Vatican II and its Authority (Part II)

To be a true Catholic a man must have a generous loyalty towards ecclesiastical authority. [Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman]

I - A Proposed Thesis on Vatican II and its Authority:

The thesis to be advanced in this url will defend the authority and infallibility of the Second Vatican Council (VC II) in settling issues definitively. (To do this it will build on some of the material from the previous url.) It is a logical extension based on the authoritative Relatio of Bishop Vincent Gasser from the First Vatican Council (VC I) which was covered in the last url. This explanation as noted earlier supplied the proper sense of the dogma that VC I voted on. Further still, this understanding received explicit magisterial sanction by Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Letter Humani Generis. In speaking about the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium, the Supreme Pontiff noted the following with regards to the pope settling issues of controversy in his ordinary magisterium:

[It] must [not] be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me" (Luke x,16); and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their [official documents] purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians. [1]

Yes he was referring to the Pope but the authority of a General Council ratified by the Pope is equal to that of the Pope. If the Pope by taking a position on a matter previously open to dispute and publishing that position in a document of his papal magisterium removes it from the forum of open speculation by theologians, so too does a General Council acting in like manner when passing judgment on a controverted point in one of its doctrinal resolutions. The Second Vatican Council (VC II) did just that with several teachings including the teachings on the sacramentality of the episcopate in Lumen Gentium (LG) Chapter 3 which was noted in the previous section.

It seems to us that the time has come to explore, penetrate and explain more and more the doctrine about the Church of Christ; but not with those solemn statements which are called dogmatic definitions, but rather in the form of declarations in which the Church in more explicit and considered teaching presents that which she holds. [2]
The reader is asked to recall the distinction in Canon Law noted in the previous url between a teaching to be believed and one to be held. The pope here is specifying that the teachings to be set forth are those which the Church holds. This does not mean by the way that the teachings referred to were necessarily ones which were already well-formulated explicitly. The task of setting forth these teachings as a permanent and explicit part of Catholic doctrine would be one of the projects of the Third Session of the Council.

II - Lumen Gentium §20-21; §29:

In completing this examination of the Second Vatican Council and its Teaching Authority, some theological speculations previously debatable among theologians before Vatican II will be examined. These were speculations - though widely held - which (i) had no magisterial sanction prior to the Council and (ii) since the Council are no longer subjects which are open to debate amongst faithful theologians. The starting point of this inquiry will be with the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium and the third chapter which dealt with issues pertaining to the Magisterium and the Sacred Orders. (This was already touched on briefly at the end of the last url.) Within this document, several theologically open issues were settled by the Church; thus removing them from further speculation by theologians. In short, they were settled definitively. Among the points covered already is the nature of the episcopate.

Though Lumen Gentium §18-19 also deals with the episcopate it will be passed over here since the teachings in those sections were ones already settled which were being reaffirmed by the Synod. The passage excerpted earlier from Dr. Sippo (who referenced Fr. Yves Congar, OP) dealt with one specific doctrinal proposition which was definitively proclaimed. As Fr. Congar pointed out, LG §21 is arguably a dogmatic definition and not merely a doctrine to be held. It can be logically presumed that he is using the same principle in his claim of this that Pope Pius XII appears to have used in Divino Afflante Spiritu §1 when speaking of the issue covered earlier of God being the author of the Sacred Scriptures. Like the cited example from VC I, the teaching of VC II was a teaching of such monumental importance on a key topic that it would be hard-pressed to not at a bare minimum claim that the two Councils issued definitive judgments on the respective topics they addressed. Here, to briefly recapitulate what was covered earlier, is the teaching of LG §21 on the issues involving sacramentality of the episcopate. (A position that involves the valid administration of a sacrament and who receives it — in short a very weighty theological question.) The new teaching is outlined in bold font:

