the faith in its entirety to the world in modern idioms for greater accessibility to all, there was also the need to finish the work that Vatican I (VC I) had intended to accomplish but was not able to. And contrary to the presumptions of self-styled 'traditionalists' on the matter, there was a need to rework the old schemas of VC I which did not get voted on. The reason for this should be obvious. In the ninety years since the close of the First Vatican Council, there were many developments that needed to be taken into consideration. One of them was the rupture that had been forced apart by the definition of papal infallibility. The latter was solemnly defined partly in response to the Neo-Ultramontaine reactionary response to the militant rationalists. The poisonous error of the rationalists was the assertion that there was no sure source of truth. Opposing them was the dangerous error of the Neo-Ultramontaines who not only asserted the infallibility of the pope (which was generally recognized albeit with varying opinions of its scope) but they ascribed infallibility to practically every papal utterance. The Neo-Ultramontaine view was one that could not be supported from the historical record. (As names such as Liberius, Vigilius, Honorius, John XXII, and Sixtus V among numerous others cropped up which clearly contradicted the Neo-Ultramontaine assertions with regards to the scope of papal infallibility.) The Church therefore in defining the degree of infallibility which was to be professed de fide was able to erect a solid bulwark against the rationalist virus. This menace was infecting the mainline Protestant churches (and still is) manifested most noticeably in the ever widening proliferation of sects within Protestantism.

The only viable opposition in the Protestant sphere to rampant rationalism was a radical backlash into a purely Fideistic theology of Fundamentalism. (As opposed to the less-Fideistic Reformed confessions.) Because the only way for Protestantism to guarantee a preservation of what elements of truth it possesses in such an environment is Fideism, it underscores all the more why having an authority above the individual that cannot be overturned by the individual is so important. This is why the definition of papal infallibility taking place when it did was so important. The question involving papal infallibility was never if the Pope was infallible or not but if this was a truth that could be defined as divinely revealed. That was not all that the Council intended to deal with though in discussing issues pertaining to the Church hierarchy.

The Council also intended to issue a Second Constitution on the Church to cover the role of the episcopate and other elements. Because this "second tier" of authority was never addressed (because of outside influences of the time where the Council was suspended), the perception after the Council developed that anything not divinely revealed was not infallible or irreformable. Likewise the corollary of this was that nothing not infallibly rendered was required for belief or obedience. This was a monstrous distortion of the intentions of the Fathers of the First Vatican Council. But because Vatican I did not have an opportunity to finish its work, this necessary element was not tended to. And this coincided with the start of the Modernist crisis whereby the techniques used by the Modernists would be aped not only by the later "liberals" but also by the very same people who would imitate the rebellion of the more extreme 'liberals' while claiming that they were "preserving Tradition". To understand precisely where all of these groups went astray, it is important to look at what the First Vatican Council actually declared about papal infallibility. To again quote from the work of Msr. Phillip Hughes:

Before the deputation De Fide...there still remained many laborious hours, studying the ninety-six amendments proposed by the speakers, and another forty-eight sent in in writing. With the aid of their theologians they had sorted it out, and were ready with their recommendations to the council, by July 11. They then proposed, following Guidi, to change the title and, following Martin, to put in the historical section. They accepted the new--Cullen--wording of the definition, and so were able to refuse the hundred proposed amendments of the old formula. The explanation and justification of all this was left to the bishop of Brixen, Vincent Gasser, "the most prominent theologian in the council," to whose great speech Butler gives a whole chapter of his book. The Council, without more ado, voted as the deputation proposed. [18]
Since the Fathers of the Council "voted as the deputation proposed", it would be beneficial to examine exactly what the deputation actually proposed. It also needs to be taken into consideration that the authority of a General Council ratified by the Roman Pontiff is equal to that of the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, a General Council teaches at the same levels and in the same manner as the Roman Pontiff except collectively and in union with the Roman Pontiff. In that light perhaps a consideration of the manner whereby the pope hands on a definitive judgment is in order here since the subject of dispute by self-styled 'traditionalists' is whether or not Vatican II taught anything infallibly. The best place to start with this inquiry is the dogma of papal infallibility as it was understood by the Fathers of the First Vatican Council.

