The “Original Sin” of Vatican II
The Council’s Pastoral Language - Lefebvre’s Prophetic Warning
By John Vennari
Italian journalist Sandro Magister published a February 9 article in on his Chiesa website that attracted much attention.
The article, entitled, “The Impossible ‘Road Map’ of Peace with the Lefebvrists” spotlighted a recently-released book by Professor Enrico Radaelli; a “philosopher, theologian, and believed disciple of one of the greatest traditional Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century, the Swiss Romano Amerio (1905-1997)”.
In order to convey the full force of Magister’s article, we will employ a good bit of direct quotation. We will then demonstrate that Radaelli’s critique of Vatican II echoes the prophetic warning given by Archbishop Lefebvre prior to the Council’s opening.
“A pride that is purely diabolical”
Radaelli’s book cites three passages taken from the unpublished diaries of Father Divo Barsotti (1914-2006), a “brilliant and esteemed mystic and spiritual master, who in 1971 was called to preach the Lenten exercises to the pope and to the Roman curia.” Father Barsotti’s diaries contain strong critiques of Vatican II.
Fr. Barsotti wrote:
"I am perplexed with regard to the Council: the plethora of documents, their length, often their language, these frightened me. They are documents that bear witness to a purely human assurance more than to a simple firmness of faith. But above all I am outraged by the behavior of the theologians.
”The Council is the supreme exercise of the magisterium, and is justified only by a supreme necessity. Could not the fearful gravity of the present situation of the Church stem precisely from the foolishness of having wanted to provoke and tempt the Lord? Was there the desire, perhaps, to constrain God to speak when there was not this supreme necessity? Is that the way it is? In order to justify a Council that presumed to renew all things, it had to be affirmed that everything was going poorly, something that is done constantly, if not by the episcopate then by the theologians.”
”Nothing seems to me more grave, contrary to the holiness of God, than the presumption of clerics who believe, with a pride that is purely diabolical, that they can manipulate the truth, who presume to renew the Church and to save the world without renewing themselves. In all the history of the Church nothing is comparable to the latest Council, at which the Catholic episcopate believed that it could renew all things by obeying nothing other than its own pride, without the effort of holiness, in such open opposition to the law of the Gospel that it requires us to believe how the humanity of Christ was the instrument of the omnipotence of the love that saves, in His death.”
Magister notes these criticisms are striking on two counts:
First, “these criticisms come from a person of profound theological vision, with the reputation of sanctity, most obedient to the Church.”
Second, “the criticisms are not aimed against the deviations following the Council, but against the Council in itself.”
These, says Magister, are the same two impressions that can be gathered from reading the new book by Radaelli, entitled: The Tomorrow - Terrible or Radiant? - of Dogma.
The Original Sin
Magister continues, “In Radaelli’s view, the current crisis of the Church is not the result of a mistaken application of the Council, but of an original sin committed by the Council itself.
”This original sin is claimed to be the abandoning of dogmatic language – proper to all of the previous councils, with the affirmation of the truth and the condemnation of errors – and its replacement with a vague new ‘pastoral’ language.
”It must be said - and Radaelli points this out - that even the scholars of progressive orientation recognize in pastoral language a decisive and distinctive innovation of the last Council. This is what has been maintained recently, for example, by the Jesuit John O’Malley in his widely-read book What Happened at Vatican II.
”But while for O’Malley and the progressives the new language adopted by the Council is judged in an entirely positive light, for Radaelli, for Roberto de Mattei, and for other representatives of traditionalist thought – as for Romano Amerio before them – pastoral language is stigmatized as the root of all evil.
”According to them, in fact, the Council presumed – wrongfully – that the obedience due to the dogmatic teaching of the Church also applied to pastoral language, thus elevating to unquestionable ‘superdogmas’ affirmations and arguments devoid of a real dogmatic foundation, about which instead it is said to be legitimate and obligatory to advance criticisms and reservations.