In order to fulfill such exalted functions, the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:4; Jn. 20:22-23), and, by the imposition of hands, (cf. 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6-7) they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration. The holy synod teaches, moreover, that the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred by episcopal consecration, that fullness, namely, which both in the liturgical tradition of the Church and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the acme of the sacred ministry. Now, episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, the duty also of teaching and ruling, which, however, of their very nature can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college. [3]
As Dr. Art Sippo pointed out in his debate on Vatican II, Fr. Adolph Tanquerey's Manuel of Dogmatic Theology  among numerous other preconciliar sources (Catholic encyclopedias, other theology manuals, etc.) this teaching proclaimed by Lumen Gentium §21 was a previously contested theological issue. This position was evidenced further by the lacuna of magisterial documents referenced in Lumen Gentium §21 which duplicated the teaching being set forth. (Such reinforcement is the standard policy in magisterial documents when a teaching previously taught is being reaffirmed.) In this light, the Council, passing judgment on a previously controverted point would remove the issue in question from the field of free theological speculation. (This is particularly the case with a document carrying the theological weight of a Dogmatic Constitution.) In these situations, the decisions are no longer open to debate amongst theologians but instead are definitively rendered and thus infallible. (Though not of the same theological qualification as a solemn definition: these are instead teachings which are only to be definitively held.) Another issue that was theologically open before the Council was the extent of the range of the sacrament of Order with regard to the diaconite, sub-diaconite, and other orders. Fr. Tanquerey's Manuel of Dogmatic Theology explains the status of the subdiaconite before Vatican II in the following manner:
It is controverted whether the subdiaconate and minor orders have the ratio of a sacrament and produce grace ex opere operato. The important question is whether sacramental grace is joined to these orders. Many, in particular some of the modern theologians, say no… St. Thomas and Thomassin think that these orders in their source, or in the diaconate, are of divine institution; that Christ left to the Church the power to divide the diaconate into various inferior orders through which grace could be conferred. [4]
This issue was addressed explicitly at the Council where the delineation of Orders included the diaconite and explicitly omitted mention of the minor orders:
Amongst those various offices which have been exercised in the Church from the earliest times the chief place, according to the witness of tradition, is held by the function of those who, through their appointment to the dignity and responsibility of bishop, and in virtue consequently of the unbroken succession, going back to the beginning, are regarded as transmitters of the apostolic line. Thus, according to the testimony of St. Irenaeus, the apostolic tradition is manifested and preserved in the whole world by those who were made bishops by the apostles and by their successors down to our own time.
In that way, then, with priests and deacons as helpers, (11) the bishops received the charge of the community, presiding in God's stead over the flock of which they are the shepherds in that they are teachers of doctrine, ministers of sacred worship and holders of office in government. [5]
To avoid the clutter of numbers, all footnotes but the pertinent ones from the Council documents, which deal with the specific issues being discussed have been removed. In the case of LG §20, the eleventh footnote refers specifically to the point in question. It is not a Magisterial document being cited but is instead a reference to two Epistles of Saint Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians and the Philadelphians respectively. (In both epistles the Patriarch of Antioch refers to the different levels of ministry.) This is admittedly rather subtle but there are no previous Magisterial documents that teach this because this was an open topic of theological speculation before the Council. Or to again cite Dr. Art Sippo on the matter:
One of the other open questions about the sacrament of orders was whether or not the lowest level of major orders (Subdeacon) was considered a sacrament. In the ministry of the Latin Rite, there were 4 minor orders (porter, lector, exorcist, & acolyte) and 3 major orders (subdeacon, deacon, & priest). The deliberations at VCII made it clear that only bishops, priests, and deacons had received the sacrament of Holy Orders. The other 5 orders were considered to be sacramentals and were not mentioned. As a result of this deliberation, Pope Paul VI restored the permanent diaconate to the Latin Rite (See Ad Pascendum, 1972) and suppressed the orders of porter, exorcist, and subdeacon (See Ministeria Quaedem, 1972). This overturned over 1500 years of traditional practice and settled a dogmatic question concerning the sacraments that had been argued since the Middle Ages. [6]
The Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium §20 subtly noted that it was only the three major orders that received the sacrament. This point was more explicitly noted in LG §29 where the language used is explicit in declaring the lowest rank of orders in ministry to receive sacramental grace was that of the deacon:
At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands "not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry."(74) For, strengthened by sacramental grace they are dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service of the liturgy, of the Gospel and of works of will be possible in the future to restore the diaconate as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. [7]
The footnote of LG §29 in the Appendix section reads as follows:
74. Constitutiones Ecclesiae aegyptiacae, III, 2: ed. Funk, Didascalia, II, P. 103. Statuta Eccl. Ant. 3741: Mansi 3, 954. [8]
There is no support for this teaching having a precedent among magisterial documents. The reason is because before the Council the issue was open. The teaching of LG §29 and LG §20, along with the post Council actions of Pope Paul VI in restoring the permanent diaconite to the Latin Church in 1972, make it clear that this is clearly an issue that is no longer open to debate among theologians.

III - Lumen Gentium §22:

Dr. Ludwig Ott noted in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma that "in the final decision on doctrines concerning faith and morals, the Church is infallible" (pg. 297). The teachings covered above have been settled and are therefore are final. Thus they must be infallible even though they are not solemnly defined or even explicitly stated to have been settled definitively in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium itself. Another area that received development by the Council was the teaching on the collegial nature of the episcopate. There had been a gradual imbalance in the Latin perception of ecclesiology since the breakdown of communion between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches - particularly from the thirteenth century on when the centralization policies of the Roman Church became more pronounced. This trend accelerated in the period after the Council of Trent and Vatican I's inability to address this subject - coupled with the Council's emphasis on the papal prerogatives - compounded the issue further. The result of these circumstances was an interpretation by some as to the function of the unified episcopate's teaching authority akin to that of Patriarch John (the Faster) of Constantinople in the late sixth century. (In how he viewed the function of subordinate bishops within his Patriarchate.) Patriarch John held the view that as Patriarch of Constantinople that the other bishops under him were basically administrators and he was their "universal bishop." The similarity in these cases is amazing actually.

John "the Faster" wanted to be bishop even of the dioceses of subordinate bishops, reducing them to mere administrators, and making himself by default the only real bishop of his Patriarchate. Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604 AD) excommunicated Patriarch John for his erroneous views upon not recanting of them. The definition of papal infallibility at VC I resulted in many adopting an outlook similar to Patriarch John on the issue of the episcopate in regards to its overall teaching authority. (Archbishop Lefebvre was among them arguing that collegiality of the bishops as a teaching body was "against tradition".) LG §22 addressed the extent of the collegiality of bishops as a teaching body in the following text:

Just as, in accordance with the Lord's decree, St Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a unique apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another. Indeed, the very ancient discipline whereby the bishops installed throughout the whole world lived in communion with one another and with the Roman Pontiff in a bond of unity, charity and peace; {23} likewise the holding of councils {24} in order to settle conjointly, {25}  in a decision rendered balanced and equitable by the advice of many, all questions of major importance; {26} all this points clearly to the collegiate character and structure of the episcopal order, and the holding of ecumenical councils in the course of the centuries bears this out unmistakably. Indeed, pointing to it also quite clearly is the custom, dating from very early times, of summoning a number of bishops to take part in the elevation of one newly chosen to the highest sacerdotal office. One is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of the sacramental consecration and by the hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college.

The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head, whose primatial authority, let it be added, over all, whether pastors or faithful, remains in its integrity. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, namely, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered. The order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal Church; {27} but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff. The Lord made Peter alone the rock-foundation and the holder of the keys of the Church (cf. Mt. 16:18-19), and constituted him shepherd of his whole flock (cf. Jn. 21:15 ff.). It is clear, however, that the office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter (Mt. 16:19), was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head (Mt. 18:18; 28:16-20). {28} This college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the multifariousness and universality of the People of God; and of the unity of the flock of Christ, in so far as it is assembled under one head. In it the bishops, whilst loyally respecting the primacy and pre-eminence of their head, exercise their own proper authority for the good of their faithful, indeed even for the good of the whole Church, the organic structure and harmony of which are strengthened by the continued influence of the Holy Spirit. The supreme authority over the whole Church, which this college possesses, is exercised in a solemn way in an ecumenical council. There never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor.