VIII - The Proper Understanding of Key Concepts (Part II):

Among the subjects discussed at the deputation De Fide was the "means" whereby the Pope exercised the charism of infallibility. With regards to those who took a minimalist view of the charism that was tainted with superficial legalism, the relator of the deputation gave the following admonition to the Council Fathers when the text of the fourth chapter of the schema "Pastor Aeternus" was going through the process of amending the text before its submission for voting as a conciliar Constitution:

[S]ome will persist and say: there remains, therefore, the duty of the Pontiff - indeed most grave in its kind - of adhering to the means apt for discerning the truth, and, although this matter is not strictly dogmatic, it is, nevertheless, intimately connected with dogma. For we define: the dogmatic judgments of the Roman Pontiff are infallible. Therefore let us also define the form to be used by the Pontiff in such a judgment. It seems to me that this was the mind of some of the most reverend fathers as they spoke from this podium. But, most eminent and reverend fathers, this proposal simply cannot be accepted because we are not dealing with something new here. Already thousands and thousands of dogmatic judgments have gone forth from the Apostolic See; where is the law which prescribed the form to be observed in such judgments? [19]
If the reader is shocked to discover an interpretation of papal infallibility that is much more expansive then they have read about over the years (not to mention a blatant refutation of the view that infallible pronouncements are as "rare" as most apologists tell them that they are) this writer can concur because he was similarly shocked upon making the discovery. The sad but undeniable fact is, most theologians do not properly understand this teaching at all. (And the lack of properly understanding both the true scope of infallibility as well as having a proper conception of ecclesiastical authority in general have reaped disastrous fruits in this post 1968 era of wide-scale dissent from ecclesial authority.) The modern problems resulting from attempts to affix a certain formulary to definitive papal pronouncements were accurately prophesied by Bishop Gasser in his Relatio:
Perhaps someone will say: if we don't have a law, let us make one. But let us not do this lest  we run up against that already condemned law which said that the council was above the Pope. Furthermore, of what use would be such a law? Would it not be completely useless, since it would never be able to be verified by the faithful and the bishops scattered throughout the world? Even more, it would be a very dangerous thing since it would offer the opportunity for innumerable foolish objections and anxieties. [20]
This writer wonders if anyone would have the temerity to assert that the modern mania for juridical forms to verify infallible teaching has not resulted in a deluge of "foolish objections and anxieties". Perhaps part of the reason for this was because the Relatio itself - despite its status as the only authoritative commentary on the proper sense of the dogma of papal infallibility - was practically unknown to those in English speaking countries. (According to Fr. Brian Harrison, it was only translated into English in its entirety in 1986.) Nonetheless it is an important source because one of the teachings of Vatican I was that a teaching needs to be understood in its original sense. This teaching was declared in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith which was promulgated in April of 1870: a text that made it clear that "[the] meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by holy mother church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding" (§3,14). Logic should therefore dictate that the dogma of papal infallibility needs to be looked at in the sense that it was voted upon. This has been done with regards to both the disregard for certain required forms for making a dogmatic judgment and also the inability of the Council to impose such forms on the Pope. (Thus if an Ecumenical Council cannot limit the pope in this way, then self-styled 'traditionalists' or anyone else who tries to impose limitations contrary to the manifest intentions of the First Vatican Council are deserving of severe reproof.) What is left now before delving into some of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council is to examine the intended sense of the key word "defines" in Vatican I's definition of faith.

Bishop Vincent Gasser explained the proper sense of the key word "defines" to the Council Fathers before the dogma of papal infallibility was solemnly defined. Because this is so frequently misunderstood, there is a need to emphasize parts of the text. The words underlined signify the common view of this teaching held by most Catholics and it is blatantly erroneous. The words bolded outline the proper sense of the text as explained by the Relator and voted on by the Council Fathers:

Now I shall explain in a very few words how this word "defines" is to be understood according to the Deputation de fide. Indeed, the Deputation de fide is not of the mind that this word should be understood in a juridical sense (Lat. in sensu forensi) so that it only signifies putting an end to controversy that has arisen in respect to heresy or doctrine which is properly speaking de fide. Rather, the word "defines" signifies that the Pope directly and conclusively pronounces his sentence about a doctrine which concerns matters of faith or morals and does so in such a way that each one of the faithful can be certain of the mind of the Apostolic See, of the mind of the Roman Pontiff; in such a way, indeed, that he or she knows for certain that such and such a doctrine is held to be heretical, proximate to heresy, certain, or erroneous, etc., by the Roman Pontiff. Such then is the meaning of the word "defines". [21]
In short, when the Roman Pontiff makes the decision to (quoting Gasser) "directly and conclusively pronounce his sentence about a doctrine which concerns matters of faith or morals", he is involved in areas where he possesses a unique charism in settling controversies. He does not have to solemnly define a teaching to be speaking infallibly nor does he have to explicitly claim that he is speaking infallibly — as the teaching is not to be understood in a juridical sense. Instead, any judgment that fulfills the criteria outlined by Bishop Gasser is properly understood as set forth definitively. It is true that most theologians today deny that the Pope can declare a doctrine definitively (and thus ratify the consent of the united episcopate) in a manner that is not strictly speaking a solemn definition. But then as we have already covered, most theologians are not familiar with the authoritative Relatio. Further still, they are under the mistaken notion that papal infallibility is limited to the solemn magisterium and pronouncements which are properly speaking definitions of faith. And finally, they ascribe a juridical character to the charism of papal infallibility that contradicts the proper sense of the dogma as it was defined by Vatican I, reaffirmed by Vatican II, and subsequently enshrined in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Because they are so manifestly in error on all three of these points, why are we to trust them when it comes to explaining the intricacies of the ordinary and universal magisterium???