”From the two opposed languages, dogmatic and pastoral, Radaelli sees the emergence and separation ‘almost of two Churches’.”
In the first, that of the most consistent traditionalists, Radaelli includes the SSPX, whom he describes as fully “Catholic by doctrine and by rite” and “obedient to dogma,” even if they are allegedly disobedient to the pope. It is this ‘Church” [the Traditionalists] that, precisely because of its fidelity to dogma, “rejects Vatican II as an assembly in total rupture with Tradition.”
Radaelli assigns to this second “church” all the others, meaning most of the bishops, priests and faithful including Benedict XVI. This second group has renounced dogmatic language and “is in everything the daughter of Vatican II, proclaiming it – even from the highest throne, but without ever setting out proof of this – in total continuity with the preconciliar Church, albeit within the setting of a certain reform.”
How does Radaelli see the healing of this opposition? In his judgment, “It is not the model of the Church obedient to dogma [traditionalists] that must once again submit to the Pope,” but “it is rather the model obedient to the Pope [the second group] that must once again submit to dogma.”
In other words, “It is not Econe [the SSPX] that must submit to Rome, but Rome to Heaven: every difficulty between Econe and Rome will be solved only after the return of the Church to the dogmatic language that is proper to it.” [emphasis added]
Thus, it is not the SSPX who need to convert, but modernist Rome that must convert back to the scholastic language, and to the ordinary and universal magisterium of the centuries.
Radaelli then quotes theologian Msgr. Brunero Gherardini’s call for a “revision of the conciliar and magisterial documents of the last half century” to be done “in the light of Tradition.” Note, Gherardini does not call for these documents to be properly interpreted but revised – that is, rewritten. As they stand, these documents do not conform to the Traditional teaching of the Church.
Sandro Magister goes on to observe that even among traditionalists who are considered canonically regular, from Radaelli to de Mattei to Bruno Gherdini “the rift is getting wider. They no longer conceal their disappointment with the pontificate of Benedict XVI, in which they had initially placed some hopes. In their judgment, only a decisive return of the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops to dogmatic pronouncements [i.e., to authentic Tradition] can bring the Church back to the right path, with the resulting correction of all the errors propagated by the pastoral language of the Council.”
Radaeill lists on a page of his book some of these errors that he calls “real and proper heresies”:
”Ecclesiology, collegiality, single source of Revelation, ecumenism, syncretism, irenicism (especially toward Protestantism, Islamism, and Judaism), the modification of the ‘doctrine of replacement’ of the Synagogue with the Church into the ‘doctrine of the two parallel salvations,’ anthropocentrism, loss of the last things (and of both limbo and hell), of proper theodicy (leading to much atheism as a ‘flight from a bad Father’), of the meaning of sin and grace, liturgical de-dogmatization, aniconology, subversion of religious freedom, in addition to the ‘dislocation of the divine Monotriad’ by which freedom dethrones the truth.”
Radaelli’s book is just off the press and only available in Italian. I have not yet purchased a copy to check whether or not the author notes Archbishop Lefebvre’s warning against the Council’s Pastoral language that actually pre-dates the Council itself.
“Pastoral Language” -
Lefebvre’s Pre-Council Warning
Archbishop Lefebvre made what could be considered his most important intervention at Vatican II even before the Council opened (it was reiterated in November 1962, after the close of the First Session). The innovators, for obvious reasons, fiercely rejected this intervention. Had the intervention been successful, it would have gone a long way in saving the entire Council from being the catastrophe that it was.
Archbishop Lefebvre pointed out that the Council is attempting something extremely difficult.
On the one hand, he said, the Council wants to employ pastoral and ecumenical language in order to speak in some sort of easy-to-understand language to all men. On the other hand, the bishops of the Church have the “grave responsibility” to instill in our priests, and in our future priests, a love of “sound and unerring doctrine.”