And it is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke such councils, to preside over them and to confirm them. {29} This same collegiate power can be exercised in union with the pope by the bishops while living in different parts of the world, provided the head of the college summon them to collegiate action, or at least approve or freely admit the corporate action of the unassembled bishops, so that a truly collegiate act may result. [9]

The footnotes were left in the text and will be explained briefly in the rest of this section. There was some controversy by more Ultramontaine minded Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (such as Cardinal Ottaviani, Cardinal Lercaro, and Archbishop Lefebvre to name a few) whose view of the episcopate was coloured by the over centralization tendencies of the Roman Church in the Counter-reformation period. Since there was virtually no actual magisterial teaching on the subject (whether the Church was essentially monarchial or essentially collegial) the Council reinforced its teachings for the most part with Patristic sources and other historical documents. The teaching that "the very ancient discipline whereby the bishops installed throughout the whole world lived in communion with one another and with the Roman Pontiff in a bond of unity, charity and peace" was supported by references to a letter from the Alexandrian Patriarch Dionysius (c. 260 AD) and one from Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (c. 325 AD).

The phrase "likewise the holding of councils" was supported with references to the aforementioned work Ecclesiastical History and the fifth canon of the General Council of Nicaea (c. 325 AD) which commended the holding of annual synods of bishops for the discussion of disciplinary issues. The reference to "settl[ing] conjointly in a decision balanced and equitable by the advice of many, all questions of major importance" referenced a text from Tertullian (c. 200-210 AD) and one from St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250-258 AD) - both of whom were from Africa where local synods were a well established constituent of the African church by the early-mid third century. The teaching that the college of bishops "together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him" have "supreme and full authority over the universal Church" was supported with a reference to the Relatio pertaining to a planned Constitution of Vatican I that was never promulgated. And the teaching that "it is clear, however, that the office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter (Mt. 16:19), was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head (Mt. 18:18; 28:16-20)" was supported by a reference to the unpromulgated "Second Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ" from Vatican I, a reference to the Relatio of Bishop Kleutgen who chaired the deputation that drafted that unpromulgated schema, and to (it appears anyway) a sermon by Pope Leo the Great (r. 440-461 AD). The reference to popes having "the convoke such councils, to preside over them and to confirm them" had a reference to the 1917 Code of Canon Law. There was no magisterial teaching on this issue (collegiality of the episcopate) in other words but there was a diachronic practice spanning Church history.

Collegiality was in practice "during the first three centuries" when "the concurrent action of the bishops dispersed throughout the world prove to be effective in securing the condemnation and exclusion of certain heresies and maintaining Gospel truth in its purity" (Cath. Encyclop. art. Infallibility). Conventions such as ecumenical councils were simply extraordinary witnesses to this and were first utilized in the fourth century. In short, the emphasis in practice on essentially monarchial forms of government for the Church was a post Gregory VII phenomenon that gradually became more centralized as the west and east were isolated from one another. This does not mean that there was no primacy of the Bishop of Rome of course or that he could not act alone but he usually held smaller synods and consulted with other bishops before pronouncing judgment on matters. In essence, Church history demonstrates quite nicely that the Council's teaching on collegiality - far from being heretical as Lefebvre had asserted - was in fact fully in accordance with Tradition. The decisions in like manner would be settled in the same mould as the teachings already covered from LG Chapter 3. Nonetheless, though the teaching on collegiality and how it harmonized with papal primacy were set forth in LG §22, and the mutual relations of the bishop to his dioceses and to the universal church were set forth in LG §23-24, the question as to how these co-ordinate authorities functioned was still to be explained. That would be done in arguably the most important text of not only Lumen Gentium but of the entire Second Vatican Council: Lumen Gentium §25. And LG §25 is what we will treat on next.

IV - Lumen Gentium §25:

It can accurately be said that acceptance of Lumen Gentium §25 is implicit acceptance of all teachings of the Magisterium and failure to accept this teaching is to reject the Magisterium. In light of how frequently the Magisterium has had recourse to LG §25 to defend the authority of its pronouncements, a look at the entire section and its relevant footnotes would be beneficial. This section reaffirms many areas of traditional doctrine but it also explicitly takes a position on theological issues previously disputed. Therefore wherever the latter takes place, those teachings would properly be understood as teachings to be held definitively:

Among the more important duties of bishops that of preaching the Gospel has pride of place. {39} For the bishops are heralds of the faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people assigned to them, the faith which is destined to inform their thinking and direct their conduct; and under the light of the Holy Spirit they make that faith shine forth, drawing from the storehouse of revelation new things and old (cf. Mt. 13:52); they make it bear fruit and with watchfulness they ward off whatever errors threaten their flock (cf. 2 Tim. 4-14). Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.
Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter's successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely. {40} This is still more clearly the case when, assembled in an ecumenical council, they are, for the universal Church, teachers of and judges in matters of faith and morals, whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith.{41}

This infallibility, however, with which the divine redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining doctrine pertaining to faith and morals, is co-extensive with the deposit of revelation, which must be religiously guarded and loyally and courageously expounded. The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful--who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32)--he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. {42} For that reason his definitions are rightly said to be not reformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church, is as much as they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church's charism of infallibility is present in a singular way. {43} The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme teaching office. Now, the assent of the Church can never be lacking to such definitions on account of the same Holy Spirit's influence, through which Christ's whole flock is maintained in the unity of the faith and makes progress in it.{44}

Furthermore, when the Roman Pontiff, or the body of bishops together with him, define a doctrine, they make the definition in conformity with revelation itself, to which all are bound to adhere and to which they are obliged to submit; and this revelation is transmitted integrally either in written form or in oral tradition through the legitimate succession of bishops and above all through the watchful concern of the Roman Pontiff himself- and through the light of the Spirit of truth it is scrupulously preserved in the Church and unerringly explained.{45} The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, by reason of their office and the seriousness of the matter, apply themselves with zeal to the work of inquiring by every suitable means into this revelation and of giving apt expression to its contents; {46} they do not, however, admit any new public revelation as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.{47} [10]