Bishop Gasser made it clear that "[w]e are not able to separate the Pope from the consent of the Church because this consent is never able to be lacking to him" (Relatio of Bishop Gasser). If the consent of the Church cannot be separated from the Pope, then the Holy Father can definitively settle an issue of controversy without having to resort to a solemn definition of faith. As this same rationale applies to the universal church in union with the Pope in General Council, the infallibility of the General Council Vatican II will be approached throughout the rest of this treatise in the same manner.

IX - Magisterial Corrections and a Preliminary Case For Vatican II:

Now that we have covered that crucial point, the levels of teaching of the Council can be looked at and the degree of the assent owed to some of the teachings of the Council properly assessed. Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem in May of 1998 to deal with a necessary corrections to Canon Law in light of the 1989 Professio Fidei. As the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano pointed out in an Explanatory Note accompanying their publication of the Apostolic Letter:

Given that the authentic text of the new Code of Canon Law, which had been promulgated on 25 January 1983 and published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, did not contain the new formula of the Professio Fidei, which, in addition to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, enunciates three categories of truths, it became apparent that the Code of Canon Law, and later the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, lacked juridical, disciplinary and penal provisions for the second category of truths. Consequently, once this lacuna in the Church's universal legislation had become clear, and given the compelling need to forestall and refute the theological opinions being raised against this second category of truths, the Holy Father decided to promulgate the Apostolic Letter Ad tuendam fidem, by which precise norms are established in canon law regarding the second category of truths indicated in the second paragraph of the concluding formula of the Professio Fidei, through modifications to canons 750 and 1371, n. 1 of the CIC and to canons 598 and 1436 of the CCEO. [22]
The Holy Father in other words needed to provide penalties in the Code for punishing violators of the second category of truths. (A subject briefly touched on already in this url.) The degree of assent owed to these teachings is the same with teachings solemnly defined or proposed definitively, the difference is the penalties involved. (The penalty of heresy only applies to the divinely revealed teachings.) However, it is important to note that culpable rejection of a definitively proclaimed teaching effectively severs the person from communion with the Catholic Church. As many of the myths that surround most explanations of the subject of infallibility have already been dealt with, let us examine one of the General Audience quotes from Pope Paul VI which are commonly wielded to defend the assumption that the Council did not promulgate any definitive teachings:
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. [23]
According to the Pope, the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium was to be recognized "according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document". So any study on this matter would have to involve ascertaining the mind of the Council as manifested in each document according to its specified nature and intentions. As much as the statement by the Pope might seem at first glance to preclude any new teachings taught infallibly; in reality it is a situation with much more complexity and theological nuance then that. Or to again cite Dr. Art Sippo on the matter:
What VCII would use is the authority of the Extraordinary Magisterium to promote a comprehensive exposition of the Catholic faith in the manner of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. This was an unprecedented idea and it is understandable that it was difficult to categorize in more traditional terminology. Nevertheless, it is perfectly in line with previous Church teaching... [24]
Indeed it is an unprecedented idea but in strictest technicalities the Magisterium at a General Council in its expositions on doctrines generally does not teach at the Extraordinary level except when indicating this by the use of solemn language and/or formal canons with anathemas. ("Manifestly demonstrating" an intention to define in other words.) However, not all teachings of a General Council that appear to be non-solemn declarations are actually what they appear to be. One example that comes to mind is the teaching of VC I on God as the author of Sacred Scripture:
These books the church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the church.  [25]
Not only is the standard form of a solemn definition lacking in the above declaration but the subsequent canons for the section on Revelation made no attempt to anathematize anyone denying that God was the author of the Sacred Scriptures. This would constitute standard "solemn form" if it were lacking in the document capitula (chapters), which it clearly is from the above statement. Yes those who denied that the Scriptures were not divinely inspired were anathematized but there is a marked difference between divine inspiration and divine authorship. The position that God is the author of the Sacred Scriptures is merely noted in the exposition of the Dogmatic Constitution in plain language without either (i) any manifested form indicating a definition of dogma or (ii) any re-affirmation in the chapter's subsequent canon list posted with formal anathema. Yet according to Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Letter Divinae Afflante Spiritu, the above declaration was indeed a solemn definition:
In our own time the Vatican Council, with the object of condemning false doctrines regarding inspiration, declared that these same books were to be regarded by the Church as sacred and canonical ‘not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, THEY HAVE GOD FOR THEIR AUTHOR, and as such were handed down to the Church herself.’ When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the ‘entire books with all their parts’ as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as ‘obiter dicta’ and--as they contended--in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the Divine Books by most wise precepts and rules. [26]
Examples such as this are why it is not always obvious as to the level of a certain teaching and the Magisterium (especially the pope) is needed to clarify these points if needed from time to time. Presumably the Modernists in the days of Pope Pius XII were falling for the error that only solemn definitions required assent — which is wrong of course — but this teaching is a very instructive one. The Pope corrected the error and asserted that indeed the teaching was a solemn definition. This was despite no internal evidence from the language of the document that would "manifestly demonstrate" such an intention. That it was in a Dogmatic Constitution should have settled the issue once for all as to its binding nature. However, then as now we have people who are under the illusion that a General Council of the Church taking a definite position on a previously controverted theological issue in one of its documents does nothing to settle an issue definitively. It will be demonstrated throughout the rest of this url and in the subsequent one that this illusion of yesteryear - which is hardly an uncommon one today - is not only woefully inadequate theologically but is also clearly erroneous doctrinally.