Recall that Archbishop Lefebvre was a magnificent pastor – Apostolic delegate to French Speaking Africa, one of the greatest missionary bishops of the 20th century, and Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers. He was a man who knew how to be pastoral. He had decades of stupendous growth of the Church in his territories in Africa that he could point to as proof of his theological and pastoral prowess.
And, in so many words, the Archbishop said, “Yes! When I speak to theologians, I speak to them in a different manner from the way I speak to lay people, or to the average man on the street.” This is the double problem the Council faces – how to speak to both.
The Archbishop proposed a solution, “that each Commission should put forth two documents: one more dogmatic [that is, in scholastic language], for the use of theologians; the other more pastoral in tone, for the use of others, whether Catholic, non-Catholic or non-Christians.”
The theological documents – drawn up in traditional scholastic language “to eliminate all ambiguity and error”–would serve as the ‘official interpreter,’ as it were, to the points in the pastoral documents.
Needless to say, Archbishop Lefebvre’s proposal was immediately shot down. It received the support of various conservative Fathers such as Cardinal Ruffini and then-Archbishop Roy, but overall, as Archbishop Lefebvre said, “The proposal was met with violent opposition.” The progressivists bleated, “The Council is not a dogmatic but a pastoral one; we are not seeking to define new dogma, but to put forth the truth in a pastoral way...”
The Archbishop saw through this ruse. He said: “Liberals and Progressives like to live in a climate of ambiguity. The idea of clarifying the purpose of the Council annoyed them exceedingly. My proposal was thus rejected.”
The main point: Vatican II was an anti-scholastic Council. It refused to employ the precise scholastic terminology that was the language of the Church for centuries. Pastoral language was simply an instrument for subversion; an end-run around the precision of scholastic language.
The progressive bishops and theologians at Vatican II displayed their modernist leanings by their disdain for scholasticism. Pope St. Pius X in his encyclical against Modernism warned that the modernists have “only ridicule and contempt” for “scholastic philosophy and theology,” and that “there is no surer sign that a man is on the way to modernism than when he begins to show his dislike for the [scholastic] system.”
This contempt for scholasticism was also the hallmark of the neo-modernist “New Theology” of Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cardinal Wojytyla and Cardinal Ratzinger. Cardinal Angelo Schola, a current front-runner for the papacy, is also a disciple of the “New Theology”.
Thus the original sin of Vatican II is not only the use of pastoral language, but also its disdain for the precision of scholastic language, which is the hallmark of Modernism.
The documents of Vatican II are flawed documents due to their deliberate ambiguity, lack of precision, countless omissions, refusal to employ scholastic language, and because of the novel concepts advanced that constitute a rupture with the past, such as the decree on Religious Liberty.
Same Old Song
This past February 14, Pope Benedict XVI gave a kind of impromptu farewell speech to the Roman clergy that centered on the great love of his life: the Second Vatican Council. It was one of the saddest sights a Catholic could witness. Here, he continued to defend Vatican II as a lamb without blemish, and he faulted the media for causing much of the confusion regarding the Council.
Showing himself to be the same Cardinal Ratzinger he has always been, he repeated almost word-for-word what he proposed in the 1984 Ratzinger Report: The Council is blameless, it is not a rupture with Tradition, and we must work to rediscover the true Council in order to finally reap its magnificent fruits.
Pope Benedict may believe this, but we know his romantic vision of the Council does not correspond to reality. The “true Council” contains the original sin of pastoral language and disdain for scholastic terminology. Vatican II is defective at its core.
The only hope for a return to sanity is to abandon the harmful novelties of Vatican II – abandon all thought of ‘rescuing’ the Council -- and return to the authentic Catholic Faith “in the same meaning and in the same explanation” as the Church always taught.
We can rejoice that a small but growing cadre of theologians, such Professors Radaelli and Gherardini, now admit this truth. May their numbers increase.
Posted Feb. 18, 2013
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