The passage that reads "[a]mong the more important duties of bishops that of preaching the Gospel has pride of place" has three references to the Council of Trent. The first is to Trent Session V's Decree on Reformation from Chapter 2 which states that "the preaching of the Gospel is no less necessary to the Christian commonwealth than the reading thereof; and whereas this is the principal duty of bishops". There is also a reference to Trent Session XXIV Decree on Reformation chapter 4 which states that "[t]he holy Synod, desirous that the office of preaching, which peculiarly belongs to bishops" and a third reference which was difficult to discern. The section which outlined the infallibility of the bishops taken together in union with the Pope when they agree that a teaching on faith or morals "is to be held definitively and absolutely" had footnoted references to the Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius Chapter 3, what appears to be an addendum note to an earlier schema of the First Constitution on the Church of Christ (Pastor Aeternus) referring to something from St. Robert Bellarmine. This point also has a reference to the Schema of the planned (but unpromulgated) Second Constitution on the Church of Christ and a commentary from its Relator Bishop Kleutgen. (This source was also quoted in LG §22 as it was intended to cover the authority of the episcopate and hierarchy - doctrine that Lumen Gentium was completing that Vatican I intended in other words.) The third reference of this teaching is to Pope Pius IX's Apostolic Letter Tuas Libenter from 1863 - which was the first magisterial document to explicitly refer to the infallibility of the "ordinary and universal magisterium". The teaching that the infallibility of the college of bishops' infallible authority applying in a particular manner to the bishops gathered in ecumenical council is buttressed with a reference to two canons of the 1917 Code of Canon Law .

LG §25 restates the dogma defined by Vatican I (and refers to it in a footnote) but replaces the word "defines" with the words "proclaims by a definitive act". If the reader remembers url 6 where the proper sense of the word "defines" was set forth by the Relator of the deputation who drafted the definition, it is clear that the Fathers of Vatican II concurred with the sense of the definition propounded by the deputation, voted on by the Council Fathers, promulgated by Pope Pius IX, and explained in Humani Generis §20 by Pope Pius XII. (And further, the foundation of this authors thesis on Vatican II's teaching is grounded on both of these source documents.) Further reference to the importance of Bishop Gasser's Relatio is apparent in Lumen Gentium §25 with regards to four points to which the Relatio is footnoted. These will now be briefly dealt with to show why this writer has so much recourse to the Relatio for properly understanding the dogma as defined by Vatican I in Pastor Aeternus Chapter 4. (And further why he does not take seriously on this subject the views of others who do not.)

The first point where the Relatio is footnoted is the teaching that the pope's definitions are not reformable "by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church" because "they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal". The reason for this is because the teaching that the pope makes his pronouncements not as a private person but "as the supreme teacher of the universal church to whom infallibility is present in a singular way". These points did not actually have explicit magisterial sanction prior to their exposition in LG §25. The second point is where after referring to the infallibility of the Church being present also in the body of bishops united with the Pope exercising the supreme teaching office and that "the assent of the Church can never be lacking to such definitions on account of the same Holy Spirit's influence, through which Christ's whole flock is maintained in the unity of the faith and makes progress in it". (Vatican I's Dogmatic Constitution could appear to imply that the dogmatic judgments of the Pope could somehow be separated from the consent of the Church: a sense that was refuted in the Relatio and thus not intended by the Fathers of Vatican I.) The third point that references the Relatio is the teaching that the Pope or the Pope and united episcopate in defining a doctrine make it "in conformity with revelation itself" which binds everyone and commands their submission and that "this revelation is transmitted integrally either in written form or oral tradition" and is preserved by the "legitimate succession of bishops and above all the watchful concern of the Roman Pontiff himself". The fourth point was to the teaching of the Pope and bishops "by reason of their office and the seriousness of the matter, apply themselves with zeal to the work of inquiring by every suitable means into this revelation and of giving apt expression to its contents". Then the teaching of Lumen Gentium §25 is closed off by reiterating a teaching from Vatican I's Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus §6 about how the pope and bishops "do not, however, admit any new public revelation as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith". Those are the teachings footnoted in that section of LG.

Now it is pretty clear that part of LG §25 is reaffirming the dogma on papal infallibility from VC I. However, notice the additional nuance in the re-affirmation of the teaching by VC II. After VC I, many people (including theologians) ascribed the word "defines" to only solemn definitions of dogma: thus misunderstanding the proper sense of the term. Such an understanding is erroneous and Pope Pius XII noted in Humani Generis §20 (cited earlier) that the Pope did not have to solemnly define a teaching for it to be definitive. Part of the problem more then likely was because of the wording used in the 1917 Code of Canon Law which failed to emphasize the important nuanced distinction of what the definition of VC I was teaching. As for the religious submission being owed to all papal magisterium teaching, this is a teaching that has no precedent in a magisterial document before VC II. As we noted earlier, it is a common practice of the Magisterium when re-affirming previous teachings to footnote the passage and note the previous document that taught the teaching if there is one. (Such as VC II did in LG §25 when re-affirming the dogma of papal infallibility by citing VC I's Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus Chapter 4.) No such prior teaching on religious submission being owed to all papal magisterium teaching exists; albeit it was a theological opinion that was predominant before the Council. However, theological opinions can change with the times and what is predominant at one time can be a minority view at other times. There is quite a difference between "predominant theological opinion" and "Magisterial teaching". Surely we need not go over the difference here as it should be a rather obvious distinction. These are just a few examples of teachings settled in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium that were previously open to debate. Another was the teaching that infallibility was "co-extensive with the deposit of revelation". Though widely held as theologically certain before Vatican II, the position had never been enunciated in a magisterial document previously. (Therefore it was still open to dispute.) The inclusion of that teaching in LG §25 settled that teaching definitively and secondary truths (such as canonization of saints) were officially recognized as covered by the charism of infallibility.