The example of VC I demonstrates that the absence of solemn form does not preclude the possibility of a teaching being a solemn definition even when (by all appearances) it would not be considered as such. Likewise the absence of definitive form does not preclude that a given teaching is necessarily not settled infallibly. As if was noted earlier, often a teaching is infallibly taught before it is set forth in a recognizably definitive manner. The failure to take this into account when reading the documents of the Council guarantees that there will be problems in properly assessing the varied theological qualifications of the Council’s teachings. To quote Father Yves Congar who points out this distinction in greater detail (courtesy of Dr. Sippo):

The only passage of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church that could be considered a truly dogmatic declaration is the one that concerns the sacramentality of the episcopate (LG III, n. 21): in fact, it settles a question that until now had been freely disputed by theologians. At the same time it is proposed as a teaching on the same level with the others, without the use of the emphatic, repeated and solemn formulas that normally introduce a ‘definition.’… The manner of expressing it is not that of a dogmatic definition, but the matter is so important, the place it occupies in the doctrine of the episcopate so decisive, that one can hardly see how on this point the council has not issued a definitive judgment… On so many other points… one might dare to say that by a unanimous act of the extraordinary Magisterium the council has proposed the common doctrine of the ordinary, universal magisterium. This is not the same as a ‘definition,’ but it does suffice for the doctrine thus proposed to be binding as teaching on which the Catholic Magisterium is in unanimous agreement. [27]
Council Father Yves Congar aptly points out an example of new binding teaching promulgated at the Council. His assertion was endorsed by the CDF, which clarified that Lumen Gentium chapter 3 contained new teachings that were binding. Thus, LG §21 settled a theological issue that had previously been in dispute and is no longer a position that can be freely disputed by theologians. That it was open to debate before Vatican II was a point noted by Tanquerey in his Manual of Dogmatic Theology Volume II (as cited by Dr. Sippo):
There has been some discussion as to whether the episcopate is an order fully distinct from the priesthood or an extension of, and a compliment to, the priesthood; whether the episcopal
character of itself embraces only strictly episcopal power…or rather includes also the entire priestly power…in such a way that if a deacon should receive episcopal consecration he would become at the same time a priest and a bishop. Many theologians assert that the episcopal character embraces only strictly episcopal power; so no bishop can be validly consecrated unless he is first a priest. [28]
If discussions of this sort can be held on a point of theology, then it is clearly not an issue that was settled before the Council was held. Yet Fr. Yves Congar noted that the teaching was settled in the Magisterial document Lumen Gentium, one of the two Dogmatic Constitutions of the Council. The CDF has likewise noted that the teaching on the sacramentality of the episcopate was new teaching from VC II that was binding. This writer contends that the authority and infallibility of VC II in settling issues definitively is based on an explicit teaching of Pope Pius XII. The next url of this treatise will reference this teaching and treat on the author's proposed thesis which is derived from it.