It must also be noted that "all acts of the Magisterium derive from the same source, that is, from Our Lord Himself" (cf. CDF Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian §17). For this reason, even magisterial decisions in matters of discipline still require the adherence of the faithful. Ask yourselves if self styled 'traditionalists' are adhering with a "religious submission of mind and will" which are expected even of so-called "pastoral" provisions. Also ask yourself if they are adhering with complete assent to all teachings promulgated by the Church's Ordinary and Universal Magisterium which means the definitive doctrinal resolutions of VC II. Obviously they are not, which says more in the form of their actions (to manifest the self-styled 'traditionalists' true adherence to tradition) then any attempted rationalizations they make to justify their obdurate rebellion against the Magisterium of the Church.

Finally, before moving on to discuss other teachings of the Council, the following point made by the Cardinal Prefect Joseph Ratzinger on the teachings of Lumen Gentium Chapter 3 (which Dr. Sippo quoted in his debate with Adam Kolasinski) should be noted. As chapter 3 of LG encompasses paragraphs 18-29, this commentary therefore applies to all the teachings listed above:
The conciliar text by far surpasses the ordinary declarations of papal magisterium including the encyclicals, regarding the theological obligation that it entails. It is a document produced by the most intense work over many years, and it expresses the sense of its faith at which the whole Church assembled in council has arrived. It has formulated this document as a profession of its Credo… The conclusion is that it has an importance of the first rank among modern doctrinal texts, in the sense that it is a sort of central interpretation. [11]
To review again a point covered earlier by the Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary, infallibility is utilized when the Church puts forth creeds or professions of faith "solemnly approved by a pope or ecumenical council." VC II was an Ecumenical Council and the Pope solemnly ratified the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium after the Council Fathers had approved of the text by an overwhelming majority. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) specifically noted that the Church in Council formulated Lumen Gentium "as a profession of its Credo". In fact, Pope Paul's Credo of the People of God quotes copiously from Lumen Gentium — and in more spots then just the paragraphs in Chapter 3. The Cardinal Prefect specifically noted that the conciliar text "by far surpasses the ordinary declarations of papal magisterium including the encyclicals, regarding the theological obligation that it entails". This of course fits in nicely with Pope Paul VI's General Audience addresses after the Council that the documents of the Council had different natures and aims. The "mind of the Council" was what was to be considered and that has been made unambiguously clear by the tenor of the document, the manner in which the teachings were formulated, and actions of the Magisterium in the post-VC II period. (The new teachings covered above have been incorporated into the Codes of Canon Law and the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. They are in other words no longer theological speculations but are instead truths of Catholic doctrine and part of Church Law.) This is more evidence in practice that these previously open theological issues have been settled definitively by the Apostolic authority of the last ecumenical council.
V — The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum:

Another issue settled definitively was the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. The Council of Trent’s earlier addressing of the subject was actually rather ambiguous on the matter. According to Trent, Revelation was "contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers" (see Session 4 of Trent: Decree on the Canonical Scriptures). Trent never specified whether Scripture and Tradition proceeded from one source or two and because this issue was unsettled, there were some theologians during and after Trent who speculated that the two were separate sources. Now this might seem rather insignificant until it is pointed out that since Tradition is acknowledged to be of a wider scope than Scripture, some theologians after Trent postulated that Scripture was of either a secondary importance or that it could give way to Tradition on theological issues. This was an issue that VC I never clarified and thus before VC II it was a topic that was open to dispute among theologians (as Dr. Sippo noted when citing Tanquerey):

Indeed, Tradition is more extensive than Scripture, and embraces truths [that] are not at all contained in Scripture or are contained there only obscurely; also Tradition is more essential to the Church than is Sacred Scripture… Consequently, the principle source of Revelation is Tradition. [12]
With such a view of Scripture as being "less essential" then Tradition to the Church - a position held by some theologians before the Council - it borders on the claim that Scripture is not relevant to studying Catholic Theology. In short, this theological controversy would indeed be a most weighty one and it was brought up for discussion at VC II. Here are the relevant passages from the Council’s second Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum which settled these questions and removed them from the field of theological speculation by theologians - and thus by logical extension by the laity as well:
Paul, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God
Together with the Fathers of the Sacred Council
For Everlasting Memory


Hearing the Word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred Synod takes its direction from these words of St John: "We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:2-3). Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present Council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love …
Chapter II - The Handing on of Divine Revelation
Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the Word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the Word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this Word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.
Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2:42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.. [13]
Dei Verbum (DV) specified at the very beginning that it was a Constitution being handed on "for everlasting memory" which is solemn language. DV also specified at the very beginning of the Constitution that the Council would be setting forth authentic doctrine on Revelation and how it is handed on. Therefore, it was not merely re-affirming previous teachings as some people have claimed but instead it would be following in the footsteps of Trent and VC I and building on what they taught. The Dogmatic Constitution also declared that Scripture and Tradition both formed one depository of God's Word (both flowing from the same source not two separate sources). DV was emphatic that Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church are joined together in a manner that each requires the others to stand. This represents an affirmation of the necessity of Scripture for properly studying Catholic theology. As a result it has no longer been permissible since the Council to postulate that Scripture is either secondary to Tradition or not necessary for Catholic theology (simply because of the wider import of Tradition) as some theologians had speculated previously.

Finally, the last citation from DV manifests the mind of Pope Paul and the Council Fathers with regards to the authority of this Constitution:

The entire text and all the individual elements which have been set forth in this Constitution have pleased the Fathers. And by the Apostolic power conferred on us by Christ, we, together with the Venerable Fathers, in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and enact them; and we order that what has been thus enacted in Council be promulgated, to the glory of God. Rome, at St. Peter's 18 November, 1965.
I, PAUL, Bishop of the Catholic Church [14]
This is a form of promulgation akin to the ones historically by General Councils and modelled after the Apostles at the first council of the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:28). In summary, the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum (like Lumen Gentium) taught in continuity with the tradition of previous councils. Like LG, Dei Verbum contained previously controverted issues which were settled in a definitive manner with statements of certainty. The most notable of these is that the two source theory was given the axe in Council with the Fathers clearly and unambiguously endorsing the single source theory. These teachings were incorporated into the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church and are no longer open to debate among faithful theologians.

VI - Summary of Points Thus Far:

There are a number of other areas that could be addressed but the bottom line is this: the Second Vatican Council was a Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church which - despite a predominantly pastoral approach - nonetheless did address some theological controversies which consequently became truths of Catholic doctrine. And while these are not the only areas where the Council set forth teachings which were to be definitively held, they are the most prominent because the documents themselves (Dogmatic Constitutions) are of the highest theological qualification. However, in all parameters the authority of the Council is unimpeachable and cannot be legitimately called into doubt or refused submission to. Cardinal Ratzinger astutely points out the reason in discussing VC II and the authority behind its decisions:

[It must be stated that] Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him… That also with regards to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points.
It is impossible for a Catholic to take a position for or against Trent or Vatican I. Whoever accepts Vatican II, as it has clearly expressed and understood itself, at the same time accepts the whole binding tradition of the Catholic Church, particularly the two previous councils… It is likewise impossible to decide in favour of Trent and Vatican I but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upheld the other councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so-called "traditionalism", also in its extreme forms…Every partisan choice destroys the whole (the very history of the Church) which can only exist as an indivisible unity. [15]
In short, there is not nor can there be any individual "pick and choose" of doctrines to believe in Catholicism because private judgement makes the individual the judge. Those who reject the decrees of VC II reject Our Lord Jesus Christ and do nothing different than Martin Luther, Marcion, Dollinger, or any other dissident throughout history. As our Lord himself says: "He who hears you hears me, he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Matt. 10:40, Luke 10:16, John 13:20). This is the truth despite how it might sound to hear but it must be stated and upon being received, submitted to: that is the very nature of being Catholic.

Pope Paul VI (to show his mindset on the matter) made the following pronouncement about what the Third Session would be completing with regards to doctrine:

In this way the doctrine which the Ecumenical Council Vatican I had intended will be completed.... It is proper for this solemn Synod to settle certain laborious theological controversies about the shepherds of the Church, with the prerogatives which lawfully flow from the episcopate, and to pronounce a statement on them that is certain. We must declare what is the true notion of the hierarchical orders and to decide with authority and with a certainty which it will not be legitimate to call into doubt. [16]
Many self-styled 'traditionalists' read the second part of the quote above (that starts after the ellipse) and argue that "just because the pope says it is proper to settle teachings does not mean that the Council did" and from there they reiterate the usual solemnity equals infallibility error which we have refuted in detail already in the last url and in this one. However, this facile approach does not stand up to legitimate scrutiny as we have noted already; however there is more to it then just what has been noted above.

If you look at the statements of Pope Paul VI, he outlined areas addressed in Lumen Gentium Ch. 3 in the above statement and speaks of "settling them" with "a statement that is certain." We have already gone over what it means for a Pope or a General Council to pronounce on a previously disputed point with a statement of certainty. LG §18-20 addressed the hierarchy and Apostolic Succession; thus renewing the Church’s timeless teachings on these matters. Also, (as Dr. Sippo pointed out earlier) the issue on the sacramentality of the minor orders was settled (LG §20, LG §29). Further, the Bishop for the first time was declared to have received the highest level of Holy Orders (LG §21). This was a point in theological dispute before VC II and (as the explanatory note to LG §21 for Ch. 3 indicates) this teaching was infallibly rendered in Lumen Gentium §21.

The collegiality of the Bishops and the range of their authority when teaching in unanimity was also settled (LG §22) as was the degree of assent owed to non definitively proclaimed teachings (LG §25). LG §25 also specified for the first time in a magisterial document that infallibility was co-extensive with the deposit of Revelation. There was a much-needed clarification of the teaching of VC I on the infallibility of the Pope - setting forth explicitly what the First Vatican Council intended to teach with regards to the pope "defining" a teaching. (The authoritative Relatio of Bishop Gasser was also referenced four times in LG §25; ergo making it indispensable for properly understanding the full import of the teaching in LG §25.) And the thesis advanced at the start of this section has more then ample corroborating evidence both in explicit magisterial pronouncements as well as the manner in which the Magisterium has accepted these teaching since the close of the Council both in Church Law and also in catechesis. (*) All of this is more then ample evidence to sustain the thesis that the previous url laid the groundwork for building and that this url has set forth in reasonable detail.

VII - Summation of Arguments and A CDF Clarification:

A dogma such as papal infallibility needs to be understood in the sense that it was defined in without any deviation whatsoever. Among some elements of properly understanding papal infallibility is that the Pope is not constrained to having to use any formulary in order to teach definitively. No Council can impose such a form on the Pope without falling into Gallicanist heresy and there have been countless dogmatic judgments down through the centuries which have not adhered to any foolproof formulary. (By the context of Bishop Gasser's assertion he could not have been referring to only censures of heresy or solemn definitions of faith but must have been referring to all judgments including certain judgments which were not of faith and censures less then heresy as genuine "definitions" according to the proper sense of the word "defines".) The latter word was so poorly misunderstood in subsequent decades that it required a magisterial clarification from Pope Pius XII which confirmed that the popes could speak definitively in their ordinary magisterium. Later on, the Second Vatican Council in reaffirming Vatican I's teaching on papal infallibility replaced "defines" with the meaning that Vatican I assigned to that word initially and drew out explicitly some corollaries that VC I had only inferred. (Such as the infallibility of the pope being of the same extent as the Church as a whole and that infallibility was co-extensive with the deposit of revelation and thus covered doctrines and facts required for the preservation of the deposit of faith in its entirety.) Granted most of these were already predominant theological opinions but theological opinions are not binding on the faithful whereas these teachings being explicitly set forth by the authority of the Second Vatican Council quite clearly are.

There are in essence three categories of truths which are outlined in the current Profession of Faith and which are clearly taught by the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium §25. The first category of truths are divine truths which are defined either by a solemn judgment of the Roman Pontiff or by the action of an ecumenical council. (These truths require the assent of divine faith under pain of heresy.) The second category of truths are those proposed definitively by the ordinary and universal magisterium usually in an action that is non-defining. (These truths require definitive assent or communion with the Church is quite clearly ruptured.) The third category of truths are those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops propose when exercising their authentic ordinary magisterium. These truths are to be accepted with a religious submission of will and intellect and it would be erroneous to dissent from them in any way.