(*) Matt. 10:40, 16:18-19, 18:16-18, 23:1-4, 28:19-20; Luke 10:16, 22:32; John 13:20, 20:21-23, 21:15-19; Acts 15, 28:20; Rom. 13:1-2; Heb. 13:7; 2 Pet. 1:9-10.


[1] Stephen Hand: Excerpt from his essay "Traditionalists, Tradition, And Private Judgement", (c.2000)

[2] St. Thomas Aquinas: "Summa Theologiae", IIa, IIae Q1, A9 (circa 1270-73)

[3] Pope John XXIII: Opening Allocution to the Council (October 11, 1962)

[4] Pope Paul VI: Apostolic Brief Formally Closing the Council (December 8, 1965)

[5] Adam Kolasinski: Opening Statement of His Debate on Vatican II Against Dr. Art Sippo (c. 1999)

[6] Code of Canon Law (c. 1983)

[7] Dr. Art Sippo: Opening Statement of His Debate on Vatican II (DebVII) Against Adam Kolasinski (c. 1999)

[8] The Catholic Encyclopædic Dictionary, pg. 267 (c. 1941)

[9] The Catholic Encyclopædic Dictionary, pg. 319 (c. 1941)

[10] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Infallibility" (c. 1913)

[11] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Infallibility" (c. 1913)

[12] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Pastoral Theology" (c. 1913)

[13] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Pastoral Theology" (c. 1913)

[14] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Pastoral Theology" (c. 1913)

[15] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article"Dogmatic Theology" (c. 1913)

[16] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "General Councils" (c. 1913)

[17] Msgr. Philip Hughes: "A History of the General Councils" Chapter 20  (c. 1960)

[18] Hughes, (ibid.)

[19] Bishop Vincent Gasser: Relatio to the Fathers of the First Vatican Council (July 11, 1870)

[20] Gasser, (ibid.)

[21] Bishop Vincent Gasser: Speech to the Council Fathers on the Proper Understanding of the Word "Defines" (July 16, 1870)

[22] Pope John Paul II: Apostolic Letter "Ad Tuendam Fidem" (May 28, 1998)

[23] Pope Paul VI: Address to a General Audience (January 1966)

[24] Dr. Art Sippo: Opening Statement Commentary on the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium (DebVII)

[25] Vatican I: Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Filius" §2,7  (April 24, 1870)

[26] Pope Pius XII: Encyclical Letter "Divino Afflante Spiritu" §1 (September 30, 1943)

[27] Dr. Art Sippo: Opening Statement Quote from Fr. Yves Congar OP on Lumen Gentium §21 (DebVII)

[28] Dr. Art Sippo: Second Rebuttal Citation of Adolph Tanquerey’s "Manual of Dogmatic Theology", Vol. II - pg. 355, circa 1959 (DebVII)

Additional Notes:

The citation from Stephen Hand’s article "Traditionalists, Tradition, And Private Judgement" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologiae" was obtained at the following link:

The citation excerpts from Pope John XXIII's Opening Allocution to the Second Vatican Council were obtained at the following link:

The citation from Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Brief "In Spiritu Sancto" Closing the Second Vatican Council was obtained at the following link:

The citations from Dr. Art Sippo and Adam Kolasinski were taken from a debate on the infallibility of Vatican II located at the following site:  Because of the clearly schismatic opinions and manifested affiliations of the site's webmaster with pseudo 'traditionalists', this writer cannot in any way recommend the parent site which hosted this debate. (Nor does Dr. Art Sippo whom this writer consulted about with regards to his position on this infortunate development.) Therefore, the reader is advised to proceed at their own risk should they go beyond the main link and the related debate links above.

The citations from the Code of Canon Law were obtained at the following link:

The citations from "The Catholic Encyclopædic Dictionary" were taken from the 1941 version (Donald Attwater — General Editor), New York, The Macmillan Company, (c. 1941)

The citations from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "Infallibility" were obtained at the following link:

The citations from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "Pastoral Theology" were obtained at the following link:

The citation from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "Dogmatic Theology" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "General Councils" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from Monsignor Philip Hughes "History of the General Councils" was obtained at the following link:

The first two citations were taken from the author's copy of the "Relatio of Bishop Vincent Gasser". The third citation from Bishop Vincent Gasser was obtained at the following link:

The Explanatory Note of L'Osservatore Romano in reference to Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter "Ad Tuendam Fidem" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from the First Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Filius" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical Letter "Divino Afflante Spiritu" was obtained at the following link:

©2003, 2000, "A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" (Part 6), written by I.Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or
published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.


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