The thesis outlining this section on Vatican II demonstrates that some of the teachings from the Council fall into the second category of truths as outlined by the Cardinal Prefect. There are also teachings from VC II which would fall into the third category while it is clear that none of them fall into the first category as outlined in the Professio. (In short, this is precisely as Pope Paul VI noted when speaking of differing natures and aims of certain teachings.) The teachings covered in this url would clearly be among the ones that fall into the second category. Do they lack a certain form to them that might make their identification as such easier??? Yes they do but that they are in a Dogmatic Constitution from a General Council should be sufficient enough. When speaking of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium and its infallible teaching, Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone made the following very important distinction:

It should be noted that the infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium is not only set forth with an explicit declaration of a doctrine to be believed or held definitively, but is also expressed by a doctrine implicitly contained in a practice of the Church's faith, derived from revelation or, in any case, necessary for eternal salvation, and attested to by the uninterrupted Tradition: such an infallible teaching is thus objectively set forth by the whole episcopal body, understood in a diachronic and not necessarily merely synchronic sense. Furthermore, the intention of the ordinary and universal magisterium to set forth a doctrine as definitive is not generally linked to technical formulations of particular solemnity;  it is enough that this be clear from the tenor of the words used and from their context. [17]
The context in other words is what is important. The documents examined in this section from VC II were Dogmatic Constitutions. How is that for "context"??? They were teachings that were never taught previously in any Magisterial document which are now incorporated into not only Canon Law but also the Catechism of the Catholic Church. How is that for "context"??? So they are not encompassing of the technical formulations that 'traditionalists' expect to see. This is irrelevant to the discussion and an example of majoring in minors. It cannot be emphasized enough - particularly in today's climate of rampant ecclesiastical dissent - that a teaching is not requiring of obedience contingent upon whether it is or is not infallible. This is inexorably the implications of the position espoused by "liberals" and many so-called 'traditionalists'. (Not to mention many so-called "conservatives".) However, infallible teachings do require a higher degree of assent owed regardless of the degree of solemnity to the teaching. The difference between the two levels of teaching is not the degree of assent but instead the type of assent to be rendered. The rejection of non-revealed teachings does not incur the formal charge of heresy. However, the degree of assent owed is the same if said teaching is set forth in a definitive manner.

Rejection of a teaching taught definitively would sever the dissenter from the Church and place them in a state of arguably being proximate to heresy. (As they would be rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine which pertains to divine revelation which they are required to hold to be in full communion with the Catholic Church.) While there are some teachings of VC II which are probably not in this degree of theological qualification, that does not mean that teachings failing to meet this theological qualification can thus be ignored. (Or even that they can be deliberately controverted.) The Catholic who does this is no Catholic at all since he rejects the authority of the Magisterium of the Church which requires a religious submission of mind and will even to teachings which are not apparently definitive (Lumen Gentium §25). Refusal to render such an assent is to imbibe schism and be cut off from the Catholic Church.

The developments of doctrine from the Council would with virtual certainty fall into the second category (definitive truths to be held) though a few elements may be of the third category (non-definitive teachings) depending on certain factors which cannot be dealt with here. Either way though, they would nonetheless be preserved from error as God preserves General Councils from dogmatic error in the universal promulgation of doctrinal resolutions or disciplinary provisions. This is why the common arguments posed by  dissidents of all stripes that claim that it is even possible for a General Council to teach error is "erroneous" at a bare minimum. With the weightier matters covered earlier, the charge of "proximate to heresy" is also applicable since the doctrines thus specified would have a direct connection with Divine Revelation.

VIII - Conclusion:

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was certainly different from other General Councils that preceded it in some areas but in most areas it was similar to the previous twenty General Councils from Nicaea to the First Vatican Council. No other council in history was anywhere near as well attended and unlike previous General Councils the Pope was directly involved in all four sessions. (Not only that but he reviewed the documents from the Council before they were voted on and had the parts he wanted modified before the vote. Thus, they read precisely as the Pope wanted them to when they were voted on.) With every document passing with overwhelming majorities, they were then solemnly promulgated to the universal Church by the Supreme Pontiff and they are indeed binding. The Pope himself made this perfectly clear:

We decided moreover that all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed by all the faithful, for the glory of God and the dignity of the Church and for the tranquillity and peace of all men. We have approved and established these things, decreeing that the present letters are and remain stable and valid, and are to have legal effectiveness, so that they be disseminated and obtain full and complete effect, and so that they may be fully convalidated by those whom they concern or may concern now and in the future; and so that, as it be judged and described, all efforts contrary to these things by whomever or whatever authority, knowingly or in ignorance be invalid and worthless from now on. [18]
The unanimity of the Pope and the episcopal college meets the theological qualifications in many places to be an extraordinary presentation of the common teaching of the ordinary universal magisterium. This is the case in several of the Council’s documents - most notably in the two Dogmatic Constitutions. Pope John Paul II has followed in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI by endorsing the decisions of the Council and quoting its Constitutions, Declarations, and Decrees in his apostolic letters, encyclicals, exhortations, and speeches more then any other source except the Scriptures. Also, Pope John Paul II promulgated to the Universal Church both a new Code of Canon Law (1983) and the New Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994). Both the revisions to the Code and the Universal Catechism include copious quotes from the documents of the Council. If any more evidence was needed one can compare the quotations from the Catechism.

According to Fr. Brian W. Harrison, there are "64 citations from the pre-conciliar encyclicals, bulls and other papal documents" (Roma Locuta Est c. 1995). There are also "493 citations from the Fathers, Doctors, and Saints - ranging from the first to the nineteenth centuries" (ibid). There are also "102 quotes from the ancient and mediaeval Councils - both local and ecumenical", "27 from Vatican I", and finally "127 from the Council of Trent and the old Roman Catechism which sprang from it" (ibid). The only source quoted more then Vatican II (800 quotations: most of which repeat previous teachings) is Sacred Scripture itself which is cited over 4,000 times. If any more evidence of the importance of Vatican II is needed, then the consideration that VC II alone is cited in the Universal Catechism almost as much as all other sources except Scripture combined should be evidence enough.

It is time to stop squabbling over this Council and accept it as a legitimate development of the Church’s timeless Tradition for it is impossible for it to be otherwise. All the evidence presented in this url and the previous one overwhelmingly confirms the authority of the Council well beyond a reasonable doubt. It has further been established that Vatican II taught infallibly in several areas via the Ordinary Universal Magisterium - only a few of which were dealt with here. However, since the Pope has bound all Catholics to obedience to the Council, it is not legitimate in any way to dissent from the Councils teachings. So-called 'traditionalists' who continue to misrepresent Vatican II as being "a pastoral council" and "did not teach infallibly" only underscore the fact that they really do not understand these matters. In the process, they inevitably place themselves outside the Catholic Church for rejecting both some definitive teachings that require definitive assent as well as other teachings that require religious submission of mind and will. The Magisterium has made it known repeatedly that when Rome speaks, the issue is settled. In that light, the admonition of the Holy Office to Fr. Feeney should be considered since the warning there is applicable to the material covered in this section:

[L]et them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after "Rome has spoken" they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith…Let them realize that they are children of the Church, lovingly nourished by her with the milk of doctrine and the sacraments, and hence, having heard the clear voice of their Mother, they cannot be excused from culpable ignorance, and therefore to them applies without any restriction that principle: submission to the Catholic Church and to the Sovereign Pontiff is required as necessary for salvation. [19]
Self-styled 'traditionalists' likewise who have read this section have no excuse. Not only has it been demonstrated that Vatican II was an Ecumenical Council but also that the Council settled several theological controversies that require acceptance by at least ecclesiastical faith. Likewise, the Council also developed doctrines which require religious submission whether they were declared definitively or not. (This is an area that will be touched on in more detail when we look at some of the supposed "contradictions" of the Council later in this treatise. There is one more salient point to mention and that is what the Church's constant teaching on General Councils is. We went over it in the last url; nevertheless it would be good to summarize it here before concluding the subject at hand.

Dr. Ludwig Ott noted in his book Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma that "it is the constant teaching of the Church from the earliest times that the resolutions of a General Council are infallible" (pg. 300). This teaching has been affirmed and reaffirmed by countless Fathers, Doctors, Scholastics, and other theologians as well as reaffirmed by the Magisterium both explicitly and implicitly over the centuries. Further still, the Council of Trent taught that the consensus of the Fathers on a doctrine would render it infallibly taught. Why then is this principle so often not applied in the case of which we speak of here: the General Council Vatican II??? The reader must ask themselves what weight of antiquity rests on this constant teaching that has a consensus not only of all the Fathers but also of all the Doctors, Scholastics, and Post-Scholastics without a single dissenting voice. The teaching of the inability of a General Council (when the teachings have been ratified by the Pope) to teach doctrinal error has far more support then many doctrines accepted with this standard as definitive teaching. Thus it is easily a teaching that qualifies as an act of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium in and of itself. However, even areas not set forth definitively still require consent if they are taught by the Ordinary Magisterium (Lumen Gentium §25; Humani Generis §20). The inevitable result of culpably rejecting the teaching of the Church is to be "treated as the heathen and the publican" (Matt. 18:15-18). And again to again paraphrase Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman: "To be deep in knowledge of Catholic dogmatics is to cease to be a 'traditionalist'".

(*) It is also worth mentioning that Pope Paul spent about half of his closing speech to the Third Session of the Council praising the Fathers for completing the work of Vatican I on settling "certain laborious theological controversies" about the role of the bishops. This would be a strange thing for him to do if the Fathers of the Sacred Council had not achieved precisely what Pope Paul said at the start of the session that they would be setting out to accomplish: pronounce on the issues with "a statement that is certain" and "with an authority that it will not be legitimate to call into doubt".


[1] Pope Pius XII: Encyclical Letter "Humani Generis" §20 (August 12, 1950)

[2] Pope Paul VI: Allocution Given Prior to the Opening of the Second Session of the Council  AAS 55,848-49 (September 29, 1963)

[3] Vatican II: Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" (LG) §21 (November 21, 1964)

[4] LG §20

[5]  Dr. Art Sippo: Second Rebuttal Reference of A. Tanquerey's "Manual of Dogmatic Theology", Vol. II - pg. 356, circa 1959  (DebVII circa 1999)

[6] Dr. Art Sippo: Opening Statement Exposition on LG §20

[7] LG §29

[8] LG §29 (Appendix footnote)

[9] LG §22

[10] LG §25

[11] Cardinal Ratzinger on Lumen Gentium Chapter 3 (as cited by Dr. Art Sippo).

[12] Dr. Art Sippo: Citing A. Tanquerey's "Manual of Dogmatic Theology", Vol. I - pg. 173 (c. 1959)

[13] Vatican II: Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum" (DV) Preface, §1, §9-10 (November 18, 1965)

[14] DV (concluding paragraph)

[15] The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (translated by Vittorio Messori); Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1985 pgs. 28-9

[16] Pope Paul VI: Opening Allocution to the Third Session of the Council AAS 56,808-09 (September 14, 1964 )

[17] Doctrinal Commentary On The Concluding Formula Of The Professio Fidei, footnote 17 (June 29, 1998)

[18] Pope Paul VI: Apostolic Brief "In Spiritu Sancto" Closing the Second Vatican Council  (December 8, 1965)

[19] Holy Office (CDF): Letter to the Archbishop of Boston  (August 8, 1949)

Additional Notes:

The citation from Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical Letter "Humani Generis" was obtained at the following link:

The citations from Pope Paul's Opening Speeches to the Second and Third Sessions of Vatican II were obtained at the following link:

The citations from the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" were 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 unfortunate 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 Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum" were obtained at the following link:

The citation from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was taken from the book "The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (translated by Vittorio Messori); Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1985.

The citation from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcico Bertone’s "Doctrinal Commentary" was 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 citation from The Holy Office (CDF)’s condemnation of the extreme errors of Fr. Feeney can be obtained at the following link:

©2003, 2000, "A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" (Part 7), 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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